Queen Victoria eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 103 pages of information about Queen Victoria.

After the victory of Alma Lord Raglan marched on to Balaclava, and here the transport utterly broke down.  The soldiers, in addition to undertaking hard fighting, were forced to turn themselves into pack-mules and tramp fourteen miles through the mud in the depth of winter in order to obtain food and warm blankets for their comrades and themselves.  Their condition rapidly became terrible.  Their clothing wore to rags, their boots—­mostly of poor quality—­gave out entirely.  Their food—­such as it was—­consisted of biscuit, salt beef or pork, and rum.

No vegetables could be obtained, and for want of green food scurvy broke out among the troops.  Stores were left decaying in the holds of transports, and the doctors were forced to see men dying before their eyes without the means of helping them.  The loss of life from the actual fighting was considerable, but more particularly so from the insanitary condition of the camp and the wretched hospital arrangements.

The actual figures of our losses in the war speak for themselves.  Out of a total loss of 20,656, only 2598 fell in battle; 18,058 died from other causes in hospital.  Several regiments lost nearly all their men, and during the first seven months of the siege men died so fast that in a year and a half no army would have been left at all.

William Russell, the special correspondent of The Times, first brought this appalling state of affairs to the notice of the public, and the nation at last woke up.  A universal outburst of indignation forced ministers to act, and to act quickly.

Stores were hurried to the front; fresh troops were sent out to relieve the almost exhausted remnants of the army, and on the 21st October Florence Nightingale, with a band of nurses, set sail; she arrived on the very eve of the Battle of Inkerman.

Within a few months of her arrival it is estimated that she had no fewer than ten thousand sick men in her charge, and the rows of beds in one hospital alone measured two and one-third miles in length.

Her influence over the rough soldiers was extraordinary; one of them said of her:  “She would speak to one and another, and nod and smile to many more; but she could not do it to all, you know—­we lay there in hundreds—­but we could kiss her shadow as it fell, and lay our heads on the pillow again, content.”

Out of chaos she made order, and there were no more complaints of waste and inefficiency.  She never quitted her post until the war was at an end, and on her return to England she received a national welcome.  She was received by the Queen and presented with a jewel in commemoration of her work, and no less than fifty thousand pounds was subscribed by the nation, a sum which was presented by Miss Nightingale to the hospitals to defray the expenses of training nurses.

[Illustration:  Florence Nightingale]

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Queen Victoria from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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