Ok, y'all, I usually don't read much military history but I picked up "Hell Riders" by Terry Brighton and I COULD NOT put it down.
It is an AMAZINGLY well-done book. BUY IT! This is only a taste.
I'm gonna take you on some of this wild ride. All info comes from the book; direct quotations in ""
Buy the book!
So, you probably have an idea of what the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava was during the Crimean War in October 1854 made famous by Tennyson's poem.
But, Brighton is going to blow your mind like he blew mine.
(Brighton's section on the racket of commissions is GOLD btw.)
He also spent a ton of money on tight, flashy, red uniforms that he made his troopers wear...which earned them the nickname "Cherry Bums."
Yeah, you know where this is going. Lucan was a dick to his wife who complained to her brother. Cardigan told Lucan to stop being a dick. This pissed him off to no end.
Lady Lucan dumps Lord Lucan.
Yayyy!!!! I'm going to war with my horsies!
And all their cavalrymen realize that Fuck, Our commanders are Cardigan and Lucan who empirically suck.
The British army decided the fricking cavalry should take the five week option.
Lots of horses break legs, go crazy, or otherwise die. Everyone is miserable.
We're not even close to the charge btw
The Heavy Brigade isn't there yet so the Cavalry Division is only the Light Brigade. So Lucan tries to command that. Cardigan is not happy.
So Cardigan, leveling up to champion asshole status, moves the brigade out in the middle of the flaming desert.
And then forbids anyone from his unit to take water from the spring.He even puts a sentry on it.
So the guys have to carry water uphill from a mile away for horses and men.
And horses need a lot of water.
Oh, and...still cholera. So everybody is dying and they can't bury the horses, so they're just out there rotting.
Except that he is literally using the wrong manual from 17 years ago that doesn't even have the same names for the commands in it. He orders everyone to learn the outdated shit.
The guys and the horses that aren't dead are skinny, bedraggled, and look like shit. So...it must be time for the fighting!
This was embarassing b/c cavalry is supposed to...recon.
So, the Light Brigade gets thrown out around Balaklava to guard the port against a possible attack.
But the British infantry clowns the Russian cavalry and stops them.
So the Russians set up a substantial line of artillery and have a few people in these captured forts on the hills.
Which guns?, Lucan asks.
That giant battery of guns at the end of the valley, aide responds.
(It was not ok.)
Lucan is sick of Cardigan's shit and tells him to just do it.
Because...ego and awkwardness and you can stay the hell out of my marriage and all.
The high command just see the whole Brigade disappear into the smoke.
Raglan: Oh, shit.
Plus, Lord Cardigan: fuck that guy.
So, the Light Brigade is shit out of luck.
And then they all rider BACK THROUGH ALL THAT MESS again.
Dudes are trying to grab a hold of riderless horses while fighting off Russians with one hand. It's nuts.
Cardigan is one of the first guys back. 🧐
At least 666 cavalrymen made the charge. (Yup. 666.)
Only 195 were fit to fight by the end. But actually, 75% of the Brigade survived which is NUTS. The horses didn't do so well.
Nope. They got to stay on the heights, 7 miles from Balaklava...in the snow...during a hurricane.
More horses and men die. Yippee!!!
Everybody is getting sick and no one knows why.
Also, no beds, or clean sheets, or blankets.
She shows up in her super privileged 1% nurse whites along with a bunch of nuns and some...not so pious ladies...to try to help out.
British army says, no way you can see our guys naked.
But they're still dropping like flies. Because disease. Because...sewers.
Oh, and Florence doesn't believe in germs, so, that's not helpful.
Death rate goes UP after she gets there.
She's basically a self-taught nurse but the Brit soldiers in Jamaica love her.
Mary Seacole: Fuck off into the son (or words to that effect)
Mary doesn't give up. She pays her own way to Crimea. And buys her own supplies.
They called her "Mother Seacole."
The British doctors discover that...there's a SEWER running beneath the damn hospital.
And Mary Seacole gets nothing because...well, duh.
Seacole's name figured prominently.