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THE SURRENDER OF KARS., Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume XV, Issue 14, 17 May 1856
THE SURRENDER OF KARS.
[From a Correspondent of the Tims.".'} Erzeioum, December 11. Oar first news of the probable fall of Kars ! reached us through that fine old soldier, General Kmetty. Riding in hot haste, he reached this on the afternoon of the 28th ultimo. The intelligence he brought simply amounted to this — that the provisions being all but exhausted General Williams had sent his aid-de-camp, Major Teesclale, to Mouravieft, to propose the opening of negotiations. Kmetty' s own case was a desperate one. He had been formally sentenced to death by the Austrian Government, and had no mercy to expect at the hands of the Russians. Things being at this pass, he waited on General Williams, and besought him to accept his resignation, and allow him to cut his way through the enemy's lines. Ilis sword, he said, was now of no further use, and he would rather blow his brains out than become a prisoner at discretion. Williams, feeling how little he could do for him if it came to the worst, allowed him to leave, which he did that very night, accompanied by General Kolman and an escort of trusty Kurds. Kolman, as an officer who had held high rank in the Hungarian revolutionary army, was in the same predicament as himself. The Russian soldiers on the move at night recognise each other by a peculiar low, long i whistle ; and, imitating this, the adventurous [ little party succeeded in passing several of their patrols. At last, however, they were recognised, charged, and dispersed, but, meeting at a place of rendezvous previously fixed upon, continued their journey till they reached this without further accident.
After their arrival we remained in a state of uncertainty for soveral days. They had left Kars before Toesdale's return (it turned out afterwards that he had been detained to dinner by Mouravieff), and were consequently quite ignorant as to what terms might be offered and accepted on either side. All they knew was that General Williams' s affairs had reached the point of desperation, and that he was not in a position to refuse any conditions which the Russians might please to offer. We were at last relieved from our painful suspense by the arrival of Captain Thompson's interpreter, another Hungarian refugee in the Turkish service. He had left Kars after negotiations had been closed, and was enabled to inform us on what conditions it had been surrendered. They were as follows : — That all non-combatants should be allowed to leave ; that private property should be respected, the inhabitants uninjured ; and that all foreigners in the Turkish service should be permitted to depart unquestioned. Last, not least, all the officers were allowed to retain their swords in consideration of their gallant defence on the Zfftft of (September j and to the honour of Mouravieff be it said, that this generous clause was inserted in the body of the treaty with his own hand. Seventy guns, on the other side, and 20,000 stand of arms, were mide over to the Russians. The Nizam (regulars) to the number of 5,000 were taken prisoners of war. The Rediff, or militia, and Bashi-Bazouks were dismissed, to go whither thpy would. Liberty, however, in the case of the latter, has been at best but a cruel gift. Our Siberian winter has set in along the loftier mountain ranges, and report speaks of l;>0 of these poor wretches being smothered together in a teppi, or snowstorm, within the wild passes of the Suwanlee-dagh. Numbers, too, have been frozen to death, and the villages along the road from Kars are filled with their miserable comrades, who have sunk exhausted upon the way. We see them staggering in all day along "the principal thoroughfare into the city, haggard and footsore, their countenances half idiotic from cold, hunger, and fatigue.
Their condition, even before leaving Kars, was as wretched as could be ; so much so (I quote word for word from an eyewitness) that it was positively painful to stir out of doors. They were lying about in all directions, groaning piteously — watching the Russian provisionwaggons, which, as if to add to their misery, past almost all day within their ken. Townspeople and soldiers alike suffered all the horrors of famine, the former crowded round the General as he rode out of his quarters, and prayed him with all the eloquence of despair to seek some means of putting an end to their misery. Women forced their way into his very rooms, and, throwing their starving children at his feet, implored him rather to kill them at once than let them perish thus piecemeal for want of sustenance.
The hospitals were crowded with sick ; on the Thursday before the surrender, 80 men died in one day. Many went mad or became idiots from sheer hunger and hard work. Those who preserved a remnant of health, half-
starved as they were, and scarcely clothed, were obliged to mount sentry almost every night up to the ancles in snow. Since the battle of the 29th there had been no animal food to issue to the troops. Horses had indeed been killed in the General's stables secretly by night, but the meat was sent to the hospitals for the sick. A pittance of bread or flour made into weak broth was all that the working soldiers had to subsist upon. Discipline was almost at an end. The soldiers had at one time all but worshipped General Williams. After the action, in particular, they gathered round their gallant leader, only too happy, after the Eastern fashion, to touch the hem of his garment in token of their submission and respect. Now these same men refused to salute him, and turned their eyes away when they saw him approach. Still, to the last, he hardened his heart in hope. Omar Pasha had written to him, on his arrival at Batoum, to hold out only another month, "and he would be with him. The Muchir here, too, Sclim Pasha, who had been sent from Constantinople to take the command, forwarded him a similar despatch, informing him that he was at the head of a large and well-disciplined force, all admirably equipped and eager for the fight, and that he would lose no time in marching to his relief. Thus deceived, the General determined to hold out as long as a mouthful of food remained ; and, in fact, the last biscuit was issued out of store on the very day of the capitulation. At last, on finding out the truth that the Muchir here at least had no intention of coming to his aid, he called a general council and proposed a sally. But the troops by this time were too exhausted even to march, far more to fight their way for days together over the mountains. We had no cavalry, no artillery horses ; fighting our way, in short, at such odds, was out of the question, and a surrender was determined upon as the only remaining resource. The terms obtained, as may easily be believed, were much more favourable than the vanquished had any right to expect ; and, allowing all credit to the generous forbearance of Mouravieff, no small praise must at the same time be accorded to General Williams for having managed matters so well under such difficult circumstances. The two things that he felt most anxious to settle well were the protection of the inhabitants and the safety of his brave companions in arms, who might otherwise have paid a heavy penalty for their double devotcdness to the cause of European freedom. His fixed determination on these points of honour was of an order which needs no praise of mine. He threatened, in fact, that, unless his wishes in regard to them were acceded to, he would destroy the guns, blow up the works, and then leave the Russians to do their worst. Fortunately, he had to deal with a reasonable enemy, and the high-minded sacrifice was averted, no less by firmness on the one side than forbearance on the other. Be had no difficulty, as far as I can ascertain, in settling matters as he wished.
It was late before the Turkish troops were mirched out of the town. Those of the Russians were drawn up without to receive them, and the victors presented arms to the vanquished as they passed.
The higher prisoners were treated with the greatest kindness and "consideration. The General, after he had despatched the little business that remained on his hands, was sent on the route to St. Petersburg in Mouravieff's carriage and four, accompanied by Colonel Lake, Captain Thomson, Mr. Churchill, his private secretary, and an English soldier servant. All his Turkish servants had deserted him in their dread of an imprisonment in Russia ; but, as some similar custom has always prevailed in the world, and can hardly be considered peculiar to Turkey, after all there was not much to complain of. As to himself, he was in good health and spirits, looking forward to a speedy release.
At the time of our last intelligence the Russians had just taken possession of Kars, and the town was in a state of confusion, such as might be expected from its occupation by a mixed army of wild Cossacks, Circassians, and Kurds, with no small portion of a regular soldiery — the hardest drinkers in the world. All our employes, however, attached to the Turkish army, were treated with the greatest consideration till their final departure. Mr. Zohrab, for instance, on General Williams* s staff as interpreter, was lying ill of typhus at the time of occupation. On Hearing- of* the riot of tl*e soldiers he thought it would be safer to apply to the commandant for a guard ; but the latter at once relieved his fears by assuring him that strict orders had been issued to insure his not being molested, and that if anything happened he should be applied to at once. Passports were granted to the Hungarian officers in the Turkish service with the greatest readiness. The conduct of the Russians, indeed, throughout has been entirely irreproachable.
There is very little news here as regards Erzeroum itself. The Muchir has been hanging a few spies. On riding through the bazaar the other clay I found one strung up at the Gorgi-kapu, or Georges -gate. He was suspended only a few yards from the ground, with his hands tied behind him, and then fastened to the shutters of a shop at his back, to prevent the body from swinging. The Osmanli inmate of the said shop took it very quietly. He was sitting cross-legged on his counter, smoking his chibouque, and staring at the corpse as apathetically as possible. It was slung from his roof, too like a sign, and, if it had really been so, he could not have taken it more as a matter of course. The man was an Armenian, and was to have received 500 piastres (something less than £4) in return for his information.
The weather on the hills has been very inclement. I have already mentioned that 150 soldiers were buried in a snow-drift. A caravan was swept down in the same storm, and 10 men frozen to death. The load lost was a valuable one, containing, however, a curious item — leeches. They form an important article of Persian export. The value of them is estimated at nearly £3,000.
The Emperor of Russia, in returning through Moscow, devoted the short time he stopped there to religious acts. He visited in succession the numerous churches of the Kremlin, and paid his devotions to the relics, and at his departure he received from the Bishop the image of a saint.
THE SURRENDER OF KARS., Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume XV, Issue 14, 17 May 1856
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