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Chapter XIX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 5


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The British horse were thus for a moment far within the enemy's position. The Russians were almost stunned by the hardihood of the charge. But General Liprandi, who was watching the fight, gathered up a body of Lancers on his own left, and poured them into the space in front of the battery, between our troopers and their line of retreat. Fortunately, Colonel Shewell, of the 8th Hussars, had kept his regiment well in hand throughout. He had come on at a steady, deliberate pace, on the right of the 3rd line, but not so fast as the 4th. He had charged through the battery, and had shown front to the Russians beyond; but, like a good officer, he still kept his men in hand. His skill was rewarded. Across the rear came the Russian Lancer regiment, and some of our men and some officers thought for a moment it was the 17th, and proposed to form upon it. They were soon undeceived. Colonel Shewell did not hesitate. He wheeled about his squadrons just as Major Mayou, who had brought back a knot of the 17th from their charge towards Tchorgoun, joined him; and, leading the way. Shewell carried his men clear through the Russians, and thus removed the worst danger from the path of the little groups and single men, some wounded, some with wounded horses, some without horses, who were struggling back over the corpse-strewn valley, still under that terrible cross-fire.

Lord Lucan had brought up the Heavy Brigade to the crest of the ridge to protect the retreat, and they came under fire and lost men, and his lordship himself was slightly wounded. The Chasseurs d'Afrique had made a most daring and skilful charge on a battery on the Fedoukine heights, and had silenced its fire, with great loss to themselves. This was an admirable feat, deserving all the praise it received. While the Heavy Brigade was under fire, Lord Cardigan rode up and began to complain. At this time the remnants of his brigade were still in the Russian position, or just passing from it; for he had passed Lord Lucan, who was in advance of his brigade, before the returning heroes of the Light Cavalry were within Lord Lucan's sight. So deponeth Lord Lucan.

Lord Cardigan, as we have seen, went headlong at and through the battery. He was the first man within the line, and the Russian general guessing, perhaps, who he was, and hoping to make him prisoner, launched a section of Cossacks against him; but these he encountered and beat off. After this exploit he seems to have retired. " Upon disengaging myself from the Cossacks and returning past the guns," he says, " I saw the broken remnants of the first line, in small detached parties, retreating up the hill towards our original position." General Scarlett states that Lord Cardigan came up " with the retreating troops," "among the last, if not the last, of the first line." Major Mayou, who took command of the 17th because he could not see anything of Lord Cardigan, states that he rallied the men in rear of the guns, and joined Colonel Shewell, and with the 8th broke the Russian Lancers. " Whilst going up the valley Hooked," he deposes, " in every direction for Lord Cardigan (who would have been conspicuous from wearing the Hussar dress of the 11th); and not being able to see him anywhere, I said to myself, ' Lord Cardigan must be either killed, or taken prisoner.' However, when I got in the rear of the Heavy Brigade, I found his lordship there, and he spoke to me." Major Phillips deposes that while the 8th was still advancing, he saw Lord Cardigan " coming back." Trumpeter Donoghue, who rode with Colonel Shewell, affirms that before the 8th reached the guns " he saw the Earl of Cardigan galloping past towards the rear," and that he thought the Major- General was going to bring up the Heavy Brigade. Private Keating, of the 8th, saw " a general officer with scarlet trowsers, on a chestnut horse, with white heels, returning to the rear," as the 8th was advancing. Private Edden, of the 4th Light Dragoons, says he saw a similar sight. Lord Cardigan " was on a chestnut horse, and quite alone, and was cantering back.... to the left of our regiment." Other men of the 4th and 8th make like reports. Private John Ford, of the 4th, is most positive. " My horse was shot as we were advancing to the Russian guns, and fell with me, my leg being under Hm. This was about 300 yards from the battery. While lying on the ground, looking for some one to assist in lifting the horse off me, I saw Lord Cardigan to the left of where I was lying, cantering to the rear. He was quite alone. Just after Lord Cardigan passed me, a private named Farrell came up, and assisted in getting the horse off me." General Liprandi was extremely anxious to get from the prisoners an answer to his question: " Who was that English officer who rode back on the chestnut horse with the white heels h " And when told it was the Brigadier, Liprandi said, " He never would have got back if he had not had a good horse." Lord George Paget., Major Mayou, and others, had called out while behind the guns, " Where is Cardigan? " And some one said, " Gone back." These are sworn statements. From which, taken in connection with Lord Cardigan's sworn statements, we learn that Lord Cardigan rode well into the battery, and fought with the Cossacks, but that he never had the brigade well in hand, and though alive, was not in the midst of his men at the moment when they required a guide and leader to extricate them from the heart of the Russian position.

Far from the guns of the enemy, the remnant of that valorous band re-formed. Lord Cardigan rode up to the front, and said, "Men, this is a great blunder; but it is no fault of mine." And the men cheered and replied, " Never mind, my lord, we are ready to go back again." And this was the charge of the Light Brigade, such a grievous waste of life, yet so sublime, and of such sterling quality, that its fame has rung through all lands, and its influence still permeates all armies. Out of the 670 who rode into the valley, there were left only 195 mounted men. The brigade had lost 12 officers killed and 11 wounded; 147 men killed and 110 wounded or missing; and 325 horses killed in the charge. All this devotion and daring had been shown, all this havoc wrought, within the short period of twenty minutes! Well might Lord Raglan say to Lord Lucan, " Why, you have lost the Light Brigade! " Let us be just. The responsibility, whatever it may be, for ordering that dreadful charge, must be divided between three men. The whole blame should not fall on Lord Lucan. General Airey and Captain Nolan must share it with him.

The charge of the Light Brigade virtually terminated the battle. The Guards, indeed, the 4th Division, and a French division did advance farther eastward, and this, with the fire of the British guns, forced the Russians successively out of all the redoubts, and compelled Liprandi to take up a contracted position on the high ground between Kamara and Tchorgoun. Lord Raglan and General Canrobert debated the propriety of a further attack; but decided that it would be undesirable to waste life in the attempt, as, if regained, the heights could not be re-occupied. So the battle ended about one o'clock with a cannonade. At dusk the French troops and the British infantry divisions, save the Highland Brigade, which remained to reinforce the garrison of Balaclava, returned to the plateau. The Russians admit a loss of 550 men in their cavalry alone, but admit also that this was a hasty report. There is no other. The whole British loss in cavalry was 37 officers and 353 men killed, wounded, and missing.

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Pictures for Chapter XIX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 5

Charge of the light brigade
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Lord Lyons
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