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George Page
Misha Jelisavcic
John Sloan

(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 Odessa.

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.
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Order of Battle at Balaclava

British Army:

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

17th Lancers


93rd Highlanders

1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and Light Divisions encamped on hills to northwest.

Turkish Army:

North African (Arab) levies

French Army:

Chasseurs d'Afrique

Russian Army:

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.