Cover image for Hell riders : the true story of the charge of the Light Brigade
Hell riders : the true story of the charge of the Light Brigade
Brighton, Terry.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Henry Holt, [2004]

Physical Description:
370 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DK215.3 .B75 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



On the 150th anniversary of the world's most famous cavalry charge comes a revisionist retelling of the battle based on firsthand accounts from the soldiers who fought there

In October 1854, with the Crimean War just under way and British and French troops pushing the tsar's forces back from the Black Sea, seven hundred intrepid English horsemen charged a mile and a half into the most heavily fortified Russian position. In the seven minutes it took the cavalry to cross this distance, more than five hundred of them were killed. Celebrated in poetry and legend, the charge of the Light Brigade has stood for a century and a half as a pure example of military dash and daring. Until now, historical accounts of this cavalry charge have relied upon politically motivated press reports and diaries kept by the aristocratic British generals who commanded the action.

In Hell Riders , noted historian and Crimean War expert Terry Brighton looks, for the first time, to the journals recorded by survivors-the soldiers who did the fighting. His riveting firsthand narrative reveals the tragically inept leadership on the part of the British commander in chief, Lord Raglan, whose orders for the charge were poorly communicated and misinterpreted, and an unfathomable indifference on the part of British officers to the men who survived the battle and were left to tend their wounds and bury the dead in the freezing cold. While the charge overran the Russians, it gained nothing and the war continued for another two years. In finally capturing the truth behind the charge of the Light Brigade, Brighton offers a stirring portrait of incredible bravery in the service of a misguided endeavor.

Author Notes

Terry Brighton is the curator of the Queen's Royal Lancers Museum, the direct descendants of the 17th Lancers who led the charge of the Light Brigade. He is a member of the Crimean War Research Society and an authority on the Crimean War. He lives in England.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The Crimean War (1853-56) was the first general European conflict since the Congress of Vienna established a balance of power among major European states. It was a brutal, pointless struggle motivated primarily by British, French, and Russian imperial ambitions. The war is remembered primarily for the nursing ministrations of Florence Nightingale and the charge of the Light Brigade, immortalized by Tennyson's poem. The charge has been viewed either as a tribute to military valor or a sordid example of military incompetence. As this splendid examination illustrates, it was both. Brighton begins with a cogent explanation of the causes of the war, then describes several of the key players in the charge--his portrayal of the pivotal officers, Lord Lucan and Lord Cardigan, is both revealing and infuriating. Brighton describes the charge itself in horrifying detail, effectively utilizing the recollections of survivors. Finally, his analysis of the process of mythmaking that arose from the charge is incisive, and ultimately this is an outstanding work that strips away much of the nonsense that has surrounded a tragic military blunder. --Jay Freeman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Even for the British, knowledge of the Charge of the Light Brigade begins and ends with Tennyson's poem-and it's debatable how many Americans could even tell you which war the battle took place in. Brighton, a curator at the British museum devoted to the regiment that led the charge, deftly explains the circumstances leading to the 1854-1856 Crimean War and the Light Brigade's misbegotten confrontation with Russian artillery at Balaklava, outlining the difficulties the soldiers faced in the weeks leading up to the fateful battle. A minute-by-minute account dealing with the battle itself builds tension through effective crosscutting of passages from eyewitness accounts by several survivors along with the author's own thoughtful analysis. Later sections address nagging controversies, such as whether the brigade's commander abandoned his troops mid-fight, while Brighton does his best to pin down just how many soldiers rode into the valley of death and concludes that, despite the heavy losses, the brigade did not lose at Balaklava. His story is an example to all popular historians of how to combine a gripping yarn with deep insight into the social and cultural forces driving the action. Agent, Carl Brandt. (Nov. 2) Forecast: Military history buffs may recognize the 150th anniversary of the Charge on October 25, but acceptance among a broader American audience seems unlikely. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved