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The Battle of Balaclava: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

The Battle of Balaclava, including the famous Charge of the Light Brigade, took place during the Crimean War. Learn about the battle and why it's still so famous today.

What (or Where) Is Balaclava?

You probably think of a balaclava as a type of hat - and it is. A balaclava is a hat that covers everything but your eyes and mouth, the kind that bank robbers wear in movies. But there's also a place called Balaclava, and there was a famous battle there: the Battle of Balaclava, in 1854.

The Crimean War and the Battle of Balaclava

The Battle of Balaclava was part of the Crimean War.

During the Crimean War, the Russian Empire was fighting against the British, the French, and the Ottoman Empires. The three empires fighting against Russia called themselves the Allies.

Map of Europe showing the Russian, British, French, and Ottoman Empires and Balaclava
Map of Europe

In 1854, the Allies were trying to capture a Russian naval base called Sevastopol. Russia could keep ships there and then send them out to control the Black Sea, so the Allies wanted to take Sevastopol away from the Russians.

How the Battle Went

To get food and supplies for the soldiers at Sevastopol, the Allies had to bring everything in by ship. To make this work, part of the Allied troops moved to the port of Balaclava, which was near Sevastopol. Then the Allies could bring in food by ship and get it to the troops attacking Sevastopol.

At Balaclava, there's a ring of higher ridges around the port. The Allies set up big guns on these ridges to defend the port.

The Russians attacked the Allies at Balaclava. At first, the Russians looked like they were winning. They got control of some of the ridges around Balaclava, which meant they had control of the Allied guns. But then the Allies pulled together and held on to the actual port of Balaclava.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

One important part of the Battle of Balaclava was the Charge of the Light Brigade. After the Allies stopped the Russian attack, they tried to get back some of their guns by sending in their cavalry, or soldiers mounted on horses. The Light Brigade was a British cavalry unit in this attack. They were very brave, but their orders weren't clear and they were told to charge in the wrong place. So a lot of the men of the Light Brigade died because of a mistake, and in the end they didn't ever get the guns back.

The Charge of the Light Brigade. In this picture, you can see the ridges and the guns.
Charge of the Light Brigade

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