Fact and Fiction in Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade"

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Fact and Fiction in Tennyson’s “The Charge of The Light Brigade”

Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” gives account of an October 25 battle during the Crimean War by portraying a valiant charge and the glory it brought. This single charge is infamous for being the most brutal in history. In his book Hell Riders: The True Story of the Charge of the Light Brigade, Terry Brighton, a member of the Crimean War Research Society, discusses the actual incident and compares it to Tennyson’s poem. In spite of a few errors, Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” presents a fairly accurate description of a charge made by the Light Brigade during the Crimean War.

The most brutal charge in history was set in motion after threats by Tsar Nicholas I of Russia to take Constantinople. British troops soon “invaded the Crimea and began bombarding the Russian Naval base of Sevastopol, home of the [Tsar’s] Black Sea Fleet. If the city could be taken and its fleet destroyed the Tsar’s…plans would be foiled” (xx). On October 25, the Russian troops gained the upper hand by attacking Britain’s base. Britain struck back: “Acting in defense, …the Light Brigade of the British Cavalry Division charged a battery of Russian artillery guns ranged across the far end of a mile- long valley” (xx). As the brigade charged directly at the guns, they were shot at from three sides. It was a vicious battle and “[t]o those watching from high ground…as what remained of the Light Brigade disappeared into the smoke of the Russian guns, it seemed that these magnificent cavalrymen had charged into hell itself” (xx). The opening lines of Tennyson’s poem illustrate this moment.

“The Charge of the Light Brigade” tells the story of the Light Brigade making its approach towards the Russian guns. With Tennyson’s use of foreshadowing, readers can discern that this is going to a particularly ominous moment. Tennyson uses phrases like “valley of Death,” “jaws of...
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