Where Did the Light Brigade Charge?
The famous Charge of the Light Brigade took place eight miles south of the great port of Sebastopol on the west coast of the Crimean peninsula, near the small harbor of Balaklava. During the Crimean War (1854-56), when the forces of France, Britain and Turkey fought the Russian Army, Balaklava was the Allied base. It was defended by lines of earth works on the hills around the harbor.
On October 25, 1854, Russian forces attempted to break these lines. Over-running some Turks on the heights and seizing their guns, the Russians then descended to the plains and attacked the British forces. The British Heavy Brigade drove them back over a low ridge of hills crossing the plain.
Then occurred one of the most famous feats in the chronicles of the British Army, the Charge of the Light Brigade a charge of British light cavalry led by Lord Cardigan, 673 horsemen rode up a valley under heavy Russian fire. They charged a mile and a half up the valley to capture some Russian guns. They achieved their objective, but only 195 men returned.
Among them was Lord Cardigan, who behaved as if the charge had been of no special significance. Boarding his yacht, where he was living during the campaign, he bathed, dined and went to bed. The assault ended with very high British casualties and no decisive gains.
This most gallant action would have never taken place if a mistake had not been made in the giving of orders by the High Command. The 673 men of the Light Brigade had charged straight at the wrong guns! Alfred, Lord Tennyson, a famous Victorian poet, immortalized the charge of the Brigade in the poem he wrote to celebrate it.
Published just six weeks after the event, its lines emphasize the valour of the cavalry in bravely carrying out their orders, regardless of the obvious outcome. Blame for the miscommunication has remained controversial, as the original order itself was vague, and the officer who delivered the written orders, with some verbal interpretation, died in the first minute of the assault.