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The Destruction of Lord Raglan: A Tragedy of…

The Destruction of Lord Raglan: A Tragedy of the Crimean War 1854-55…

by Christopher Hibbert

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The Crimean War brought the armies of Britain, France, Turkey, Russia, and eventually Sardinia (Italy) to fight on the shores of the Black Sea’s Crimean Peninsula. One product of this conflict was the creation of tens of thousands of letters, personal memoirs, official histories, and modern accounts of the battles and the related war that today fill the shelves of the world’s libraries, archives, and perhaps even today its attics. This resulted in great part not only from the efforts of Mr. Russell of The London Times, probably the first modern war correspondent, and his colleagues, but also from the many literate veterans of this conflict, especially from England. The Crimean War was probably the first war to produce so many accounts from the soldiers in the ranks instead of just the army commanders and senior officers. With such raw material to work with it is little wonder that the library on the Crimean War has continued to grow as historians continued to work through it.

Over his career, historian Christopher Hibbert has written many excellent works recounting the history and/or biography of places, events, and individuals both British and non-British. He presented his contribution on the Crimean war in 1961 in the form of this biography/military history centered upon the role the of the British Army’s Commander, Lord Raglan, before and during the war in the Crimea. Curiously, Hibbert’s book appeared at about the time that I first read Cecil Woodham-Smith’s “The Reason Why” and discovered the body of scholarship on this conflict that was relatively forgotten and unknown in the United States at that time. Woodham-Smith’s work was an important contribution to scholarship and popular literature on the war, first published in 1953, and telling the story of the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava (immortalized in Longfellow’s poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade).

I really regret that it took me this long to discover Hibbert’s book because having finally read it I consider “The Destruction of Lord Raglan” to be one of the best English-language histories of the Crimean War. If you want to study this conflict, you have to include ‘Lord Raglan’ in your readings. Published almost 50 years ago, Hibbert’s work obviously does not reflect the scholarship of recent years. However, he was the first author to make extensive use of Lord Raglan’s own correspondence and papers in both the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, but also those held at the Royal United Services Institute. In his acknowledgements, the author makes further note of the many other sources upon which he drew in researching Lord Raglan and the Crimean War. The Sources listed in the published work extend for almost eight pages and include English, French, and Russian language sources.

Christopher Hibbert writes that no one interested in learning and writing about the Crimean War can avoid W.A. Kinglake’s masterful nine volume history, “The Invasion of the Crimea,” published 1877-1888. Having discovered “The Destruction of Lord Raglan,” I would dare to amend his advice to add, “nor can the serious student of this conflict ignore Christopher Hibbert’s “The Destruction of Lord Raglan.” ( )
2 vote RobertMosher | Oct 31, 2008 |
2534 The Destruction of Lord Raglan: A Tragedy of the Crimean War 1854-55, by Christopher Hibbert (read 18 Sep 1993) This 1961 book begins, not with Lord Raglan's birth, but with him at 19 and serving under the to-be Duke of Wellington. Raglan was the commander of the British troops sent to the Crimea in 1854 and died there on June 28, 1855. I have read other books on the Crimean War but the horribleness of conditions there in the winter are something I am not sure I realized before reading this book. It is simply inconceivable that such a pointless war would be put up with and in fact enthusiastically endorsed at the beginning by the British public. Raglan was actually a good guy and the terrific suffering of the troops was not his fault. This is a very good book on the Crimean War. ( )
1 vote Schmerguls | Apr 18, 2008 |
The charge of the Light Brigade well told. ( )
  hellbent | Jul 5, 2006 |
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NOTE: When Lord Raglan died on the plateau before the still untaken Sebastopol, his sister-in-law the Countess of Westmorland, whose husband was British Ambassador in Vienna, received a letter of sympathy from Prince Metternich.
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