CADOGAN'S CRIMEA by Somerset J. Gough Calthorpe


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Cadogan's Crimea is equally Calthorpe's, and herein hangs a tale: a descendant of Crimean War vet Cadogan, seeking a text to mate with his ancestor's never-published watercolors and sketches, lit upon fellow-campaigner Calthorpe's Letters from Headquarters (1856), a classic of military history known to all scholars. Conjoined now, Cadogan's pictures (some of them full scenes in color, others brisk notations in black-and-white) and Calthorpe's abridged memoirs provide a fresh view of the disastrous expedition that managed to end in victory. Artist Cadogan, however, may be counted the more trustworthy witness. Writing shortly after the Russian defeat, Calthorpe was out to vindicate his much-maligned uncle, Lord Raglan. Indeed, those two gallant blockheads Raglan and Cardigan (yes, the originals of the sleeve and the sweater) had been crucified by the press over the Charge of the Light Brigade (whose death toll was reduced by Tennyson, for euphony, to a mere six hundred). Actually, the Crimean War marked the first time that war correspondents had accompanied an expeditionary force, resulting in a political and emotional furor in London that nearly eclipsed events on the battlefield. Taking issue with Times correspondent Russell's blast at Raglan after the valiant but suicidal attack at Balaclava, Calthorpe throws the blame on one Captain Nolan, who ""appears to have totally misunderstood the instructions he had just before received. . . ."" But the private feud between Fleet Street and the Crimean top brass did trigger a huge shakeup of the army apparatus--with the result, for one thing, that Florence Nightingale arrived with her corps of nurses. Calthorpe's remarks, moreover, are not without their pertinence today. ""I don't know how it is,"" he writes, ""but the reporters of the English journals have made themselves very unpopular. They appear to try and find fault whenever they can, and throw as much blame and contempt on the English authorities as if their object was to bring the British army into disrepute with our allies."" Nostalgia plus, then--especially for military-history buffs who've already read Christopher Hibbert's more balanced The Destruction of Lord Raglan (1961).

Pub Date: March 10th, 1980
Publisher: Atheneum