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appears that the Quartermaster-General, Brigadier Airey, thinking that the light cavalry had not gone far enough in front when the enemy's horse had fled, gave an order in writing to Captain Nolan, 15th Hussars, to take to Lord Lucan, directing his lordship “to advance” his cavalry nearer to the enemy.
4. A braver soldier than Captain Nolan the army did not possess. He rode off with the order to Lord Lucan. (He is now dead and gone : God forbid that I should cast a shade on the brightness of his honour, but I am bound to state what I am told occurred when he reached his lordship:)
5. When Lord Lucan received the order from Captain Nolan, and had read it, he asked, we are told, “Where are we to advance to ?”
” Captain Nolan pointed with his finger to the line of the Russians, and said, “There are the enemy, and there are the guns, sir, before them, it is your duty to take them,"--or words to that effect.
6. Lord Lucan, with reluctance, gave the order to Lord Cardigan to advance upon the guns, conceiving that his orders compelled him to do so. The noble earl, though he did not shrink, also saw the fearful odds against them. Don Quixote, in his tilt against the windmill, was not nearly so rash and reckless as the gallant fellows who prepared without a thought to rush on almost certain death.
7. It is a maxim of war, that “cavalry never
act without a support;" that "infantry should be close at hand when cavalry carry guns, as the effect is only instantaneous ; and that it is necessary to have on the flank of a line of cavalry some squadrons in column, the attack on the flank being most dangerous.
8. The only support our light cavalry had was the reserve of heavy cavalry at a great distance behind them, the infantry and guns being far in the rear. There were no squadrons in column at all, and there was a plain to charge over, before the enemy's guns could be reached, of a mile and a half in length!
9. At ten minutes past eleven our light cavalry brigade advanced. The whole brigade scarcely made an effective regiment, according to the numbers of Continental armies, and yet it was more than we could spare. As they rushed towards the front, the Russians opened on them, from the guns in the redoubt on the right, with volleys of musketry and rifles. They swept proudly past, glittering in the morning sun in all the pride and splendour of war.
10. We could scarcely believe the evidence of our senses. Surely that handful of men are not going to charge an army in position ? Alas! it was but too true. Their desperate valour knew no bounds, and far indeed was it removed from its so-called better part-discretion. They advanced in two lines, quickening their pace as they closed upon the enemy. more fearful spectacle was never witnessed
than by those who beheld these heroes rushing to the arms of Death.
11. At the distance of twelve hundred yards the whole line of the enemy belched forth from thirty iron mouths a flood of smoke and flame, through which hissed the deadly balls. Their flight was marked by instant gaps in our ranks, by dead men and horses, by steeds flying wounded or riderless across the plain. The first line is broken—it is joined by the second-they never halt, or check their speed an instant.
12. With diminished ranks, thinned by those thirty guns, which the Russians had raised with the most deadly accuracy; with a halo of flashing steel above their heads, and with a cheer which was many a noble fellow's deathcry, they flew into the smoke of the batteries : but ere they were lost from view the plain was strewed with their bodies, and with the carcasses of horses.
13. They were exposed to an oblique fire from the batteries on the hills on both sides, as well as to a direct fire of musketry. Through the clouds of smoke we could see their sabres flashing, as they rode up to the guns and dashed into their midst, cutting down the gunners where they stood.
14. We saw them riding through the guns, as I have said : to our delight we saw them returning after breaking through a column of Russian infantry, and scattering it like chaff
, when the flank fire of the battery on the hill
swept them down, scattered and broken as they
Wounded men and riderless horses flying towards us told the sad tale. Demi-gods could not have done what they had failed to do.
15. At the very moment when they were about to retreat, an enormous mass of Lancers was hurled on their flank. Colonel Shewell, of the 8th Hussars, saw the danger, and rode his few men straight at them, cutting his way through with fearful loss. The other regiments turned, and engaged in a desperate encounter. With courage too great almost for credence, they were breaking their way through the columns wbich enveloped them, when there took place an act of atrocity without parallel in the modern warfare of civilised nations.
16. The Russian gunners, when the storm of cavalry passed, returned to their guns. They saw their own cavalry mingled with the troopers who had just ridden over them ; and, to the eternal disgrace of the Russian name, the miscreants poured a murderous volley of grape and canister on the mass of the struggling men and horses, mingling friend and foe in one common ruin.
17. It was as much as our heavy cavalry brigade could do to cover the retreat of the miserable remnants of the band of heroes as they returned to the place they had so lately quitted. At thirty-five minutes past eleven not a British soldier, except the dead and the dying, was left in front of those guns.
NOTES ON “THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE."
1 Repulse, defeat.
6 Catastrophe, disaster.
CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE.
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
Rode the Six Hundred.
* Forward the Light Brigade !”
Was there a man dismayed ?
Some one had blundered :
Rode the Six Hundred.
Cannon to right of them,