Whilst checking some parliamentary papers, I came across the second report from the Select Committee on the Army before Sebastopol, with the minutes of evidence and appendix. I was immediately transported to the horrors of war by reading it. This is a frightening report where the Select Committee examined men that had been actually there and seen what it was like. Some of the statements are not just harrowing, but extremely gruesome.
There is evidence about the state of the toilets in one of the hospitals; “the pipes soon chocked up and the liquid faeces, the evacuations from those afflicted with diarrhoea, filled up the pipes, floated up over the floor, and came into the room…more than an inch deep when I got there in the morning.” He then goes on to mention that the soldiers who had no slippers or shoes had to use the toilets! The inspector ended up catching diarrhoea within 5 minutes of being there. Ugh!
In another interview it describes the state of the army outfits. The question was “were the men in a ragged and comfortless condition in the camp?” The reply was “Frightful; they had haybands round their legs in very many instances, and their trousers were completely worn out.”
There was a debate about coffee, that it was deeply regretted that it was green and not roasted.
The worst statement I read concerned dead bodies; “it was wrapped in a blanket and carried to the grave, and when placed in the grave the blanket was taken off” This was to stop the digging up of the bodies to steal the blankets.
This report can be found at PP 1854-55 Vol. IX. or if you are a registered reader of the National Library of Scotland, try using the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers resource.