the Charge of the Light Brigade

William Simpson. The Charge of the Light Brigade. 1855

Tennyson wrote The Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854:

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!' he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

and onward for a great number of verses.  It is about the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War where the Light Brigade, a British cavalry unit met Russian forces during the siege of Sebastapol, a Russian naval base on the Black Sea. 
Against the Russian Empire were the British, French and Ottoman Empires: the Ottoman Empire was in decline and the war was over who would get its territories.  It is said that it paved the way for WWI, it was the first modern war, it introduced new military technology and, because it was Empires fighting Empires, rather than mere nations fighting nations, it was a war fought on many fronts and at many scales.

The war was triggered over control of the Middle East, driven by the difference between the Roman and Greek Orthodox Catholic Churches and the Russian Orthodox Church, each claiming authority over the holy sites of Christianity.  In the end all of Europe was involved, ending with the Treaty of Paris of 1856, which disarmed the Black Sea.  Territories were re-drawn, countries joined together and others split, seeds sown in the Balkans, Turkey and the newly formed Austro-Hungarian Empire for WWI, WWII, the break up of the former Yugoslavia, the autocratic division of the Middle East in the 1920s which has led to the current Palestine/Israel impasse, Russia's ongoing problems with its satellite republics.  We will never be free of it.

The Charge of the Light Brigade was a disaster, as was the ambush at Fish Creek during the Riel Rebellion.  There are so many sieges and battles that were horrific massacres for both sides, little territory gained or lost.  One really does wonder if war is the natural state of man.  

Stephanie Whitewar