(called Kadikoi by Russian historians), 25 October 1854. We have many more
photographs taken on the battlefield in 1992, 93, and 1997 than we can find
space for, but will be including as many as possible. Please go to
Visit to read the description of a tour of the
battlefield and view the photography. To visit the wonderful Panorama Museum
please go to museum. There are several
paintings depicting scenes from the battle or around Balaklava harbor in the
series we have from William Simpson's book at Simpson.. The battle was memorialized in by
Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem, The Charge of the Light
Brigade. Photos of Sevastopol are now on line at
Sevastopol. Return to
Crimea for full listing including battles at
the Alma and Inkerman.
These maps are from Kingslake's book written as an eyewitness who
interviewed many participants. They are intended to assist readers with the
text which follows. Initial shows the positions at the
time the Russian cavalry veered off from the 93rd Regiment. The Heavy Brigade diagram shows the detail of the engagement
between it and the mass of Russian cavalry crossing the Causeway height.Light
Brigade shows the location of units at the beginning of the Charge and as
the brigade nears the Russian artillery. End shows the
position at the conclusion of the Charge while the French cavalry are clearing
the hills and the Heavy Brigade is moving up in support. The Russian version of
the battle is shown on the map from Beskrovni's atlas of Russian military
history at Kadikoi.
Brief summary of the battle:
From the British point of view:
Surely one of the most famous battles in history, it was a remarkably
disjointed and small- scale affair for all the notice it has since received.
The pen really is mightier that the sword, and so is the artist's brush). The
battle consisted principally of three separate actions the unsuccessful
Russian cavalry charge against the "thin red line" of British
Highlanders, (falsely depicted in the famous painting) the successful charge of
the British Heavy Cavalry Brigade into the Russian cavalry (which is mostly
forgotten), and the disastrous charge of the British Light Brigade "into
the mouth of hell" against the massed Russian artillery, infantry, and
cavalry (see Charge). These were preceded by the
Russian capture of redoubts from their Turkish infantry defenders and were
succeeded by the success of the French Algerian cavalry in clearing the ridge
line north of the "valley of death."
The town lies in a very narrow inlet on the south coast of Crimea. See view
in 1850's. )It is surrounded by steep hills that
block easy access to the interior. The road passes through a narrow ravine, the
Col de Balaclava, and then across a plain to the north west. This plain is
closed at the west by the Sapoune Heights and bounded on the north by the
Fedukhine hills, but it is open on the east. From west to east along the center
of the plain there is a low ridge, called the Causeway Heights, that divides
the plain in two and blocks observation between the southern and northern
parts. The ridge is about 2 miles from Balaclava harbor.
During the summer and early fall both the Russian and Allied armies
received reinforcements. The British and French managed to bring in 4,000 and
7,700 troops respectively. The Russians brought up the 12th Division of General
Liprandi, from General Dannenberg's IV Corps, which was also on its way from
Menshikov decided to attempt to relieve the pressure on Sevastopol by
undertaking an offensive action. He had about 25,000 men posted at Tchorgun,
just north of the Chernaya River valley, six miles northeast of Balaclava. This
vital British supply base and port was outside the perimeter of the Allied army
position on the heights above it and nearer to Sevastopol. Little attention was
paid to the Russian army or the possibility of it attacking. The British
cavalry was not conducting much reconnaissance. Nor were the British disposed
to use spies. The reports brought in by local inhabitants and Polish deserters
from the Russian army were discounted or ignored.
However, five redoubts had been constructed a half mile apart along the
Causeway Heights and a sixth was on Canrobert's Hill at the right of the
British line. These were small and poorly constructed positions and unable to
mutually support one another. They were garrisoned by untrained Turkish militia
of doubtful quality. In addition three 12-pounder naval guns were located in
the Canrobert's Hill redoubt and two each in the next three redoubts to the
west. Each gun had a single British gunner.
The direct defense of Balaclava was entrusted to a single infantry
battalion with field artillery battery stationed at Kadikoi, too far from the
redoubts to support them. This was the immortal 93rd Regiment, The Sutherland
Highlanders, some 550 men strong under Sir Colin Campbell. The only infantry
support could come from the main British army to the west, but it would be
unable to reach them in time. The British cavalry division of Lord Lucan was in
camp just below the plateau about a mile south of the Causeway Heights near the
western end of the valley.
The British commander in chief, Lord Raglan, established his headquarters
in a farmhouse by the road just above the Col de Balaclava and Canrobert placed
his headquarters a short distance along the same road. Lord Lucan was with his
cavalry, but Lord Cardigan slept on his yacht in the harbor.
The Russian attack was led by General Liprandi with four columns of
infantry that crossed the Chernaya River an hour before sunrise. Major General
Gribbe led three battalions of the Dnieper Regiment, a regiment of Uhlans, a
sotnia of Cossacks and ten guns to seize Kamara to protect the left flank. In
the center the assault on Canrobert's Hill was led by General Semiakin with
five battalions. This was subdivided into two columns General Scuderi
had the Odessa Infantry Regiment and six guns and General Rykoff had a cavalry
brigade, the Ural Infantry Regiment, and two horse artillery batteries. To his
right General Levontski had three battalions of the Ukraine Infantry Regiment
and ten guns and General Semiakin had the Azov Infantry Regiment, the Dnieper
Chasseurs, and sixteen guns for the attack on Redoubt #2. The cavalry followed
the infantry in support. On the Russian right was the 1st Brigade of the 16th
Infantry Division with three battalions of the Vladimir Regiment, four
battalions of the Suzdal Regiment and fourteen guns under General Jabokritski.
These were stationed on the Fedukhine Hills to protect the Russian right flank.
For some reason Lord Lucan apparently sensed trouble was coming, and was
riding toward Canrobert's Hill before dawn. He immediately noted signals from
the redoubts ahead that indicated the Russian approach. The alarm was given at
6 AM. Raglan reached a position close enough to see the action shortly after 7
AM, but it was almost 8 AM before he could reach the heights from which he
could observe the entire battlefield. By that time the redoubt on Canrobert's
Hill had already fallen, despite very stiff Turkish resistance. After this the
Russians could concentrate their artillery on the other redoubts. At this the
remaining Turkish garrisons began to flee toward Balaclava, followed by the
Russian cavalry. The Turkish gallantry bought a precious hour for the British
to begin to react and prepare defenses.
The initial response was from Lucan, who positioned his 1,500 troopers
across the valley at a right angle to the causeway ridge with their left
between Redoubts 4 and 5. Raglan hurriedly ordered the Duke of Cambridge to
bring the 1st Division and General Cathcart to bring his 4th Division down from
the plateau to the plain. He pulled Lucan's cavalry back, closer to the
heights. Raglan also alerted Canrobert, but the French commander considered the
Russian effort a diversion and would not disrupt his siege operations. He did,
however, order part of the Chasseurs d'Afrique to support the British cavalry.
If the Russians had continued to advance, they surely would have captured
Balaclava. But they halted at the line of captured redoubts. When they resumed
their movement, the main Russian cavalry began moving slowly up (west) the
northern valley parallel to the Causeway Heights. Four squadrons then turned
south and crossed the Heights between Redoubts 3 and 4. They continued across
the southern valley toward Kadikoi and Balaclava.
The British infantry consisted of the 93rd Highlanders, a few invalid
Guardsmen and others who were rushed up from Balaclava, and two Turkish
battalions. They were positioned initially under cover on the rear slope of a
rise to shelter from Russian artillery, but when the Russian cavalry began its
approach, Campbell ordered them to form line on the crest above the entrance to
Balaclava. Here he told them they must stand until they died, as no retreat
would be allowed.
The Russian cavalry marched forward, then began its galloping charge. The
British first volley was delivered at 600 yards with no effect. The second
volley at 350 yards and the one artillery battery's fire caused the Russians to
wheel leftward and the third volley at 150 yards broke the cavalry attack. They
turned about in the thick smoke and retired across the Causeway, leaving no
casualties on the field. The moral effect, however, was significant. There were
plenty of Russian casualties, but they all managed to remain in the saddle
until they reached their own lines. (Thus the painting that depicts the Russian
cavalry right against the Highlander's line is false).
While the four squadrons were attempting to drive off Barker's battery, the
main body of 3,000 Russian cavalry continued up the north valley, observed by
Lord Raglan and his staff from the height at its end, but unseen by the British
cavalry in the south valley. As the Russians came abreast of Redoubt #4, they
came under heavy French artillery fire and then they also turned left to cross
the ridge into the south valley.
Meanwhile, in the south valley the Heavy Brigade under command of Brig.
Gen. James V. Scarlett was moving east to assist Campbell's Highlanders. As the
Russians topped the crest the two cavalry forces suddenly saw each other at
less than half a mile distance. Both were surprised, but the British were at a
distinct disadvantage from the terrain. The lead column contained a squadron of
the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons and two squadrons of the Scots Greys (magnificent
in their tall bearskin shakos). On the right, a second column was composed of
another Inniskilling Dragoon squadron and the 5th Dragoon Guards. The 4th
Dragoon Guards remained stationary to the rear. Scarlett had only about 300 of
his troops under direct control in the left column.
Instead of launching an immediate charge down hill into the British flank,
the 3,000 Russian cavalrymen sat on the hill crest amazed and fascinated as
they watched the British 300 methodically wheel left and form front in parade
ground fashion some 300 yards below them. Lord Lucan rushed up and ordered
Scarlett to launch an attack, but the later would not do so until he had
dressed his lines as if at Horse Guards Parade. Then, as the Russians extended
their front to envelop him and began to advance, Scarlett ordered the charge to
sound and assumed his post ahead of the leading rank.
In a minute or two the British had smashed into the center of the Russian
formation and both forces were wildly slashing each other in a chaotic melee.
At that point Lucan ordered the 4th Dragoon Guards to attack the Russian right
flank and the 5th to attack the center. As the fresh blows hit the Russian
mass, the Greys and Inniskillings burst through. The Russian formation
collapsed and individuals fled in disorder.
Within 8 minutes the British took 80 casualties and the Russians 200. As
amazing as this result was, the really remarkable thing is that the Light
Brigade sat motionless in line less than 500 yards away as the routed Russian
cavalry streamed past their front. If Cardigan had exercised a whit of
initiative, the Russian cavalry would have been destroyed and the entire
Russian force driven back across the Techenia. But he slavishly interpreted his
orders to hold the ground as meaning not to move from it. Nevertheless, he was
highly irritated by the success of the rival brigade and his hated brother-
in-law, Lord Lucan's orders. Thus he was not in a good mood a few hours later,
when his turn to make history came up again.
From Raglan's hill-top view point it now appeared that the Russians were
reforming, bringing up more infantry, and possibly (worst of all) preparing to
take away his guns. By this time his orders to the infantry were being carried
out. The 4th Division was taking up positions near the Vorontsov road
(Causeway) and the 1st Division moved down the steep ridge to the south and
extended its line to join the left of the 93rd Highlanders.
Raglan ordered Lucan to prepare the cavalry for a combined arms attack on
the Causeway with the First Division of infantry. Lucan shifted his brigades to
the head of the northern valley and waited the arrival of the infantry. After
nearly an hour of watching nothing happen, Raglan became impatient and probably
perturbed of what the French staff, who were watching the entire spectacle
beside him, would think if the Russians managed to take his 6 guns from the
redoubts. He hastily issued an order to Lucan to attack and prevent the loss of
the guns and sent it via Captain Nolan, as messenger.
When Nolan reached Lucan, who was in the valley seated on his horse between
his two brigades, and delivered the order, Lucan could make no sense of it. He
could not see the enemy or any guns. Nolan waved impetuously toward the other
end of the valley and said "there are your guns, sir."
Lucan then rode over to Cardigan and ordered him to advance with his
brigade. Cardigan, not seeing any point to such a suicidal attack, nevertheless
was determined to obey orders to the letter. Now, instead of inaction when an
attack was clearly needed, the result was an absurd attack when caution and
clarification of mission were required.
Thus began the famous and infamous "Charge of the Light Brigade."
The first line 13th Light Dragoons and 17th Lancers was
practically all blow from the saddle. The second line 11th Hussars
and the third line 4th Light Dragoons and 8th Hussars also
suffered heavily, but all managed to cross the mile and a half into the face of
12 cannon with more artillery and infantry firing at their flanks from the
ridges on each side. Lord Cardigan not only miraculously passed between the
cannon untouched, but also engaged mounted Cossacks some distance behind the
guns before turning to retire up the valley. There he was eventually rejoined
by less than 200 of the original 673 men who started the charge. That anyone
survived at all is largely due to the action of the Chaussers d'Afrique, who
supported the British by clearing the Fedukhine hills of Russian artillery and
infantry in time to reduce their fire on the retiring horsemen. Of those who
did not survive many were wounded or unhorsed troopers who fell victim to
Cossacks during the withdrawal.
The Russians were treated to three of the most incredible spectacles in
British military history within the space of less than four hours. After the
battle the 1st Division (except for the 42nd and 79th Highland Regiments)
returned to the trenches south of Sevastopol, but the 4th Division remained on
the plain. This encouraged the Russian high command into thinking the British
siege lines were weakened and this brought on the next battle Inkerman.
From the Russian point of view: Balakrus.
Return to top.
Order of Battle at Balaclava
Brigade of Heavy Cavalry - Brig. Gen. Scarlett
4th and 5th Dragoon Guards
1st and 2nd Dragoons
6th Inniskilling Dragoons
Brigade of Light Cavalry - Brig. Gen. Lord Cardigan
4th Light Dragoons
8th and 11th Hussars
13th Light Dragoons
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and Light Divisions encamped on hills to northwest.
North African (Arab) levies
12th Infantry Division - General Liprandi
Odessa Infantry Regt.
Ural Infantry Regt.
Ukraine Infantry Regt.
Azov Infantry Regt.
1 bn Dnieper Chasseurs
16 squadrons Hussars
1 Regt Uhlans
10 sotnias Ural and Don Cossacks
36 artillery pieces
16th Infantry Division - one brigade - General Jabokritski (in support)
Vladimir Infantry Regiment
Suzdal Infantry Regiment
14 artillery pieces
Please also visit our illustrated descriptions of the Battles at the
Alma River and on
Inkerman heights. Return to Xenophon
main page here.