Saturday, October 30, 2010

Husband & Wife

Quarterplate daguerreotype from around 1850 (3.25 x 4.25 inch)

Characteristics of a daguerreotype are:
  • The pictures can not be reproduced and are therefore unique.
  • The surfaces are extremely delicate, which is why they are housed under glass in a case.
  • The image is reversed, the object seeing himself as he did when looking at a mirror.
  • The images are difficult to view from certain angles.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


City walls of Brussels, Belgium.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Battle of Balaclava

Today the famous battle of Balaclava took place in 1854. It was part of the Crimean War 1853-1856 between Russia and the Allies (France, England, Turkey). This war is consider4d to be the first modern war. Railways and telegraph were used, Florence Nightingale nursed, and a lot of photographs were taken (for the first time in a war).

The Allies wanted to capture the city of Sevastopol, the most important Russian naval base, located on the Black Sea coast of the Crimea. They decided to attack from the South, leaving a weak spot near the harbour of Balaclava, a small town guarded by the British.

The Russians decided to take advance and attacked the defences around Balaclava. After conquering tactical positions on the surrounding hilltops the Russian cavalry moved to engage the British defensive line. This line, the famous Thin Red Line, held, and then the Heavy Brigade charged and forced the Russians onto the defence.

Instead of waiting for the reinforcements (who were expected to arrive in short while), the British commander Lord Raglan ordered the cavalry to expel the Russians from the hilltops.  Raglan was known to formulate his orders in an incoherent and vague manner. When the order arrived the commander of the cavalry, the Earl of Lucan, decided to wait. 

Raglan, Lucan, Cardigan, Nolan.

Raglan, impatient, then ordered the cavalry to "advance rapidly to the front. Immediate". The hot-tempered aide-de-camp Louis Nolan delivered the order to Lucan. Again Lucan didn’t understand the order, since there was no mention of the hilltops. Then the irritated Nolan told him to attack immediately.

"Attack, sir!"
"Attack what?
"There, my Lord, is your enemy!" said Nolan indignantly, vaguely waving his arm eastwards.

Nolan seemed to wave his arm the direction of the main body of the Russian Army, a large battery at the end of the valley strongly held on three sides by the Russians. Irritated by Nolan’s behaviour Lucan refused further discussion and rode to the commander of the Light Brigade, the Earl of Cardigan, standing in front of his brigade. The two men were barely on speaking terms as Lucan was married to one of Cardigan's sisters and, as Cardigan believed, did not treat her well. Cardigan questioned the sanity of the order.

"Allow me to point out to you that there is a battery in front, battery on each flank, and the ground is covered with Russian riflemen."
"I know it" said Lucan. "But Lord Raglan will have it. We have no choice but to obey."

At 11:13 the Light Brigade, consisting of 673 men, started their advance to the battery at the end of the vally, a mile away. When Nolan realised they went in the wrong direction he rode to Cardigan who was leading the brigade, but he was killed by an artillery shell. Lucan, thinking the Light Brigade would be wiped out, decide not to send the Heavy Brigade after them so the preserve at least half of his cavalry division. At distance of 250 yards from the battery Cardigan ordered to "Gallop", and then to "Charge".

At 11:17, despite withering fire from three sides that devastated their force on the ride, half of the men reached the battery. They became engaged in heavy fighting. Cardigan though, satisfied he had reached the battery, decided to go away, leaving his men behind. He afterwards said all he could think about was his rage against Nolan, who he thought had tried to take over the leadership of the charge from him. After suffering heavy casualties the remaining soldiers were soon forced to retire. About 250 men were killed or wounded, and 400 horses lost, destroying some of the finest light cavalry in the world to no military purposes. At 12:00 most of the survivors were back at the British lines.

"And who I ask is answerable for all this?" asked Sergeant Major George Smith of the 11th Hussars.

The futility of the action and its reckless bravery prompted the Russian commanders to have initially believed that the British soldiers must have been drunk. The French Marshal  Bosquet stated:

Still it is considered a battle honour for all the British regiments that took part. It is usually a pre-condition for a battle honour that the battle is a victory, but these three episodes in the battle are such icons of courage and achievement for the British Army that the military authorities awarded Balaclava as a battle honour to all the regiments involved.

Cardigan was always impeccably dressed and the knitted vest he wore to protect himself from the severe Russian winter was named after him, although the collarless V-neck we know as the cardigan today bears little resemblance to the original. The raglan, an overcoat in which the sleeves go directly to the neck without shoulder seams, was named for Lord Raglan.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cabinet Card

Cabinet card made in Binghamton NY. A cabinet card consists of a thin photograph mounted on a card measuring 4¼ by 6½ inches. They replaced the smaller carte-de-visites in the 1870s. They reached peak popularity in the 1880s. In the 1890s they were replaced by a.o. Kodak snapshots.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Long-nosed Monkey

The Long-nosed monkey (AKA Proboscis monkey) lives in Borneo. Only 5000 are left. An Indonesian nickname is Dutch Monkey since the Dutch colonisers often also had a large belly and nose. They can swim very well.

wildfact (source: BBC):
Proboscis monkeys have the longest noses of all primates. In elderly animals, it can reach 17.5cm (a quarter of the body length). Although its function is not known for sure, it is likely to be a visual signal used in mate choice. The male vocalises through the nose with a kee honk sound.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Charge of the Light Brigade

Officers and men of the 13th Light Dragoons who were the survivors of the charge, photographed by Roger Fenton in 1855.

The Charge of the Light Brigade was a disastrous charge of British cavalry led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854 in the Crimean War. It continues to be studied by modern military historians and students as an example of what can go wrong when accurate military intelligence is lacking and orders are unclear.

So now we have seen the Charge of the Heavy Brigade, The Thin Red Line, and the Charge of the Light Brigade. Tune in at October 25th to see how they are related to each other.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Victoria Princess Royal

Victoria Princess Royal

Portrait of Victoria Princess Royal (the future Queen Victoria). Painted photograph, taken on 20 March 1856, the day of her confirmation, by William Bambridge (Huis Doorn Photo Collection).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Maude Fealy

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Thin Red Line

Lieutenant General Sir Colin Campbell (1792-1863), commander of the 'Thin Red Line' (Roger Fenton, 1855).

The Thin Red Line is a term for a thinly spread military unit holding firm against attack. The phrase later took on the metaphorical meaning of the barrier which the relatively limited armed forces of a country present to potential attackers. The first use of the expression referred to the resistance by the red-coated 93rd Highland Regiment of the UK in the Crimean War.

The Thin Red Line, painted by Robert Gibb.

The Thin Red Line was a famous military action by the British Army's red-coated Highland Brigade, at the Battle of Balaclava on October 25, 1854. The brigade and its leader distinguished themselves very greatly: with his 'thin red line of Highlanders' he repulsed the Russian attack, and prevented the Russions from occupying Balaklava.


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