THE distinguished soldier, whose premature fate in connection with the late heroic exploit of our Light Cavalry at Balaclava the Army and the country have now to deplore, was a son of the late Major Nolan, formerly of the 70th Regiment; who, after many years of arduous service in various parts of the globe, retired from military life, and became for some time resident at Milan, where he acted as Vice-Consul, in the absence of the Consul-General, and was remarkable for his hospitality. The best English and Continental society, including military men of the highest rank, being constantly to be met at Major Nolan's house, and Milan being a large garrison, it was natural that, with such opportunities of association, his sons should imbibe a predilection for the profession; and accordingly, at an early age, Lewis (the subject of our Sketch) sought and obtained a commission in the Austrian service, under the auspices of one of the Imperial Grand Dukes, who was a friend of his father. In this position he was generally esteemed for his amiable manners and strict devotion to all the duties of military life; and it was here that he first applied himself to the acquirement of that knowledge of the menage and of Cavalry tactics, in which he became afterwards so proficient - he being, even at this time, recognised as one of the best horsemen in the division to which he was attached. After a short service in Hungary, and on the Polish frontier, by the advice of his friends, young Nolan sought a more distinguished career in the British Army, and he was accordingly gazetted to an Ensigncy in the 4th Foot, on the 15th March, 1839; but in the month following he was appointed to the 15th Hussars, then stationed in India; and after a short stay at the Dépôt, joined his regiment at Madras, where, his attractive talents having soon brought him under the notice of Sir Henry Pottinger, then Governor of that Presidency, he was appointed an extra Aide-de-Camp on his Excellency's Staff. In addition to the knowledge which he already possessed of the French, German, Italian, and Hungarian languages, Captain Nolan availed himself of his residence in India to become master of several of the native dialects; and he also entered actively into all the details of the military system in the East. Apart from these engagements, however, he found time for the sports of the field, and was several times a successful competitor in some of the most severely-contested steeplechases on the Madras turf. The 15th Hussars being ordered home, and having previously obtained his troop, Captain Nolan returned to England before the Regiment, on leave, and proceeded on a tour in Russia; and having visited some of the most important military posts in that empire, as well as in other parts of Northern Europe, he returned to England, and published his justly popular book upon the Organisation, Drill, and Manuvres of Cavalry Corps, which was reviewed at some length, with three Engravings, in the ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS for Jan. 7, 1854. The work having attracted the attention of the Horse Guards' authorities to its author, it is already known that he received an appointment on the Staff of the Army of the East; and, advantage being taken of his judgment in th selection of horses, he was specially commissioned to make large purchases on account of the Government, at Tunis, Syria, and elsewhere - a duty which he performed to the entire satisfaction of Lord Raglan. We are aware that in the first accounts of the disastrous charge at Balaclava, blame was hastily attached to Captain Nolan, who, it was alleged, had gone beyond the terms of an order which he was instructed to deliver to Lord Lucan; his memory has, however, we are glad to find, been subsequently vindicated from so grave an imputation, and all who knew him best in the closest relations of military life, and his punctilious character on all points of duty, assert that he would have been the last man to be guilty of the indiscretion attributed to him. In fact, the rash movement in question was so opposed to his own published theory on the subject, that he could never have willingly countenanced, much less directed it, even under an excess of zeal. So far, indeed, from this, in Captain Nolan's book, under General Rules, he says: -
Rule 3. Never attack without keeping part of your strength in reserve.
9. Charges on a large scale should seldom be attempted against masses of all arms, unless they have previously been shaken by fire. 10. Always watch for and seize the right moment to attack.
And, again, he says prophetically: -
The most difficult position a cavalry officer can be placed in is in command of cavalry against cavalry; for the slightest fault committed may be punished on the spot.
All these errors were made, however, under some horrible delusion. The Light Cavalry galloped, open-eyed, into destruction as complete as if they had fallen into an ambuscade. Who can doubt that if they had had to charge any reasonable number of Russian infantry or cavalry, clear of the batteries, that they would have ridden them down? As it was, they sabred the artillerymen at their guns. Captain Nolan was struck on the heart by one of the first shells, gave a loud cry, and died instantly. His horse turned and galloped back with his dead rider firm in his saddle.
At the time of his death he was in his thirty-sixth year, and had shared in the battle of the Alma, as Aide-de-Camp to Brigadier-General Airy, Deputy-Quartermaster-General. He leaves a bereaved mother, a widow, who had already lost two sons in the service, to mourn the early fall of the last, who was at once her only pride and hope.
The accompanying Portrait is from a picture painted in India.
We subjoin an extract from a letter written by a young officer, dated "Camp before Sebastopol, October 28": -
Poor Lewis Nolan has gone to his rest. In a cavalry action three days ago he bore an order from Lord Raglan to Lord Lucan to charge a battery of heavy field-pieces, and in the act of delivering it, a piece of shell struck him on the left breast, and passed through his body. Death, by the mercy of Heaven, was instantaneous. Poor Lewis! he was a gallant soul. The day before his death, I am glad to think, I met him, and he said, "Well, Bob, is not this fun? I think it is the most glorious life a man could lead." Few men of his years promised to be such an ornament to his profession. I am sorry to say, now that he is gone, some people here say that in the heat of the moment, poor Lewis gave Lord Lucan a wrong order. Such is not the case. The order was a written one, and therefore the mistake was not on his side.