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Hell Riders: The True Story of the Charge of the Light Brigade Hardcover – October 14, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (November 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805077227
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805077223
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #895,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Terry Brighton's writing of the actual minute by minute unfolding of the charge was so well written I felt I was in the middle of it. Utterly captivating.

As for the rest of the book, he does an excellent job looking at the causes of the Crimean War, and delves into things I would never have thought about; transporting all the horses by ships for one thing.

Two chapters that could have been left out were about who blew the bulge for the charge and about Florence Nightingale's involvement after the charge. Both interesting, but they seemed to be vestigial.

I am not a big fan of military history, but this was an engrossing book.
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Format: Hardcover
Brighton briefly sketches the events that led to the Crimean War, but never loses focus on the Light Brigade. His account of the famous Charge is very detailed, and extends for over 100 pages. He skilfully allows the original participants (through their memoirs) to describe the action, and thus his descriptions have a first-hand 'feel' to them absent in some other books on the Charge. Brighton weaves these accounts together effectively. Despite the extraordinary detail of the section on the Charge, I never lost interest -- and was filled with admiration for the cavalrymen who rode up the valley and then down it in the hellfire of the Russian guns. Brighton examines Nolan's actions in (and after) relaying Raglan's orders to Lucan, and although apportioning most of the blame on Lucan, doesn't adopt a one-eyed strategy of making scapegoats of people. Instead, his discussions appear to be well balanced.

There are useful maps at the beginning of the book (though one showing the 'Thin Red Line' and the Heavy Brigade's repulsing of the Russians, prior to the Light Brigade's famous charge, would have been useful); and Brighton includes a list of those who rode in the Charge.

A great read and history 'brought to life' by those who created it.
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Format: Hardcover
I've recently read two books regarding the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade: Cecil Woodham-Smith's classic account, The Reason Why, and Terry Brighton's more recent Hell Riders. Both are excellent books, and complement each other very well. While Woodham-Smith's account focuses primarily on the officers involved, Brighton provides a grunt's-eye view of the Charge, focusing on the troopers who fought and died in the Crimean War.

The Charge was part of the larger Battle of Balaklava, during the Crimean War between an Anglo-French-Turkish alliance and Russia. On October 25th, 1854, Russian troops attacked the Allied army approaching Sevastapol. Lord Raglan, the British commander-in-chief, ordered Lord Cardigan's Light Brigade to attack a Russian position. Due to miscommunication between Captain Nolan, Raglan's aide, and the cavalry Commander Lord Lucan, and differing perspectives of the battlefield, the "noble 600" charged into the teeth of a Russian artillery redoubt, incurring horrendous casualties but winning immortality. For years, the Charge has been either the exemplar of gallant heroism, the apex of military folly, or some combination of both. And controversies about the event - who was to blame? what did the Charge achieve? - continue to rage.

Brighton provides a fresh, remarkably vivid account of this famous event. He provides a quick sketch of the Crimean War, but keeps his focus on the brigade. The clash of personalities between Lords Raglan, Lucan and Cardigan, and Captain Nolan is discussed, though it's not the focus as in other works. Brighton makes fine use of primary sources, such as diaries, correspondence and testimony of the participants, to depict the harsh life of a 19th Century cavalryman.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have read several books concerning the Charge of the Light Brigade, but none of them has done a good job of letting you know what it was like to be in the valley itself. This book went a long way of correcting this over site. Unlike the other books, this book only slightly covers the events up to the charge itself. These events however, do need to be cover in order to explain the actions (or inactions) of the principal parties. The chapters concerning the different parts of the charge are well written and keep you on the edge of you seat. It also goes a long way to explain the poor showing that the Russian calvary showed and I believe probably is near the truth. It is interesting to see the spin that generals on both sides put on the events and how they are contrasted by the statements of lower ranking officers and men. The only time that the book bogs down is in writing about the aftermath, and certain chapters about the suicide of some participants, Florence Nightingale, and who blew the charge seem to be filler.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very interesting facts and they are covered very well. But the lay out of the book made it a little hard for me to follow. The end part about the nurses, I'm not sure belonged in this book; although interesting. I would definitely recommend this book to any one interested in "The Light Brigade."
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By BLT on March 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
It's all there !

Just when I thought Mark Adkin's work constituted the summit on the subject here comes Terry Brighton's.

Not a question is missing, answers come up chapter after chapter relentlessly.

Very pleasant to read. I did not suspect there would still be so many things to learn about the charge which came as a real surprise to me.

The part about the aftermath is a unique addition.

A very professional and enjoyable read all the same !
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