24 October 2008

Balaclava, 1854

Tomorrow being the 154th anniversary of the Battle of Balaclava, I thought I'd post these two poems about it.

The Cavalry Division, under Lieutenant-General the Earl of Lucan, was composed of two brigades. The Heavy Cavalry Brigade, commanded by Major General the Hon James Scarlett, was made up of the 1st Dragoons (Lieut-Col John Yorke), the 2nd Dragoons (Lieut-Col Henry Griffith), the 4th Dragoon Guards (Lieut-Col Edward Hodge), the 5th Dragoon Guards (Maj Adolphus Burton) and the 6th Dragoons (Lieut-Col Henry White).

The Charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaclava
Alfred, Lord Tennyson*

The charge of the gallant three hundred, the Heavy Brigade!
Down the hill, down the hill, thousands of Russians,
Thousands of horsemen, drew to the valley – and stay’d;
For Scarlett and Scarlett’s three hundred were riding by
When the points of the Russian lances arose in the sky;
And he call’d, ‘Left wheel into line!’ and they wheel’d and obey’d.
Then he look’d at the host that had halted he knew not why,
And he turn’d half round, and he bade his trumpeter sound
To the charge, and he rode on ahead, as he waved his blade
To the gallant three hundred whose glory will never die –
‘Follow,’ and up the hill, up the hill, up the hill,
Follow’d the Heavy Brigade.

The trumpet, the gallop, the charge, and the might of the fight!
Thousands of horsemen had gather’d there on the height,
With a wing push’d out to the left and a wing to the right,
And who shall escape if they close? but he dash’d up alone
Thro’ the great gray slope of men,
Sway’d his sabre, and held his own
Like an Englishman there and then.
All in a moment follow’d with force
Three that were next in their fiery course,
Wedged themselves in between horse and horse,
Fought for their lives in the narrow gap they had made –
Four amid thousands! and up the hill, up the hill,
Gallopt the gallant three hundred, the Heavy Brigade.

Fell like a cannon-shot,
Burst like a thunderbolt,
Crash’d like a hurricane,
Broke thro’ the mass from below,
Drove thro’ the midst of the foe,
Plunged up and down, to and fro,
Rode flashing blow upon blow,
Brave Inniskillens and Greys
Whirling their sabres in circles of light!
And some of us, all in amaze,
Who were held for a while from the fight,
And were only standing at gaze,
When the dark-muffled Russian crowd
Folded its wings from the left and the right,
And roll’d them around like a cloud, –
O, mad for the charge and the battle were we,
When our own good redcoats sank from sight,
Like drops of blood in a dark-gray sea,
And we turn’d to each other, whispering, all dismay’d,
‘Lost are the gallant three hundred of Scarlett’s Brigade!’

‘Lost one and all’ were the words
Mutter’d in our dismay;
But they rode like victors and lords
Thro’ the forest of lances and swords
In the heart of the Russian hordes,
They rode, or they stood at bay –
Struck with the sword-hand and slew,
Down with the bridle-hand drew
The foe from the saddle and threw
Underfoot there in the fray –
Ranged like a storm or stood like a rock
In the wave of a stormy day;
Till suddenly shock upon shock
Stagger’d the mass from without,
Drove it in wild disarray,
For our men gallopt up with a cheer and a shout,
And the foeman surged, and waver’d, and reel’d
Up the hill, up the hill, up the hill, out of the field,
And over the brow and away.

Glory to each and to all, and the charge that they made!
Glory to all the three hundred, and all the Brigade!

Note: The "three hundred" were the men of the Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons) and the 2nd Squadron of the Inniskillings (6th Dragoons), who made the initial charge backed by the rest of the brigade.

The Light Cavalry Brigade, commanded by Major General the Earl of Cardigan, was made up of the 4th Light Dragoons (Lieut-Col Lord George Paget), the 8th Hussars (Lieut-Col Frederick Shewell), the 11th Hussars (Lieut-Col John Douglas), the 13th Light Dragoons (Capt John Oldman) and the 17th Lancers (Capt William Morris).

The Charge Of The Light Brigade
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns' he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd ?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd & thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack & Russian
Reel'd from the sabre-stroke,
Shatter'd & sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse & hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

Nine men - three from the Heavy Cavalry Brigade and six from the Light - were awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in action:
Serjeant-Major John Grieve, 2nd Dragoons
Surgeon James Mouat CB, 6th Dragoons
Serjeant Henry Ramage, 2nd Dragoons

Troop Serjeant-Major John Berryman, 17th Lancers
Lieutenant Alexander Dunn, 11th Hussars
Quartermaster Serjeant John Farrell, 17th Lancers
Serjeant Joseph Malone, 13th Light Dragoons
Private Samuel Parkes, 4th Light Dragoons
Serjeant-Major Charles Wooden, 17th Lancers

* Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson (6 Aug 1809–6 Oct 1892)

Click on the "Poetry Friday" button at left for this week's round-up, which is hosted by Kelly at Big A little a. (Susan, of Susan Writes, has done a round-up of previous round-ups here.)

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