Charge of the Light Brigade: Into the Valley of Death

"Charge of the Light Brigade" by Richard Caton Woodville Jr. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
“Charge of the Light Brigade” by Richard Caton Woodville Jr. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1854, a hopelessly overmatched British cavalry unit, charged into battle against the Russians during the Crimean War.

Here are a few things you may not have known about the Charge of the Light Brigade.

The Crimean War pitted the British, French and Ottoman empires against the Russian Empire. The Russians wanted to capitalize on the weakness of the Ottoman Empire, while the British and French wanted to keep the Russians away from the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The Crimean War was one of the first wars to involve modern shells, railways and telegraphs. However, it was also noted for the lack of communication and mismanagement on both sides.

The British and French attacked the Russians near Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula, across the Black Sea from Ottoman Turkey, in what would be known as the Battle of Balaclava.

The Light Brigade was the British light cavalry, meaning the cavalrymen, bearing lances and sabres, rode light, fast and unarmored horses. The light cavalry is well suited for reconnaissance and skirmishing, as well as attacking retreating units.

The commander of British forces, Lord Raglan, intended the light brigade to prevent the Russians from taking captured guns from positions that had been abandoned by the Ottomans. However, because of a communication breakdown, the Light Brigade instead assaulted a different, well-prepared Russian battery.

Despite being wholly unsuited for the mission, the Light Brigade reached the battery while taking direct fire, but was forced to retreat immediately. About 40 percent of the men were either killed or wounded.

Despite the heavy losses, the reputation of the British cavalry was enhanced greatly.

The charge was memorialized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” Perhaps the most famous line from the poem is “Theirs not to make reply / Theirs not to reason why / Theirs but to do and die.”

The Crimean Peninsula remains an international flashpoint; technically a part of Ukraine, the peninsula has been occupied by Russia since 2014.

Our question: What two straits cut through Turkey, providing a water route between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean?

Today is Constitution Day in Lithuania, Armed Forces Day in Romania, and Thanksgiving Day in Grenada.

It’s unofficially International Artist Day; National Greasy Foods Day; and World Pasta Day.

It’s the birthday of composer Johann Strauss, who was born in 1825; artist Pablo Picasso, who was born in 1881; and musician Katy Perry, who turns 32.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1983, the top song in the U.S. was “Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.

The No. 1 movie was “Never Say Never Again,” while the novel “Poland” by James Michener topped the New York Times Bestsellers list, and proved that Michener wrote a 1,000-page novel about every country on Earth.

Weekly question

Matthew Webb, who died trying to swim the Niagara River rapids, was the first person to complete what swimming feat?



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