Before going on, it must be noted that on the 19th Lord Roberts had issued a proclamation to the Burghers of the Free State in English and Dutch. He said that the British having entered the Free State, he felt it his duty to make known the cause, and to do his utmost to end the war. Should the Free Staters continue fighting, they would do so in full knowledge of their responsibility for the lives lost in the campaign. Before the war, the Imperial Government desired the friendship of the Free State, and solemnly assured President Steyn that if he remained neutral the Free State territory would not be invaded and its independence would be respected. Nevertheless, the Free Staters had wantonly and unjustifiably invaded British territory, though the Imperial Government believed that the Free State Government was wholly responsible, under mischievous outside influence, for this invasion.
The Imperial Government bore the people no illwill, and was anxious to preserve them from the evils which the action of their Government had caused. Lord Roberts warned the Burghers to desist from further hostilities, and he undertook that Burghers so desisting should not suffer in their persons or property. Requisitions of food, forage, fuel, and shelter must be complied with. Everything would be paid for on the spot, and if supplies were refused they would be taken, a receipt being given. Should the inhabitants consider that they had been unjustly treated, and should their complaint on inquiry be substantiated, redress would be given. In conclusion, Lord Roberts stated that British soldiers were prohibited from entering houses or molesting the civil population.
By the terms of this proclamation it was necessary to abide, though, by degrees, as will be seen, it began to be discovered that generous concessions made to our enemies were misinterpreted arid taken advantage of in ways which tended to prolong the wan
Lords Roberts and Kitchener paid a flying visit to Kimberley on the 1st of March, and attended a crowded meeting in the Town Hall. Lord Roberts, with his usual grace, dwelt on the courage, endurance, and heroism exhibited by the troops and residents, not only in Kimberley, but, in the other besieged towns.
Cronje's fate being sealed, the Field Marshal shifted his head-
At this time the two Presidents of the Republics, finding things getting too hot to be comfortable, made magnanimous proposals The peace. The following is the text of their dispatch.
"BLOEMFONTEIN, March 5, 1900.
"The blood and the tears of the thousands who have suffered by this war, and the prospect of all the moral and economic ruin with which South Africa is now threatened, make it necessary for both belligerents to ask themselves dispassionately, and as in the sight of the Triune God, for what they are fighting, and whether the aim of each justifies all this appalling misery and devastation.
"With this object, and in view of the assertions of various British statesmen, to the effect that this war was begun and is being carried on with the set purpose of undermining Her Majesty's authority in South Africa, and of setting up an Administration over all South Africa independent of Her Majesty's Government, we consider it our duty solemnly to declare that this war was undertaken solely as a defensive measure to safeguard the threatened independence of the South African Republic, and is only continued in order to secure and safeguard the incontestable independence of both Republics as sovereign international States, and to obtain the assurance that those of Her Majesty's subjects who have taken part with us in this war shall suffer no harm whatsoever in person or property.
"On these conditions, but on these conditions alone, are we now, as in the past,
desirous of seeing peace re-
"We hesitated to make this declaration earlier to your Excellency, as we feared that as long as the advantage was always on our side, and as long as our forces held defensive positions far in Her Majesty's Colonies, such a declaration might hurt the feelings of honour of the British people; but now that the prestige of the British Empire may be considered to be assured by the capture of one of our forces by Her Majesty's troops, and that we are thereby forced to evacuate other positions which our forces had occupied, that difficulty is over, and we can no longer hesitate clearly to inform your Government and people, in the sight of the whole civilised world, why we are fighting, and on what conditions we are ready to restore peace."
The answer to this effusion, addressed by Lord Salisbury on behalf of Her Majesty's
Government to the Presidents, ran: -
"I have the honour to acknowledge your Honours' telegram, dated March 5, From Bloemfontein, of which the purport is principally to demand that Her Majesty's Government shall recognise the 'incontestable independence' of the South African Republic and Orange Free State as 'sovereign international States,' and to offer, on those terms, to bring the war to a conclusion.
"In the beginning of October last, peace existed between Her Majesty and the two Republics under the Conventions which then were in existence. A discussion had been proceeding for some months between Her Majesty's Government and the South African Republic, of which the object was to obtain redress for certain very serious grievances under which British residents in the South African Republic were suffering. In the course of these negotiations, the South African Republic had, to the knowledge of Her Majesty's Government, made considerable armaments, and the latter had, consequently, taken steps to provide corresponding reinforcements to the British garrisons of Cape Town and Natal. No infringement of the rights guaranteed by the Conventions had, up to that point, taken place on the British side. Suddenly, at two days' notice, the South African Republic, after issuing an insulting ultimatum, declared war upon Her Majesty; and the Orange Free State, with whom there had not even been any discussion, took a similar step. Pier Majesty's dominions were immediately invaded by the two Republics, siege was laid to three towns within the British frontier, a large portion of the two Colonies was overrun, with great destruction to property and life, and the Republics claimed to treat the inhabitants of extensive portions of Her Majesty's dominions as if those dominions had been annexed to one or other of them. In anticipation of these operations the South African Republic had been accumulating for many years past military stores on an enormous scale, which, by their character, could only have been intended for use against Great Britain.
"Your Honours make some observations of a negative character upon the object with which these preparations were made. I do not think it necessary to discuss the questions you have raised. But the result of these preparations, carried on with great secrecy, has been that the British Empire has been compelled to confront an invasion, which has entailed upon the Empire a costly war and the loss of thousands of precious lives. This great calamity has been the penalty, which Great Britain has suffered for having in recent years acquiered in the existence of the two Republics.
"In view of the use to which the two Republics have put the position which ~vas
given to them, and the calamities which their unprovoked-
To return to Osfontein. There was now a short and much-
On the 6th of March Lord Roberts welcomed the Ceylon Mounted Infantry, and sent
the following telegram to Sir \Vest Ridgeway, Governor of Ceylon: -
On the same day the Colonials had a smart set-
Accordingly the troops got themselves into battle array. The Naval Brigade brought their 4.7 guns four miles northeast of Osfontein, while the cavalry prepared to turn the Boer left, and started before daybreak of the 7th to accomplish this feat. On the north bank was left the Ninth Division with some handy Colonials and guns. Moving to the east were the Sixth and Seventh Divisions, with the Guards Brigade in the centre.
The dawn grew. The Boers in the golden rays of morning were disclosed massed in
the far front, and later was seen the glorious mass of 'French's cavalry sweeping
At eight o'clock the music of battle started, the Naval guns on one side and the
batteries of General French on the other. Lyddite and shrapnel bounced and spluttered
over all the small kopjes wherein the Dutchmen had made a lodgment. It was sufficient.
The Boer guns spat impotently the puling cry of dismay-
Lord Roberts, telegraphing home in the afternoon, thus described the day's work
"OSFONTEIN, March 7 (4.30) PM
"March 7. Our operations today promise to be a great success.
"The enemy occupied a position four miles north and eleven miles south of Modder River
"I placed Colvile's division on north bank; Kelly-
"The cavalry division succeeded in turning the left flank, opening the road for 6th Division, which is advancing without having been obliged to fire a shot up to present time (twelve noon).
"Enemy are in full retreat toward north and east, being closely followed by cavalry,
9th (Colvile's) divisions, and Guards Brigade, under Pole-
Later on the Commander-
"POPLAR GROVE, March 7 (7.33 P.M.).
"We have had a very successful day and completely routed the enemy, who are in full retreat.
"The position they occupied was extremely strong, and cunningly arranged with a second line of entrenchments, which would have caused us heavy loss had a direct attack been made.
"The turning movement was necessarily wide owing to the nature of the ground, and
the cavalry and horse-
"The fighting was practically confined to the cavalry division, which, as usual,
did exceedingly well, and French reports that the horse-
"Our casualties number about fifty.
"I regret to say that Lieutenant Keswick, 12th Lancers, was killed, and Lieutenant Bailey, of the same regiment, severely wounded. Lieutenant De Crespigny, 2nd Life Guards, also severely wounded."
Though the state of the cavalry was deplorable, it was thanks to the splendid execution
of General French that the Boers showed so little fight, and there were so few casualties.
The enemy saw the cavalry menacing their line of retreat, and pelted off from kopje
to kopje, now and then sniping at the leading squadrons, and occasionally plumping
a shell or two into the British midst. With the Dutchmen, Presidents Steyn and Kruger
were said to be, and these worthies made a desperate attempt to rally the forces,
but without success. Some say they even shed tears to encourage their countrymen,
which tears had evidently a damping effect, for the Boers-
Good news now arrived. The A and B squadrons of Kitchener's Horse, reported missing suddenly returned to camp at Paardeberg. They, with E squadron, were cut off on the 13Th of February, and given up for lost. Though E squadron was captured by the enemy, A and B squadrons succeeded in escaping, and, after losing their bearings on the veldt, and enduring three weeks' somewhat unpleasant experiences, found their way into safety.
Quantities of the Transvaalers disbanded and returned to their farms. In other quarters, too, progress was announced General Gatacre occupied Burghersdorp and General Clements had reached Norval's Pont, and thus the sporadic rebellion in Cape Colony was slowly beginning to die out.
The army advanced and formed a fresh camp beyond Poplar Grove, where on the 8th and
9th more of the troops concentrated. The force was now moving through a fine grassy
country, made additionally green and refreshing by plentiful rains, and the horses
were improving in condition and spirits, while the men were in first-
On the 10th of March the army proceeded onwards. By this time the Boers had posted themselves on the kopjes eight miles south of Abraham's Drift. It was imagined that they would be able to offer little resistance to the advancing force, but they, however, made a very determined stand.
|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|