1899 - 1902



Anglo Boer War
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The force under Lord Chelmsford's command was divided into four columns. These were composed partly of British soldiers, partly of Colonists, and partly of  blacks. The first column, under Colonel Pearson, crossed the Lower Tugela; the second, under Lieutenant-Colonel Durnford, R.E., consisting of native troops and Natal Volunteers, was to act in concert with column three; the  third, under Colonel Glyn but directed by the General, who assumed all responsibility, crossed the Buffalo River; and the fourth, under Colonel Evelyn Wood, entered Zululand from near Newcastle on the north-west. The plan was  for the four columns to converge upon Ulundi, in the neighbourhood of the king's kraal, where fighting might be expected to begin.

The crossing of the Buffalo River was effected without difficulty or resistance, and ten days  after the central column formed a camp at the foot of the hill Isandlwana (the Little Hand). On the morning of the 22nd the Commander-in-Chief advanced at daybreak, for the purpose of attacking a kraal some miles distant. The camp at Isandlwana was left in charge of a force of some eight hundred mixed  troops, regulars, volunteers, and natives. Strict orders to defend and not to leave the camp were given but in spite of these orders portions of the force became detached. Suddenly, unobserved by them, there appeared a dense  impi of some twenty thousand Zulus. The savage horde rushed shouting upon the small British detachments, rushed with the swiftness of cavalry, attacked them before they could unite, and swooping down with tremendous velocity,  seized the camp and separated the British troops from their reserves of ammunition. In face of this warrior multitude our troops were defenceless. A few moments of wild despairing energy, a hand-to-hand struggle for life  between the white man and the bloodthirsty savage, groans of wounded and yells of victory, and all was over. Of the six companies of the 24th, consisting of more than half the infantry engaged, but six souls escaped. The  rest died where they fell, with no kindly hand to give them succour, no British voice to breathe a burial prayer. But some before they dropped managed to cut their way through the ring of Zulu spears. Two gallant fellows,  Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill, almost succeeded in saving the colours of the first battalion of the 24thRegiment. They made a bold rush, but merely reached the Natal bank of the Buffalo to be struck down. The colours,  wrapped round Melville's body, were discovered in the river some days afterwards.

The Zulu plan of fighting, in this case so successful, is curious. The formation of their attacks represents the figure of a beast with horns,  chest, and loins. While making a feint with one horn, the other, unperceived in long grass or bush, swoops round and closes in on the enemy. The chest then advances to attack. The loins are kept. at a distance, and simply join  in pursuit.

The news of the disaster spread fast. Sir Bartle Frere, on the morning of the 24th, was awakened by the arrival of two almost distraught and wholly unintelligible messengers. Their report, when it could be at last  comprehended, seemed too horrible for belief. That they had escaped some terrible ordeal was evident; that they were members of the company of naval volunteers that formed part of the General's army, their uniform proclaimed.  But of the General they could say nothing-he might be dead, he might be missing-all they knew was of their own miraculous escape from a scene of slaughter. Colonel Pulleine they declared was dead, but further news had to be  awaited with anxious hearts.

Meanwhile Lord Chelmsford had heard the horrible news. The camp had been seen in the possession of the Zulus. Worn and weary with heavy marching in a baking sun, he and his troops began to  retreat. At nightfall thoroughly jaded, they returned to a grim scene. All around lay the still silent dead-the corpses of the comrades they had parted with but a few hours before. There, amid the pathetic wreckage, were they  forced to lay them down to rest! Fortunately the Zulus, having plundered the camp, had made off; and the British. force was able the next day to proceed to the relief of Rorke's Drift. At Rorke's Drift the now world-celebrated  defence of Lieutenant Bromhead, of the 24th, and Lieutenant Chard, R.E., took place. These young officers had been left with one hundred and four soldiers to take charge of a small depot of provisions and an hospital, and to  keep open the communication with Natal. Some hours after the disaster of Isandlwana their post was attacked by Dabulamanzi (brother of Cetchwayo) and over three thousand of his finest warriors. The little garrison had made  themselves a laager of sacks of maize and biscuit-boxes, and behind these they defended themselves so stubbornly and so heroically throughout the night of the 23rd, that the Zulu chieftain, discomfited and harassed, eventually  retired. For their magnificent pluck the two young officers received the Victoria Cross. Their action had saved Natal from invasion by the enemy. Of the little garrison seventeen fell and ten were wounded. The loss of the Zulus  was about three hundred.

Colonel Pearson's column, as we said, crossed the Lower Tugda near the sea, with the intention of joining the other columns at Ulundi. On the way thither he was attacked by a Zulu force at Inyesani.  This force, though it more than doubled the strength of his own, he drove back with heavy loss, and marched to the Norwegian Mission station, Eshowe. On his arrival there on the 23rd of January, he learnt the awful news of the  disaster, and instantly sent his cavalry back to Nat£, fortified his station, and waited there the arrival of reinforcements.

The third column, commanded by Colonel Evelyn Wood (consisting; of 1700 British soldiers, 50 farmers under Commandant Pieter Uys, and some 300 blacks, reached Kambula in safety, and fortified a post there. Colonel Wood harassed the enemy by  frequent sallies, however, and on one occasion the attack on the Zlobane Mountain lost about ninety-six of his men. Among these were Colonel Weatherley, his young son, and Commandant Uys. The following day the British laager  was attacked by a horde of Zulus, who were routed. In this engagement Colonel Wood, Colynel Buller, and Captain Woodgate especially distinguished themselves.

Lord Chelmsford, with a force of soldiers and sailors, marched in  April from Natal to the relief of Colonel Pearson at Eshowe. He arrived there in safety, after having encountered and beaten back the Zulus at Ginginlovu: yet it was not until the 4th of July that the troops eventually reached  Ulundi, where the final battle and victory took place.

But of this later.