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SilverCeltic Moon

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The Charge of The Light Brigade
by SilverCeltic Moon

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Based on a factual battle charge. A poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Below are listed facts about the charge of the Light Brigade which led to the now famous poem written by Lord Alfred Tennyson.

I read this poem in grade school and it affected me so much, I had to look up what really happened. At a young age, I learned to love history and poetry...and that love continues today.
I hope you enjoy the bit of history I have pulled together for you about this battle charge and the poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson.

;) Silver

The Charge of the Light Brigade
The 13th at Balaclava


Lieutenant Percy Smith, who was acting adjutant, in a letter, writes, "the number of horses on parade was 108, exclusive of officers."

The Regimental Record gives the strength of the regiment, including officers, as 128.

The History of the 11th Hussars gives the parade state of the 13th on that day as 130.

Trumpeter Powell, on the authority of Corporal Nagle (both of the 13th), places the strength as low as 103.

From a letter to Colonel Anstruther-Thomson, written by Captain Jenyns, we get yet another figure: "We had 110 horses and eight officers when we went into action (young Goad's horse, the one he jumped the timber on, was knocked over by a round-shot early in the day, and the young 'un hurt in the fall)."

The total strength of the Light Brigade when it started on the charge is usually accepted as 673.

The order was given, "The Brigade will advance." The balance of evidence goes to show that no trumpet call was used. The men were dismounted when the order came, and were immediately in the saddle when the command was given.

The first line consisted of the 13th Light Dragoons on the right and the 17th Lancers on the left. Lord Cardigan placed himself alone in front of the line, a little on the left of the centre.

The 13th and 17th then moved off, and when they had covered rather more than 100 yards the 11th Hussars, who were in the second line, moved off also. In due course, and at about the same interval, came the 4th and the 8th. During the day the 11th had been on the left of the first line, but the narrowing of the valley and the width of front occupied by the Cossack battery at the east end necessitated a contraction in the first line.

As it was, the 17th Lancers overlapped the right of the battery, and the 11th Hussars, in support, just brushed the guns with their right flank. The 11th it will thus be seen, did not actually cover the 17th but charged down the valley nearer to the Fedioukine Hills. The 11th the 4th, and the 8th were in echelon. Consequently the 4th came into the battery full front, while the course of the 8th was as against the Russian left. Captain Nolan started to ride with the charge, and it is believed took up a position in the interval between the two squadrons of the 17th At any rate, it would appear that thence he darted out when he rode obliquely across the front of the advancing line.

It was not long before the 13th and 17th came under the guns of the enemy; but before a shot was fired Captain Nolan, as has been mentioned, darted out. He was seen to be wildly waving his sword, and, as it were, endeavouring to make some communication to Lord Cardigan. It is certain that he was pointing in the direction of the Causeway Heights, as if to indicate the true intention of the order which he had conveyed. Whether he would have succeeded in this, if such was his intention, can never be known, for at this moment the first gun from the Russian battery was fired. Nolan was struck by a fragment of a shell which killed him instantly. His sword fell from his hand, but his arm remained erect, and the grip of his knees kept him in the saddle. It chanced that he was mounted on a troop horse of the 13th The horse with its dead burden wheeled round and passed through the interval between the squadrons. Nolan's body fell in the rear. By this time the Russian battery on the Fedioukine Hills had opened fire, and the masses of infantry on either side the valley poured in a heavy discharge of musketry. Now, too, the Cossack battery in the front joined in, but yet, with men and horses dropping singly, or by twos or threes, on swept the Light Brigade. On and on they rode, each instant finding gap after gap in the ranks. Riderless horses, as the men dropped, still kept their places in the line; but there was neither pause nor hesitation. "Close in," "close in," was the word as death and destruction was dealt among them. At about 80 yards from the Cossack guns a discharge wrought fearful havoc, but after that those guns spoke no more. Ahead of his men Lord Cardigan dashed into the battery, crushing his knee and receiving a slight wound. Nor were the 13th and 17th far behind. The two squadrons of the former and the right squadron of the latter were speedily among the guns, and were cutting down the artillerymen that remained at their posts. Through the guns they went, and were soon engaged in a hand-to-hand encounter with the enemy that was endeavouring to surround them by closing in on either flank.

Meanwhile, thanks to the dashing attack on the battery and infantry posted on the Fedioukine Hills, which was so gallantly executed by the 4th Chasseurs D'Afrique under General D'Allonville, the line of retirement—one cannot call it retreat—was cleared on one flank for the survivors of the charge. Nothing, however, was attempted by Lord Lucan against the enemy which thronged the Causeway Heights. He advanced down the valley far ahead of his brigade, and penetrated for a distance of more than half a mile on the side of the Woronzoff Road. His brigade came under fire, was halted, and then retired after sustaining some little loss. Lord Lucan considered that the Light Brigade had been wantonly sacrificed, and determined that the Heavy Brigade should not so be destroyed if he could help it.

It will be remembered that the left squadron of the 17th brushed the right flank of the battery, and continuing its course it dashed against the Russian cavalry in the rear.

The 11th in its progress having passed the guns, found a strong body of Russian lancers in its front. Charging these, the enemy did not await the attack, but wheeled round and retreated in confusion far along the valley into the gorge near the aqueduct. The 11th followed in pursuit, and chased them till they halted on the side of a hill with their backs to their pursuers, at whom they looked over their shoulders. Finding the 11th were but few in numbers, an attempt was made by the Russian officers to get their men to attack, but without avail. Matters remained thus for a short time, perhaps not more than a few moments, while pursuers and pursued were in close juxtaposition. Then Cossacks were observed working round in the rear of the 11th and there was nothing for it but to cut their way back along the valley and past the guns which the Russians were now attempting to remove.

On the road the 11th were pursued by Russian hussars, and nearly cut off by some of Jeropkine's lancers that issued from the horse-shoe. Meanwhile, the fragments of the 13th and 17th having passed through and over the guns found themselves without orders.

What to do next nobody could tell them. Lord Cardigan had already returned along the valley for some distance alone, and had then galloped back towards the Russians, only to retire again.

On his first return he spoke to Sergeant Mitchell, from whose Reminiscences extracts have already been made. After that he met Sir John Ewart and Sir George Cathcart, to whom he said, "I have lost my brigade." They did not understand him, knowing nothing of the charge, and stared without speaking. Lord Cardigan then turned his horse, and, as has been said, galloped back towards the Russians. And so it came about that the "wretched remnant," as Captain Jenyns calls it, when they had got to the guns, "went with such a right good cheer, bang through their cavalry, which cut right and left like sheep; on rallying back there were the guns, four hundred yards in the rear, all clear, and no one, worse luck, to carry them off,—the worst part of all, as a very strong regiment of lancers came on our rear, and we had to cut our way through them. Lord Lucan never supported us; the Scots Greys, the nearest, at least a mile in our rear." And so, over the ground strewn with dead and wounded men and horses who were not half an hour previously in full vigour, passed the "wretched remnant," and even then not permitted to escape unscathed.

Parties of the enemy's cavalry, regular or Cossack, were ready to beset any stragglers, and there is no doubt that the death-roll of the Balaclava charge was greatly increased by the butchery of wounded men on the field itself, and the spearing of armed or unarmed dismounted officers and privates of the Light Brigade.

Eventually what was left of the five light cavalry regiments arrived in the rear of the Heavy Brigade and were re-formed.

Lieutenant Percy Smith, who, by the way, was the only officer who rode through the charge and came back on his original horse, states that when he formed up the remains of the regiment, after the charge

The total loss of the regiment was three officers killed—Captains Oldham and Goad and Cornet Montgomery; Troop Sergeant-Major Weston, and ten rank and file were also killed. Thirty rank and file were wounded, and two Troop Sergeant-Majors, while ten rank and file were taken prisoners.

Captain Percy Smith was also wounded by a lance-thrust.

These numbers are elsewhere stated thus: killed and missing, 69; roll call, 61.

From: C. R. B. Barrett, History of the XIII Hussars, William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London, 1911.

The Charge of the Light Brigade
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

Copied from Poems of Alfred Tennyson,
J. E. Tilton and Company, Boston, 1870

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Reviewed by Tinka Boukes 3/23/2003
Your passion shines through in this piece
Reviewed by Jimmy Holder 3/20/2003
WoW - i really enjoyed the poem and the history behind it! Well done1
Reviewed by Elizabeth Taylor (Reader) 3/20/2003
Well done. I didn't know the complete history behind the poem. Thanks for bringing it to life for me.
Reviewed by Paul Berube 3/20/2003
Silver, I love that poem. Thanks for the memories.
Reviewed by Erin Kelly-Moen 3/20/2003
Wonderful, Silver!! Your passion shines through in this piece! :)
Reviewed by Floria Kelderhouse (Reader) 3/20/2003
Silver thank you for posting this...Tennyson is one of my favorite poets..this was great to read.. thank you ..Floria
Reviewed by Erica Ivory 3/20/2003
Yes I remember this well.. You have done this justice.. A poet and a historians heart.Excellent versus.

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