The Charge of the Light Brigade
The Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava
William Simpson - 1855
I was recently reminded of this battle that took place during the Crimean War that inspired the famous poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. If you’re not familiar with the story, here’s a summary from the website Eyewitness to History.com.
What specifically ignited the Crimean War in 1854 has long been forgotten in the collective memory. The conflict erupted in 1854 with the Russian Empire on one side and Britain, France, the Kingdom of Sardinia and the Ottoman Empire on the other. Their dispute centered on which side would have dominant influence in the declining Ottoman Empire. The wars' major battleground was in Russia's Crimean Peninsula, which gave the conflict its name. British and French forces landed in the Crimea in the fall of 1854 with the objective of attacking Russia's naval base at the city of Sevastopol and thereby weaken its naval presence in the Black Sea.
Although the war itself is only a dim recollection, what is vividly remembered is one valorously tragic incident of the campaign: the headlong cavalry charge of the British Light Brigade into murderous Russian fire; an action immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem.
The Charge of the Light Brigade took place during a battle near the city of Balaclava on October 25, 1854. Through a miscommunication of orders, the Light Brigade of approximately 600 horsemen began a headlong charge into a treeless valley with the objective of capturing some Russian field artillery at its end. Unbeknown to them, the valley was ringed on three sides by some 20 battalions of Russian infantry and artillery.
The result was disastrous. An estimated 278 of the Light Brigade were killed or wounded. Observing the charge, a French Marshall remarked: "It is magnificent, but it is not war. It is madness." When news of the action reached London, it caused a national scandal that prompted Tennyson to pen his poem. History remembers the charge of the Light Brigade as an example of the extraordinary bravery of the British soldier in the face of enemy fire in spite of poor leadership.