World History 1854 Part 2

About the history of the world in 1854, the Ostend Manifesto and Cuba, the Crimean War and the Battle of Balaklava.



Oct. 18 American ministers James Buchanan, John Y. Mason, and Pierre Soule, meeting in Ostend, Belgium, sent a dispatch, later titled the "Ostend Manifesto," to Secretary of State William Marcy urging the military seizure of Cuba if Spain continued to refuse to sell the island. In 1853 Pres. Franklin Pierce had instructed Soule, ambassador to Spain, to offer $130 million for Cuba, but the offer had been angrily refused. The North viewed it as a Southern plot to add more slave territory to the union.

Oct. 25 At the Battle of Balaklava during the Crimean War, British commander in chief Lord Raglan was highly displeased as he viewed the battlefield from the Sapoune Ridge. First of all, a Russian surprise attack had nearly overwhelmed his scant British and Turkish forces early that morning. The Russians had been stopped, but General Cardigan's Light Brigade--which had been ordered to attack "everyone and everything"--had remained totally in active. Now Raglan noticed that a small force of Russians was hauling away captured cannon from hills to the southeast of the Light Brigade. He dispatched his aide-de-camp, Captain Nolan, to Cardigan's superior, General Lucan, with the order "Advance rapidly to the front and prevent the enemy from carrying off the guns." Lucan, on receiving the order, could not see the guns actually referred to and assumed Raglan meant the Russian cannon at the end of the valley directly to the east of the Light Brigade. This valley had Russian troops on both sides and a mass of artillery at the end. Examining this position, Lucan replied to Captain Nolan, who was his personal enemy, that the order was not only stupid but suicidal. Not knowing that Lucan had misunderstood, Nolan angrily repeated the order to attack, giving no further clarification.

Lucan rode over to Cardigan and ordered him to attack down the valley. Even Cardigan, a not very intelligent old war-horse, thought the order strange, stating, "Permit me to observe that we are advancing against a battery with guns and riflemen on our flanks." Lucan replied, "Yes, I know, but it is the commander in chief's order." That was that. Cardigan ordered his Light Brigade forward at a steady trot. Captain Nolan, realizing that the attack was going in the wrong direction, rode out in front and waved toward the correct objective. But before he could correct the error, a shell fragment killed him.

The order to charge was never given, only the command to advance at a trot. The brigade rode at an even pace down the valley under rifle and cannon fire from three directions. They reached the guns that were never meant to be attacked, moved on, and were met by a huge Russian cavalry force. Realizing they could go no farther, Cardigan ordered his men to turn around. The brigade succeeded in fighting its way back to its original position.

Out of 675 men, 113 were killed and 134 were wounded or captured. Most of the brigade's horses were killed or had to be killed later. The attack had achieved nothing except more casualties. General Cardigan rode down to his yacht in Balaklava harbor that night. As he took a bath and drank a bottle of champagne, he cursed Nolan for mixing everything up.

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