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The Charge of the Light Brigade

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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How did the Light Brigade charge the Russian Army in "The Charge of the Light Brigade"?

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Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" immortalized a single battle from a war that is now largely forgotten: the Crimean War, a conflict in which Britain, France, and the Ottoman Empire joined forces against Russia in Crimea in 1854. The battle the poem commemorates took place on October 25, 1854, near the city of Balaclava, so this incident is known as part of the Battle of Balaclava.

The Light Brigade was a troop of about 600 cavalrymen. Orders were mistakenly given resulting in the brigade charging into an open valley with the aim was of capturing some Russian artillery at the other end of the valley. Unfortunately, they did not know that Russian infantry and artillery surrounded the valley on three sides.

When the Light Brigade charged, the 20 Russian battalions opened fire. Not surprisingly, the toll was immense. Approximately 280, almost half, of the Light Brigade died or were injured. When reports of the carnage reached London, there was an outcry against the inept military leadership that caused the losses, but approbation for the brave soldiers who made the charge. Tennyson read the account by William Howard Russell in the London Illustrated News; he quickly dashed off this verse and sent it to the newspaper, which published it immediately. It is a premiere example of Tennyson's "newspaper verse." 

You can read Russell's eyewitness account at the link below for more details about the charge.

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