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Lucan and Kinglake – Introduction

Kinglake was anxious to interrogate Lord Cardigan and Lord Lucan with regard to the cavalry engagements in the battle of Balaklava. They reacted to his enquiries differently. Cardigan pestered him with descriptions and explanations of his actions, but Lucan was less forthcoming, and Kinglake resorted to presenting him with schedules of questions to be answered. These lists of questions, and Lucan’s responses to them, form the major part of this section of the archive.

The first item is undated, but is here placed first because it is more tentative and wide-ranging than the other questionnaires, and says that written answers are required to some of the questions. The other questionnaires are indeed accompanied by written answers, which suggests that they are later. This item is a memorandum which Kinglake wrote to remind himself of points to raise with Lucan at an interview, to which he later added his notes of what he remembered as Lucan’s answers. The first point is the disagreements between Lucan and Cardigan. No response is recorded for this. There then follow 13 questions, labelled 1 to 13, on the opening actions of the battle, the fall of the redoubts and the withdrawal of the cavalry, followed by a further 14 questions, labelled (a) to (n), on the charge of the Heavy Brigade, together with Lucan’s responses as Kinglake recalls them. There are no questions on the charge of the Light Brigade, suggesting that further interviews were planned. This document is of interest as indicating Kinglake’s lines of enquiry, but as a record of Lucan’s evidence it is not necessarily reliable, having been filtered through Kinglake’s perception.

The second and third documents are dated October 1866 and contain the questions and responses which were included in volume IV of Kinglake’s work. The first three questions reprise questions 2, 6, and (a) from the first item. Questions 4 and 5 relate to the Light Brigade charge, and were not touched upon in the earlier questionnaire. These are the five questions and responses reproduced in the published work. In this document, however, there is a sixth question, which is a repeat of question 13 from the earlier list, but no answer to it.

More than a year later, Lucan writes to Kinglake, on Monday, 4 November 1867, saying that on Wednesday the 6th he will hand in his answers to Kinglake’s questions.

The next item is presumably the document referred to. It is dated 5 November 1867, and consists of three questions from Kinglake, with Lucan’s answers. The first question relates to the Heavy Brigade charge, the second to the Light Brigade charge, and the third to the mention of an officer in Lucan’s despatch of the battle. In his fight to clear his name after he was recalled from the Crimea, Lucan sometimes gave the impression of a bull tormented by toreadors, confused and bewildered, and apt to charge the wrong target. His responses in this document reinforce that image.

The first question relates to the failure of the Light Brigade to support the Heavy Brigade during or immediately after its routing of the Russian cavalry. Cardigan had been criticised for not moving, and had defended himself by claiming that he was under orders from Lucan to stay put. Kinglake here asks Lucan whether his order to Cardigan would have allowed him to support the Heavy Brigade. Lucan’s astonishing answer is that his order did not permit the Light Brigade to move, but that the Brigade did move, in contravention of his order.

The second question asks Lucan to particularise on how he had expected Lord Cardigan to execute the order which resulted in the Light Brigade charge. Lucan replies that he would have expected Cardigan to have halted the Brigade before it had suffered unnecessary loss, as he, Lucan, had halted the Heavy Brigade. Lucan had not disputed, in the House of Lords in March 1855, that Cardigan had drawn his attention to the obvious hazards of an advance, and that he had replied that it was Lord Raglan’s positive order for the cavalry to advance. The bombardment suffered by the Brigade was not unanticipated. It is difficult to see how Lucan could suppose that Cardigan might have legitimately halted the advance, and he is not known to have repeated this suggestion elsewhere.

The third question asks why Captain Walker had been named in Lucan’s despatch. This relates to a disagreement between General Scarlett and Lucan. Scarlett had wanted his ADC, Lt Elliott, to be commended for his bravery in the Heavy Brigade charge, in which he had sustained fourteen wounds. Lucan had refused on the grounds that it would not be fair to regimental officers to name all the staff officers. He had however named his own ADC, Walker. Lucan’s justification to Kinglake is unrepentant – he states unequivocally that Walker was named solely because he was his first ADC, and that Walker had not distinguished himself in action.

There follows a very brief note by Kinglake of interviews with Lucan on the 6th and 8th of November. Clearly Lucan had not simply submitted his written answers and walked away, but had undergone two viva voce examinations as well.

Five months later Kinglake still has questions for Lucan. He is now corresponding with Lord Elcho, Lucan’s uncle, who writes on 11 April 1868, forwarding Lucan’s written responses. Elcho tactfully accuses Kinglake of self-confessed bias towards Lord Raglan, to the detriment of all his generals. It should be remembered that at this time the publication of Kinglake’s fourth volume, which dealt with the battle of Balaklava, was imminent.

The next document is undated, but is very probably Lucan’s answers forwarded by Elcho. We see that Kinglake had raised five new points, put to Lucan not as questions, but in the form of contentious statements. They may be quotations from other witnesses. The points imply (1) that a general may interpret his own order any way he chose, (2) that the redoubts were not significant strongholds, (3) that there were Russian infantry by redoubt no. 3, (4) that Lucan was intimidated by the Russian infantry, and (5) that Lucan should have personally led the Light Brigade charge. Taking them all together, the implication seems to be that if Lucan had personally led the cavalry to attack the redoubts they might have been taken, but that Lucan had failed to do so from fear of the Russian infantry.

Lucan’s responses are interesting. To the first point he replies that Raglan never did interpret order no. 4 to mean anything other than an attack down the north valley. He is justified in making this point. Although Kinglake and many subsequent writers have claimed that Lucan misunderstood the true target of the attack, Raglan himself never specifically said so. The ‘misconception’ he charged Lucan with was the supposition that the attack was to be at all hazards. In the course of his reply, Lucan makes the curious observation that Nolan placed himself "to lead a Squadron of the 13th Light Dragoons then in first line." It is not known exactly where Nolan was when the Brigade began to advance. Most writers put him alongside Captain Morris in the centre of the 17th Lancers. There is some evidence that he may have been on the left wing of the 17th Lancers. It seems unlikely that Lucan’s statement is correct in this regard.

To the second point Lucan replies that the strength of the redoubts varied. It is generally believed that redoubt no.1 (Canrobert’s Hill) was the strongest, and that they grew progressively weaker thereafter, with 5 and 6 never being completed or armed. Lucan here avers that redoubts 2 and 3 were both substantial works.

With regard to the disposition of the Russian infantry, Kinglake and Lucan appear to be at cross purposes. Kinglake puts the point that there were Russian infantry "in front of or on the flanks of the redoubt." Lucan replies that "There were no infantry to the East of No. 3." Any infantry to the east would have been behind the redoubt from the point of view of the advancing cavalry.

Kinglake’s fourth point is little short of an insult, implying that Lucan was afraid to face the Russian infantry. Lucan replies with the cavalryman’s confidence in the superiority of his own arm of the service, "no Infantry . . . can effectively resist a determined attack of Cavalry unless in perfectly formed squares," forgetting the stand of the 93rd Highlanders, a clear portent that cavalry’s days were numbered as a useful arm in warfare.

Kinglake’s final point is that Lucan should have personally led his men into action. Lucan makes a reasoned rebuttal, and forbears from mentioning his own part in the very first actions, before Cardigan came ashore from his yacht.

The final document in this section is Kinglake’s draft reply to Elcho’s letter. He is here compelled to address the question of his prejudice in favour of Lord Raglan. The alterations he makes in attempting to profess his gratitude to Raglan while simultaneously denying bias are instructive.

There are two points which might be made about the series of questions which Kinglake put to Lucan. The first is that they are all accusatory questions; not one of them is a simple search for facts. This is perhaps the penalty for commissioning a lawyer to compile a history.

The second point is more particular. The very first list of questions here includes "Did Lord Bingham take the message?" The sixth question of October 1856 was "Lord Bingham's statements as to the message carried by him to Lord Cardigan." After his interview with Lucan on 6 October 1867, Kinglake notes "When Ld. Bingham carried the reprimand he found the Light Brigade in rear of the Heavy." The incident which Kinglake pursued so assiduously must be the message sent by Lucan to Cardigan following the charge of the Heavy Brigade, in which he upbraided Cardigan for not supporting the action. We have seen already that in an earlier response Lucan claimed that his order to the Light Brigade forbade it to move, but that it had.

These confused replies by Lucan left Kinglake in something of a quandary when he came to write up the incident in his book. After describing the Light Brigade’s inaction, the different versions of Lucan’s order to Cardigan, and the disputed exchange between Captain Morris and Cardigan, he launched into a long essay on the deleterious effect of long periods of peacetime training upon the initiative required of a commander in battle, and concluded thus:-

"Lord Lucan, as may well be supposed, was bitterly vexed by the inaction of his Light Brigade, and at the close of the combat he sent one of his aides-de-camp with a message which enjoined Lord Cardigan in future, whenever his Divisional General might be attacking in front, to lose no opportunity of making a flank attack. The message added, that Lord Lucan would always be ready to give a like support to Lord Cardigan.*

I have traced the fault up to its sources. If ever there were to be uttered a taunt which should impute the inaction of Lord Cardigan to any cause worse than mistake, this short, cogent answer would follow, ‘He led the Light Cavalry charge.’ †

* It is right to say that Lord Cardigan has questioned this, but to add, that proof which I must regard as conclusive is in my possession.

† There is a curiously strong chain of testimony which goes to show that at or towards the close of the Heavy Cavalry fight, the Light Brigade was moved down into the South Valley, and brought into the rear of the ground from which our Heavy Dragoons had made their attack; but counter-testimony of a very cogent kind opposes itself to this conclusion. The decision of the question, although it might have a personal bearing of some interest, is not important in any other point of view."

We are left none the wiser as to what telling piece of evidence Kinglake had been hoping to uncover in Bingham’s errand.

The documents are now in the collection of the Cambridge University Library. The references are shown thus:- CUL Add.9554/5/xx

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