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Civilians at war: William Henry Drake and the Commissariat in the Crimean War
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posted on 27.04.2017by Megan Stevens
This dissertation examines the performance of the British Commissariat during the Crimean War of 1854-56, through the documents of William Henry Drake and his wife, Louisa, for which it received much criticism. While agreeing with much historical comment and analysis that has gone before, the Drake papers cast a new light on the conduct of the Commissariat during that war. The life and career of Drake is also presented. Drake, a commissary whose career was very successful, in no way epitomises all other Commissariat officers - there were few whose careers were more successful, and most did not excel as he did. The first chapter briefly examines the history of the Commissariat prior to the Crimean War. The second looks at, with commentary from other sources, the conduct of the war, up to the fateful hurricane of 14 November 1854. The third chapter investigates the effect of the hurricane on the supply of the British Army. The fourth and final chapter explores how Drake's career was positively affected by his conduct during the war, as well as the changes wrought to the Commissariat as a result of it. The dissertation argues that the Commissariat, despite being cleared of all wrongdoing in two of the three Commissions of Inquiry held into their conduct, did indeed share in the blame for the disasters which befell the British Army during the Crimean War.