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The charge of the Light Brigade

The prestige of ten centuries rested upon British arms when the famous Light Brigade charged upon the famous batteries of Balaklava. In the battle of Manassa we had the prestige to win, and no world to give credit to our laurels. A miserable parcenue was present to chronicle the fortune of the battle, but no umpire from foreign people to decide for the foreign mind and ears the value of the victors, judged by the ardor or the science of their action. This same parvenue, Russell, gave brilliant sketches of the English in the Crimea, and over-wronght the gallant charge of the Light Brigade to an extent which has rendered it famous in history and song. But since the truth is out, this ‘ "grand charge"’ is not half as grand as the brilliant charge of the Ashbys — the Black Horse, of Fauquier — which, though not a sixth part as large, made a charge and a fight more daring and far more successful than the immortal ‘"Light Brigade"’ ever dreamed of daring. In testimony of this, we take the following proof from the journal of our enemy — the National Intelligencer, of Washington:

‘"the Light Brigade."’

Poetry and history have conspired to make the charge of the British Light Brigade at Balaklava immortal. And yet it is no derogation from the brilliancy of soldierly devotion displayed in that desperate achievement to say that the first report of the slain in its execution was, as is usual in such cases, greatly exaggerated. Mr. Russell, the London correspondent, in describing it at the time and on the spot, wrote as follows:

‘ "It was as much as our heavy cavalry brigade could do to cover the miserable remnants of that band of heroes as they returned to the place they had so lately quitted in all the pride of life. At 11.35 A. M. not a British soldier except the dead and dying was left in front of the bloody Muscovite guns. Of the 607 light dragoons lancers, and hussars, who rode so gallantly in the storm of the battle only 198 could be mustered at 2 P. M. About 400 were killed, wounded, and missing. * * This gallant brigade, a majority of whom had so suddenly met a bloody death, were the flower of the whole army, and many a heart is saddened by their untimely fate."

’ In looking over Nolan's History of the war against Russia, published by Virtue & Co., London, says the Chicago Tribune, we were astonished at the comparatively small loss suffered by the Light Brigade at Balaklava, as measured by the statements current in the English and American press at the time. The following is the more sober, account of the historian:

‘"The number who went into action was scarcely 680, and according to the Adjutant General's return, subsequently made, the loss was 31 officers, 23 sergeants, 8 trumpeters, and 229 privates, killed, wounded, and missing."’--Nolan's History, vol. 1 page 550.

We look in vain for any precise statement of the number of killed in this fatal charge. The average of killed to ‘"killed, wounded, and missing"’ in the Crimea was as one in four and a half. At the sanguinary field of Inkermann, where the British loss was heavier than in any other engagement, the official report of casualties is ‘ "killed 462, wounded 1,952, missing 198."’ Nolan remarks that many of the Light Brigade supposed to be killed were afterwards heard of alive in the hands of the enemy. The number of killed, wounded, and missing in the charge of the brigade being 281 officers and men, the number of killed was probably about sixty-three, perhaps as high as one hundred. The Prussian General Liprandi, in his official report, (p. 558,) accounts for 22 whom he made prisoners, and for 60 wounded whom he had picked up on the field. Gen. Canrobert, in his official report, (p. 557,) says the loss of the English light cavalry was 150, but of course the Adjutant General's returns, referred to by Nolan, are more accurate. There is certainly no evidence of terrible slaughter in the mass of testimony presented by the volume before us. The loss of the Light Brigade at Balaklava, is killed and wounded, was about equal to that of either of the Kansas regiments at Wilson's Creek, which went into the engagement with less than 700 men each.

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