The Balaclava Brigade
Continue Cancel Send email OK. Page 1 of 1. Charge of the Light Brigade. Steel engraving, English, Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava, 15 October, Victorian engraving by William Measom. Light Cavalry charge at Balaklava Wood engraving from a contemporary English newspaper. They were however on the verge of substantial change, brought about by developments in firearms. The British infantry fought with the Brown Bess musket in some form from the beginning of the 18 th Century.
This weapon was quickly replaced by the more efficient British Enfield Rifle. The new rifle was sighted up to 1, yards, as against the old Brown Bess, wholly inaccurate beyond yards. It would take the rest of the century for field tactics to catch up with the effects of the modern weapons coming into service. Winner of the Battle of Balaclava: Balaclava is a battle honour for all the British regiments that took part. It is usually a pre-condition for a British regimental battle honour that the battle was a victory for British arms. Balaclava was a strategic defeat.
The Russians captured seven guns and at the end of the battle held the ground they had attacked. Against this, the three episodes in the battle; the Charge of the Heavy Brigade, the Thin Red Line and the Charge of the Light Brigade, are such icons of courage and achievement for the British Army, that it is not surprising the military authorities awarded Balaclava as a battle honour to the regiments involved. Battle of Balaclava on 15th October in the Crimean War: British Regiments at the Battle of Balaclava: All these regiments have Balaclava as a battle honour.
Account of the Battle of Balaclava: In mid-September , the British and French armies, with a small Turkish contingent, landed on the western Crimean coast, 30 miles north of Sevastopol, with the aim of capturing this important Russian Black Sea city and naval base. The allied armies marched south along the coast and fought the battle of the Alma on that river, defeating the Russian army and driving it back towards the city.
Dawn Alarm in the Cavalry Camp: British cavalry in the Crimea: Battle of Balaclava on 25th October in the Crimean War: Lord Raglan and Marshal St Arnaud, the two commanders-in-chief, resolved to march around the inland side of Sevastopol and begin siege operations against the city from the south. Once the march was completed, the French established their base at Kamiesh, on the south-western tip of the Crimea, south of Sevastopol, while the British took Balaclava as their base, fifteen miles along the coast to the east.
The Russian commander, Prince Menshikov, marched his army out of Sevastopol to the north-east, leaving a garrison to conduct the defence of the city. On 25 th October , Menshikov launched an assault across the Tchernaya River to the north-east of Balaclava, with the aim of capturing the British base.
The assault was commanded by his deputy, General Liprandi. Liprandi crossed the Tractir Bridge over the river and advanced on the positions held by Turkish troops along the Causeway Heights. Liprandi commanded twenty-five battalions of infantry, twenty-three squadrons of cavalry, thirteen squadrons of Cossack light horse and sixty-six guns. Supporting General Liprandi, by occupying the Fedioukine Hills, was a further force commanded by General Jabrokritski, of seven battalions and fourteen guns. The total force comprised 20, infantry, 3, cavalry and 76 guns.
The Woronzoff Road, running along the ridge of the Causeway Heights, provided an important communication for the British, being the only firm road from Balaclava up to the siege works at Sevastopol. The Turkish troops were building six redoubts along the Heights, to protect the road and defend Balaclava. The work was not far progressed.
Nine 12 pounder naval guns bolstered these positions. The only British troops between the Russian force and the port were the two British cavalry brigades, the Heavy Brigade and the Light Brigade, which had their encampments in the valley, the 93 rd Highlanders and a small force of marines. Raglan ordered the Second and Fourth British Divisions to march down from their camps outside the Sevastopol siege lines, to support the cavalry and highlanders.
There was considerable delay in persuading the divisional commanders to make the arduous journey down to the valleys at Balaclava. Many of the regiments had spent the night in the trenches and were exhausted and, only days previously, a similar order had caused the infantry to make just this march, to find it was a false alarm. As the Russian infantry and guns pushed the Turks out of the redoubts, a force of 3, Russian cavalry moved from the North Valley onto the Causeway Heights, with the intention of advancing across the South Valley to occupy Balaclava.
The main section of the brigade comprised six squadrons of the Royal Scots Greys 2 nd Dragoons , the 6 th Inniskilling Dragoons and the 5 th Dragoon Guards, in two columns. Following these columns were the 1 st Royal Dragoons and the 4 th Dragoon Guards, another four squadrons. The Russians and the Heavy Brigade could not see each other, until the Russian cavalry came over the Causeway Heights and began their descent into the South Valley.
In front of them, marching across their line of advance, was the Heavy Brigade. Russian Cuirassiers of the Guard: General Scarlett acted immediately, forming his left column into line and leading them into the attack on the Russian cavalry force.
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The squadrons of the other column followed as a second line and the Royals and 4 th Dragoon Guards hurried up to join the attack as quickly as they could. As the Heavy Brigade charged, the Russian cavalry force halted, so that it received the Heavy Brigade charge stationary. The Russian commander appeared to be seeking to extend his line, after crossing the Causeway Heights.
The first line, of Scots Greys and Inniskillings, struck the Russian cavalry, followed by the second line, of Inniskillings and 5 th Dragoon Guards. French cavalry is on your left. This was an optimum task for the Light Brigade, as their superior speed would ensure the Russians would be forced to either quickly abandon the cumbersome guns or be cut down en masse while they attempted to flee with them.
Raglan could see what was happening from his high vantage point on the west side of the valley. However, the lie of the land around Lucan and the cavalry prevented him from seeing the Russians' efforts to remove the guns from the redoubts and retreat. Nolan carried the further oral instruction that the cavalry was to attack immediately. In response to the order, Lucan instructed Cardigan to lead his command of about troopers  of the Light Brigade straight into the valley between the Fedyukhin Heights and the Causeway Heights. The opposing Russian forces were commanded by Pavel Liprandi and included approximately 20 battalions of infantry supported by over 50 artillery pieces.
These forces were deployed on both sides and at the opposite end of the valley.
Lucan himself was to follow with the Heavy Brigade. Although the Heavy Brigade was better armoured and intended for frontal assaults on infantry positions, neither force was remotely equipped for a frontal assault on a fully dug-in and alerted artillery battery—much less one with an excellent line of sight over a mile in length and supported on two sides by artillery batteries providing enfilading fire from elevated ground.
The semi-suicidal nature of this charge was surely evident to the troopers of the Light Brigade, but if there were any objection to the orders, it was not recorded. The Light Brigade set off down the valley with Cardigan in front, leading the charge on his horse Ronald. It may be that he realised that the charge was aimed at the wrong target and was attempting to stop or turn the brigade, but he was killed by an artillery shell and the cavalry continued on its course. Captain Godfrey Morgan was close by and saw what happened:. The first shell burst in the air about yards in front of us.
The next one dropped in front of Nolan's horse and exploded on touching the ground. He uttered a wild yell as his horse turned round, and, with his arms extended, the reins dropped on the animal's neck, he trotted towards us, but in a few yards dropped dead off his horse. I do not imagine that anybody except those in the front line of the 17th Lancers saw what had happened.
Battle of Balaclava
When we got about two or three hundred yards the battery of the Russian Horse Artillery opened fire. I do not recollect hearing a word from anybody as we gradually broke from a trot to a canter, though the noise of the striking of men and horses by grape and round shot was deafening, while the dust and gravel struck up by the round shot that fell short was almost blinding, and irritated my horse so that I could scarcely hold him at all.
But as we came nearer I could see plainly enough, especially when I was about a hundred yards from the guns. I appeared to be riding straight on to the muzzle of one of the guns, and I distinctly saw the gunner apply his fuse. I shut my eyes then, for I thought that settled the question as far as I was concerned. But the shot just missed me and struck the man on my right full in the chest. In another minute I was on the gun and the leading Russian's grey horse, shot, I suppose, with a pistol by somebody on my right, fell across my horse, dragging it over with him and pinning me in between the gun and himself.
A Russian gunner on foot at once covered me with his carbine. He was just within reach of my sword, and I struck him across his neck. The blow did not do much harm, but it disconcerted his aim. At the same time a mounted gunner struck my horse on the forehead with his sabre. Spurring "Sir Briggs," he half jumped, half blundered, over the fallen horses, and then for a short time bolted with me. I only remember finding myself alone among the Russians trying to get out as best I could. This, by some chance, I did, in spite of the attempts of the Russians to cut me down.
The Light Brigade faced withering fire from three sides which devastated their force on the ride, yet they were able to engage the Russian forces at the end of the valley and force them back from the redoubt.
- Battle of Balaclava - Wikipedia.
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Nonetheless, they suffered heavy casualties and were soon forced to retire. When clear again of the guns I saw two or three of my men making their way back, and as the fire from both flanks was still heavy it was a matter of running the gauntlet again. I have not sufficient recollection of minor incidents to describe them, as probably no two men who were in that charge would describe it in the same way.
When I was back pretty nearly where we started from I found that I was the senior officer of those not wounded, and, consequently, in command, there being two others, both juniors to me, in the same position — Lieut. Wombwell and Cornet Cleveland. Lucan and his troops of the Heavy Brigade failed to provide any support for the Light Brigade—they entered the mouth of the valley but did not advance farther.
Lucan's explanation was that he saw no point in having a second brigade mown down, and he was best positioned to render assistance to Light Brigade survivors returning from the charge. The French light cavalry, the Chasseurs d'Afrique , was more effective by clearing the Fedyukhin Heights of the two half-batteries of guns, two infantry battalions, and Cossacks to ensure that the Light Brigade would not be hit by fire from that flank, and it provided cover for the remaining elements of the Light Brigade as they withdrew. War correspondent William Howard Russell witnessed the battle and declared: Cardigan survived the battle, although stories circulated that he was not actually present.
He reached the Russian guns, took part in the fight, and then returned alone up the valley without bothering to rally or even find out what had happened to the survivors. He afterwards said that all he could think about was his rage against Captain Nolan, who he thought had tried to take over the leadership of the charge. After riding back up the valley, he considered that he had done all that he could and then, with considerable sang-froid , left the field and went on board his yacht in Balaclava harbour where he ate a champagne dinner.
We advanced down a gradual descent of more than three-quarters of a mile, with the batteries vomiting forth upon us shells and shot, round and grape, with one battery on our right flank and another on the left, and all the intermediate ground covered with the Russian riflemen; so that when we came to within a distance of fifty yards from the mouths of the artillery which had been hurling destruction upon us, we were, in fact, surrounded and encircled by a blaze of fire, in addition to the fire of the riflemen upon our flanks.
As we ascended the hill, the oblique fire of the artillery poured upon our rear, so that we had thus a strong fire upon our front, our flank, and our rear. We entered the battery—we went through the battery—the two leading regiments cutting down a great number of the Russian gunners in their onset. In the two regiments which I had the honour to lead, every officer, with one exception, was either killed or wounded, or had his horse shot under him or injured. Those regiments proceeded, followed by the second line, consisting of two more regiments of cavalry, which continued to perform the duty of cutting down the Russian gunners.
Then came the third line, formed of another regiment, which endeavoured to complete the duty assigned to our brigade. I believe that this was achieved with great success, and the result was that this body, composed of only about men, succeeded in passing through the mass of Russian cavalry of—as we have since learned—5, strong; and having broken through that mass, they went, according to our technical military expression, "threes about," and retired in the same manner, doing as much execution in their course as they possibly could upon the enemy's cavalry.
Upon our returning up the hill which we had descended in the attack, we had to run the same gauntlet and to incur the same risk from the flank fire of the Tirailleur as we had encountered before. Numbers of our men were shot down—men and horses were killed, and many of the soldiers who had lost their horses were also shot down while endeavouring to escape.
Charge of the Light Brigade - Wikipedia
But what, my Lord, was the feeling and what the bearing of those brave men who returned to the position. Of each of these regiments there returned but a small detachment, two-thirds of the men engaged having been destroyed? I think that every man who was engaged in that disastrous affair at Balaklava, and who was fortunate enough to come out of it alive, must feel that it was only by a merciful decree of Almighty Providence that he escaped from the greatest apparent certainty of death which could possibly be conceived.
A newspaper report on 11 December   revealed another version of what happened when a letter was found in the British Library, written by Lieutenant Frederick Maxse who was on Lord Raglan's staff at Balaklava.