We are now about to bring to a close the remarks and reflections which the work under review has inspired, and, after a long interval, to complete a task which has been by no means always agreeable. Even the rare happiness of phrase, the mocking humour and quaint conceits in which the author excels, cannot always sustain the reader through long pages of “minutious” description; nor can the amusement created by the sly outburstings of a spirit which the French would call “malin” reconcile the critic to the passionate prejudices, erroneous views, or inflated misrepresentations which mar so many beauties.
Homer devotes a book of the Iliad to an illustration of the bravery of Diomed. Mr Kinglake gives five-sixths of a very big volume to an account of “Balaklava.” There is a theme, indeed, in that one word, known to every English-speaking man all over the world! — a grand disaster, a magnificent misfortune, associated with bitter memories, acrimonious controversy, fierce jealousies, unseemly wrangling, and pitiful, heartrending sufferings. To the Russian the name may recall but the memory of a flat rebuff of his horse, of a headlong charge of the enemy, and of a failure not complete of his own arms. To the French it brings back the recollection of what was magnificent but unprofessional on our part, and of what was, on their own, perfect in military execution. But to the Englishman the name of Balaklava is identified with such an exhibition of those qualities on which he, practical man, prides himself more than on the most brilliant success — pure self-abnegation, absolute devotion to orders, and complete indifference to any calculation of chances or consideration of odds — that he prizes the record more highly than pages of his history, inscribed with accounts of substantial victories, in which a fair balance-sheet might be struck between profit and loss. There was nothing at Balaklava which could be called a battle — scarcely more than what is termed an engagement. There was a determined advance, which had a partial success, of a corps d’armée of the enemy on our position. There was an encounter between our Heavy Horse and a mass of Light Cavalry, which ended in the discomfiture of the latter. There was, finally, a charge of unexampled audacity and vigour by our Light Cavalry in which we gained immortal honour and lost all else. “A schoolboy’s tale — the wonder of an hour!” Ah, no! A great and abiding lustre for our race gleams over that charge. The Woronzow Road was lost, but the British cavalry cleared a broad path to fame which can never be obliterated. Balaklava was trenched round thenceforward by the bodies of those troopers who fell. The shadows of the dead held sway over the enemy; the living were guarded by the remembrance of the prowess of the slain. And so it was that no hostile foot ever trod on the ground where those lay in their glory. There was but a broad belt of flower-decked meadow between the Russian and the Islander, but it was as the ocean itself. Still, that meadow land was, or ought to have been, our own. We had won and ought to have held it, and, the right of way being barred, our sufferings in the winter were aggravated exceedingly. It is quite true t hat when we reoccupied the ground we did not make much use of the Woronzow Road. The reason was simple — we did not then require it. But if we could have made use of the Road in winter, instead of encountering the terrible slough which lay below the plateau at the Col of Balaklava, it is quite impossible to exaggerate the amount of misery it would have obviated. From Kadikoi to the Road was not much over one mile, and on striking the Road much of our difficulty would have been overcome or mitigated.
We recapitulated in a former notice the facts connected with the position of our troops at Balaklava. The inner line of the defence was formidable; the outer line, ill-devised and weak in itself, was left to troops in whom no great confidence could be justly placed — raw Turkish militia. Looking at the whole of the circumstances, it would appear that it was advisable to hold the ridge along which the Woronzow road ran to the plateau — Mr Kinglake calls it the Causeway Heights — and that, therefore, we ought to have retaken it when we were in a position to do so. Why an attempt was not made to do so by Sir George Cathcart and by the infantry generally on the 25th of October is yet a mystery. Lord Raglan, in his own way, showed how much he felt the loss of the Redoubts, but the means he took to recover them were surely very inadequate. The enemy were from the first quite alive to the importance of taking the outer line and seizing on the Road. They began their operations before the Allies had well opened their trenching work. It was obvious that if the Redoubts fell we lost the Woronzow Road, and that from the instant we did so our cavalry were as useless in the besieging army for fighting purposes as if they had been on Hounslow-heath. Mr Kinglake tries to turn the attention of his readers from the original sin of the disposition and the additional offence of the neglect of all warning, and to fix it on the derelictions and mistakes of subordinates; but the truth crops out, for all his ingenious artifice. The Russians appeared in the Valley of the Tchernaya on the 7th of October. They occupied Tchergoun, the tower of which was in sight of the Allies soon afterwards. They were evidently preparing to strike. Todleben says, “The unskilful measures taken by the English Commander-in-Chief naturally could not fail to contribute to the success of the Russian arms.” The object of the movement was “the destruction of the park of artillery at Kadikoi and the camps of the Turks and 93d,” and Todleben insists that if Liprandi had been powerfully reinforced he might have taken Balaklava itself. In that case the Allies would have been shut up on the plateau, and the two armies would have been obliged to divide the ports exclusively held by the French. The whole work of the siege must have been suspended till the enemy was turned out. Now, the case being so, and the tenure of the Redoubts being of vast consequence to us, what was done to insure it? On the 18th of October Lord Raglan was summoned to the edge of the plateau, and for an hour remained there watching the movements of a column of the enemy in some force. There were soon after actual skirmishes with our outposts near the Tchernaya. The enemy were there, sure enough. Well, what happened? —
“Notwithstanding the trust they repose in the direct intervention of Heaven, the Turks know how to eke out their faith by means sufficiently human; and being too warlike a people to be careless of the value of foreknowledge in regard to the designs of the enemy, they see the use of a scout. The officer who had the merit of obtaining at this time good decisive intelligence was Rustem Pasha, the Turkish Brigadier-General. On the 24th of October a spy employed by him brought back an account which disclosed Liprandi’s designs for the morrow. The man announced that troops to the number of 25,000, and of all arms, were to march upon the plain of Balaklava, and he even prepared his hearers to expect an advance from the direction of Baidar.”
There is a marginal note, “The way in which the information was dealt with.” Again let us read what Mr Kinglake says, and see what was the exact mode in which such important intelligence was met:—
“He (the spy) was carefully examined by Lord Lucan as well as by Sir Colin Campbell, and both Generals coming to the conclusion that this report was well worthy of attention, Lord Bingham (his father’s aide-de-camp) was sent by Lord Lucan to headquarters with a letter from Sir Colin Campbell conveying the intelligence.”
And next we get to headquarters:—
“Lord Bingham delivered the letter and the tidings it conveyed to the Quartermaster-General, but did not succeed in obtaining an interview with Lord Raglan, who was them engaged with Canrobert. General Airey, it is true, interrupted the conference of the two commanders, and showed Lord Raglan the letter, but the answer first elicited was only a message of acknowledgement sent back in the words ‘Very well.’”
“Very well!” But there was some step taken, surely? Read on and see:—
“Afterwards, Lord Raglan requested that any new occurrence which might take place should be reported to him; but no fresh orders resulted from the information thus furnished.”
Mr Kinglake is aware that something must be said, and so he says it:—
“The truth is that only a few days before Lord Raglan had been induced by a similar report to send down 1,000 men of the 4th Division, who had to be marched back when it proved that the enemy was not advancing. He could ill afford to exhaust the time and strength of his men in these marches and counter-marches, and he seems to have come to the conclusion that it would be inexpedient for him to be again despatching reinforcements to the outer line of defence in the plain of Balaklava, unless he should learn that the enemy was actually advancing against it.”
There is a direct misstatement here. No “similar report” respecting the enemy’s intended movements was ever received by Lord Raglan a few days before, or at any time before. The enemy was so kind as to give his Lordship timely notice of “any new occurrence” in the shape of an advance against the outer line. The sound of his guns warned Lord Raglan to horse early next morning, and as he mounted the Russians were already in the ascendant, and the fatal words “Too late” were to be again recorded. Here were the Turkish Redoubts attacked, in pursuance of due warning, and here is Mr Kinglake’s defence of the Head-Quarters’ neglect, which does his forensic ability injustice:—
“We watched the sweet slumbers of a Cabinet while assenting to the cogent despatch which enforced this invasion; but now, in the midst of the campaign, and at a moment when accounts have come in which announce an attack for the morrow in the direction of the Baidar Valley, we may steal before break of day to the ground where the enemy is expected, and there seek our ideal of vigilance in the outlying cavalry picket. We shall seek in vain. The English soldier’s want of vigilance is so closely allied to some of his greatest qualities (as, for instance, to his pride and his sullen unwillingness to be put out of his way by mere danger), that our countrymen incline to think of it with indulgence — nay, perhaps, with an unconfessed liking; but if the fault is in some measure natural and characteristic, it has been aggravated apparently by the empty ceremonies of military duties in peace time; for to go on rehearsing men day after day and year after year in the art of giving and taking pretended alarms about nothing, and to carry on these rehearsals by means of formulated sentences, is to do all that perverted industry can towards preventing, instead of securing, the ‘bright look-out’ of the seaman. . . . Far from detecting the earliest signs of an advance in force, and being at once driven in, our outlying picket enjoyed its tranquillity to the last, and was only, indeed, saved from capture by the ‘field-officer of the day,’ who learnt as he rode what was passing, and conveyed to the men of the watch, just in time to secure their escape, that warning of the enemy’s approach which they themselves should have given.”
The fate of the Redoubts, of the Turks, and of the Woronzow Road was decided before Lord Raglan could give an order. When the Commander-in-Chief arrived on the edge of the plateau the Turks were beginning to fly. His Lordship could not possibly “put the impress of his mind” upon the battle. The ground selected by him commanded a view of the valley indeed, but it was far from the field. He saw too much; he gave orders in reference to matters which his lieutenants could not see. In directing cavalry movements every instant may be decisive, and Lord Raglan was posted on a plateau down the slope of which it was not easy to ride.
The account given by the author of the early attack of the Russians is graphic, but it is not accurate. He is apparently ignorant that Barker’s Battery was engaged in defence of the Turkish Redoubts. While Lord Lucan was making demonstrations with his cavalry in front of the advancing Russians, Sir Colin Campbell brought up Barker’s Battery, and put it on the left of the Arabtabia Redoubt, Maude’s guns being at first on the right. The guns of this battery were all in action when Canrobert’s-hill was stormed. Mr Kinglake quite overlooks the effect of artillery on the advance of the Russians, and although he is very particular in describing what Elliott did and Scarlett thought, and how Hodge was stimulated in his charge by reminiscences of an Eton “rooge,” he does not care to inquire why the gallant I Troop were not provided with a due supply of ammunition waggons, but covers the mishap with implied censure. Had Lord Lucan instituted the inquiry which Mr Kinglake says was only prevented by Maude’s severe wound, it would have turned out that his waggons and horses were employed by order in taking up stores to the front, and that no blame could have attached to officers or men for what occurred. The first phase of the action was soon over. The Russians took the Heights and occupied the Redoubts. They saw our cavalry and artillery retire with the flying Turks, fall back over the plain till they quite disappeared in the folds of the undulating ground, which rolled from the slope of the Redoubt range towards Kadikoi. Whether Morris, Elliott, or Beatson could have checked the Russian army by the use of our cavalry at the beginning of the day and saved the Turks is not for us to say, but certainly it never would have occurred to any Government in the world to have given to one or all of the three, as Mr Kinglake suggests should have been done, the command of that arm.
Some of the loss sustained by our Heavy Horse was endured at this time, and if Mr Kinglake’s idea had been worked out and Lord Lucan had ordered an attack on the Russian army with his 1,500 men, it is probable both the Light Cavalry and the Heavy cavalry charge would have been rendered impossible, because both brigades would have been put beyond charging. The Russians were full of confidence, flushed with a first success, and had certainly given no proof of want of courage and élan in their early onslaught. Mr Kinglake covers with ridicule “a peace service General” for not attempting, and that without any effective artillery fire, “flank attacks” on “infantry and artillery without much committing his squadrons.” Had Mr Kinglake’s present view been acted on then we might have had another sort of Balaklava with a vengeance. But, at all events, he does tardy justice to the gallant and unfortunate Turks who held the First Redoubt; though we doubt if one of them is alive now, even if Mr Kinglake’s eulogy were likely to comfort him.
For three hours or more after their first success the Russians were inactive, and during that time Lord Raglan was enabled to strengthen his position. He sent for the 1st Division, under the Duke of Cambridge, and for the 4th Division, under Sir George Cathcart. His Royal Highness led his men with commendable speed to the Valley, but a great and now inexplicable delay occurred on the part of the gallant General of the 4th Division. Canrobert moved down Vinoy’s and Espinasse’s Brigades to the plain below the ridge, and despatched d’Allonville with eight squadrons of Chasseurs d’Afrique to support the force below. The English cavalry, which had been posted by Lord Lucan so as to cover the entrance to Balaklava by Kadikoi, and give some sort of support to the Highlanders, was moved by Lord Raglan’s order higher up the valley, close to the edge of the plateau. What the Russian General was at all this while we can scarcely understand, but it is quite certain that in delaying he was making a great mistake. He must have known we had an army near at hand to reinforce us, whereas he had now all the strength he could expect. It is just possible, though we do not know it, that Liprandi calculated on some such demonstration as was feared by Lord Raglan and General Canrobert being made by the garrison of Sebastopol. At all events he waited, now complete as he was in all arms, with some 20,000 and odd infantry, 3,000 cavalry, and 78 guns, for some time before he decided what to do. He believed we had a park of artillery near Kadikoi, and that the camps of a British regiment and of a Turkish corps lay outside the works of the inner line of defence. He probably was not aware of the power of the guns with which those works were armed, and he may have entertained the idea that it was just possible to “cut out” Balaklava under our eyes, or, at all events, dash into the place, do all the mischief he could, and fall back on the infantry. So he sent off some 3,000 of his horse to see what they could do, and very possibly without any precise instructions. We have heard, indeed, that Ryjoff’s orders were to the effect that he must be very cautious and not run risks. For some time this cavalry force had to move over ground which concealed the Allies in the plain from view. Those who were on the plateau could both see and be seen by the enemy. They moved towards the skirt of the plateau somewhat obliquely by the Woronzow Road, but their right came under the range of some Turkish guns on the edge of the ridge, and they then worked round so as to face towards the Col of Balaklava. It seems to be uncertain whether the small force, which Mr Kinglake says consisted of four squadrons, was detached originally from the main body to cover its left flank, and to push onwards towards Kadikoi, or whether it was sent off after the main body moved to explore the ground, and to make a dash at the park and the camps if it came across them. Any way, the two columns — one very large, the other small — diverged, and as the latter advanced they came in view of some field guns on a slope in front of Kadikoi, which opened fire on them with great energy. These guns were at first supported by a force of infantry, but as the guns which accompanied the Russian horse reached them the men on the flank appeared to fly, and the rest disappeared. The Turks bolted. Sir Colin retired his men and made them lie down. Here was a lure to catch any cavalry officer worth his salt. An enemy’s guns apparently unsupported in front of him. The Russian was sure of his prey, but he little knew that the wily old Scotchman was lying down in wait for him with his 550 Highlanders couching down behind the slope. The Russian made his dash at Barker’s guns, and suddenly, as if by magic, the ridge was crowned by the 93d (in what Mr Kinglake calls a “slender” line); out rang a rattling volley, Barker’s guns plied the squadrons, two heavy guns near at hand and the batteries on the heights sent their missiles hurtling far over their heads away into the plain. The reception was astonishing. The Russian at once inclined towards the flank of the ridge, as if to take the guns and the Highlanders on the right, but he never made a charge home, and, wheeling round in some haste, retired by the way he came, pursued by the fire of our batteries.
The demonstration against the 93d we now know to have been much less serious than it appeared to be to those who saw it from the plateau, and the artillery fire to which the enemy were exposed had probably far more to do with their repulse than is supposed. The 93d suffered no loss then, and they inflicted very little, if any, on the enemy. Whether the four squadrons rejoined the main body or retired towards Canrobert’s Hill is now only a matter of dispute or conjecture. Our own opinion is that they did not rejoin their comrades. Lord Raglan was, of course, quite unable to control this little encounter in any way, or to lend any aid to Sir Colin Campbell; but Mr Kinglake says his “sure glance had enabled him long before to detect the unstable condition of the Turks at Kadikoi, and he sent an order directing that eight squadrons of the Heavy Dragoons should be moved down to support them.” If that were so, it indicates clearly the radical vice of Lord Raglan’s position, because before the cavalry could reach the Turks the mischief would have been done. But, if we are not misinformed, the order sent from Lord Raglan by Colonel Arthur Hardinge to the Heavy Cavalry was to move towards Balaklava and check the rush of the Turks, carrying confusion into the place. The Dragoons were riding leisurely away when, lo! down came the larger column of the Russian horse on their rear. What could Lord Raglan do? But Lord Lucan and General Scarlett saw the danger from different points before it was too late; the Heavies were wheeled round in time to meet and overthrow in a very complete fashion the mass of the preponderating Russian Light Cavalry.
It seems to excite great surprise that General Ryjoff brought his troops to a halt when they crowned the ridge. Mr Kinglake thinks it likely he was induced to do so by the sight of our cavalry camp, with tents standing and horses still picketed, which he judged to be a formidable obstacle. There may be another solution — one, indeed, in aid of which Mr Kinglake’s hypothesis will fit. The first part of Liprandi’s task so far had been plain sailing; but an enemy debouching on the plain after he had carried the Redoubts would have perceived as he advanced that he was in danger; for imminent on his right was the edge of the plateau, trenched and bristling with bayonets. The allied armies were aloft, on his flank. In front towered the cliffs of Balaklava, guarded towards the Col by sugar-loaf points, armed with batteries, and through his glass the reconnoitring officer could perceive the intrenchments held by the Royal Marines, and the entrance by Kadikoi closed by the Highlanders’ “thin red line.” Bosquet’s division was within view, the masts of the guardian frigate, with her broadside sweeping the entrance to Balaklava, would possibly be also in sight — certainly the Chasseurs d’Afrique would appear in the panorama, the Light Cavalry Brigade would be visible as well, and then, close and right in front, Scarlett’s squadrons settling down for their work as calm and confident as if they were 6,000 strong. All that was enough to make a cavalry officer of an ordinary kind hesitate before he committed himself to a “leap in the dark,” and Ryjoff was a very ordinary officer indeed. Neither the peril of Scarlett’s position, nor the splendour of the feat of arms accomplished by our Heavy Horse is exaggerated by Mr Kinglake; but he treats the combat in such a away as to make the actors in it nearly ridiculous. “Scarlett,” “Hodge,” “Clarke,” “Elliott,” “Shegog” — these and other gallant soldiers must have blushed as red as their coats or their wounds when they perused the pages of the historian. The ordinary reader, who might have understood how Scarlett, followed by Elliott and Shegog, dashed at the Russians in advance of the squadrons, will be “brought up all standing,” as sailors say, when his eye rests on the diagram of a green square in which certain red spots are put to indicate our countrymen in the midst of the Muscovite — some of them formidable customers, “with blue-looking noses and savage glittering eyes” — and is called on to read the account of their prowess through many an animated page. The combat lasted little more than five minutes. Twenty-seven pages are needed by Mr Kinglake’s “graphic” pen to do justice to all that was done. It is no detriment to the gallant troopers who charged that inert mass of horse to say that never was so great an effect produced with so little loss. Those who looked on the fight and saw the field could judge how few of the enemy, man or horse, were left on the ground. The total of the casualties in our Heavy Brigade, including those in the early part of the day and those which occurred when the advance was made subsequently, was 78 killed and wounded.
Thus ended the second phase of the day of Balaklava. The advance of the Russian cavalry in tardy continuation of the first success was rudely checked in two directions. They retired on the main body of their infantry and guns. But in the early moments of the movement they were exposed to complete overthrow had they been attacked, as they might have been. They moved across the front of our Light Cavalry Brigade in such a state that if our seven hundred men had then been launched upon them it is quite probable the enemy’s horse might have been annihilated. That would have been indeed a crowning glory to the day’s work. But the opportunity was lost. Lord Cardigan took a strict view of orders he supposed he had received not to abandon the ground on which he had been specially posted. He did not move, and that immobility brought about the third phase of the action of the day. We approach the subject with great reluctance; but, as Mr Kinglake says, it is time to tell the truth. When Lord Raglan was up on the plateau relying on his cavalry to retrieve the disaster which had befallen him, he knew that the General who commanded the arm and one of his Brigadiers were on terms utterly incompatible with ready and efficient service. The way in which these two Earls were appointed is said by Mr Kinglake to be this:—
“From ancient treaties of peace between the two sides of Whitehall it resulted that the Commander-in-Chief at the Horse Guards was the authority for advising the appointment and taking the Queen’s pleasure upon it; but that the authorities responsible to Parliament, or, in other words, the Ministry, might take upon themselves to interpose; and that if they should do so, and do so persistently, then, painful as the surrender would be, their objections should be allowed to prevail.
From this division of power there followed, of course, a corresponding alleviation of responsibility. Lord Hardinge could say that the proposed nominations had been brought to the cognizance of the Ministry, without causing them to interpose their authority as a positive bar to the proceeding. The Ministry, on the other hand, could declare — as, indeed, the Duke of Newcastle very constantly did — that they strongly disapproved the appointments, and never would have made them if they had the full power in their hands; but that still they did not feel it absolutely incumbent upon them to take the somewhat strong measure of interposing.”
Mr Kinglake gives us the reprimand addressed by Lord Raglan on the 28th of September to Lord Cardigan, in reply to a “string of complaints” against Lord Lucan. His Lordship made to his subordinates “the following appeal:”—
“The Earl of Lucan and the Earl of Cardigan are nearly connected. They are both gentlemen of high honour and of elevated position in the country, independently of their military rank. They must permit me, as the Commander of the Forces, and I may say the friend of both, earnestly to recommend to them to communicate frankly with each other and to come to such an understanding as that there should be no suspicion of the contempt of authority on the one side, and no apprehension of undue interference on the other.”
The frankness of communication recommended was certainly not established, as every one knew at the time. The author adds:—
“There is a circumstance which tends in some measure to account for dereliction of duty on the part of those who were preparing our army for foreign service. Men who might be supposed the most competent to form an opinion were persuaded that the force would be used as a support to negotiations, and not for actual warfare.”
Lord Lucan and Lord Cardigan were, Mr Kinglake implies, too old, but from the Commander-in-Chief down — Surgeons, Commissary-General, and all — our chiefs, except the Duke of Cambridge and Sir George Cathcart, were pretty well advanced in life. Lord Raglan had heard his last hostile shot in 1815. Sir George Brown, Sir de Lacy Evans, Sir Richard England were elderly men, but Sir de Lacy Evans had seen comparatively recent service, and had commanded an army. The chiefs of Artillery and Engineers were Sir John Burgoyne, even 14 years ago a veteran, though hale and wonderfully vigorous, and General Strangways, who must have been close on 60 years old. The Brigadier of our Heavy Cavalry (Scarlett) was 55, so that Lord Lucan and Lord Cardigan at 54 and 57 years of age were not exceptional. Of Lord Lucan Mr Kinglake says:—
“He enjoyed perfect health; he saw like a hawk; and he retained such extraordinary activity of both body and mind that, perhaps, the mention of his actual age makes it really more difficult than it might otherwise be to convey an idea of the tall, lithe, slender, and young-looking officer, pursuing his task of commander with a kind of fierce, tearing energy, and expressing by a movement of feature somewhat rare among Englishmen the intensity with which his mind worked. At every fresh access of strenuousness, and especially at the moments preceding strenuous speech, his face all at once used to light up with a glittering, panther-like aspect, resulting from the sudden fire of the eye and the sudden disclosure of the teeth, white, even, and clinched.”
With such formidable peculiarities we are sorry to read that his Lordship did not exhibit “an excess of strenuousness” to the enemy:—
“Disliking apparently every sacrifice, however temporary, of the controlling power, he did not take upon himself to lead in person any cavalry charge; and , therefore, the degree in which he may have been qualified for that very peculiar kind of duty must, of course, be a subject of conjecture rather than proof; but his composure under heavy fire was so perfect that, even in an army where prowess evinced in that way was exceedingly general, it did not escape observation. ‘Yes, damn him, he’s brave,’ was the comment pronounced on Lord Lucan by one of his most steady haters.”
The counterfeit presentment of Lord Cardigan is bit in with the sharpest vinegar and aquafortis:—
“He had a passionate love for the service; a fair knowledge, it is believed, of so much cavalry business as is taught by practice in England; a strong sense of military duty; a burning desire for the fame which awaits heroic actions; and, finally, the gift of high courage. Lord Cardigan’s valour was not at all of the wild, heedless kind, but the result of strong determination. Even from his way of riding to hounds it was visible, they say, that the boldness he evinced was that of a resolute man with a set purpose, and not a dare-devil impulse. His mind, although singularly barren and wanting in dimensions, was not without force; and he had the valuable quality of persistency. He had been so constituted by nature, or so formed by the watchful care which is sometimes bestowed upon an only son, as to have a habit of attending to the desires and the interests of self with a curious exactitude. When engaged in the task of self-assertion ot self-advocacy he adhered to his subject with a most curious rigour, never going the least bit astray from it., and separating from it all that concerned the rest of creation as matter altogether irrelevant and uninteresting. Others before him may have secretly concentrated upon self an equal amount of attention, but in Lord Cardigan there was such an entire absence of guile that exactly as he was he showed himself to the world. Of all false pretences contrived for the purpose of feigning an interest in others he was as innocent as a horse. Among his good qualities was love of order; but this with him was in such morbid excess that it constituted a really dangerous foible, involving him from time to time in mischief. One of his quarrels was founded upon the colour of a bottle, another upon the size of a teacup.”
Such were the men, according to out author, whom Lord Raglan had under his eye. He had retained them in command of the cavalry, of which he was so thrifty, and which was so precious to him, and now he was about to see the result. As he glanced down into the Valley Lord Raglan must, after all, have felt that he was to blame. There were the Russians swarming on the ridge and around the Redoubts, wheeling and countermarching along the Woronzow-road, and in solid occupation of Canrobert’s Hill, where, for months afterwards, the inevitable Cossack vedette was to be seen noting the miserable procession which toiled through the mud in and out of Balaklava. As the Muscovite squadrons glided away, and the Russian General gathered himself up on his newly acquired grounds, no wonder the British Commander-in-Chief was agitated by unpleasant emotions. Mr Kinglake considers the proper moment for the onslaught of the Light Brigade on the Russian Horse was just as the latter were moving down towards our Heavy Brigade, and when they were actually engaged with the latter. He does not censure their immobility at the time when, as we think, an attack must have led to the utter ruin of the enemy. He says, indeed, a pursuit “beyond a short distance” must have led the force under the fire of the Russian Horse Artillery; but the latter would scarcely have opened on the whole mass of its own people, interposed betwixt it and the pursuers, and there was quite space enough if used at once. At all events, Lord Cardigan did not attack either when the enemy were crossing his front obliquely, when they were engaged with the Heavies, or when they were retiring in flight. Mr Kinglake starts a curious theory — one of many — at this point. He thinks that the defeat of the Russian cavalry, attended, signal as it was, with very trifling loss, reduced the Russian army to two weak columns without proper connexion. But not an infantry soldier had been scratched except in the attack on the Turks. The 78 guns of their artillery were untouched, and the cavalry which, as it retired, settled into better order, had formed up in the Valley, and was pruning its ruffled feathers. But in order to exalt his beau ideal of generalship Mr Kinglake invents a result and a situation, and then declares Lord Raglan was “the only officer in the field whose swift instinct at once informed him” of the nature of both. The Redoubts and the Causeway eights having been lost by sheer neglect, it must have added to the uneasiness of a General’s Heights having been lost by sheer neglect, it must have added to the uneasiness of a General’s conscience to know that the success which had occurred afterwards was in no way due to him, and that, after all, there was the enemy in occupation of part of his line of defence, and holding the guns which had armed it. There can be no earthly doubt that Lord Raglan meant to recover the Ridge and Road and the Redoubts coûte de coûte, and thus hoped to recapture his guns and to avert the blame and discredit which would attach to his neglect of warning and to his indifference to the urgent representations of Lord Lucan, Sir Colin Campbell, and Rustem Pasha. The Duke of Cambridge was ordered to take up ground on the right of the position in front of Kadikoi. As soon as the Fourth Division arrived — nearly an hour later — they were placed on the left of the First Division, and the two cavalry Brigades formed the left of the line, the Light in advance, the Heavy in reserve, the former having been moved down very close to the ground which was the scene of the heavy cavalry combat.
The movements of these troops down the Col were quite visible to Liprandi. They indicated a clear intention to attack, and he accordingly prepared to receive his enemy. But our infantry were scarcely yet in their places; Lord Raglan was at once angry and impatient. He was eager to do something — to act at last; but he certainly never intended, we hope, to order his cavalry to do what Mr Kinglake in sober seriousness avers was in his head — to attack the late Turkish (now Russian) Redoubts. Mr Kinglake would make it out that Lord Raglan contemplated advancing his horse up the hill without supports to face artillery and infantry! Lord Raglan sent an order to Lord Lucan — and here we feel that the ground is shaking. We proceed very gingerly. The order Lord Lucan received was in two parts. The first indicates the object of the movement; the second the conditions of it. The first was “to advance and take advantage of any opportunity to recover the Heights.” The advance was, to our minds, clearly dependent for execution on the next sentence, which ran thus:— “They will be supported by the Infantry, which have been ordered (to) advance on two fronts.” Even the sense of that part of the order is subject to doubt, for it might have been read as meaning that the cavalry were to “advance on two fronts,” because the word “to” is omitted in the original order, “advance” is written with a capital “A,” and there is what looked like a full stop after “ordered.” What “opportunity” was offered to Lord Lucan? Could it ever have been intended that our cavalry were to advance against the Heights unsupported? What were they to do? If they went under fire, they would either have had to advance to a more complete destruction than was caused to the Light Brigade, or to have retired, and given greater confidence to the enemy. At all events they did not move, and Lord Raglan waited on the edge of the plateau, looking down on his cavalry, his features betraying “well-governed anger.” At last he determined “to repeat his hitherto disobeyed order.” Lord Lucan, it appeared, was not only waiting for the opportunity spoken of, which certainly was not visible to him — to any one but Lord Raglan — but was waiting for the infantry to whose support he was referred. He committed the offence of “reasoning” about the meaning of a very confused, ill-written order; “reasoning” that he never could be meant to attack ridges crested by Redoubts and held by artillery and masses of infantry. Mr Kinglake, who likes to have Lord Raglan very “stern” when he is dealing with those French fellows, has an idea that his Lordship ought to be always very good-natured and amiable when he has to do with one of his own officers, especially if he be “a noble lord.” Having waited for more than half an hour “watching from the height he had occupied the whole morning for the moment when his cavalry” would obey orders and begin their advance, “his words and features betraying vexation or well-governed anger,” Lord Raglan at last was favoured by the enemy with what Mr Kinglake calls an “opportunity,” which even in “a moment of anger his kind and generous nature would incline him to seize, of softening the communication he had to make to the commander of his cavalry.” The italics are ours. How bland and courtier-like it reads. Lord Lucan must not be ordered abruptly; an order to him must be “relieved of its inculpatory aspect by basing the necessity for instant action on a new fact.” A certain movement was visible near the Redoubts, which those on the plateau construed into preparations on the part of the enemy to remove the British guns they had captured from the Turks. Lord Raglan in dictating, or Sir R Airey in writing the order, now excusable by this new fact, committed the fatal blunder of taking for granted that the officer in the plain below who was to execute it could see what was only visible to those on the plateau above. The order was as follows:— “Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front, and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. Troop of Horse Artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left. Immediate.” In this order there is no word of infantry support or advance. General Airey surely might have added the words “in the Redoubts” after the word “guns.” Sir R Airey sent Nolan with this order (it was his turn of duty on the Quartermaster-General’s Staff), and Nolan, “straight, swift, and intent, descending as it were on some prey, swooped angering down into the plain.” But, swift and angry as he was, he halted to tighten his girths at the edge of the plateau, and to light a cigarette before he “swooped.”
If ever there is occasion for care and extreme precision of words and meaning, it is when a written order is sent for a cavalry movement. Once launched they cannot be stopped. But whatever was meant we know what was done. Lord Lucan might argue in this way:— “Here have I been waiting for half an hour for an advance of infantry which has been ordered, and for an opportunity which has not presented itself to recover the Heights. Of course, cavalry cannot recover ‘heights.’ But now comes an order for me to advance rapidly, and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. I can see no enemy, and I do not know what guns are meant., but it is obvious the only way in which I can prevent an enemy carrying away guns is to charge them. Captain Nolan, who must be cognizant of the Head-Quarters’ intentions, tells me the enemy and the guns are down there.” The original sin of the day’s orders and position spread as it went from the plateau., and Lord Lucan conveyed to Lord Cardigan the impress left on his own mind as to Lord Raglan’s intentions. The Light Brigade, facing the Long Valley, were ordered to advance down it; not a thought occurred to any one about these British guns in the Redoubts; and, indeed, it is quite possible the cavalry did not then know that the captured guns were British. Lord Cardigan might well say with a pardonable “selfishness,” as he prepared to lead his charge, “Here goes the last of the Brudenells!” Through the smoke of the Long valley Mr Kinglake’s researches let in little light, but he accepts in the main Lord George Paget’s view of the day’s proceedings, and admitting, nay, eulogizing highly, the irreproachable and perfect bearing of Lord Cardigan as he led his men, he brands his conduct as a cavalry General, as soon as the charge had been delivered, with great severity. Mr Kinglake’s surmise that Jabokritzky and Liprandi, with 78 guns and 25,000 men, would have yielded to our horse must be based on the enthusiasm in which he wrapt himself when working up the great feat of Scarlett’s Heavies. He fancies that because it was possible for the Chasseurs d’Afrique to make a dash at the guns of a force posted on gently rising ground, it entered into Lord Raglan’s head to direct what he calls “a similar attack” against the Redoubts, or notably the Arabtabia Redoubt and the Causeway Heights generally. But the Chasseurs, even in their well-ordered charge, were soon put to the right-about with large loss, considering the speed of their movements. With the most patient consideration of every reason advanced by Mr Kinglake, we cannot make out the slightest foundation for his theory that the Russians would have surrendered the line they occupied on the commanding ground from the Arabtabia to Kamara. Jabokritzky certainly, with his comparatively weak force, did not fly from six squadrons of French horse, nearly as strong as our Light Brigade. But if Lord Raglan, when he ordered an advance, meant to attack the infantry around the Arabtabia Redoubt, which is marked on the maps at the height of 400 and odd feet above the sea level, and which loomed high above the plain, men who saw the site, and who lament now over the loss in the charge down the Long Valley, must rejoice that the interpreter of the idea, if he sought to bend the Brigade to his will, died a soldier’s death. If Nolan could have led Lord Cardigan to the right, there would, we believe, have been a disaster, without any gleam of such splendour as glittered for an instant over our horsemen as they were sabreing the Russian gunners amid their pieces.
* The Invasion of the Crimea. By A W Kinglake.