Into the Valley of Death rode the 600—3 books in one special edition
Historical adventure fiction featuring warriors or soldiers as the central characters is now incredibly popular with stories set anywhere from the world of Ancient Rome to the Viking age, and from the Napoleonic Wars to the world wars of the twentieth century. Although it was first published in 1869, in three separate volumes—combined here to create this complete Leonaur edition—this book is written in an easy contemporary style. This novel of the Crimean War was written not long after the events it portrays took place and so is reassuringly authentic in its historical detail (always essential for reader satisfaction) as well as providing a ‘good read’. Alec Drummond is a British cavalryman serving in the 17th Lancers and his adventures inevitably carry him headlong towards the legendary ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854, where the dashing light dragoon, hussar and lancer cavalry regiments of Cardigan’s command threw themselves at the destructive power of the Russian gun batteries to earn abiding fame and notoriety. This is a first rate book for lovers of historical fiction and the wars of the Victorian era. Originally published as ‘The Story of Alec Drummond of the 17th Lancers’.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
A lengthened pause of more than an hour now ensued, during which we had to remain as before quietly on our horses, devoured by impatience to do something, whether it be to rush upon the enemy, or to satisfy the craving of our hungry stomachs. Yet there seemed no more prospect of fighting than of eating, as the enemy had retired to a strong position on the hills, secure against immediate attack, yet at the same time threatening to us, and therefore making constant watchfulness necessary.
Noon approaching, the pangs of hunger and thirst under which we suffered were beginning to give rise to loud murmurs among my comrades, when all on a sudden our attention was diverted by the approach of an adjutant from headquarters, who was galloping towards us as fast as his horse would carry him. Coming near, I recognised in him Captain Nolan, of the 15th Hussars, aide-de-camp to Sir Richard Airey, quartermaster-general of the British Army.
Passing within a few yards of our regiment, Captain Morris turned his horse’s head towards him, and called out, “Nolan, my dear fellow, are we to charge? Do tell me!”
Without pulling up, Captain Nolan shouted, “You will see directly!” pursuing his gallop up the hill at our rear, to the quarters of Earl Lucan, commander-in-chief of the cavalry.
A few minutes elapsed, and then General Airey’s aide-de-camp rode once more past us; and once more Captain Morris inquired, more eagerly than before, “Nolan, my dear fellow, are we to charge?”
Captain Nolan made no reply this time, but waved his sword above his head, and spurred to the front, towards where the commander of the Light Brigade and his staff were standing. There was a short conversation, at the end of which I could hear distinctly Lord Cardigan saying to the trumpet major, my tent companion, “Sound the advance!”
The call came clear and sharp through the silent air; and a moment after we started at a walk, in three divisions, our Lancers and the 13th Dragoons in the first, the 11th Hussars and 4th Light Dragoons in the second, and the 8th Hussars in the third line. No cheer broke from our ranks as we moved slowly onward, clearing our way through the tents and over the picket-ropes of the camp.
The gloom and sadness which seemed to hang over the minds of my comrades, and which I, too, felt deeply, though unable to account for it, wore off immediately after we had got free of the camp, and out into the open valley leading to the Russian entrenchments. Lord Cardigan, who was riding not more than twenty yards in front of me, accompanied by Captain Nolan and his aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Maxse, and with my friend the trumpet-major close behind, now gave the reins to his horse, and we all followed his example, spurring along over the rough furze-covered ground at a fast trot, which before long became a sharp gallop.
At starting, we had not been able clearly to see whither we were going, and what was the object we had been ordered to accomplish; but on crossing the brow of a slight elevation in the valley, we had it marked out before us most distinctly, and came to see that we, six hundred horsemen, had been despatched to attack the whole Russian Army before us—infantry, cavalry, and artillery.
It fell upon me like a startling shock; yet I had no time nor did I wish to reflect, and my companions all around being apparently imbued with the same feeling, we dug our spurs deeper into the flanks of our quivering steeds, and rushed along with the speed of the wind.
In a few minutes we were within reach of the Russian batteries, planted on the redoubts abandoned by the Turks, when the cannon at once began to play upon us. One of the first shots hit Captain Nolan, who had come to be some distance in advance of Lord Cardigan—a round ball striking him on the breast. He doubled his knees almost lip to his chin, uttered a hoarse gurgling cry, stretched his arms in the air, and the next second fell heavily to the ground, while his horse turned round and pushed back through our ranks.
Coming up to where Captain Nolan had fallen, we entered the region of fire and death. It was like a ride into the mouth of very hell. Down from the right, and down from the left, from in front, and from behind, shells, cannon and musket balls kept pouring in upon us, mowing to the ground whole rows of my comrades, and marking the valley through which we were flying storm-like by one long streak of blood, and one long row of corpses.
To me the whole was like a dream, though of a horrible, ghastly, demoniacal kind. I saw little and heard little with any distinctness; but everything seemed to pass before my eyes like flashes of lightning. I beheld Russian soldiers starting up as from the ground, aiming their guns at me, and, in return, I thrust my lance at them. I vaguely noticed others dealing strokes with their swords, and I rode in upon them, till I felt, with a sort of fiendish satisfaction, their brains under the hoofs of my horse. But all these acts took place in so rapid succession as to leave me no time to think of them. It was almost mechanically that I tried to kill others, as others sought to kill me.
The thick rain of bullets ceased for a moment when, after having made for ourselves a path of blood through a dense mass of infantry, we came upon one of the batteries planted behind, the fire of which had committed immense havoc in our ranks. To spear the gunners, some of whom tried to hide themselves under their carriages, while others doggedly attempted to reload and fire afresh, was the work of a moment; but, this accomplished, there was a momentary pause in our ranks. Looking around, I perceived fresh columns of foot-soldiers, thick as a forest, close in behind the handful of our men who had escaped the carnage; I saw rows of guns belching forth fire and flame on the hills on either side; and I beheld vast swarms of cavalry streaming along the valley in front, ready to close the meshes of the net, and to crush us in deadly embrace.
I was yet staring around, trying to collect my scattered senses, when I got hit in two places, the splinter of a shell grazing my right arm, near the shoulder, and a rifle-bullet lodging in my leg. The moment I felt that I was wounded I attempted to pull my horse round, to see if there was any possibility of returning to our camp; but while I was doing so, he made an immense bound forward, startled by a shell that had burst a little distance off.
Carried along, much against my will, for another hundred yards, I came close to Lord Cardigan and several of our officers, who were making great efforts to form the scattered remnants of the Light Brigade into something like order.
“Rally, men! rally!” His Lordship kept crying; but the words passed all but unheeded in the immense tumult, most of my comrades appearing to be in a state of blind fury, having given up all hope of saving themselves, and only thinking to sell their lives as dearly as possible.