Retelling the Tale of the Light Brigade

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On Oct. 25, 1854, during the Battle of Balaclava, the British army suffered staggering losses that were quickly etched in history — and myth. School children who have never heard of the Crimean War remember the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Charge Painting

Detail: 'Charge of the Light Brigade, Balaclava, 25 October, 1854,' painted by Richard Caton II Woodville. hide caption

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NPR marks the 150th anniversary of the event, memorialized in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's famous poem. Tennyson, the British poet laureate at the time, described the battleground as "the Valley of Death."

But however brave it may have been, the charge was a military mistake. Following the wrong orders, a light cavalry brigade of 600 to 700 men attacked enemy forces despite being surrounded on three sides by heavy Russian artillery. In seven minutes, 110 men died.

A new book by historian Terry Brighton, Hell Riders: The True Story of the Charge of the Light Brigade, documents the events that led to the charge.

Voices from the Distant Past

Listen: Archival Recording of Alfred, Lord Tennyson Reading 'Charge of the Light Brigade'

Listen: Archival Recording of a Light Brigade Bugler

Listen: Folger Theatre Actor Michael Toledo Reads Tennyson's Poem

Books Featured In This Story

Hell Riders

The True Story of the Charge of the Light Brigade

by Terry Brighton

Hardcover, 370 pages |


Purchase Featured Book

Hell Riders
The True Story of the Charge of the Light Brigade
Terry Brighton

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