Charge of the Light Brigade

Illustration of the Crimean War

On 25 October 1854, British forces undertook the charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaklava. Image: Tinted lithograph showing the embarkation of sick persons at the harbor in Balaklava" (William Simpson, artist; Paul & Dominic Colnaghi & Co., publishers, 24 April 24 1855). This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ppmsca.05686. The image is in the public domain in the United States because its copyright has expired.

No other engagement of the war has stuck so vividly in the popular consciousness, aided by Tennyson's poem of the same name, by far the best-remembered cultural product of the war. On the morning of October 25th, 1854, over six hundred British men rode the wrong way down a “valley of death” (so christened first by The Times and later by Tennyson) as enemy guns attacked from all sides. Not two hundred made it out alive. The charge resulted from a series of miscommunications between Lord Raglan, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces, and Lord Lucan, the Commander of the Cavalry. Both Tennyson’s poem and many other contemporary responses to the charge suggest that reactions to this event were deeply conflicted, expressing real bewilderment about how to integrate it into preexisting models of patriotic feeling. Moreover, a new form of heroism grew out of the bewildering experience of the Light Brigade’s defeat—and a new sense of a national identity that was based in part on this new heroism.


Stefanie Markovits, "On the Crimean War and the Charge of the Light Brigade"

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