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the Russians had stormed Canrobert's Hill with five
battalions, the Turks, thus outnumbered, maintaining the
combat so stubbornly that 170 of them were killed
before they were driven out. Pushing on, the enemy
captured more easily the next and smaller work ; and



1 1 2 Movements of the Heavy Brigade.

the garrisons of the others, thus menaced by an army,
and seeing no support anywhere, hastily left them and
made for Balaklava, pursued by the cavalry, who rode
through the feeble earthworks with perfect ease, seven of
the nine guns remaining in the hands of the Russians.

Near these hills the ground on either side rises to
a ridge which forms their base, thus dividing the valley
into two plains, the one on the side of Balaklava, the
other stretching to the Tchernaya, and it was these that
presently became the scene of two famous encounters.

The Heavy Brigade of Cavalry, under General
Scarlett, had joined the army. It included the 4th and
5th Dragoon Guards, and the 1st, 2d, and 6th Dragoons
(Royals, Scots Greys, and Inniskillings), and formed
with the Light Brigade the cavalry division commanded
by Lord Lucan.

Our two cavalry brigades had been manoeuvring so
as to threaten the flank of any force which might
approach Balaklava, without committing themselves to
an action in which they would have been without the
support of infantry. The Light Brigade, numbering
670 sabres, was at this moment on the side of the ridge
looking to the Tchernaya ; the Heavy Brigade, say
900 sabres, on the side towards Balaklava.* Its com-
mander, General Scarlett, was at that moment leading
three of his regiments (Greys, Inniskillings, 5th Dragoon
Guards) through their camping ground into the plain;
a fourth, the Royals, was for the moment behind, at no
great distance, while the 4th Dragoon Guards was

* Map 3.



Charge of the Heavy Brigade. 1 13

moving at the moment in the direction of the Light
Brigade. Having witnessed the hasty retreat of the
Turks, the many spectators on the Upland, consisting of
the French stationed on it, and the English marching
along it, next saw a great body of Russian cavalry ascend
the ridge. Scarlett, unwarned till then, wheeled the Greys
and half the Inniskillings into line ; the 5th Dragoon
Guards and the other squadron of the Inniskillings
were in echelon behind the flanks ; the Royals, galloping
up, formed in extension of the 5th. The Russians, after
a momentary halt, leaving the Light Brigade unnoticed,
perhaps unseen, on their right, swept down in a huge
column on the Heavy Brigade, and at the moment of
collision threw out bodies in line on each flank; the
batteries which accompanied them darting out and
throwing shells, all of which burst short, against the
troops on the Upland. Just then three heavy guns,
manned by Turkish men and officers, in an earthwork
on the edge of the Upland, were fired in succession on
the Russian cavalry, and those troops nearest on the
flank of the column losing some men and horses by
the first shot, wavered, halted, and galloped back. At
the same moment the mass slackened its pace as it
drew near, while our men, embarrasssd at first by the
picket lines of their camp, as soon as they cleared them,
charged in succession. All who had the good fortune
to look down from the heights on that brilliant spectacle
must carry with them through life a vivid remembrance
of it. The plain and surrounding hills, all clad in sober
green, formed an excellent background for the colours

II



i 1 4 Riissian Cavalry defeated.

of the opposing masses ; the dark grey Russian column
sweeping down in multitudinous superiority of number
on the red-clad squadrons that, hindered by the obstacles
of the ground in which they were moving, advanced
slowly to meet them. There was a clash and fusion,
as of wave meeting wave, when the head of the column
encountered the leading squadrons of our brigade, all
those engaged being resolved into a crowd of individual
horsemen, whose swords rose, and fell, and glanced ; so
for a minute or two they fought, the impetus of the
enemy's column carrying it on, and pressing our com-
batants back for a short space, till the 4th Dragoon
Guards, coming clear of the wall of a vineyard which
was between them and the enemy, and wheeling to the
right by squadrons, charged the Russian flank, while the
remaining regiments of our brigade went in in support
of those which had first attacked. Then almost as it
seemed in a moment, and simultaneously the whole
Russian mass gave way, and fled, at speed and in dis-
order, beyond the hill, vanishing behind the slope some
four or five minutes after they had first swept over it.

While this was going on, four of the enemy's
squadrons, wheeling somewhat to their left, made a
rush for the entrance of the harbour. The 93d were
lying down behind a slope there ; as the cavalry ap-
proached, they rose, fired a volley, and stood to receive
the charge so firmly that the horsemen fled back with
the rest of the column.

All this had passed under the observation of Lord
Raglan. He does not seem to have made any comment on



The Orders to the Light Brigade. i i 5

the strange inaction of the Light Brigade, which was after-
wards explained to be due to Lord Cardigan's impression
that he was expected to confine himself strictly to the
defensive. But Lord Raglan sent the following written
order to Lord Lucan : " Cavalry to advance and take
advantage of any opportunity to recover the heights.
They will be supported by the infantry, which have
been ordered to advance on two fronts." The last
sentence referred to the two English Divisions on the
march, and still at some distance. This order did not
commend itself to Lord Lucan's mind so clearly as to
cause him to act on it. He moved the Heavy Brigade
to the other side of the ridge, where he proposed to await
the promised support of infantry, and this, under the
circumstances, was not an irrational decision. After a
while a disposition seemed manifest on the Russian side
to carry off the captured guns, which might very well
seem to signify a general retreat of the forces. There-
fore a second written order was sent to Lord Lucan, thus
worded : " Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance
rapidly to the front, and try to prevent the enemy
carrying away the guns. Troop of horse-artillery may
accompany. French cavalry is on your left. Immediate."
This order was carried by the Quartermaster-General's
aide-de-camp, Captain Nolan, author of a book on
cavalry tactics, in which faith in the power of that arm
was carried to an extreme. He found Lord Lucan be-
tween his two brigades, Scarlett's on the further slope of
the ridge, Cardigan's* beyond the Woronzoff road, where

* Map 3.



1 1 6 Russians both Sides of Valley.

it ascends to the Upland, drawn up across the valley
and looking down it towards the Tchernaya. D'Allon-
ville's French brigade of cavalry had descended into
the plain, and was now on the left rear of the Light
Brigade.

In order to appreciate the position of the Russian
army at this time, it is necessary to note an additional
feature of this part of the field. Rising from the bank
of the Tchernaya, close to the Traktir Bridge, and
stretching thence towards the Chersonese upland, but
not reaching it, is a low lump of hills called the
Fedioukine heights. Their front parallel to the ridge,
at about 1200 yards, forms with it the longer sides of
the oblong valley leading to the Tchernaya. Menschi-
koff had sent a force of the three arms to co-operate
with Liprandi, but not part of his command ; and these
troops and guns were posted on the Fedioukine heights.
The situation, then, was this : the defeated Russian
cavalry had retreated down the valley towards the
Tchernaya, and was there drawn up behind its guns,
a mile and a quarter from our Light Brigade ; Liprandi's
troops were posted along the further half of the Woron-
zoff ridge, enclosing, with those just said to be on the
Fedioukine heights, the valley in which the hostile
bodies of cavalry faced each other ; eight Russian guns
bore on the valley from the ridge ; fourteen Russian
guns from the Fedioukine heights ; Russian rifleman
had been pushed from those slopes into the valley on
each side ; also on each side were three squadrons of
Russian lancers, posted in the folds of the hills, ready



Nolan and Lord Lucan. 1 1 7

to emerge into the valley ; and in front of the main
body of the Russian cavalry were twelve guns in line.

Probably anyone viewing the matter without pre-
possession will think that Lord Raglan's orders to Lord
Lucan were not sufficiently precise. For instance, in
the last order, "to the front" is manifestly vague, the
enemy being on several fronts. Lord Raglan, in a sub-
sequent letter, explains his meaning thus : " It appear-
ing that an attempt was making to remove the captured
guns, the Earl of Lucan was desired to advance rapidly,
follow the enemy in their retreat, and try to prevent them
from effecting their objects." But the enemy were not
removing the guns at that time, and not retreating, and
the order, thus given by Lord Raglan under a mistake,
did not apply.

Here was plenty of room for misinterpretation ; and
on receiving this order, Lord Lucan, by his own account,
read it "with much consideration perhaps consterna-
tion would be the better word at once seeing its im-
practicability for any useful purpose whatever, and the
consequent great unnecessary risk and loss to be in-
curred." He evidently interpreted " the front " to mean
his own immediate front, and was presently given to
understand that " the guns " were those which had
retired along with the Russian cavalry. For when he
uttered his objections, Nolan undertook to reply, though
there is no evidence that he had any verbal instruc-
tions with which to explain the written order. " Lord
Raglan's orders," he said, " are that the cavalry should
attack immediately." " Attack, sir ! attack what ? What



i rS Charge of the Light Brigade.

guns, sir?" asked Lord Lucan sharply. "There, my
lord, is your enemy, there are your guns," replied the
believer in the supreme potency of cavalry, pointing
towards the valley, and uttering these words, Lord
Lucan says, " in a most disrespectful but significant
manner."

Very indignant under what he held to be a taunt,
Lord Lucan thereupon rode to Lord Cardigan, and
imparting to him the order as he understood it, con-
veyed to him the impression that he must charge right
down the valley with his brigade as it stood in two
lines (presently made three by moving a regiment from
the first line), while the Heavy Brigade would follow in
support. And it certainly was impossible for Lord
Cardigan to know what he could advance against
except the cavalry that stood facing him ; and though
he shared and echoed Lord Lucan's misgivings, he at
once gave the order, " The brigade will advance ! "

With these words the famous ride began. But the
brigade was scarcely in motion when Captain Nolan
rode obliquely across the front of it, waving his sword.
Lord Cardigan thought he was presuming to lead the
brigade ; his purpose could never be more than surmised,
for a fragment of the first shell fired by the enemy struck
him full in the breast. His horse turned round and
carried him back, still in the saddle, through the ranks
of the 1 3th, when the rider, already lifeless, fell to the
ground. Led by Lord Cardigan, the lines continued
to advance at a steady trot, and in a minute or two
entered the zone of fire, where the air was filled with the



Charge of the Chasseurs. 119

rush of shot, the bursting of shells, and the moan of
bullets, while amidst the infernal din the work of de-
struction went on, and men and horses were incessantly
dashed to the ground. Still, at this time, many shot,
aimed as they were at a rapidly moving mark, must
have passed over, or beside the brigade, or between the
lines. A deadlier fire awaited them from the twelve
guns in front, which could scarcely fail to strike some-
where on a line a hundred yards wide. It was when
the brigade had been advancing for about five minutes
that it came within range of this battery, and the effect
was manifest at once in the increased number of men
and horses that strewed the plain. With the natural
wish to shorten this ordeal, the pace was increased ;
when the brigade neared the battery, more than half
its numbers were on the grass of the valley, dead or
struggling to their feet ; but, still unwavering, not a
man failing who was not yet disabled, the remnant rode
straight into the smoke of the guns, and was lost to view.
Lord Lucan moved the Heavy Brigade some dis-
tance forward in support of the Light ; but finding his
first line suffering from a heavy fire, he halted and
retired it, not without considerable loss. At the same
time another and more effectual movement took place.
General Morris, commander of the French cavalry,
directed a regiment of his chasseurs d'Afrique (the
4th) to attack the troops on the Fedioukine heights,
and silence the guns there. The regiment ascended
the slopes, drove off the guns, and having accomplished
their object, retired, with a loss of ten killed and twenty-



I2O Return of the Light Brigade.

eight wounded. Thenceforth the retreat of our cavalry
was not harassed by the fire of guns from this side of
the field, and the good comradeship implied in this
prompt, resolute, and effectual charge of the French was
highly appreciated by their allies, and has received just
and warm praise from the historian Kinglake.

What the Light Brigade was doing behind the smoke
of the battery was of too fragmentary a kind to be here
more than touched on. The Russian gunners were
driven off, and parties of our men even charged bodies of
Russian cavalry ; and that these retreated before them is
not only recorded by the survivors of the Light Brigade,
but by Todleben. But the combat could end but in one
way, the retreat of what was left of our light cavalry.
They rode back singly, or in twos and threes, some
wounded, some supporting a wounded comrade. But
there were two bodies that kept coherence and formation
to the end. On our right, the 8th Hussars were joined
by some of the i/th Lancers, when they numbered to-
gether about seventy men. The three squadrons of the
enemy's lancers, already said to be on the side of the
Woronzoff heights, descended from thence, and drew
up across the valley to cut off the retreat of our men.
Colonel Shewell of the 8th led this combined party
against them, broke through them with ease, scattering
them right and left, and regained our end of the valley.
A little later, Lord George Paget led also about seventy
men of the 4th Light Dragoons and nth Hussars
against the other three squadrons of lancers on the side
of the Fedioukine heights, and passed by them with a



Close of the Action. 1 2 1

partial collision which caused us but small loss. The
remaining regiment, the 1 3th Light Dragoons, mustered
only ten mounted men at the close of the action. The
mounted strength of the brigade was then 195 ; it had
lost 247 men in killed and wounded, and had 475 horses
killed, and forty-two wounded.

The First Division, after its circuitous march by the
Col, was now approaching the Woronzoff ridge, fol-
lowed by the Fourth. It could see nothing of what
was occurring in the adjoining valley ; but it pre-
sently began to have tokens of the charge, in the form
of wounded men and officers who rode by on their way
to Balaklava.* Close to the ditch of the fieldwork on
the last, hill of the ridge on our side lay the body of
Nolan on its back, the jacket open, the breast pierced
by the fatal splinter. It was but an hour since the
Division had passed him on the heights, where he was
riding gaily near the staff, conspicuous in the red forage
cap and tiger-skin saddle cover of his regiment.

It was now believed that a general action would
begin by an advance to retake the hills captured by
Liprandi, and no doubt such an intention did exist, but
was not put in practice. The Russians were left undis-
turbed in possession of the three hills they had captured,
with their seven guns. At nightfall the First Division
marched by the Woronzoff road up to the plateau, and
thence to its camp. It was long before that road

*The commander of the Royals Colonel Yorke, rode by the
writer with a shattered leg. He died in 1890, while this chapter
was being written, at the age of seventy-seven.



122 No Attempt at re-capture.

was used again, for the presence of Liprandi's troops
and batteries rendered it unavailable during great part
of the winter.

It is easier to point to the faults of the Allies than
to say how they should have been remedied. To post
men and guns in weak works commanded by neighbour-
ing heights, and having no ready supports in presence
of an enemy's army, was to offer them up as a sacrifice.
But where were the supports to come from ? Then it
has been said that the most effective way of bringing
the Allied Divisions down from the upland would have
been by the Woronzoff road. But that is on the sup-
position that it was intended to bring the Russians 'to
a pitched battle. That, however, if the English general
thought of it, formed no part of Canrobert's design. He
believed that his part was at present limited to pushing
the siege towards the grand object of the expedition, and
covering the besieging army from attack; and he was not
to be drawn into doubtful enterprises outside of these.
This accounted, too, for the failure to attempt the re-
capture of our outworks to what purpose retake them
when it was proved that we had not troops enough to
hold so extended a line ? The ruin of the Light Brigade
was primarily due to Lord Raglan's strange purpose of
using our cavalry alone, and beyond support, for offence
against Liprandi's strong force, strongly posted ; and it
was the misinterpretation of the too indistinct orders,
sent with that very questionable intention, which produced
the disaster. And yet we may well hesitate to wish that
the step so obviously false had never been taken, for the



Weak Point in Allied Defences. 123

desperate and unfaltering charge made that deep im-
pression on the imagination of our people which found
expression in Tennyson's verse, and has caused it to be
long ago transfigured in a light where all of error or
misfortune is lost, and nothing is left but what we are
enduringly proud of.

It has been said that another blot besides Balaklava
existed in the Allied line of defence. In front of the
Third, Fourth, and Light Divisions, encamped on the
strips of plain lying between the several ravines, were
the siege works, and a direct attack made on them would
be so retarded that the Divisions could have combined to
mdet it. But, in the space between the last ravine (the
Careenage) and the edge of the Upland, the circum-
stances were different* A force might sally from the
town, and ascending the ravine, or the adjacent slopes,
without obstacle, would then be on fair fighting terms
with whatever troops it might find there. Or the army
outside, descending from the Inkerman heights, and
crossing the valley by the bridge and causeway, would
find itself on ground well adapted for traversing the
space between the ravine and the cliff and entering the
Upland at that corner. And the result of the estab-
lishment of the enemy's army there would be to open
to it an advance which would cause all our Divisions
engaged in the siege to form to meet it with their
backs to the sea, and, in case of being overpowered,
to fall back towards the French harbour (if they
could), abandoning the siege works, with all their

* Map 5.



124 French Measures too exclusive.

material ; in fact, sustaining absolute defeat, possibly
destruction.

The post-road going along the causeway, and
ascending these slopes, reaches the Upland at a final
crest, from whence it passes down and across the plain to
join the Woronzoff road. It was on our side of the final
ridge that the Second Division was encamped across the
post-road. A mile behind it was the camp of the First
Division. Then came a long interval of unoccupied
ground, to the French camp on the south-eastern
corner of the Upland, where Bosquet's covering corps
may be said to have been employed in " gilding refined
gold and painting the lily," by constructing lines of
defence along the edge of cliffs, several hundred feet
high, above an almost impassable part of the valley.
Accepting the broad principle that a commander can
only be expected to make good the deficiencies of an
ally so far as may be without throwing a heavy strain
upon his own troops, still, in this case, it was the
common safety that was threatened, and it was a
common duty to provide against the danger. By
leaving a small force only in observation on the im-
pregnable heights, and placing the main body near the
really weak point, the labour and the forces of the
French, superfluous where bestowed, might have ren-
dered the position practically secure. Kinglake rightly
characterises the disposition of Bosquet's corps as an
example of the evils of a divided command.

The return of the First Division to its camp may
have been unnoticed by the Russians, taking place as it



First Action of Inker man. 1 2 5

did at nightfall. They may have calculated that the
advance of Liprandi would cause the weak point on the
plateau, for the moment, to be unoccupied ; otherwise
it is not easy to account for the enterprise of the day
following the action of Balaklava. At noon a force of
six battalions and four light field-guns, issuing from the
town, ascended the ravine and slope which led to the
Second Division. Our pickets fell back fighting, when
the Russian field-pieces coming within range, pitched
shot over the crest, behind which the regiments of the
Second Division were lying down, while their skirmishers
maintained, with those of the Russians, a desultory com-
bat in the hollow. The two batteries of the Second
Division now formed on the crest, and were presently
reinforced by one from the First Division, and before
their fire the Russian guns were at once swept off the
field. The enemy's battalions then came on successively
in two columns, and these, too, were at once dispersed
and driven back by the overpowering artillery fire. The
men of the Second Division, launched in pursuit, pressed
them hard, and they never halted till they were once
more within the shelter of Sebastopol. Evans, not
knowing of what force these might be the precursors,
had determined to meet them on his own crest, and he
was not to be drawn from thence till the action was
already decided. General Bosquet sent to offer him
assistance, but he declined it with thanks, as the enemy
were, he said, already defeated. The Russians lost in
this action, by their own estimate, 250 killed and
wounded, and left in our hands eighty prisoners. We



126 Object of It.

had ten killed and seventy-seven wounded. The attack,
therefore, could not be characterised otherwise than as
weak and futile. Nevertheless, it had an object. Todle-
ben says it was intended to draw our attention from
another attack on Balaklava. But he is, unfortunately,
so unreliable in his statements and views that, with
another plain interpretation before us, supported by
facts, we need not be drawn aside by him. No further
serious attack on Balaklava was intended, but prepara-
tions for the battle of Inkerman were then well advanced,
and it vvas with these that the attack was connected.
The Russians had brought out intrenching tools with
them to Shell Hill, and, could they have established and
armed a work there, they would not only have immensely
strengthened their position in the future battle, but
would also have provided for another highly important
object, namely, the safe and unmolested passage of the
troops outside Sebastopol, across the long causeway in
the valley and the bridge of 'the Tchernaya. That the
present attempt was not made with a larger force was
probably owing to the desire to avoid bringing on a
general action, and so anticipating prematurely the
great enterprise which took place ten days later. But
the operations of the Russians for opening that memor-
able battle will be seen to prove how great would have
been their advantage had they possessed a strong lodg-
ment on Shell Hill.

The attack on Balaklava, and its partial success, in
depriving us of the hills held by our outposts, had
effected its purpose of weakening the forces on the



The Sandbag Battery. 127


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Online LibraryEdward Bruce HamleyThe war in the Crimea → online text (page 8 of 20)