The unanimity and precipitation with which the tribes have crowded to the shore probably took both Russians and Turks by surprise. As soon as the Emperor [Tsar Alexander II] was informed of the reports circulated abroad concerning the hardships and suffering to which the emigrants were exposed, His Majesty telegraphed to the Grand Duke Michael desiring him to send agents to the spot to inquire into the distaste of affairs and to provide the means of relief. Instead of sending an agent, the Grand Duke went in person....It would appear by these accounts that the distress of the Circassians on the Russian territory has been exaggerated. The Grand Duke affirms that they are in possession of live stock, that distributions of bread have been made to them, and that their sanitary condition is by no means as bad as has been represented. No epidemic disorder prevailed among them. The suffering of the emigrants had rather been on the voyage to Turkey, and after their arrival at Trebizond, where there was a deplorable accumulation, mismanagement and misapplication of the assistance sent by the Sultan.
Lord Napier to Earl Russell, St Petersburgh, 23 May, 1864
The principal inhabitants were summoned to present themselves before the commander of the [Russian] troops, and were told that the Emperor, instead of consenting to the general extermination they had merited, graciously ordered the evacuation of their country... Three days they were told, were granted to them to come to a decision, and to make preparations for the journey. On the fourth day fire was set to their dwellings, and their inhabitants who had manifested the intention of seeking an asylum in Turkey, was forthwith marched down to the nearest point of the coast. On their reaching the spot, a military cordon surrounded the encampment to prevent any further communication with the interior. The men-at-war and other sailing ships – which it is officially stated in Lord Napier’s dispatch, had been at the Grand Duke Michael’s request, placed at his entire disposal in order to facilitate the Circassian emigration – having never existed but on paper, the thousands of individuals congregated on the beach were doomed to remain there exposed to the inclemency of the elements for weeks and months, waiting for the providential arrival of a vessel from Turkey.
Letter from a British observer, T. Milligen, based in Constantinople, which was included as evidence in the Journal of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Houses of Parliament, 3. August, 1864.