General Codrington, Commanding the Light Division, Crimea, 1855
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Overall: 33cm (13in) x 30cm (12in)
Salt print. Roger Fenton equestrian portrait photograph of General Codrington standing facing right with his charger, composed with open land behind, 1855. Contained in modern mount and glazed frame. Fenton exhibition catalogue (1855) no. 73. Image: 16.6cm x 14.8cm.
General Sir William John Codrington (1804-1884) was visiting Varna on the Black Sea coast in the summer of 1854 in a private capacity when he was gazetted Major-General in June. On arrival British and French troops in the area he was given command of 1st Brigade in Sir George Brown’s Light Division. The son of Admiral Codrington of Navarino fame, he was commissioned in to the Coldstream Guards in 1821 and the Battle of the Alma in the Crimea was to be his first action. The Light Division got too far ahead and fell into confusion in crossing the Alma. Codrington, seeing that his men could not lie still and be slaughtered by Russian guns, boldly charged the great redoubt and carried it. But he was forced back and ran a risk of being utterly crushed, until the Russian column was broken by the charge of the Highland Brigade under Sir Colin Campbell.
He again proved himself at Inkerman, where he occupied the Victoria Ridge throughout the day, and repeatedly sent off all the troops who came up to his help to assist in the real battle on the Inkerman tusk. Sir George Brown was severely wounded, and Codrington assumed the command of the Light Division as the senior brigadier. He remained in command through the winter and in July 1855 was knighted. He and Markham, commanding the 2nd Division, planned the attack on the Redan of 8 September, but blame seems to have been shifted on Lord Raglan’s successor Sir James Simpson. In November 1855 Codrington succeeded Simpson as Commander-in-Chief.
Roger Fenton (1819-1869), noted as one of the first war photographers, was a practising solicitor with an interest in painting, when he learned the art of photography around 1850. Within a short time he emerged as a well-known figure in the British photography scene, becoming the honorary secretary of the Royal Photographic Society, of which he was a founding member, and the first official photographer of the British Museum. He photographed many churches and abbeys in Great Britain as well as views of the countryside. His photographic efforts brought him into contact with powerful friends including Prince Albert and the Duke of Newcastle, Secretary of State for War, who urged Fenton to go to the Crimea use the new media to report on the war. Using glass plate negatives and the wet collodion process, Fenton captured camp life, panoramas of battle scenes, and individual and group portraits of officers and soldiers. The negatives were then shipped back to Britain where they were used to make prints in two different ways – the salted paper print and the albumen print. The prints were later exhibited in London by the London publisher Agnews in October 1855, with the first prints being offered for sale to the public the following month. Others were published at intervals over the next four to five months until all were available.