Three letters relating to the Charge of the Light Brigade


Written by British troops serving in the Crimean War, these three manuscript letters provide a remarkable personal insight into the Charge of the Light Brigade, which took place on 25 October 1854. The Charge was later immortalised in the Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'. 

In the first letter Captain Soame Jenyns writes to Charles (‘Charlie’) Goad, a brother of Thomas Howard Goad, one of Jenyns’s fellow captains. Jenyns describes the Charge of the Light Brigade and expresses grave concern for Thomas Howard, who he last saw ‘galloping about 100 yards from the guns’. Thomas Howard was one of hundreds killed in the Charge. Accompanying the letter is a black-framed mourning envelope, containing pressed wild flowers picked by Thomas Howard’s second brother, George Maxwell, from the battlefield of Balaklava. The envelope is inscribed, ‘Sent to us by my dear Maxwell. AEB.’. ‘AEB’ are the initials of the Goads' mother, Anne Elizabeth Bradford. 

The second letter, again addressed to Charles Goad, was written by his brother Cornet George Maxwell Goad on 27 October 1854. It opens, ‘I am very sorry to say I have exceedingly bad news to give you in this letter’. George Maxwell, who did not take part in the Charge following an injury earlier in the day, describes the chaotic events that took place – ‘the most terrible thing you can conceive’. He also refers to injuries sustained by Jenyns. Like Jenyns, Goad is extremely concerned for the safety of their brother ‘poor dear Howard’, whom he says is missing, last seen ‘wounded in the head’. Clearly distressed, he urges Charles ‘not [to] encourage poor Mother to hope too much in case in case [sic] the worst should have happened which I much fear’. 

The last letter is written several months later on 5 February 1855 from George Maxwell to his sister Emily (‘Em’), who lives in Britain with their mother. It is permeated by expressions of homesickness and low morale. George Maxwell expresses regret that his brother Charles is unwell, and that he is unable to be at home for Emily’s birthday. He refers to the Earl of Cardigan’s attempts to get the Light Brigade home, and describes his surroundings as ‘wretched’. He also includes a note relating to plans for the attack on Sevastopol, illustrated with sketches of the Light Brigade’s camp. 

How did the British Library come to acquire these letters?

These letters were united at the British Library between 2001 and 2003. The first letter was bequeathed by a collector; by pure chance, the second and third came up for sale in the following two years.


Oct[ober] 27th

Dear Charlie
Masey will
have told you the sad
sad news about poor
Howard, knowing alas
my own feelings, I do
[in the margin - ([J]ohn)]
pity from my heart
all his relations, altho’
I can hardly fancy
his being a greater loss
to any one than he
is to

me and all of us
and I hardly can
write on the Subject
but could not refrain
from writing to you
particularly as Masey
not being on the Spot
at the time, may not
be able to tell so
much - The last I
Saw of poor Howard
was galloping about
100 y[ar]ds from the Guns

when we charged but
after that there was
so much smoke &c
that I did not see him
But from all I can
learn, he was seen wounded
on the ground with his
Revolver in his hand
walking, and by another
man sitting down.
He was also seen surrounded
by Lancers, and altho’
there is a chance of
his being at this

moment a prisoner
I am afraid it is inde[ed]
but a slight one, If
he is a prisoner, I hear
they treat them well
but I confess I have
no hope - as I am sorry
to [say] the Cossacks give
no quarter. Poor Mont__
was seen in the same
position, and after-
wards dead - I will
send any intelligence

The 13th & 17th going in
first lost most the
rest ^ of the light Brigade
were considerably
in the Rear till we
cleared the guns -
Oh that they had
sent the heavy Brigade
to support us!
The heavies made
a competent charge
in another plain

[the following is written across the body of the preceding text]

Oldham was seen dead on
the top of 3 horses, some of the
guns were spiked I believe, and
I shot two wheelers in two guns
Coming back when all chance of
Capturing them was over -
I tell you all particulars as

a little Earlier
and sent double their
number flying back
The Turks never stood
one moment, and
deserted our guns
without an effort -
we are in our old
position, and the
Enemy, about 30000
strong on the hills
opposite I saw

[[the following is written across the body of the preceding text]
God knows if I may write again
altho[ugh] one engrossing thought
occupies me night & day -
Poor Lady Hindford and
your sister. How I pity them - Masey
bears it very well poor fellow.
You shall hear all about him
from me - His horse was shot

Ralph today quite
well, the Russians
got an awful licking
in a sortie yesterday
But they will have
to storm Sevastopol
I got a lucky escape.
Poor Moses was shot
through the shoulders
through the thigh
two grape or shell
through my cloak
and a spent ball

[the following is written across the body of the preceding text]

under him. Early in the day and
his back a little sprained in the
fall, else he is quite well.
I must now stop God bless &
Comfort you all - with Kindest
Regards to Mrs Goad
Y[ou]r ever aff[ectionate]
Soame G. Jenyns.

me a crack on the knee
Poor Moses just
carried me back -
I do so deplore not
having seen Howard
myself. He fell so
in the centre of
the Enemy’s position
that it is impossible
to go and look for
him, and a flag
of Truce is no use
with Cossacks -

Flowers from the Field
of Balaklava - where
the charge of Light Cavalry
took place - October 25th 1855.
Sent to us by my dear Nestwell [?]
AEV. [?]

Bala Klava
October 27th 1834
[at the top of the page, written at 90o to main text]
I have just got your letter of Octo[ber] 10th

My dearest Charlie
I am very sorry
to say I have exceedingly
bad news to give you
in this letter. Our
position here was
attacked on Wednesday
the Turks who defended
the hills & batteries
ran like curs, & the
Russians took posession
of them, we had not any
other infantry with us
then. The enemies cavalry

came down to where our
camp was & the Greys &
Enniskillins charged them
& drove them back, our
infantry & French were
now coming down to help
us, our light brigade
were then ordered to
charge some guns, which
they did under a most
frightful fire, eight
^ I now hear 17 guns in position guns in front, masses
of infantry as a flanking
fire on the hills on
either side, & a large
force of cavalry, our

men drove back the
cavalry & guns most
bravely, but the fire
was so severe & they were
so much out numbered
that they were obliged
to retire, poor dear Howard
I am sorry to say is
missing, the only account
I can hear of him is,
that when last seen
he was wounded in
the head, & sitting down
with his revolver in his
hand, I can find out
nothing more about him

except that a party that
went there next day said
they could see none of our
officers there, this my dear
Charlie is all I can find
out, I trust he may have
been taken prisoner as
they will take good care of
him, but I very much
fear for his safety. Will
you do what you think
best in the way of writing
to poor Mother or Em. My
horse was shot under me
earlier in the day & in
falling I got my back
hurt & had to go away
to the rear, but I think
I shall be all right soon

the colonel was sick, Jenyns
got 4 balls in his cloak
& a spent shot hit his
leg but he is all right,
Smith got his jacket
torn in several places &
bruised with lance thrusts
but not hurt, the others
not toutched. Lord Cardigan
led the brigade in, & came
off with only a bruise from
a lance. Wombwell
was taken prisoner (but
afterwards escaped) & a
Russian officer who
spoke French told him
their men were rather

rough, but every care would
be taken of him & I am
in hopes if dear Howard
is a prisoner he will get
all well again. I will write
to dear Mother by the
next mail, but I really
could not do so now. It
was most horrid, I was lying
down in the rear of the camp
when the quarter master came
up & told me of this, & I knew
it was impossible to get
any help to poor Howard.
I think you had better
not encourage poor Mother
to hope too much in case
in case the worst should have
happened which I much fear.

I have just seen Ralph
& he advised me to write
& tell you all I knew
& leave it to you to do
what you thought best
I am afraid myself to indulge
in too much hope. Ralph
is going to find out if there is
any means of communicating
with the enemy as to what
prisoners they have got, I will
write by the next mail, but
I fear it is almost impossible
that I shall have any more
news to give. Oldham was
shot dead & Montgomery
missing & the regiment came
about 20 unwounded men
& horses out of the engagement

it was the most terrible thing
you can conceive & owing I
believe to some mistake on
the part of Nolan who brought
the order, he was however killed
nearly the first. All our people
but Smith had their horses
killed but came off all right
The whole brigade now
makes up about one good
regiment, we suffered most
then the 17th - then the 8th
then 4th then 11th I can write
no more Good bye dear
old boy & believe me
your most affect[ionate] Brother
G. M. Goad
If there had only been proper
infantry in the batteries instead
of those wretched Turks in all
probability this would not have happened
as this was a pretty strong place


Feb ry 5th 1855

My dearest Son

I received your

letter of Jan ry 18 th yesterday

& was very sorry to

hear poor dear

Charlie has been so

ill, but I hope

he may soon be

quite well again

Last Saturday was

you birthday, so I must

altho' rather late,

wish you very many

happier returns of

it, I was in hopes

dear Son that I should

have been home

before it, but think

we may soon be

together again - I have

no news to give you

there is a report here

that Lord Cardigan

is trying to get the

Light Brigade home,

have you heard

anything of it. It has

been very cold with

so snow lately, it changed

in the most sudden

way, our horses still

die, we have got

now 9 returned as fit

for duty, but they are

in anything but a

serviceable state, what

will happen to us in

the spring I can't think.

I am sorry Jack [Hiloyard?]

has got to goo out, where

abouts will he be quartered.

I cannot tell you how

I long once more to be

at home with you all,

but it seems to me as if

any such happiness

never would be, it is

most wretched here

now - the long expected

railway has been begun,

that is they are

making a sort of

foundation for it, the

navvies do not like

this place at all, &

they say if they had

known what it was

like, they would not

have come. I keep

very well I am glad

to say, I hope dear

mother & you are also

With best love to

my mother you & all

Believe me

My dearest Son

Your very affectionate father

G M Goad

There is a report just arrived I hear from the Light Infantry Camp, that the plan for the attack on Sebastopol is settled. There will be 70,000 men employed in it, they have transports for 60,000 at Varna & Sir G. Brown has gone to Constantinople to fetch up the remainder. They are to land 8 miles to the East of the town, & Marshal
St. Arnaud says that Fort Constantine is the only place that will give any trouble, he thinks that will keep them 7 days in the trenches, & when that is taken, that the town will easily follow. I am not sure if this is true but they seem to think so. There is no news of our moving. I will write again soon, when I may have more news to give you

Full title:
Three letters relating to the Charge of the Light Brigade
27 October 1854; 5 February 1855, Balaklava, Sevastopol, Ukraine
Manuscript / Letter / Ephemera
Captain Soame Jenyns
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