October 25, 1854

Because of a misunderstood order, the British Light Brigade of cavalry attacked a heavily defended Russian position during the Crimean War. Casualties were heavy: 118 men killed, 127 wounded, 60 taken prisoner and 335 dead horses. Watching the action, a French general remarked, “C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre. C’est de la folie.” (It’s magnificent, but it’s not war. It is madness.” Alfred Tennyson’s poem was memorized by schoolboys for over a century.

Half a league, half a league, 

 Half a league onward, 

All in the valley of Death 

 Rode the six hundred. 

“Forward, the Light Brigade! 

Charge for the guns!” he said: 

Into the valley of Death 

 Rode the six hundred. 

“Forward, the Light Brigade!” 

Was there a man dismay’d?   

Not tho’ the soldier knew 

 Some one had blunder’d: 

Theirs not to make reply, 

Theirs not to reason why, 

Theirs but to do and die:    

Into the valley of Death 

 Rode the six hundred. 

Cannon to right of them, 

Cannon to left of them, 

Cannon in front of them   

 Volley’d and thunder’d; 

Storm’d at with shot and shell, 

Boldly they rode and well, 

Into the jaws of Death, 

Into the mouth of Hell   

 Rode the six hundred. 

Flash’d all their sabres bare, 

Flash’d as they turn’d in air 

Sabring the gunners there, 

Charging an army, while  

  All the world wonder’d: 

Plunged in the battery-smoke 

Right thro’ the line they broke; 

Cossack and Russian 

Reel’d from the sabre-stroke    

 Shatter’d and sunder’d. 

Then they rode back, but not 

  Not the six hundred. 

Cannon to right of them, 

Cannon to left of them,     

Cannon behind them 

 Volley’d and thunder’d; 

Storm’d at with shot and shell, 

While horse and hero fell, 

They that had fought so well   

Came thro’ the jaws of Death, 

Back from the mouth of Hell, 

All that was left of them, 

  Left of six hundred. 

When can their glory fade?    

O the wild charge they made! 

  All the world wonder’d. 

Honor the charge they made! 

Honor the Light Brigade, 

 Noble six hundred!

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