by David Trumbull - March 21, 2014
'Forward, the Light Brigade!' Was there a man dismay'd? Not tho' the soldiers 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. . . . When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made! All the world wonder'd. Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred!
The above stanzas are two of the six that make up Alfred, Lord Tennyson's celebrated poem, "Charge of the Light Brigade," a romantic account of Britain's blunders in the Battle of Balaclava, fought 160 years ago this October, as one important encounter of British and Russian forces in the Crimean War.
Once again the West views with apprehension Russia incursion into Crimea. Once again, war, a major European land war, is a real, if remote, possibility. In the Nineteenth Century Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856) Russia lost to an alliance of France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia.
The causes of the war, and its effects on later history are too complex for this short essay. However, some things came out of the Crimean War that we live with every day.
The modern nursing profession is generally regarded as having been birthed in the Crimean War out of the efforts of Florence Nightingale (1820 - 1910), popularly known as "The Lady with the Lamp."
Russia, with heavy war debts, and doubting her ability to hold onto its North American, territory should the British seek a fight over it, sold Alaska to the United States.
To this day we keep our faces warm when skiing (or hidden when robbing banks) by wearing a knitted cap that pulls down to cover most of the face, in other words, a balaclava, from the Battle of Balaclava, topic of Tennyson's poem, and the first place they were widely used.
What will come out of the current conflict over Crimea? Well, in the words of an America general of about the same time as the Crimean War, William Tecumseh Sherman (1820 - 1891), "War is Hell." I'm sure the noble six hundred would agree.