AS ATTACHÉ AND BEARER OF DESPATCHES IN WAR-TIME -- 1855
T HE spring of 1855 was made interesting by the arrival of the blockading fleet before the mouth of the Neva, and shortly afterward I went down to look at it. It was a most imposing sight: long lines of mighty threedeckers of the old pattern, British and French, -- one hundred in all, -- stretched across the Gulf of Finland in front of the fortresses of Cronstadt. Behind the fortresses lay the Russian fleet, helpless and abject; and yet, as events showed during our own Civil War half a dozen years later, a very slight degree of inventive ability would have enabled the Russians to annihilate the hostile fleet, and to gain the most prodigious naval victory of modern times. Had they simply taken one or two of their own great ships to the Baird iron-works hard by, and plated them with railway iron, of which there was plenty, they could have paralleled the destruction of our old wooden frigates at Norfolk by the Merrimac, but on a vastly greater scale. Yet this simple expedient occurred to no one; and the allied fleet, under Sir Richard Dundas, bade defiance to the Russian power during the whole summer.
The Russians looked more philosophically upon the blockade than upon their reverses in the Crimea, but they acted much like the small boy who takes revenge on the big boy by making faces at him. Some of their caricatures on their enemies were very clever. Fortunately for such artistic efforts, the British had given them a fine