The Charge of the Light Brigade is one of the most well-known military actions in history, due to its being immortalised in Tennyson's poem of the same name. The historic counterpart to the poem took place during the Crimean war. Lord Cardigan was the commander in charge of the troops.
The Crimean War was a conflict that took place in 1854. Various countries, including Britain, were struggling to increase their respective empires in the Middle East. Russia was also vying for control in the region and eventually engaged against Turkey. The French and the British did not want Russia to gain more control in the area, so they stepped in and declared war against the Tsar. Conditions for British soldiers fighting in the war were reportedly extremely harsh, and medical treatment was scarce. This led to nurses venturing forth to help care for the sick. Florence Nightingale was the most famous of these.
The Light Brigade
The battle took place in the Ukraine off the coast of the Crimean sea. The Earl of Raglan was the commander of the British forces that took part in the entire battle, of which the Charge of the Light Brigade was a part. The Earl of Cardigan commanded the actual ill-fated brigade which included members from five regiments. The fourth and thirteenth Light Dragoons, Eighth and Eleventh Hussars and the seventeenth lancers made up the Light Brigade.
A possible misinterpretation of orders led to the disastrous attack by the Light Brigade. Orders were given to Lord Cardigan to attack a Russian position. The Russian forces had captured guns on either side of a valley. Cardigan interpreted the orders to mean to attack a Russian position at the far end of the valley, and as a result led his troops into a valley surrounded from higher ground by Russian manned guns, leading to the casualties that followed.
Many military operations have been botched and resulted in massive casualties throughout history. The Charge of the Light Brigade became so famous in part due to the presence of a journalist to report what happened. William Howard Russell was a reporter for "The Times" who was present throughout the conflict. His report of the Charge of the Light Brigade was described in a famous letter to the paper. This letter became famous on its own, but the event moved further into legend when Alfred Lord Tennyson based a poem off of the events described within it.