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Crimean War Correspondent (1854)



1854 The Path to Crimea LINK  

-- POETRY --

1847 Blowing up the wind LINK  
1847 May rhymings LINK  
1847 Crow [Cornyx cinerea] LINK  

Early Life

Edward Kemble was born in 1828 in Troy, New York State, where his father edited a local newspaper. At age 17, and already an experienced printer, he joined a party of Mormons sailing for California. After arrival at the settlement of Yerba Buena (later to be called San Francisco,) he set up his printing press, producing the city’s first newspaper in 1847. There he later established the Daily Alta California.

Early Stages of the Crimean War

The beginnings of the Crimean War (1853-1856) can be found in a disagreement between the French and Russian Emperors about the treatment of Christians in the Muslim Ottoman Empire. After British mediation failed, Russia invaded the Balkans in July 1853; the Ottomans, with the promise of support from France and Britain, then declared war on Russia in October 1853. Russia attacked the Ottomans on several fronts. In geopolitical terms, this was an attempt to expand her sphere of control over the Black Sea, assuring free, year-round access for her warships to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean.

Early in the conflict, Russia destroyed an Ottoman fleet on Anatolia’s north coast, where they were sheltering from a storm. Concerned about Ottoman stability, Britain and France took urgent steps to transport large forces into the region. The operation proceeded through the winter, and by May 1854 these were consolidated at Gallipoli. This initial phase of the war drew the attention of journalists intent on reporting the expected military action — among these, the author of this piece, a young American who has left an insightful analysis of the atmosphere reigning among the culturally and ethnically diverse groups.

War Correspondent

It was as "war correspondent" that Kemble headed for Europe after the outbreak of hostilities between Russia and the Ottomans. Travelling by way of New York, (obtaining his passport there in January 1854,) London and Paris, he reached Malta at the beginning of April. Here he had the opportunity to observe the eastbound troop movements, and make his own assessment of the combatant nations. One month later, he was writing from Constantinople (modern Istanbul), where he continued to analyze the power-play that was unfolding.

Unexpectedly, Kemble abandoned Constantinople in early May, 1854. Several reasons may have underlain this decision — the most convincing of these, perhaps, being poor health and the impossibility, at that stage of the war, of observing and reporting on any armed conflict. Along the way homeward he fell ill with fever in Greece and was subsequently quarantined for a time. His closing dispatch was written in New York at the beginning of July. Ironically, even then, no one could have foreseen the ultimate scale or duration of the war that he had travelled so far to report. Nonetheless, his first-hand account of this early phase is a unique contribution to our understanding of the brewing conflict.

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