All that night the bombardment continued without intermission, the troops in the trenches keeping up a heavy musketry fire upon the enemy’s works, to prevent them from repairing damages in the dark.
The next day was a repetition of those which had gone before it. The Russians replied but seldom, and occasionally when the smoke blew aside, it could be seen that terrible damage was being inflicted on the Russian batteries. At dusk the cannonade ceased, the shell bombardment took place, and at eleven a tremendous explosion occurred in the town.
The Russians from time to time lit up the works with fire-balls and carcasses, evidently fearing a sudden night attack. During the day a great council of war was held; and as orders were sent to the surgeons to send all the patients in the hospital down to Balaklava, and to prepare for the reception of wounded, it was known that the attack would take place next day.
Although the Russian fire in reply to the bombardment had been comparatively slight, from the 3d to the 6th we had three officers and forty-three men killed; three officers and 189 men wounded.
During these days Jack had been on duty in the batteries, and the sailors had taken their full part in the work.
There was some disappointment that night in the naval camp when it was known by the issue of the divisional orders that the sailors were not to be engaged in the assault. Jack, however, aroused the indignation of his tent-mates by saying frankly that he was glad that they were not going to share in the attack.
“It is all very well,” he said, “to fight when you have some chance of hitting back, but to rush across ground swept by a couple of hundred guns is no joke; and to be potted at by thousands of fellows in shelter behind trenches. One knows what it was last time. The French send 12,000 men to attack a battery, we try to carry an equally strong place with 1000. If I were ordered, of course I should go; but I tell you fairly, I don’t care about being murdered, and I call it nothing short of murder to send 1000 men to attack such a position as that. We used to say that an Englishman could lick three Frenchmen, but we never did it in any battle I ever heard of. Our general seems to think that an Englishman can lick ten Russians, although he’s in the open, and they’re behind shelter, and covered by the fire of any number of pieces of artillery.”
“But we’re certain to get in to-morrow, Jack.”
“Are we?” Jack questioned; “so every one said last time. It’s all very well for the French, who are already right under the guns of the Malakoff, and have only twenty yards to run. When they get in and drive the Russians out, there they are in a big circular fort, just as they were in the Mamelon, and can hold their own, no matter how many men the Russians bring up to retake it. We’ve 300 yards to run to get into the Redan, and when we get in where are we? Nowhere. Just in an open work where the Russians can bring their whole strength down upon us. I don’t feel at all sure we’re going to take the place to-morrow.”