The following text has been taken, with the author's kind permission, from Christopher Hibbert's The Destruction of Lord Raglan (Longmans, 1961), pp. 126-28. Copyright, of course, remains with Dr. Hibbert. Alvin Wee of the University Scholar's Programme, scanned the image, converting it to electronic format. — Marjie Bloy Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, National University of Singapore.
In the atmosphere of frustration and fear, tempers were easily frayed and quickly lost. Friendships were strained. Rivalries became vendettas; dislike changed into hate and disrespect into contempt. Men blamed their officers, their officers blamed the generals, and the generals blamed each other.
General Cathcart, angry with Lord Raglan for not taking him into his confidence or seeking his advice, became more and more difficult and unmanageable. On 4 October he had written him a bitter letter complaining that Sir George Brown and General Airey were constantly consulted whereas he, although he was to take over the army in the event of the Commander-in-Chief's death, never was. Brown and Airey, he considered, were in the habit of issuing orders in Lord Raglan's name and behind his back. 'My duty to my sovereign,' the letter ended, 'demands that I should request an interview at the time most convenient to you, without delay at your headquarters.' The interview was granted, but even then the position remained as before. Cathcart could have got into Sebastopol, he often maintained, and it was Raglan's fault and Burgoyne's that he had not been allowed to try. 'We hear that Cathcart is very angry,' Paget told his wife, 'at the way things are going on and at his never being consulted.' A captain in the 46th, however, was not surprised at his never being consulted. He would, in fact, have been surprised if Lord Raglan had consulted any of his generals. 'I declare,' he told his aunt, 'that I would as soon ask the advice of one of your little girls.'
General England, for instance, another officer wrote, was a 'terrible fool'. 'It is quite disgusting to serve under him. He never knows his own mind and it takes him an age to get his Division into position.' Sir George Brown continued to live up to his 'reputation of being the greatest brute possible'. General Burgoyne was 'a shocking old Dolt'. The Duke of Cambridge, usually so genial, was now strangely reserved. He had never properly recovered from the shock of the Alma, and his gout was getting worse. And Lord Cardigan, the newly styled 'Noble Yachtsman', and Lord Lucan, the 'Tyrant', were, of course, 'again hard at it' and hated by almost the entire army. Feeling was particularly bitter against Lord Cardigan, who with Lord Raglan's permission now dined and slept on board his yacht every night. He was certainly unwell and had only recently recovered from a bad attack of diarrhoea. He looked pale and washed out, one of his colonels thought, and apart from this it was perhaps as well that he should be kept away from Lord Lucan as much as possible. With this in mind Lord Raglan ordered two regiments of the Light Brigade to form a separate camp under Lord Cardigan away from the rest of the cavalry division. It was, as Paget said, absurd that the dispositions of the cavalry should be regulated by the necessity of keeping 'two spoilt children' apart. But the need to do so seemed now to be stronger than ever. On 7 October a cavalry picket on the far right of the army's position had spotted a large Russian force. The cavalry divison formed up and rode over to investigate. The Russians seemed to be inviting a charge, but Lord 'Look-on' lived up to his name. Cardigan was on board ship, but when he heard what had happened he was almost beside himself with rage and disgust. The officers of his own regiment, the 11th Hussars, might at least have been expected to charge without orders, but they were nothing but 'a damned set of old women'. But, after all, what could you expect with Lord Lucan commanding them? He was nothing but a 'cautious ass'.
The trouble was, of course, that Cardigan in his turn was a 'dangerous ass'. There was, indeed, an officer in the 4th Light Dragoons decided, little to choose between them. Cardigan, he wrote, 'has as much brains as my boot. He is only to be equalled in want of intellect by his relative the Earl of Lucan. Without mincing matters two such fools could hardly be picked out of the British Army.'
Up till now Lord Raglan had escaped the general calumny. Captain Jocelyn, writing home on 12 October, had said that he seemed 'as cool and contented as possible, and I think he knows what he is about, and that the army have great confidence in him'. Ten days later, when the bombardment had raged to no effect and only Lord Raglan's staff understood the anxiety which he felt and the position into which the French command was putting him, opinion had altered. 'I do not know,' an exasperated artillery officer exclaimed, expressing a growing discontent, 'which is the greatest ass, Raglan or Burgoyne.'
The French were not the only cause of Lord Raglan's anxiety. The Ministers of the Government at home were in a mood of wild and aggravating optimism. At the beginning of September Charles Greville reported them as being 'not at all satisfied with Raglan, whom they think old-fashioned and pedantic.' Now they praised him with enthusiasm. One of them, who before the battle of the Alma had urged that Lord Raglan ought to be examined by a Court of Enquiry, now stood up in the House of Commons and suggested to cheers that he should be honoured by the Garter. The Duke of Newcastle wrote to tell him that he and his brave army would now 'be able to pass a merry Christmas, and be able to enjoy the comfortable reflection that in the coming year' they would return home to a 'grateful country, full of honours'. 'The boldness with which the masterly flank movement was designed is only equalled,' he assured him in another letter, 'by the decision with which it was executed. Her Majesty attributes the success of this striking military exploit to the consummate judgment displayed by your Lordship in directing the remarkable night march of the army.'
Lord Hardinge told him that 'nothing can exceed the universal admiration of all of us, for the judgement, ability and nerve shown by you in all your operations. The flank movement by your left, bringing your Army and siege guns down to a safe harbour at Balaclava and at a short distance from Sebastopol and in communication with the Navy, is a masterpiece ... the greatest operation of modern times.' The Government, in fact, could see 'no cause for apprehension'. The difficulties would 'eventually only prove to Europe that the walls of Sebastopol were not more impregnable than the heights of the Alma'.
Last modified 16 May 2002