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CAPTAIN HENRY MERCER,
OF THE ROYAL ARTILLERY.
WHO WAS KILLED BY UNDUE AND USELESS EXPOSURE AT THE BATTLE OF RANGIRIRI, NEW ZEALAND, NOVEMBER 1863:
INTO THE CAUSE OF HIS DEATH.
T. HILL, PRINTER, CAXTON PRESS.
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"And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah.
And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the fore-front of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten and die.
"And it came to pass that when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men were.
"And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell some of the people of the servants of David, and Uriah, the Hittite, died also."--2 Sam. xi. 14-17.
I deem it my duty to appeal to the public, as the only remaining means of obtaining redress for the sacrifice of a dear brother, a brave soldier, and an honourable and high-minded man. And I shall aim to perform that duty with the frankness of a soldier, and the exactness of a man of honour. The fate of the late Captain Henry Mercer of the Royal Artillery was interwoven with my own fortunes; and the means of a clear comprehension of his case are only to be found in a recital of some preliminary facts (which without this explanation might seem misplaced), connected with myself. He was killed--I here use no stronger words--at the battle of Rangiriri, New Zealand, in November, 1863, on a forlorn hope on which he had been irregularly sent--this being the duty of Infantry--and in which success was impossible and death certain. The facts I am about to relate, in as few words as possible, illustrate two points. First, that the whispered suspicion against the honour of a British officer, of which he may have been long in hearing, if it happens to involve a charge similar to what rumour has given free circulation concerning a superior--say the commander-in-chief--has little chance of being cleared up by an investigation. Secondly, the sin incurred by one brother of showing a bold front to the Horse Guards, may be visited upon another to his ruin. The necessity of maintaining strict discipline in the army, and the advantage sometimes taken of that necessity to perpetrate acts of unworthy revenge, render it very difficult for an officer, as long as he remains in the service, to obtain redress of many species of wrong to which he may be subjected. If the reader will follow me through a detail, which I shall endeavour to make as concise as possible consistent with a full statement of the facts, he will then be able to judge whether I have succeeded in establishing these points.
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I landed in the Crimea on the 15th December, 1854, and two days after I was in camp before the heights of Sebastopol. Work in the trenches was at once commenced; and I had to attend with the men on this arduous duty, every alternate day or night for twelve hours. The fatigue added to the deficient fare--my rations consisting of biscuits, Turkish figs and rum and water--naturally told upon my health. It is true we had plenty of pork, but no means of cooking it; no wood being supplied at this time, and no fuel except the almost worthless roots of shrubs being attainable even by personal exertion under fire of the enemy. After I had been subjected to this regimen eleven days, the Adjutant came to me, on the 28th, and asked me if I could go to Balaklava to fetch cooking stoves, hospital stores and medicines, most of the officers being sick and the rest being required for duty in the trenches. Though I was myself suffering from the prevailing complaint, and had been ordered to go on the sick list, but three days before, I at once replied that I would go. I thought the journey would afford me an opportunity to bring up stores for myself of which, in my enfeebled condition, I was so much in need; and that if there was danger in the exertion, anything would be preferable to dying by inches from want of suitable nourishment.
I started with a party of men next morning, reaching Balaklava about noon; and at once proceeded to fulfil my mission, and to obtain supplies for myself. Owing to a misapprehension, the sergeant mistook the wharf at which he was to rejoin me and went to another; consequently we failed to meet at the appointed time; and I being pressed with the urgency of my complaint found it necessary to go on board the Magdalina, where I took a few glasses of port wine. From the deck of the steamer I could see the wharf to which I expected the sergeant to come; but as the party did not arrive there, my anxiety caused me to go ashore, about half-past three o'clock, when I proceeded in search of them. At ten minutes to four, I met Captain Conyers with another officer in the street; when, to my surprise, he informed me that having fallen in with my party he had sent them off to the camp.
There was only one means by which I could possibly overtake them, and that I resolved to try. To come up with them by following the beaten track, which made a detour round the head of the harbor, was out of the question; but if I could go straight across the plain,
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where the Turkish burial ground was situated, I should probably save a mile or more; a great consideration in my feeble condition. If I succeeded, I should overtake the party before they reached the Ka-da-koi Church, for that was the end of the detour made by the beaten path. Not having a plan of the Crimea, I note this church, as I forget the name of the road which was close to it, and which led up to the camp. A stranger to the place, never having been in Balaklava before, except when we landed, I was unacquainted with the nature of the ground across the plain, but it proved to be marshy; and walking in the deep soft mud was extremely fatiguing. Feeling the need, of support, in my weak state, I took a little spirits which I had in my flask, when I proceeded on my journey till I sank exhausted and overcome, not very far from the point at which I had hoped to be able to overtake my party. I was found by some artillerymen that night, when I was awoke, and proceeding with them to their tent, only two or three hundred yards from the point of the road which it had been my object to attain, I remained with them till morning.
The Sergeant of Artillery remarked to me, in the morning, that it was lucky that they had fallen in with me, or that I should have been taken by the French and English cavalry, who were out on a reconnoisance. I gave him my name and rank, and those of my late father, with his regiment.
I felt keenly the difficulty of my position; my commission being at stake. It occured to me that it would be best for me to join the cavalry, who were between the tent at which I was and the Russians, and explain how I had missed my party on the previous day. In pursuance of a resolution rapidly formed, I did join the French reserve cavalry, about ten o'clock A.M. A skirmish was, at the time, going on between the advance of the French and English cavalry and the Russians. I there met an English officer of the staff, whose name I never learned, as he was on the point of starting to join the advance. He asked me what had brought me there. I explained how I had missed my way on the previous night; adding that if he would give me a horse I would accompany him. He replied that I must remain with the French; at the same time making some remarks to the Captain of the French cavalry which I could not hear. I remained accordingly, and at three o'clock P.M. the advance party returned from the reconnoisance; when I met Captain (now Colonel)
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Baynes, an old acquaintance, to whom I explained the reason of my presence there. He very kindly offered me the shelter of his tent for the night; and I gladly accepted the offer. Had every one with whom I had to deal been actuated by the same manly and honourable feelings that he was, this incident would have led to no further result.
I reached the camp next day, the 31st December, when I was immediately placed under arrest, and ordered to explain the cause of the delay in my return. I replied in the terms I had before used in explaining to Capt. Baynes and the officer of the staff whom I met when I was with the French cavalry, Major (now Col.) Egerton took the matter up warmly, professing to desire to serve me, and at the same time strongly pressing me to say where I had spent the night of the 29th; but as I was to be tried by a Court Martial, I refused to say more than that I spent it on the ground, and that I was not called upon to condemn myself. This was strictly true; for when the artilleryman found me I was fast asleep, and I spent the rest of the night in his tent. The truth is I had miscalculated my strength, and did not desire to give any one an opportunity of bringing up the artilleryman as a witness. I was kept under arrest, and though I was entitled by the rules of the service to have delivered to me, two days before the trial a copy of the charges on which I was to be tried, I was never permitted to know what they were till they were read, at the Court Martial, by the President, at Lord Raglan's head-quarters. The omission was equally unfair and irregular. (Note a)
NOTE A.--It is usual generally in the British Army to have a Court of Inquiry, to see if there is any occasion to resort to the extreme measure of a Court Martial, but I was not allowed such fair play; although I may remark, that if justice was done at the time, others besides myself ought to have been tried. No feeling of ill nature prompts this remark; for the intense suffering and terrible hard work all had to endure at that time, rendered my offence but too prevalent. Two courses were open to me on the morning of the 30th December, 1854. One was to join my regiment immediately, confess my sin. and ask mercy: this my nature would not brook, particularly as I felt under the circumstances of the French and English cavalry being out, I had a splendid opportunity of fighting it out, without material injury to myself, and at the same time saving myself from the most humbling alternative to my mind of asking the support of my enemies, which I felt, that from circumstances which had occurred
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The charges were inebriety and a breach of duty. The first charge not being true at the time I met the two officers in the streets of Balaklava, and the artilleryman by whom I was found not being present, I was acquitted. Still the fact of delayed absence was constructively a breach of duty; but the court found that it occurred under extenuating circumstances, and Lord Ralgan expressed the opinion, which was unquestionably correct, "that Lieutenant Mercer would not have been guilty of this neglect of duty, if he had been in the enjoyment of his usual health." (Note b.)
at Gibraltar, and which were laid before his Excellency the Governor but four months before, one of the Field Officers of the 89th Regiment was hostile to me, if not the other; and of course the Colonel of the Regiment, whatever his feelings towards me may have been from his official position, I could expect nothing from him but to allow the law to take its course, in the position in which I had been placed from a feeling of never say die and exhausted nature.
Note B.--I would here remark that Major (now Colonel) Egerton, late 89th Regiment, just before I entered the Court Martial room on the 12th of January, 1855. came up and in a whisper to me said, "Did you meet any artillerymen on the 29th of December?" I replied perfectly coolly, "Yes, and marines too." From the way I answered my friend Major Egerton, it struck me at the time that he was rather disconcerted for a friend, and I was determined from that moment to defend myself as well as I could upon the charges I was then about to meet, and in my defence I would give any one an opportunity of testing the reason why and wherefore I joined the French Reserve Cavalry on the morning of the 30th of December, 1854; but as no one did so, I did not trouble myself further on the subject. And the reason I thus acted is, that no soldier likes placing himself in a doubtful position; and as I have explained, it must have been quite evident to any military man that I had no business with the French Cavalry except to cover something. Had the Court Martial mooted the point in this way, "But how, Lieut. Mercer, was it that you joined the Cavalry at ten o'clock on the 30th of December, when they were almost in an opposite position to your camp?" I should have replied, "Well, gentlemen, I was not drunk in my estimation on the 29th December, when I met the two officers and two men, who swore to my being so at or about a quarter to four o'clock P.M.; but I candidly confess, that what I took from my flask afterwards did upset me." And I was not at all sure that the artillerymen who awoke me from my slumbers could honestly swear to my sobriety; and I thought it better therefore to join the French Reserve Cavalry
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and state what was perfectly true, that the night before I had missed the way, for I got into a marsh when I thought it was dry ground; and I was in hopes, which indeed was a fact as far as the members of the Court Martial and Lord Raglan were concerned, that the very circumstance of joining the French when I could as easily have joined the Russians had I felt so disposed, would have been clear enough even to my enemies; but I now feel quite certain that Major (now Colonel) Egerton, who gave me the highest character at the Court Martial, had seen the artillerymen who had picked me up and with whom I stopped the night of the 29th December, as he had also procured the evidence of two officers and two men against me, and who all swore to my being drunk at or about a quarter to four o'clock on the 29th December. (I regret here to be obliged to say, that I now strongly suspect Colonel Egerton was playing a deep and double game). So that if I had been acting a part the night of the 29th of December, as implied in the only answer I got to the 1st Edition of my pamphlet, inserted in some paper in England, and cut out and sent to me, and in which they admit the truth of all I have stated. I quote it as it, appeared, or rather the pith of it:-- "As remarkable a pamphlet as ever issued from the press has been published in Toronto, by a late officer of the 89th Regiment, the subject of which is extremely painful," &c. &c.; and concludes-- "Our most charitable supposition with regard to its writer is, that when he wrote it he was overcome in the same manner as he was when he was found lying on the ground by two artillerymen." My answer to this most malicious assertion, which any intelligent reader will see at once, is that if there were any grounds for such a Satanic insinuation and which military men will see at a glance why they, I must now speak of them as the authorities, could easily have refuted it at the time; but it is only in keeping with their whole conduct, after robbing me of my hard earnings, and murdering my poor brother they, the authorities, wish to excuse themselves for acting in the base and cowardly way they have done, and therefore insinuate what they well know was a lie. I submit that it was quite impossible for me, in the painful position I found myself on the 30th December, 1854, and which I have explained in this pamphlet, to do more than court inquiry respecting my position, which I did at the Court Martial, and in dealing with the Horse Guards; for if I had defended the position I took up the 30th December, 1854, I must have sacrificed my commission. I never supposed that my honour was doubted till I left the army, I therefore took no trouble to defend it; but when I felt from circumstances, as explained in the pamphlet, that I had been secretly maligned, I adopted the only course open to me, and in doing so I was in hopes I should have had an opportunity of meeting my foes face to face. I am now quite sure that my honour was doubted by some one, as explained in Note D.
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He whom it most nearly concerns is often among the last to hear of a rumor to his disadvantage; and a considerable time elapsed before it reached my ears that some one, who had not the manliness and the honesty to accuse me before a Court Martial, founded on the above circumstances the pretence that, on the morning on which I joined the French Cavalry, I desired to go over to the Russians; a calumny which, I have abundant reasons for believing, has proved disastrous to me and fatal to a near and dear relative. I never could obtain the justice of an investigation; and I can now only appeal to the circumstances to parry this dastardly stab, made in the dark by an unknown hand, at my honour, Soon after the Court Martial, I was made a supernumerary Captain, and could have returned to the depot in England; but I volunteered to remain. Captain Philipps returned instead of me. If, on the morning of the 30th December previous I had desired to join the Russians to avoid danger, is it likely that I should have allowed this opportunity which another might have eagerly embraced, to have passed?
It must have been quite evident to every millitary man, that I had no business with the reserve French cavalary; and that I could only have gone there to cover up something which required to be concealed. But I felt that I was being tried by a body of honourable men; and while I naturally made every effort to obtain an acquittal on the charges brought against me, I made a point of indicating that I had no fear of being arrainged on any other, by using in my defence, the words:-- "The next morning [December 30], I saw troops not far from me, which I joined. They proved to be French and English Cavalry." I said this to show that I had no fear of facing a charge of desiring to go over to the Russians, and to give the Court Martial an opportunity of raising that point if they desired. The value of a thing depends upon the estimate one puts upon it; and as I would rather have lost my life than my commission, or had my honour doubted, I used every means open to me to secure an acquittal; but while I did this, I went out of the way to make it known that I was not afraid of being tried on a charge similar to that which scandal had insinuated against Lord Dunkellin and the Duke of Cambridge, the first of whom had been taken prisoner by the Russians, and the latter was reported to have desired to have been taken, at the battle of Inkermann.
The time was approaching when I was to suffer an act of gross
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injustice, at the hands of the Duke of Cambridge, as commander-in-chief. This will require a few words of preliminary explanation. On the night of the 13th April, 1855, I received a severe contusion in the head, while on duty with a working party in the trenches. From this injury I sustained a complete loss of health. After my return from the Crimea, in July, 1855, I obtained leave of absence, at different times, amounting perhaps altogether to eighteen months, when the Horse Guards informed me that my leave could not be further extended, and that I must either retire on temporary half pay or sell my commission. In the mean time--June, 1856--I had been gazetted Brevet Major, by Lord Harding, with a number of other officers, for distinguished service in the field, while in the Crimea. After receiving the above notification, in November, 1856, I applied to the Horse Guards to have my rank as Brevet Major substantiated. I was informed in reply, substantially by General York, that the Duke of Cambridge did not consider my case one deserving favorable consideration. I have mislaid the letter; but I am confident that I do not mistake its import. Displeased with this reply I, with impolitic precipitation perhaps, sent in my papers with a view to selling my commission.
On the 9th December, 1856, before the sale of my commission was effected, I received a letter from the Horse Guards saying that I was desired to tell the Duke of Cambridge personally whether I wished to leave the army. It is difficult to understand the object of this notification, as it was well known at the Horse Guards that a medical board which had sat on me--the third or fourth that had done so--had reported that I was scarcely able to speak. It could therefore have been no secret that I was wholly unable to hold any such personal interview.
I sold my commission and retired from the army, in January, 1857. In the spring of that year, accident took me to Bath, and I now heard for the first time a faint whisper, that a doubt had, by some concealed foe, been cast upon my honour, while I was in the Crimea. I met the late Col. Philipps of the 89th regiment, and he, in a half joking half serious way, said that there was an impression that when I joined the French Reserve Cavalry, on the morning of the 30th December, 1854, I had intended to go over to the Russians; and that if the facts had been known he thought that I should not have been tried. I scarcely
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knew how to take his statement, at the time; for if such a suspicion had existed, I ought to have had in a Court Martial, the means of proving my innocence, or failing this to have suffered the consequence. But any doubt I had as to the seriousness of the charge was by degrees, and in various ways, removed. Among other things, I received a letter from Major (now Colonel) Egerton, late of the 89th regiment, in which instead of saying, as he had been required, what was thought of the affair, he said that as I had been honourably acquitted by the Court Martial, I ought to think no more about it. But surely when I heard that people were discussing the doubt that had, by whom I was not permitted to know, been thrown upon my honour as a British soldier, I was bound to give the circumstance the first consideration in my thoughts. The next incident that tended to give the charge a character of seriousness in my mind was this: the wife of my elder brother, a daughter of Sir Charles Nightingale, Baronet, who had resided for some time at Tenby, in Wales, told her husband, that an officer of the 89th Regiment had informed her that I had acted the part of a coward in the Crimea. That officer, I conjectured, was Colonel Philipps; because his family had also resided at Tenby; and it seemed probable that what he had stated to me in a sort of banter, he might have said to others in seriousness. Still this was a mere conjecture; and I was not authorized to conclude, positively that it was he who had circulated the story. However this may be, my brother, in his communications with the Horse Guards, with no ill intention towards me, informed them what his wife had stated about my conduct in the Crimea; but the opportunity thus given them for investigating the matter was most unfairly not availed of by them.
I had and still have no doubt that, if Lord Harding had lived, my rank would have been substantiated, and I was determined if possible to find out the real cause why his successor had refused to do me that justice. Accordingly, in June, 1858, I waited on the Duke of Cambridge, with a view of learning from himself the reasons he had to give. When I was recounting that it was true I had been absent two nights from my regiment in the Crimea, and had been tried by a Court Martial, but that this could not affect my right to a rank subsequently conferred for distinguished services in the field, the duke, with flushed countenance and great embarrassment, replied, in a half
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imploring tone, "I beg, Sir, that you will not come to me." I, therefore, bowed, and immediately retired. Determined to leave no means untried, I proceeded, at once to General Sir C. York, the Duke's Secretary, and told him of the visit just made, and I desired to know from him why my rank had not been substantiated. He replied, with a laugh that seemed to me to betray his knowledge of the reception I must have met: "Well, and what did the Duke say to you?" I said His Royal Highness appeared as if he did not wish to see me. "Well, sir," rejoined General York, "you know you were tried by Court martial, in the Crimea." "The sum and substance of the affair of Court Martial was," I said, "that I over estimated my strength." "Oh yes," said General York, "you shuffled through it." These words released me from the necessity of being very choice in the coin which I gave in exchange, and I at once said: "I believe, sir, you swindled me out of my commission." General York then walked hastily towards the door, where I was, much excited, and asked me how I dared to address a general officer in such terms. His motion and voice conveyed the idea that he intended to strike me. I, looking him directly in the face and snapping my fingers, replied, "I do not care that for a general officer." In an instant General York's menacing tone was exchanged for one of great blandness; and he said that the precipitate manner in which I had sent in my papers put it out of the power of the Horse Guards to do anything for me; and he asked me what I myself conceived could be done. I replied that it was in their power to give me a barrack mastership; and that all that was wanting was that the Duke of Cambridge should recommend me for one. "You cannot," he said, "expect that he should do that;" to which I replied that I did expect he would do me justice.
I believed that I had, in the rumor that I desired to go over to the Russians when I joined the French reserve cavalry, got at the secret of the treatment which I had received at the hands of the Duke of Cambridge; that he had listened to a slander which had been invented to my disadvantage, and instead of having it investigated, had acted as if it were true. Still I did not wish to assume this to be the case, without some other proof than that derived from inferences which were fairly enough deducible from the treatment I had received, interpreted in the light of these rumors. As no hint of the kind had come to me
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from the Horse Guards, I did not think it would be the wisest course for me to persue to state to them, over my own signature, the rumors that had reached me; because after all it was just possible that what Colonel Phillips had said to me was only so much "chaff," and that the statement of my brother's wife might have had a like origin. If I could, without seeming to fall under the censure of the French maxim Que s'excuse s'accuse, bring the matter so under the cognizance of the Duke of Cambridge that he would be obliged to notice it, my object would be served. I therefore had recourse to an expedient which, under most circumstances, would have been improper. I procured a lady to call the attention of the Duke to the matter by means of an anonymous letter: but it contained nothing to which I would not have willingly put my name; and to which I did intend to put my name if this expedient failed, and to which I did afterwards in a letter to the Duke append my own proper signature. This much I say by way of explaining an expedient which, under many circumstances, would be highly improper; but which, as I was myself the one chiefly accused, was not, in this case, I submit, a procedure deserving of censure. The purport of the letter was that a young officer in the Crimea had had his reputation stabbed in the dark: the scandal was that he was supposed to have desired to go over to the Russians. Now His Royal Highness would know whether such a case had come before him; and if so he ought not jump at a hostile conclusion without enquiry, as the writer could assure him that his own honor had been doubted at the battle of Inkermann. This statement regarding the Duke could do him no injury as it was not made to any third person, and it had before been a matter of scandal.
This letter was not more successful than the statement of my brother's had previously been. No notice was taken of the slander which had been circulated to my disadvantage, and no investigation was ordered. But another and very different result came under my notice. The Duke of Cambridge received this letter in May, 1860, and my name was dropped out of the Army List for the next two months. To what cause was this owing, if not to the treating of this scandal as if it were true: visiting me with punishment and neglecting to enter upon an enquiry that could alone have elicited the truth?
But why did not the Duke send for me personally and ask an explanation? Can it be that he felt that the charge of an officer
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desiring to go over to the Russians was a delicate one for him to deal with? Can it be that he fancied the public, if they should come to know it, might say it ill became him to seem to volunteer to throw stones at any one, in any way under such a suspicion?
Crooked are many of the ways of military life; and it is not always possible to fathom the motives which lead a superior officer to acts that wear the outward appearance of caprice. A little before the time to which I am now referring-sometime in the spring of 1860--the Duke of Cambridge went to Shorncliff, where he complimented my brother. Captain Henry Mercer, of the Royal Artillery, in the most flattering terms, on the excellence of his battery; and Adjutant-General Bingham added that, in consequence of this state of efficiency, it was to remain at that place. But, in spite of this assurance, and without any plea of urgency to cause a change of determination, my brother was suddenly ordered to Woolwich, about the time that my name was struck from the Army List. Were the sins of my temerity in dealing with the Horse Guards to be visited upon him? The answer to this question, if the inferences I draw from the facts be correct, is one of the most melancholy stories in the history of the British army; and it shows a degree of culpability in high places which a high spirited, justice-loving people, like the English, are not likely long to tolerate after it has once been exposed. It is not pretended that there was any hardship in this change, considered in itself; but there was something strange in the sudden departure, without any adequate cause, from an assurance which had been just given. Under the circumstances, it was but natural that my brother should ask the reason of the change; but so little courteous was the reply that it simply stated in a peremptory tone, that, as he had entered the army to obey orders, he must not expect his question answered. If a sudden necessity for sending men on some distant foreign or colonial duty had arisen, no officer would have thought of enquiring why he was sent; but my brother did not get orders to leave Woolwich till October, six months after his removal from Shorncliff; and he did not embark for New Zealand till November.
Conceiving that this change indicated a determination on the part of the Horse Guards to give my brother annoyance on my account, I thought it best for his sake, not to push my own matter to the extremity of appealing to the public.
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Before reaching New Zealand, a mutiny, real or simulated, broke out in my brother's battery; in the course of which some of the men threatened to throw him overboard. This occurred at four o'clock in the afternoon of the 29th December, 1860. My brother put it down in a manner which, on his arrival in New Zealand, elicited great praise from General Cameron, on the energy and decision shown in what he was pleased to call a critical moment I have always had my doubts as to the genuineness of this mutiny; but if this circumstance stood alone I confess there would be no sufficient grounds for them to rest upon. But if, as I have given one incident to show, it was intended to connect his fortunes with mine--to put to all sorts of irregular tests the courage of one brother because an accusation had been whispered against another brother that he had desired to go over to the Russians, in the Crimea--grounds for this suspicion will not be found wanting. And when I shall prove that my brother was put to a still more irregular test, by which I hold that his life was wantonly sacrificed, the probability of the supposition that the mutiny was planned by some one in authority for the purpose I have mentioned, becomes stronger; and if it does not rise to the height of absolute certainty, this may be on account of the difficult character of the evidence with which I have to deal.
My brother, Captain Henry Mercer, was engaged in the war in New Zealand, and was mentioned with enconiums in General Cameron's dispatches for the part he had taken, in 1861. And now occurred a deviation from established practice to his disadvantage. His promotion to the rank of Brevet Major should have followed. But this not being done, he petitioned the Duke of Cambridge, on the subject, without favourable result. This was the second time that I had a reason to think there was a determination to inflict some resort of punishment on him for what had passed between me and the Horse Guards, in 1860; and that surmise was much strengthened by what subsequently occurred.
Having exhausted all other means without avail to cause the suspicions against myself to be enquired into, and being convinced that my brother was still being made to suffer on my account, I, on the 29th August, 1862. wrote to the Duke of Cambridge accepting the responsibility of the letter of May, 1860, addressed to him, and of the origin of which he had hitherto no better light than what was affored
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by conjecture to guide him, I told the Duke frankly I had heard his honour doubted in the Crimea, and I offered, if he should desire it, to name my authority. Of this letter I received an acknowledgement, in September, 1862, from General Foster, who had now become the Duke's Secretary. All that it informed me was that the letter had been received and laid before His Royal Highness. But the Duke never troubled me for my authority that his honour had been thus doubted. It will be fair to take this neglect as a measure of the solicitude which His Royal Highness felt for his honour when it had been called in question, and I may say, without incurring the charge of egotism, that it is very different from the way in which I was desirous to have a like rumor affecting me treated. There was another essential difference between us. Instead of seeking like His Royal Highness an early opportunity of going home from the Crimea, I voluntarily remained eight months after I could have gone, taking my share of work and danger in the trenches, on the open field and in the attack on the Redan, on the 18th June, 1855.
I must now return to my late unfortunate brother, Captain Henry Mercer, his exploits and his sad fate. "In consequence," says Col. Warre in his report of the engagement with the natives, in the second New Zealand war in 1863, at Katikara, "of the admirable manner in which Capt. Mercer's guns were served and the precision of their fire, the infantry were enabled to gain the position they were ordered to take with slight loss." And again: "the enemy was completely surprised, and was so confused by the admirable manner in which Capt. Mercer's guns were served that the fire from the rifle pits was very wild, and it was only at the assault when the enemy was speedily overpowered by numbers, that the severe casualties occurred." Gen. Cameron in a despatch giving an account of the same action says, "I have also made favourable mention in my despatch to the Secretary of State for War of the services of Captain Mercer, whose excellent practice with his Armstrong guns contributed materially to the successes of the day." No promotion followed this second favourable mention.
We now come to the closing scene in the life of my brother, the gallant Captain Henry Mercer, R. A., at the Battle of Rangiriri. To guard against the possible imputation of misquotation or misrepresentation, I shall allow General Cameron to tell his own story. In his
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despatch to the Secretary of State for War, dated Camp Rangiriri, November 26, 1863, he says:--
"After the evacuation of their position at Mere-Mere, reported in my last despatch, the rebel natives collected twelve miles higher up the Waikato River Rangiriri, where, previous to the outbreak of hostilities, they had constructed a very strong line of entrenchment across the narrow isthmus which divides the Waikato from Lake Waikare, thus completely barring the road up the right bank of the river. Having reconnoitred this position in the Pioneer, on the 18th, inst, I determined on landing a force in the rear of the line of entrenchment for the purpose of cutting off the retreat of the enemy simultaneously with attacking him in the front. With this view the head-quarters 40th Regiment, 300 strong, under Col. Leslie, C. B. were embarked on the 20th inst. on board the colonial steamers Pioneer and Avon, which, with four gunboats, proceeded up the Waikato, under command of Commodore Sir W. Wiseman, whilst with the force named in the margin 1 moved towards Rangiriri, by the right bunk of the river. Both arrived near Rangiriri at the some time, 3 p.m. I halted the troops under the brow of a hill 610 yards from the enemy's position, and formed them for the attack in the following order. 200 men of the 65th Regiment, under Colonel Wyat, C. B. on the right, one half in extended order, and the rest in support. Between them, a detachment of 72 men of the 65th Regiment, under Lieutenant Toker, with sealing ladders and planks; Capt Brooke, with 10 men of the Royal Engineers, was attached to this part. The detachment of the 1st battalion 12th Regiment, under Captain Cole, and 2nd battalion 14th Regiment, under Lieut. Col. Austen prolonged the line of skirmishers and supports to the left of the 65th Regiment. Captain Mercer's two Armstrong guns and the naval six-pounder Armstrong, under Lieutenant Alexander, of Her Majesty's Ship Curacoa, in the centre of the line of skirmishers. The detachment of the 40th Regiment, under Capt. Cooke, and the remainder of the 65th Regiment, in reserve. The enemy's works consisted of a line of high parapet and double ditch, extending, as I have before stated, between the Waikato and Lake Waikare, the centre of this line being strengthened by a square redoubt of very formidable construction, its ditch being 12 feet wide, and the height from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the parapet 18 feet. The strength of this work was not known before the attack as its profile could not be seen either front the river or from the ground in front. Behind the left centre of this main line and at right angles to it, there was a strong intrenched line of rifle pits facing the river and obstructing the advance of troops from that
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direction. About 500 yards behind this front position was a high ridge, the summit of which was fortified with rifle pits. As the left of the line of entrenchment could be enfiladed and taken in reverse by the fire from the steamers and gunboats, I selected that part of the enemy's works for the attack. The skirmishers of the 65th regiment were to cover the advance of the ladder party, and when the latter had succeeded in escalding the entrenchment, were to follow with the support. The whole then bringing their right shoulders forward were to attack the line of rifle pits facing the river, and having driven the enemy out of it, were to storm the centre redoubt. The 12th Regiment were to join in the attack on the centre redoubt; and the second battalion 14th Regiment to keep the enemy in their front in check, until the 65th and first battalion 12th Regiment were in the redoubt. The troops were hardly in position when the enemy opened a heavy fire of musketry on every part of his line, but without effect the troops being under cover of the brow of the hill. I had arranged with Commodore Sir William Wiseman that the guns attached to the force under my command and those of the gunboats should on a preconcerted signal, open fire at the same moment when the Pioneer and Avon should also land the 40th Regiment. But the strength of the wind and current rendered the steamers and gunboats almost unmanageable, and at half-past 3 o'clock, when I gave the signal, only one of the gunboats was ready to open fire, and the steamers were still far from the landing place. After shelling the enemy's works for an hour and a half--the day being now far advanced, and there being little prospect of the remainder of the gunboats getting into position, or of the steamers reaching the landing place--I gave orders for the assault. The whole line of skirmishers and supports rushed eagerly down the slope of the hill, and advanced towards the entrenchment at as rapid a pace as the rugged and uneven nature of the intervening ground would admit, exposed the whole time to a destructive fire from the enemy. The skirmishers of the 65th Regiment having approached to within 50 yards of the entrenchment, and the scaling ladders having been quickly planted under cover of their fire, the skirmishers and the ladder party followed by the support, mounted the parapet, and forced their way over the enemy's first line, then wheeling to the left and charging up the hill they carried the second line of rifle pits and continued to drive the enemy before them until their progress was checked by a deadly fire opened upon them from the centre redoubt, which the enemy appeared determined to defend to the last. The remainder of the troops on the left, finding it impossible to penetrate the enemy's position on that side, joined the attack on the right, and with the 65th Regiment, occupied positions round the central redoubt, almost completely enveloping the enemy. Soon after the 65th had passed the main line of entrenchment, I had the satisfaction of seeing the 40th Regiment landing from the Pioneer and Avon, not far from the spot I had selected. Colonel Leslie, without waiting for the companies to form, directed Captain Clarke to take the first 50 men who were landed, and attack the ridge in the rear of the enemy's position, whilst he moved with 100 men round its base for the purpose of intercepting the enemy. The ridge was carried at once, and a great number of the enemy were killed or drowned in endeavouring to
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escape across the swamp of Lake Waikare. A portion of the 65th Regiment, after passing the main line of entrenchment, joined the 40th in this attack. Leaving a detachment to occupy the ridge, Colonel Leslie, with the remainder of of his regiment, joined the force engaged at the central redoubt. This work the enemy continued to defend with great tenacity and resolution, I ordered two successive assaults to be made on it, the first by the Royal Artillery, armed with revolvers, and led by Capt. Mercer; and the second by 90 men of the Royal Navy, armed in a similar manner, and led by Commander Mayne, under the personal direction of Commodore Sir William Wiseman. Both assaults were made with great gallantry, but the formidable nature of the work, and the deadly fire directed on the assailants, rendered it impossible for them to effect an entrance. An attempt was afterwards made by a party of seamen, under Commodore Phillimore, H. M. S. Curacoa, to dislodge the enemy from the work by hand grenades, but without success. It being now dark, I resolved to postpone further operations until daylight, ordering the troops to remain during the night in the several positions they had gained. At daylight Colonel Mould, C. B. Commanding Royal Engineer, suggested that a breach should be made in the redoubt by labour with the pick and shovel, and this operation was in progress when at about six o'clock the enemy hoisted a white flag, and 183 men surrendered unconditionally, and laid down their arms. I enclose a list of our casualties. Our loss has been severe, but not greater than was to be expected in attacking so formidable a position. The proportion of officers is large, most of them who led in the different attacks having been killed or severly wounded. I deeply deplore, in common with all under my command, the loss the service has sustained in the death of Captain Mercer, Commanding Royal Artillery in this colony, who died from the effects of the wound he received whilst gallantly leading his men to the assault on the redoubt. I regard it as a serious misfortune that the force should be deprived at such a moment of the services of so able and energetic an officer."
The striking feature of this narration, which reads like a confession made up with a certain degree of tricky skill and made with reluctance, is that General Cameron should have ordered Captain Mercer with only thirty-six men to storm the centre redoubt; a task from which the deadly fire of the enemy had just made seven hundred men recoil. In this despatch General Cameron conceals the fact that the force he sent under Captain Mercer, armed with revolvers, numbered only thirty-six men; but he had let out the secret in a despatch written two days before to Sir George Grey, Governor of New Zealand, in which he gives an account of the battle. In that despatch he also states more clearly than in the one I have quoted his knowledge of the strength of this redoubt, at the time when he ordered Captain Mercer to assault it with an utterly inadequate force. He there shows that the enemy, after being driven from the rifle pits, had
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taken refuge in the centre redoubt, and that it was at that point where his strength and resolution had been concentrated. "After passing the main line of entrenchments," General Cameron tells Sir George Grey, "the troops wheeled to the left towards the enemy's centre and came under fire of the rifle pits facing the Waikato river. This they at once stormed and carried, driving the enemy before them to the centre redoubt, which they now defended with desperate resolution." In this despatch nothing is said about an assault being ordered on the centre redoubt in force; but merely that the troops who carried the main line being still checked by the fire from the centre redoubt, two separate assaults were made on this work--the first by thirty-six of the royal artillery armed with revolvers, and led by Captain Mercer; the second by ninety seamen of the royal navy, armed in a similar manner, and led by Captain Mayne, under the personal direction of Sir Wm. Wiseman." If this had been the whole truth, it would still have remained to be explained how it came to pass that thirty-six artillerymen were called on to perform a duty which immemorial custom has imposed upon the infantry; and especially when there was no want of that branch of the service to whom the duty naturally belonged. But the truth is the attack by Captain Mercer on the centre redoubt was not the first that had been ordered. We are told in the other despatch, in so many words, that "the whole force" which was sent against the rifle pits and succeeded in carrying them, "were to storm the centre redoubt," but that their "progress was checked by the deadly fire opened upon them from the centre redoubt." It is evident that the moment when the enemy fled from the rifle pits, afforded a better opportunity of assaulting this stronghold than there could be afterwards, when it was reinforced by the fugitives and time given them to recover from the momentary confusion into which the flight must have thrown them. And if it was to be carried by storm, It is plain that it must be assaulted in force. General Cameron was not ignorant of its strength, in point of numbers; and he knew that when the enemy was driven from the rifle pits, he took refuge them. He saw that it was defended with "desperate resolution;" and concluded that it would be so defended to the last.
Why then did General Cameron send to certain death, without the smallest chance of success, Captain Mercer with his brave band of
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thirty-six artillerymen, to storm this stronghold before which seven hundred infantry troops had just recoiled? He may rely upon it that he will not be allowed to avoid an answer to this question. By what name are we to call this certain and objectless sacrifice of a brave officer? And suppose that thirty-six men and their Captain had got inside, what would have been their fate in the presence of an overwhelming force of the enemy? They must have been overpowered and massacred. But the truth is no sacrifice of life was necessary. Very little knowledge of military matters will suffice to convince any one that this redoubt might have been taken without the loss of a single life. The enemy had, in the words of General Cameron's despatch to Sir George Grey, been "almost completely enveloped," so that escape was out of the question. He might, by a vertical fire have been shelled out, or he might have been starved out, in two or three days, without the loss of a single British soldier. Nothing can more clearly show, than the whole facts and circumstances, that the sacrifice of my brother, Captain Henry Mercer, was wanton, for it had no object of possible utility to the crown and the nation. It is a soldier's part to brave danger; and he is not entitled to hold his life of greater importance than the performance of his duty. On the contrary, duty is with him first and last, something that he is never to forsake. At the same time his life is not to be recklessly hazarded upon inutile expedients, and if out of caprice he is sent to certain death, without any adequate object in the enterprise, there is only one word in the English language that fully describes the sacrifice. (Note c.)
Note C.--Under the above circumstances I thought it but right to address General Sir C. Cameron; and I wrote him two letters, requesting him to be good enough to explain the reason my brother was ordered by him to do an impossibility, which by his own account of the battle seemed a perfectly hopeless affair. I was in great hopes that his explanation would give me peace of mind, and make it clear to myself that in my paroxysms of grief for my poor brother I had allowed my affection for him to get the better of my judgment. I waited one year for an answer. As I could not get the General to act in any way whatever, either by explanation or the more fearless and independent one of making himself responsible for his foul order which sacrificed my brother, I placed the matter in the hands of a friend, who
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After Captain Henry Mercer had fallen, struck by a ball in the jaw, he was allowed to remain, in a dying condition, close by the redoubt, for hours, till a trench had been run up to the point where he was. It seems to me that a brave general who had sent a brother officer on such an errand as this, should at least have had the humanity and the courage to place himself at the head of his troops, numbering over a thousand men, to rescue him. He fell close at the entrance of the redoubt, where he was exposed to the fire of friends and foes; and it was owing solely to the humanity of a generous native chief, Teoriori--who, at the risk of his own life placed him out of the fire of either party--that he was removed from the spot where he had fallen. In the Parliamentary papers relative to the affairs of New Zealand, 1864, I find "Recollections of a conversation with Teoriori, a New Zealand Chief, on board the prison ship Marion," signed "E. W. Buckley:"--
"During the attack upon Rangiriri," Teoriori says: "I saw a wounded soldier; he had ribbons [braid] on each side of his coat; he was lying in a position where he was liable to be struck by the bullets of both his friends and
gave him the choice of explaining matters, or of any place in Europe or America to settle our differences; but the gallant General, as at Rangiriri, thought that discretion was the better part of valour, and remained silent. I therefore thought it high time to compliment him on his discretion, which I did in good English; and finished by informing him, that if my poor brother could only have seen through his hypocrisy, he was just the man to have disgraced him there and then, which would have been a very simple affair, by telling him before witnesses to follow him, which he was afraid to do; although he did not hesitate to order my poor brother to accomplish with thirty-six men, armed with pistols and short swords, what upwards of seven hundred men, armed in the proper way with the advantage of the bayonet, had twice been forced to recoil from. There is no braver race in the world than the British infantry soldier, but most of them are quite capable of judging character: they will follow to the death such men as Lord Gough, the late Sir John Campbell (who fell before the Redan at Sebastopol, 18th June, 1855), or the late Sir Henry Havelock, Bart.; but they do not fancy such an order as-- "Go on, my lads. I will not be far behind you." For the account of the gallant sailors' assault on the redoubt, see the end of the pamphlet, written by an eye-witness, taken partly from the Boy's Own Magazine, 11th year, vol. v. page 478; and the Army and Navy Gazette, 30th April, 1864.
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foes. I went to save him, so that I might be able to say; 'he is a man whose life I have saved.' I assisted him to rise, and with my arms extended supported him towards a hollow, where he would not be exposed to the fire of either party. Whilst I was in the act of assisting him I was struck by two balls, one immediately after the other; one in the heel, the other in the calf of the leg. I then left him and returned to the pah. * * * * * *
Signed, E. W. Buckley, Interpreter.'
While lying near where this noble savage had placed him, Captain Henry Mercer was visited by Dr. Temple, and Lieutenant Pickard, R. A., and they remained with him till the troops had dug a trench to the spot for the purpose of taking him away. In this they showed a courage and devotion above all praise. Both of them have been decorated with the Victoria Cross for this service.
The only question that can arise out of the conduct of General Cameron, in this affair, is whether he committed a fatal blunder or something worse. Knowing all the facts and circumstances of the position, as his despatches show, he had no excuse for blundering. Can it be that, in obedience to a suggestion from the Duke of Cambridge or from the late Colonel Adjutant General Bingham, R.A., 2 with the Duke's concurrence, to put Captain Mercer to some severe test, he took this method of securing favor in high quarters?
Irritated at the openness of manner I had shown in my dealings with the Horse Guards, the Duke of Cambridge or his Adjutant General appears plainly at a previous date, to have resolved to visit upon my brother the sins of which he seems to have regarded me as being guilty. The sudden recal from Shorncliff, the curt answer to an enquiry why a previously expressed determination was changed, the--as I believe--sham mutiny, the refusal to recognize services which had twice been mentioned in General Cameron's despatches, and the unusual circumstance of sending artillerymen on a forlorn hope, are antecedent facts to which different minds may give different degrees of weight. To me, with a knowledge derived from sixteen years experience of how things may be done in the army, they appear as so
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many links in a connected chain, reaching from Inkermann and the Horse Guards to Rangiriri.
Such being my views of the case, I, on receiving General Cameron's despatches, in March, 1864, wrote a strong letter to the Duke of Cambridge, complaining that the life of a brave soldier had been sacrificed to the unprecedented expedient of sending an artillery officer, with an inadequate force, on a hopeless forlorn hope. I got no explanation, and not even an acknowledgement. I afterwards wrote to the Secretary at War, to the same purpose, adding that one thing which it was obviously proper to do, under the distressing circumstances, was to give Captain Mercer's widow a pension suitable to his acknowledged services. I received an answer, dated August 30, 1864, to the effect that she could not, under the regulations, get more than the pension of a Captain's widow. The case, it seemed plain to me, was one demanding enquiry; and on the 5th November, 1864, 1 wrote to Lord Palmerston, expressing a hope that he would "immediately cause a public inquiry to be made into the cause of my poor brother's death." To this demand, which seemed to me so reasonable and so proper, I was not honoured with any reply, and a repetition of the request was not more fortunate in the result. As a last resort, so far as official personages were concerned, I wrote to Her Gracious Majesty the Queen, laying the circumstances before her. I received the courtesy of a prompt reply, dated Osborne, 16th January, 1865, in these words: Sir Charles Phipps has received the commands of Her Majesty the Queen to acknowledge the receipt of Major Mercer's letter of the 20th ult. and regrets that his request cannot be complied with. Pensions for military services are granted under fixed regulations, with which it is impossible for Her Majesty personally to interfere."
It adds to the mystery of this case that, after the reply I had received from the Secretary at war, that my brother's widow could only receive the pension of a captain's widow, and after this statement that Her Majesty could not interfere with the fixed rules, which govern such cases, the pension assignable to a Lieutenant Colonel's widow should in March last, have been granted. The greater pension was, if I am correctly informed, granted on the recommendation of the Duke of Cambridge. If there had not been merit or mystery in this case, it is quite certain this would not have been done. Though the granting of the greater pension was a very proper thing to do, no
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pecuniary consideration can make amends for the sacrifice of a brave officer. How the greater pension came to be granted, I do not pretend to be able to divine. It may be that Her Majesty, without at all infringing those constitutional rules which it is so proper for sovereigns as well as subjects to observe, feeling the interest of a widow in the case of a widow whose husband had been taken from her otherwise than by the ordinary visitations of Providence, directed the attention of the proper officers to the matter. There is only one other way I conceive this part of the wrong to have been righted. In February, 1865, I, by letter, placed the Editor of The Times in possession of the facts; and he may have thought the case one for private enquiry rather than publicity, and acted accordingly.
When I was informed of the increased pension being granted, I was asked by my brother's widow thenceforth to observe a strict silence in regard to every circumstance connected with him. But I, the only near surviving relative who is in a position to take the part of his defender, cannot accept this condition. My other brother is in the army; and whatever his opinions may be, as a necessary consequence, silence upon him is imposed. But I am free to speak and act; and General Cameron is already aware that, come what will, I shall hold him personally responsible for the fatal order he gave my brother, to do an impossible act in the face of certain death. The world is wide, and if he so will it, we can settle our differences in France or the United States or some other foreign territory, where he will be as free as myself from any restraint which the shackles of the service might be supposed to impose upon him. Whatever instructions he might have received to put Captain Mercer to extraordinary tests of courage, he had no right to sacrifice him as he did. Whatever doubt there may be as to the participation of any one else in this affair--and I have shown why it is that I have none--the case is plain so far as regards him. It admits of no doubt, and only of one possible explanation. If it was a blunder it was a very gross one; and it is open to him to explain and apologize. If it was no blunder, then it must be brought to a different arbitrament.
When I heard of that partial redress of a great wrong which is implied in the granting of the increased pension, I thought it my duty to give the Duke of Cambridge the benefit of any possible doubt as to the extent of his previous knowledge or action in the matter; and I
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therefore voluntarily withdrew some harsh expressions I had used in my letter of March, 1864, to him, and of which the public knew nothing. But his Royal Highness having failed in the ordinary courtesy of an acknowledgment, leads me to question whether he was entitled to such considerate treatment. (Note d.)
NOTE D.--I allowed a long time to elapse in order to allay any ill feeling that might exist on the part of the Commander-in-Chief, His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, to myself; presuming that it was just possible that his sycophant lieutenants might have acted in this painful affair without either his knowledge or consent. I then did myself the honour to address him; I told His Royal Highness that I based my views of the foul play my poor brother had received upon the fact that the anonymous letter spoken of in the pamphlet was addressed to him personally; it was done with a hope (and without any intention of offending him) that if what had come to my knowledge was true, respecting my wish to join the Russians, on the 30th December, 1854, he would surely know it, and send for me to explain matters; and if it was not true, why he would not know from whom the letter came, as it was written by a lady, and posted in London, England; and thus my mind would have been set at rest respecting the absurd fable: but as different action was taken, as explained in this pamphlet, I thought it best, solely for my poor brother's sake at the time, to remain quiet; till I felt (as explained in this pamphlet) that he was suffering on my account. I then made myself responsible for the anonymous letter spoken of, by letter to His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, dated 29th August, 1862, as explained; and this was long before my poor dear brother was basely murdered. I think I have proved to any unprejudiced mind, that from the moment I dared to complain of being condemned or even an open chance given me of defending my own honour, my poor brother was treated with gross injustice; his just claims to promotion repudiated, after having been noticed in several despatches with every credit, and at last murdered by order. Of course it is quite impossible for me to say who is responsible for this most cowardly deed; but one thing appears certain to my simple mind, that if His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, had no hand in the case, he would at once have directed his secretary to write to me, repudiating the foul affair in toto, particularly as in my correspondence to His Royal Highness I had stated to him that if my judgment had erred, and he would do me the honour of informing me that he had no hand in the outrage on my poor brother, that I would at once write a public apology, and give it the same circulation that the first edition of my pamphlet had had, and state that I deeply
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regretted that I had mixed his name up in as disgraceful a transaction as ever occurred in the British army; but I have never received one line from His Royal Highness or his secretary. Now, although he holds a most exalted position, no man in his senses would say that it is on a par with that of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria; and I beg to state, that Her Majesty did me the honour to acknowledge my letter by return of post through her secretary. I submit that the base cowards who planned this murderous hunting expedition against a most quiet, gentlemanly, Christian man, did it with the hope that his heroic heart would not face the certain death prepared for him: he then, poor man, would have been disgraced; and the sneaking slander against myself, which no person had the courage to state plainly to my face, would have been repeated with tenfold force by the same heroes who whispered my honour away, with all the force that their military authority could give the fable, which they had not the courage to investigate, although I had given them more than once the opportunity of sifting it. I could not defend my honour till it was attacked; and to speak out perfectly plain at the Court Martial would have only been to resign my commission. I now submit, that if His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge can explain his position at the Battle of Inkermann--when he was saved from being taken prisoner by the Russians by Dr. Wilson, 7th Hussars, at that time attached to the Guards--as clearly and plainly as I have done for joining the French Reserve Cavalry on the morning of the 31st of December, 1854, it will be more satisfactory to many, both in and out of the army; and will silence a slander which has cost me at all events a good deal; for I firmly believe that but for this incident, coupled with Lord Dunkellin's affair, my honour would never have been doubted for an instant; and consequently, which is now quite plain to my own mind, I never should have been tried by court martial, and the tragedy this treats of would never have occurred, nor I have to complain of gross injustice, which I submit I have suffered; as I honestly earned my Majority, and was gazetted to it by Lord Harding, the previous Commander-in-Chief, but denied the benefit of it, by the present Duke of Cambridge; and although injured in the service of the country, I was refused more leave to regain my health: and therefore the only alternative left was to disgrace myself by going on half-pay as Captain and Brevet Major, while I may say all (gazetted the same day as myself) my juniors in the service, and many of them not touched, were receiving the substantive rank of Major. The public, I dare say, will not be surprised, under the above circumstances, that I preferred selling out. And without egotism, I may say, I should not be of the same blood as my brother, the late Capt. Henry Mercer, R.A., if I had acted in any other way. One thing is quite certain to my mind: had my poor brother's courage failed him, when called to enter the fatal breach, which he did at the head of
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I submit that, whether the facts I have related properly constitute a connected and complete chain of evidence or not, I have at least succeeded in showing that this is a case for enquiry. The life of my brother, Captain Henry Mercer, of the Royal Artillery, was improperly sacrificed: and justice demands that the matter should be investigated. I was myself unjustly denied a confirmation of my rank as Brevet Major, conferred for distinguished services in the field, and I have given what I believe to be the cause of this injustice; and my brother, who appears to have been ill-treated on my account, finally lost his life in obeying an order for which there was neither necessity nor justification. I therefore appeal to the justice of the British public with full confidence that there will be a general agreement with me that the case is one which imperatively calls for a searching public enquiry; and with the hope that some honest Englishman who has both the will and the power, will see that what I was deprived of by an unjust judge is returned to me either in value or an equivalant; and that such vile tyranny shall never again occur in the British Army, which destroyed as fearless a man as ever drew a sword for no earthly purpose.
three men who were all killed supporting him, we should have been held up as a bad race, and in this way, viz. --one brother had shown the white feather in New Zealand, and the other in the Crimea had tried to be taken prisoner by the Russians. I leave it to any honest heart to judge, whether or not under the circumstances I have formed a sound judgment on the case.