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Balaklava, Battle of

BALAKLAVA, BATTLE OF

On October 25, 1854, Prince A. S. Menshikov, commander of Russian ground forces in Crimea, launched an attack on the British supply base at Balaklava to divert an allied attack on Sevastopol. The battlefield overlooked the Crimean Uplands, which dropped steeply onto the Plain of Balaklava. The plain was divided into two valleys by the Causeway Heights, occupied by a series of Turkish-held redoubts.

The British cavalry was camped at the foot of the escarpment. The Russians, led by Prince R. R. Liprandi, captured four redoubts at dawn on October 25. Although the British Commander, Lord Raglan, had a commanding view, he was short of infantry. Russian hussars advancing toward Balaklava were driven off by his only infantry regiment. Another large Russian cavalry force was driven off by the British Heavy Brigade, leaving the battle stalled. When the Russians began to remove captured guns from the redoubts, Raglan, still lacking infantry reinforcements, ordered the cavalry to stop them.

In error, the 661-strong Light Brigade under Lord Cardigan advanced down the valley toward the main Russian batteries. British troopers came under fire from fifty-four cannons to the front and on both flanks. Reaching the guns at a charge, the brigade drove off the Russian cavalry before retiring slowly back to their starting line, having suffered grievous losses: 118 killed, 127 wounded, and 45 taken prisoner. This astonishing display of cool courage demoralized the Russians. Total battle casualties included 540 Russians killed and wounded; 360 British, 38 French, and 260 Turks. It was little more than a skirmish in the much larger war.

See also: crimean war

bibliography

Adkin, Mark. (1996). The Charge. London: Leo Cooper.

Anglesey, Marquis of. (1975). A History of the British Cavalry. London: Leo Cooper.

Lambert, Andrew. (1990). The Crimean War: British Grand Strategy against Russia, 18531856. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Seaton, Albert. (1977). The Crimean War: A Russian Chronicle. New York: St. Martin's.

Andrew Lambert

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