THE REASON WHY by Cecil Woodham-Smith
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From the Crimea of Florence Nightingale (1951), and again with an authoritative use of family papers and historical archives, this is a dramatic interpretation of the Charge of the Light Brigade-not only in terms of its courage as Tennyson immortalized it, but also in terms of its disastrous mismanagement which the military system of the time made possible. For then war was an ""aristocratic trade"" and wealth and favoritism were to procure commissions for those who were destitute of experience. And so it was that the Earl of Cardigan and the Earl of Lucan, whose stories form a dual biography here, both proud, peremptory and overbearing, were to buy their way up and over more qualified officers and to command the Light Cavalry Brigade and the Cavalry Division respectively. Cardigan, superb of face and figure, reckless, stupid, mounted his regiment magnificently (""brilliant as parrakeets"") but his own career was a record of misconduct; while Lucan, irritable, severe, energetic, had the better qualities for leadership in the Crimea where Cardigan was to infuriate him with his insubordinate independence. Their drama of bad blood (although kindred- they were brothers-in-law) builds to the battle at Balaclava where the fatal order which could only be an ""invitation to disaster"" was transmitted from Lord Raglan- to Lucan- to Cardigan who with his 700, not 600, marched to the doom from which only 195 were to return... It is of course an unfailingly stirring story, to which the resplendence of the times, and the proud call to arms, which here reaches its apotheosis of valor, and folly, lends spirit as well as substance.

Pub Date: April 29th, 1954
Publisher: McGraw-Hill