This letter-book, evidently not seen by Gernsheim, contains transcriptions in at least two different hands of the letters he wrote home to his wife, Grace. It begins in Balaklava and follows Fenton's progress to Sebastopol, Inkerman, General Bosquet's Head Quarters, Yenikale on the Sea of Azov, Kertch, Kaniesch Bay and en-route home via Istania on the Bosphorus. They give details of the many practical and technical problems associated with a photographic commission far from home in the midst of war and frequently refer to scenes, places or people identifiable in surviving photographs. "....as we got further the balls lay thicker but in coming to a ravine called the Valley of Death the sight passed all imagination." Fenton's eye witness record provides a civilian account of the battles, life among the officers, the privations in the camp, and the health and morale of the men. In writing to Grace of the injuries sustained by Captain Edmund Maynard, his wife's brother, and of the deaths of his officer friends, Fenton describes emotions as well as events.
The letters follow the same sequence as those published in Gernsheim, many of which were sent to William Agnew, although that dated there May 5 is here dated May 6 and that dated May 28 is undated in this journal. Two of the letters copied in this journal are previously unpublished and are not reproduced in Gernsheim, those numbered Letter 15th, May 13th, 1855 and Letter XXII, June 16th.. While the others are substantially the same in content as those previously published, they are not identical and include more intimate remarks and comments relating to family matters.
Letter 15th describes how Fenton has fallen ill for a week with diarrhoea and been cared for in the French camp. He writes "Now you need not show this letter to anyone but it will just serve to show you some of the agreables of our present life..........I have got portraits of Turner and Verschoyle: I shall send another batch of portraits to Agnew soon now that I know he has received the last, He tells me it would be desirable if I could take a view of a Russian sortie very desirable indeed but not for me, as my van, apparatus and myself would be all knocked into everlasting smash if seen within half a mile of the advanced trenches; It is amusing to see how little idea people have of what is possible in this world: Could my van have been seen when I took it down to the valley of Death ....I should have had small chance of writing this letter."
In closing Letter XXII Fenton writes "I hope to get off in a week's time at the outside.... Most likely I shall see the fall of Sebastopol within that time. All the generals are here on a council of war this morning. Kisses to my dear bairns & love to yourself from thine R.F."