This lithograph depicts the Charge of the Light Brigade, the infamous military encounter in which British light cavalry charged against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854. Within 20 minutes of the charge 260 British troops were killed, wounded or taken prisoner and 475 horses lost, out of a total of 673 horsemen.
The artist, Edward Morin, shows us this scene of chaos: hundreds of men from both sides charge, brandishing swords, guns and knives, and tumbling over cannons, men and horses. Some men are dead or injured. The Russians troops can be identified by their blue uniforms with a white stripe to the trouser and white sash over the jacket; the uniform of the British Light Brigade is of a darker blue and features red cuffs. In contrast, the landscape is muted and dull, drawing all of our attention to the battle. The prominent dark-jacketed figure of Lord Cardigan, in the foreground to the right, is the epitome of bravery, strength and leadership. Notions of glory and heroism are further reinforced by the inscription below the image: ‘“An exhibition of the most brilliant valour - of the excess of courage - and of a daring / which would have reflected honor [sic] on the best days of chivalry” / Special Correspondent of The Times, Balaklava, Oct. 25th 1854’. Printed just over one month after the event, indisputably, this is a propagandist image.
Edward Morin was a French artist. The French were allied with the British in the Crimean War.
- Article by:
- Seamus Perry
- Victorian poetry
Dr Seamus Perry explains how Tennyson transformed a catastrophic episode in the Crimean war into one of the 19th-century’s most successful poems, using rhythm, repetition and vocabulary to convey both the folly of the cavalry charge and the bravery of the soldiers.