Balaklava, Battle of

(1854)
   Fought on October 25, 1854, Balaklava was one of several major battles of the Crimean War (1854–56). With British and French forces besieging the principal Black Sea port of Sevastopol, the Russian General Menshikov sought to drive a wedge between Allied forces and the British base at Balaklava. Russian troops managed to seize some Turkish redoubts and guns on a height known as the Vorontsov Ridge, which commanded the Balaklava-Sevastopol road; but, when Menshikov’s cavalry attempted to exploit this success, they were repulsed by the British Heavy Brigade and by a regiment of Highland infantry. The most noteworthy episode of the battle concerns the epic charge of the Light Brigade, accidentally launched to its destruction down a valley with enemy artillery to its front and infantry deployed on the heights on both flanks. Although it managed to silence the Russian guns, the Light Brigade suffered horrific losses, thus ceasing to be operationally effective for the remainder of the war. The Light Brigade’s sacrifice, immortalized in a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson that has since been memorized by generations of school children, was tactically inconsequential. Nevertheless, the Russian attempt to disrupt the siege and capture the British supply base failed, thus enabling the Allies to continue operations as before.
   FURTHER READING:
    Adkin, Mark. The Charge: The Real Reason Why the Light Brigade Was Lost. London: Leo Cooper, 1996;
    Barthorp, Michael. Heroes of the Crimea: Balaclava and Inkerman . London: Blandford, 1991;
    Brighton, Terry. Hell Riders: The True Story of the Charge of the Light Brigade . London: Henry Holt & Co., 2004;
    Sweetman, John. Balaclava 1854: The Charge of the Light Brigade . London: Greenwood Publishing, 2005;
    Woodham-Smith, Cecil. The Reason Why . London: Penguin, 1991.
   GREGORY FREMONT-BARNES

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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