Cover image for Death or glory : the legacy of the Crimean War
Death or glory : the legacy of the Crimean War
Edgerton, Robert B., 1931-
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Publication Information:
Boulder, Colo. : Westview Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
ix, 288 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Format :


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DK214 .E34 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In 1853, the Crimean War began as an intensely romantic affair, with officers and soldiers alike taking to the fray with phrases like "death or glory" on their tongues and in their hearts. Nothing stands out more starkly than the toughness of the soldiers who fought so savagely, seldom complained, and only rarely collapsed under war's terrible and relentless stresses. Acts of astonishing bravery, many of them by doctors, women, and children, were commonplace. But so was callousness and brutality. The war soon became an impersonal, long-range killing match that resembled, far in advance, the trench warfare of World War I. It became a showcase for bad generalship and bureaucratic bungling. Men, women, and children died of hunger, cold, and disease many times more often than they were killed by rifles or the most massive artillery barrages the world have ever seen. Death or Glory is not a mere battle chronology; rather, it is a narrative immersion into conditions during what became arguably the most tragically botched military campaign, from all sides, in modern European history--and the most immediate precedent to the American Civil War. Edgerton paints a vivid picture of the war, from the Charge of the Light Brigade and the heroics of Florence Nightingale to the British soldiers who, simply unable to take the misery, starvation, and cholera any longer, took their own lives. He describes how leaders failed their men again and again; how women and children became unseen heroes; how the universally despised Turks fought their own war; and, finally and perhaps most importantly, why so many fought so bravely in what seemed a futile cause. By comparing these experiences with those of Northern and Southern soldiers during the more well-documented American Civil War, Edgerton contributes a new perspective on how soldiers in the mid-19th century experienced war, death, and glory.

Author Notes

Robert B. Edgerton is the author of more than twenty other books on a variety of sociological, anthropological, and historical topics, most recently Hidden Heroism (Westview 2001). He also teaches anthropology at the UCLA School of Medicine.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

The Crimean War, which began in 1853 and ended just five years before the American Civil War, is remembered today as the setting for Tennyson's poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" and perhaps for the heroism of Florence Nightingale. Edgerton (anthropology & psychiatry, UCLA; Warriors of the Rising Sun, LJ 8/97) has chosen this conflict for an examination of the human experience of war. People of five different nationalitiesÄRussian, Turkish, French, British, and Sardinian (Northern Italian)Äparticipated in this conflict, and Edgerton examines the record of their experience to see if cultural conditioning influenced their perceptions of the war. In this richly anecdotal account, Edgerton presents an appalling picture of wretched generalship, criminal bureaucracies, and inadequate medical care. He concludes that the horrors of this war transcended any national cultural conditioning. This vivid account should be of interest to the general reader as well as to students and is recommended for public and academic libraries.ÄRobert J. Andrews, Duluth P.L., MN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The Crimean War has long been fodder for those seeking to ridicule military incompetence, and justly so. In this work, Edgerton focuses on the inept leadership that characterized all of the armies of this conflict and its tragic consequences for those, both soldiers and civilians, who suffered under it. The author relates his story well, and those totally unfamiliar with the subject will find his book informative and interesting. The fact remains, however, that there is nothing new of substance here. Edgerton has relied completely on published sources, most of them secondary. Further, his limited understanding of the history of warfare leads him to perceive unique qualities in the Crimean War that are in fact common to many, if not most, wars. His observations--particularly his attempts to compare this war with the American Civil War, which occurred only a few years later--are for the most part trite or meaningless. His case is further weakened by notable gaffes, such as his claim that Sherman's army destroyed Charleston. In the end, this book does not go beyond anecdotal history at its most superficial. R. H. Larson; Lycoming College

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. i
1 The Crimean Warp. 5
2 The Armiesp. 33
3 The Generalsp. 71
4 The """"Real"""" Warp. 101
5 They Also Servedp. 137
6 Pride and Prejudicep. 165
7 Soldiers in Battlep. 187
8 The Many Faces of Men at Warp. 215
Epiloguep. 245
Notesp. 253
Referencesp. 271
Indexp. 281