Little Bits of History

October 25

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 25, 2017

1854: The Battle of Balaclava is fought. The Battle was part of the Crimean War, fought between the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire with allied forces from France, Great Britain, and Sardinia. Ostensibly fought over the rights of Christians in the region, the churches themselves worked out the issues. Neither Nicholas I of Russia nor Emperor Napoleon III pulled back. The Siege of Sevastopol lasted for nearly a year, beginning on October 17, 1854 and ending in an Allied victory on September 9, 1855. This particular Battle was part of the siege of the Black Sea port.

The Allies first contact with the Russians led to a victory but they were slow to follow up on the win. This allowed the Russians to regroup and recover as well as prepare a defense for their Navy, housed in the port. The British under the command of Lord Raglan and the French under Canrobert decided to lay siege instead of engaging in outright battle. Some of their troops were housed on the southern port of Balaclava which led to committing troops to protecting their flank. Today’s battle began with Russian artillery and infantry attacks against the Allies first line of defense. The line fell and the Russians pushed forward.

The second line was held by both Ottomans and the British 93rd Highland Regiment. They became known as the Thin Red Line as they held their position. Lord Raglan sent a vaguely written order to the commander of what is today called the Light Brigade. Raglan had ordered them to protect the guns from the first line’s fall. But due to some miscommunication (which shall ever remain a mystery since the man delivering the message died within the first minutes of the attack) the Light Brigade was sent off on a frontal assault against a different artillery battery.

The men charged forward and eventually, after receiving extreme casualties, achieved their position. However, they were so badly decimated, they were forced to immediately retreat. Their charge has been forever memorialized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” which was published just six weeks after the disastrous event. The day ended without either side having a clear victory. Both sides incurred losses and casualties over 600. It would take nearly a year for Sevastopol to fall in an Allied victory with each side losing over 100,000 men to both war wounds and disease. Six months later the war would end. Overall the Allies had losses and casualties of nearly one-quarter million while Russia suffered over a half million casualties and losses. More than half of those who died, did not die of war wounds, but were brought down by disease.

All in the valley of Death / Rode the six hundred.

Theirs not to make reply, / Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die.

Cannon to right of them, / Cannon to left of them, / Cannon in front of them / Volleyed and thundered;

Into the mouth of hell / Rode the six hundred. – all from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” which can be found here in its entirety