Death or Glory: The Legacy of the Crimean War / Edition 1

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In 1853, the Crimean War began as an intensely romantic affair, with officers and soldiers alike taking to the fray with phrases like “death or glory” on their tongues and in their hearts. Nothing stands out more starkly than the toughness of the soldiers who fought so savagely, seldom complained, and only rarely collapsed under war’s terrible and relentless stresses. Acts of astonishing bravery, many of them by doctors, women, and children, were commonplace. But so was callousness and brutality. The war soon became an impersonal, long-range killing match that resembled, far in advance, the trench warfare of World War I. It became a showcase for bad generalship and bureaucratic bungling. Men, women, and children died of hunger, cold, and disease many times more often than they were killed by rifles or the most massive artillery barrages the world have ever seen.Death or Glory is not a mere battle chronology; rather, it is a narrative immersion into conditions during what became arguably the most tragically botched military campaign, from all sides, in modern European history—and the most immediate precedent to the American Civil War. Edgerton paints a vivid picture of the war, from the Charge of the Light Brigade and the heroics of Florence Nightingale to the British soldiers who, simply unable to take the misery, starvation, and cholera any longer, took their own lives. He describes how leaders failed their men again and again; how women and children became unseen heroes; how the universally despised Turks fought their own war; and, finally and perhaps most importantly, why so many fought so bravely in what seemed a futile cause. By comparing these experiences with those of Northern and Southern soldiers during the more well-documented American Civil War, Edgerton contributes a new perspective on how soldiers in the mid-19th century experienced war, death, and glory.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The Crimean War, which began in 1853 and ended just five years before the American Civil War, is remembered today as the setting for Tennyson's poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" and perhaps for the heroism of Florence Nightingale. Edgerton (anthropology & psychiatry, UCLA; Warriors of the Rising Sun, LJ 8/97) has chosen this conflict for an examination of the human experience of war. People of five different nationalities--Russian, Turkish, French, British, and Sardinian (Northern Italian)--participated in this conflict, and Edgerton examines the record of their experience to see if cultural conditioning influenced their perceptions of the war. In this richly anecdotal account, Edgerton presents an appalling picture of wretched generalship, criminal bureaucracies, and inadequate medical care. He concludes that the horrors of this war transcended any national cultural conditioning. This vivid account should be of interest to the general reader as well as to students and is recommended for public and academic libraries.--Robert J. Andrews, Duluth P.L., MN
Not a narrative of the 1853 war, but an exploration of the best and worst features it brought out in people and its impact on the future of warfare. Edgerton (anthropology and psychiatry, U. of California- Los Angeles) investigates what drove people to such futility as the Charge of the Light Brigade, such heroics as Florence Nightingale's work, and such incompetence as was shown by military leaders. Calling it the most tragically botched military campaign in modern European history, he points out its foreshadowing of the US Civil War and World War I. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
A messy book about a messy war.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813337890
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 1/28/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.91 (w) x 8.95 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert B. Edgerton is the author of more than twenty other books on a variety of sociological, anthropological, and historical topics, most recently Hidden Heroism (Westview 2001). He also teaches anthropology at the UCLA School of Medicine.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction 1
1 The Crimean War: "Curious and Unnecessary" 5
2 The Armies: Men Ready for War? 33
3 The Generals: Butchered Leadership 71
4 The "Real" War: Cold, Hunger, and Disease 101
5 They Also Served: Women and Children 137
6 Pride and Prejudice: The Turks at War 165
7 Soldiers in Battle: Courage and Cowardice 187
8 The Many Faces of Men at War 215
Epilogue 245
Notes 253
References 271
Index 281
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