General Sir James Scarlett
The Life and Letters of the Commander of the Heavy Brigade at Balaklava
by Martin Sheppard
Pub Date 30 Jan 2022 | Archive Date 30 Dec 2021
Pen & Sword, Pen & Sword Military
The morning of the Battle of Balaklava, on 25 October 1854, saw a desperate charge against a greatly superior Russian force. Epitomised by the reckless courage of the British cavalry in the face of heavy odds, the charge was a complete success, putting the Russians to flight. This charge was not that of the Light Brigade, which took place later the same day, but that of the Heavy Brigade, under the command of General James Scarlett. Caught by surprise, Scarlett dressed the three hundred men nearest to him, placed himself well ahead of them and charged uphill to an extraordinary and unlikely victory.
The Charge of the Heavy Brigade, a resounding success, has unjustly been overshadowed by the blunders that led to the heroic defeat of the Charge of the Light Brigade. James Scarlett himself has also been unfairly ignored due the focus on the enmity between the Earls of Cardigan and Lucan. The strategic significance of the Heavy Brigade’s victory, preventing the Russians capturing the key British base, the port of Balaklava, has been overlooked, as has General Scarlett’s decisive part in thwarting Russia’s best chance of winning the Crimean War.
Although his heroic leadership at Balaklava was undoubtedly the most important event in James Scarlett’s life, he had a long and distinguished military career before and after the Crimean War. Based on his own previously unpublished letters, including a long description of his day at Balaklava, General Sir James Scarlett is the first book focused on a remarkable soldier.