Here it may be as well to review the geographical position of this now famous place.
Ladysmith, as a position for purposes of defence, is very badly situated
. It lies in the cup of the hills, and stony eminences command it almost in a circle. Towards the north is Pepworth's Ridge, a flat-
Yet all were on the alert, for the Boers had now closed in round the town, and an
engagement was hourly expected. A little desultory fighting took place, but when
the British troops advanced, those of the Orange Free State at once retired towards
the border. The town, however, was somewhat harassed for want of water, owing to
the Boers having cut off the main pipes. The inconvenience was merely temporary,
as the Klip River, which runs through the main position, was fairly pure, and there
were wells, which could be made serviceable. A captive balloon was inflated by the
Royal Engineers, and was used for the purpose of making observations, much to the
annoyance of the Dutchmen, who had securely perched themselves at points of vantage
on the surrounding hills. They were at this time on the north and east, having laagered
"Saturday and Sunday have passed without any demonstration being made by the enemy.
The camp has again assumed its condition of readiness and watchfulness. On Saturday
afternoon it was rumoured that General Joubert, with the commando encamped at Sunday
River, was experiencing difficulty in transporting the 40-
"Scarcely a day passes without the outlying pickets being fired upon. The latest reports say that the enemy are gathered in considerable force on Dewdrop Farm.
"Great excitement has been caused in the Artillery camp by the capture of a supposed
spy, who was caught in the act of tampering with the guns. The man had eluded the
vigilance of the sentry, and had opened the breech of one of the 15-
"No camp followers are followed, and all here have been ordered to leave. The enemy are now undoubtedly closing round Ladysmith. A large commando is reported to be on the Helpmekaar road, and a large camp has been formed between the Harrismith Railway Bridge and Potgieter's Farm. The camp on Dewdrop Farm extends for four miles. The enemy have an exceptional number of waggons. The Boer patrols are very venturesome; they have approached within three and a half miles of the town, and one party actually removed carcasses ready dressed for consumption from within the slaughtering lines."
The prospect was far from cheering, particularly as Sir George White was well aware
that his field-
General Joubert now expressed his opinions on the causes of the war. His ideas, published in the German journals, were of interest as showing the sentiments of the opposite camp
"It was evident to our Government after the Jameson raid, that Great Britain would be forced in time by various sordid elements into a war of extermination with the Boers. It was equally clear that this danger could only be averted by armaments on a most extensive scale. We were conscious that the impending war of annihilation would incur the sharpest condemnation on the part of the other European Powers, but history had taught us that not one of these Powers would be roused to intervene in our favour. In these circumstances we had to rely on our own strength.
"By indefatigable zeal and heavy sacrifices to augment our forces, and yet to secrete
them from the observation of the British-
"We counted on the unreliability of the British announcements concerning their own preparedness, and attended as little to their cries of "To Pretoria!"as did the Germans in 1870 to the Parisian boasters who shouted "A Berlin!' Without completely denuding her colonies of troops, Great Britain cannot possibly despatch more than about 85,ooo men to South Africa. Of this imposing force, only half will be available for the chief battles. It may be possible for Great Britain to effect the landing in various places of these troops by the middle of December. I estimate, however, that the losses in prisoners, killed, sick, an4 wounded will amount in the meantime to some 10,000. There will thus remain 75,000 men.
"Even should we fail to prevent the junction of the British troops under Sir Redvers Buller and be compelled to retreat, the British army would become from natural causes so debilitated that it would represent a force for operative purposes not exceeding 35,000. The remainder would have to be employed in protecting lines of communication extending some 700 miles.
"Our lines of dep6ts, on the contrary, are in home territory. They are constructed
at regular distances in three directions, and barely 500 men are necessary to cover
"Moreover, defensive warfare-
General Joubert then protested that the Boers were fighting merely for the freedom of their own "narrower" Fatherland, and not with a view to the destruction of British preponderancy in South Africa. He acknowledged the bravery of the British soldiers, hut imagined that hardships and deprivations would so demoralise them that they would be unable to hold out against an enemy superior in numbers.
"In these circumstances," he continued, "do not accuse me of boasting when I frankly say that victory will be ours. Every one of us is filled with
the same conviction and unshakeable faith in God, that He will remain as true to us in this as in former wars, and that He will not allow the blood shed and to be shed in this struggle, that will probably last yet a year, to extinguish us and our children."
The inhabitants of Ladysmith had almost begun to accustom themselves to the promiscuous
arrival of shells at odd hours throughout the day, when General Joubert hit on the
happy idea of varying the monotony of the daily routine by making the night into
a "lurid inferno "-
It grew ever more and more difficult to communicate with the relieving forces, as
the Kaffir runners stood in fear of their lives, many having been killed during their
hazardous journeys. Shells from" Long Tom" and the new gun on Bulwana continued
to cause horror in the daytime and to pursue uninterruptedly their mission of mutilation.
The porch of the English Church was destroyed, several rooms of houses wrecked,
and splinters and flying fragments of brick and rock kept all who moved abroad in
a state of suspense and mental anxiety. No! not alt. There was one imperturbable
Scot who occupied a house between the Naval guns and the Boer position, who watched
the havoc played by the shells in his house or garden, and occasionally applauded
with the remark, "Aye, aye! Lord, man, that wuz a hummin'-
On the 21st an inhuman action defaced the ordinary programme of warfare. As before
said, the Town Hall had been turned into a hospital for sick, and this, by reason
of its conspicuous clock-
|The Growth of the Transvaal|
|The Web Thickens|
|The Zulu War|
|Isandlwana, an hour by hour account|
|Affairs at Home|
|The First Anglo Boer War|
|Between the Wars|
|The Fate of SGT Elliot|
|The Siege of Pretoria|
|The Reform Movement|
|The Critical Moment|
|The Fate of the Raiders|