As may be remembered, Sir Owen Lanyon's proclamation announcing martial law was read, and the town handed over to the military government. Colonel Gildea (introduced by Colonel Bellairs) acted as Commandant of the Garrison, Major F. Mesurier, R.E., was in charge of the Infantry Volunteers, and Captain Campbell, 94th Regiment, filled the post of Provost-
It was decided to evacuate the town, and form two laagers, one at the camp, and one between the Roman Catholic Church and the jail. In the camp the women and children were to be placed, while the Infantry Volunteers garrisoned the convent laager. Within the convent, women and children were packed tightly as sardines, while the nuns turned out on errands of mercy. All night and all day, scarcely stopping to eat a mouthful, men worked, sandbagging windows and doors, building barricades and defences of various kinds. Waggons were sent round to gather ~l families within the shelter of the camp. Rich and poor, good and bad, some 4000 souls, were herded together in tents for their protection. Here they remained for three months, enduring hardships of the most variegated and worrying kind, and loyally waiting for the relieving column that never came.
Descriptions of the rations served out to each man daily are not appetising: Bread,
I¼ lb., or biscuit, 1 lb.; coffee, ¥? oz.; sugar, 2½ oz.; meat, 1¼lb.; tea, ¥? oz.
; and salt, ½ oz These were reduced as the siege proceeded. The meat was trek beef,
a leathery substitute for steak, and the biscuits were veterans, having "served"
in the Zulu and Sekukuni campaigns, and now being nothing better than a swarm of
weevils. Life in Pretoria was enlivened by occasional sorties against the Boer laagers,
where the enemy was supposed to number some 800strong. The laagers were distributed
at distances of four and eight miles from the town, and were connected by a system
of patrolling, which rendered communication from within or without almost impossible.
A few messengers (natives) occasionally came into the town, but these were mostly
charged with the delivery of delusive messages invented for special purposes by the
Boers. There was an ever-
Mr. H. Shepstone, the Secretary for native affairs, took immense pains to keep 'things quiet among the various chiefs. He said he had but to lift his little finger, and the Boers would not hold the field for a couple of days. Almost every native he knew would be in arms, and by sheer weight of numbers would overpower the Boers. Several of the chiefs sheltered refugees, and Montsiwe gathered his force in the hope that he would be allowed to come to the relief of Potchefstroom. Government reports regarding the loyalty of the natives were numerous, and the natives' longing to come to the assistance of the British in fighting their ancient oppressors was obvious. The subsequent desertion of these people whom Great Britain had taken under her wing, is one of the most grievous of the many grievous things that accrued from the exercise of British "magnanimity." Sir Morrison Barlow and Sir Evelyn Wood both agreed that the natives were "British to a man!" They were thoroughly sick of Boer cruelty, and the Kaffirs and Basutos had learnt to look to Great Britain for a reign of peace. Rather than again be ruled by the Boer despots, they were ready to spill the last drop of their blood, and only the high principled, almost quixotic action of the British officials prevented the utilisation in extremity of this massive and effective weapon of defence. Besides the garrison in Pretoria there were other forts defended by soldiers and loyalists, forts which were none of them taken by the enemy. These were Potchefstroom, Rustenburg, Sydenburg, Marabastad, and Wakkerstroom. The fort of Potchefstroom was surrendered during the armistice by fraudulent representations on the part of the Boers.
The absorbing topic of the time was naturally the future of the Transvaal. Hope warmed all hearts and helped every one to keep up a fictitious air of cheerfulness. All thought that the rebellion would serve to strengthen the British in their determination to establish an effectual Government in the country and promote an enduring peace. The suspicion that the territory would' be given back would have come on these hoping, waiting, and longing sufferers like a blast from the pole. Fortunately it was not given to them to foresee the humiliating end of their staunch endurance. Anathemas long and deep were sounded at the mention of Dr Jorissen, who was looked upon as the fuse which set alight the rebellious temper of the Boers.
The enemy, however, never directly attacked the town. They contented themselves with
attempting to steal cattle and skirmishing, and generally harassing those within.
Such fights as these were mainly due to British initiative, and these were not fraught
with success to us. Of this period it is pitiful to write. British valour and endurance
were exhibited to the uttermost, and many gallant actions at different sorties might
be recorded. So also might be given, did space allow, many instances of Boer cunning
and Boer treachery-
When the news of the British reverses at Laing's Nek and Majuba reached Pretoria there was general consternation. But, as yet, none knew of the crushing blow that was still in store. On the 28th, 102days after the hoisting of the Republican flag at Heidelberg, there came the almost incredible news that a peace had been concluded involving the surrender of the Transvaal to the Boers. At first it seemed impossible that the British Government.
I could have consented to leave its loyal supporters in the terrible position in
which they now found themselves. All who had sat patiently through trouble and trial,
working with might and main, suffering from endless ills, in peril of their lives,
and deprived of property and home, now joined in one heartrending wail of woe and
disappointment. The consternation that followed the announcement of the ignoble
surrender is thus described by Mr. Nixon, who 'was an eye-
"The scene which ensued baffles description. The men hoisted the colours half-
Mr. Rider Haggard, who at this time was at Newcastle, has also recorded his experiences on the unhappy occasion. He says
"Every hotel and bar was crowded with refugees who were trying to relieve their
feelings by cursing the name of Gladstone with a vigour, originality, and earnestness
that I have never heard equalled; and declaring in ironical terms how proud they
were to be citizens of England-
The condition of the town is thus described in a journal of the period :-
|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|