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THE VICTORY


On the 26th of June the long-expected junction of the columns was on the eve of being effected. Cetchwayo was pretending to make overtures for peace,  though at the same time his people were endeavouring to enter into alliance with rebellious Boers. He even sent the sword of the Prince Imperial as a peace-offering. On the envelope, however, his amanuensis, one Cornelius Vjin (a  Dutchman), pencilled the fact that the king had 20,000 men with him. The reply of Lord Chelmsford was as follows

"If the Induna, Mundula, brings with him the 1000 rifles taken at Isandlwana, I will not insist on 1000 men coming in to lay down their arms, if the Zulus are afraid to  come. He must bring the two guns and the remainder of the cattle. I will then be willing to negotiate. As he has caused me to advance by the great delay he has made, I must now go to the Umvolosi to enable my men to drink. I will  consent, pending negotiations, to halt on the further bank of the river, and will not burn any kraals until the 3rd of July, provided no opposition is made to my advance to the position on the Umvolosi, by which day, the 3rd of  July, at noon, the conditions must be complied with. If my force is fired on, I shall consider negotiations are at an end, and to avoid any chance of this, it is best that Mundula come to my camp at daybreak or to-night, and that  the Zulus should withdraw from the neighbourhood of the river to Ulundi. I cannot stop the general in command of the coast army until these conditions are complied with."

Of course nothing was seen of Mundula, and preparations were made for the reception of the enemy. Newdigate and Wood laagered their waggons and prepared for the arrival of an impi of some 20,000 Zulus advancing from Ulundi.  On the following day a large force under Colonel Buller advanced to Nodwengu kraal, and some stragglers were killed. One of these was struck by Lord William Beresford, who, in the sporting manner characteristic of him, cried,  "First spear, by Jove!"

On the morning of the memorable 4th of July the army, crossing Umvolosi River, marched to a higher plateau-where once the Zulus had vanquished the Boers-there to prepare for battle. The  Zulus, some 20,000 strong, after many war dances and cries, were  marshalled forth by their king to an open plain between the Nodwengu and Ulundi kraals. Our troops were formed up in a hollow parallelogram, in the centre being the native contingent with ammunition waggons. The four sides of  this parallelogram were formed of eight companies of the 13th Regiment, five of the Seth Regiment, the 90th, 58th, and 34th Regiments, together with the 17th Lancers and the mounted irregulars. At the corners and centre  artillery was placed.

The Zulus advanced steadily, in horn fashion, with their characteristic coolness and courage. The deadly fusillade from our guns had no perceptible effect. On and on they came, surging in a dense brown  crescent, till within twenty yards of the British lines, when, with the hail and storm of bullets crashing and blinding them, they hesitated! That moment's hesitation was fatal-their one chance slipped! A few warriors rushed  onwards, many wavered, and gradually the powerful horns were broken and disorganised. Then our Lancers with a gallant charge dashed into the fray, plunging into the black swarm that still met fury with fury. Captain Edgell was  killed, and many other officers had miraculous escapes. Once the enemy strove to rally, but the effort was hopeless, and the magnificent Zulu warriors were forced at last to turn and flee. Their defeat was signal. Though the  enemy numbered 20,000 to 5000 of our troops, the Lancers with the Irregular Horse did splendid work, and ere all was over 1000 Zulus bit the dust.

Then came the final march to Ulundi.  This place, wholly deserted, was fired, and while the sky glowed with red and gold reflections of the conflagration, the victorious forces, worn out yet triumphant, returned to the laagered camp they had left at daybreak.

The  first news of the victory was carried to the Colony by Mr. Archibald Forbes, the war correspondent of the Daily News, who was himself wounded in the struggle. Starting instantly after the decisive battle, in fourteen  hours he rode a distance of 110 miles to the nearest telegraph station at Landman's Drift, on the Buffalo River. In thus exposing his life in the interests not only of his journal but his country, he for ever associated himself  with one of the most interesting and thrilling campaigns of the century.

Lord Chelmsford's despatch gives a concise description of the day's work

"Cetchwayo, not having complied with my demands by noon yesterday, July  3, and having fired heavily on the troops at the water, I returned the 1 14 cattle he had sent in and ordered a reconnaissance to be made by the mounted force under Colonel Buller. This was effectually made, and caused the Zulu army to advance and show fight.

"This morning a force under my command, consisting of the second division, under Major-General Newdigate, numbering 1870 Europeans, 530 natives,  and eight guns, and the flying columns under Brigadier-General Wood, numbering 2192 Europeans, 573 natives, four guns, and two Gatlings, crossed the Umvolosi River at 6.15, and marching in a hollow square, with the ammunition and entrenching tool carts and bearer company in its centre, reached an excellent position between  Nodwengu and Ulundi, about half-past 8 A.M. This had been observed by Colonel Buller the day before.

"Our fortified camp on the right bank of the Umvolosi River was left with a garrison of about coo Europeans, 250 natives, and one Gatling gun, under Colonel Beilairs. Soon after half-past seven the Zulu army was seen  leaving its bivouacs and advancing on every side."

"The engagement was shortly afterwards commenced by the mounted men. By nine o'clock the attack was fully developed. At half-past nine the enemy wavered; the 17th Lancers, followed by the remainder of the mounted men, attacked  them, and a general rout ensued.

"The prisoners state that Cetchwayo was personally commanding and had made all the arrangements himself, and that he witnessed the fight from Gikarzi kraal, and that twelve regiments took  part in it. If so, 20,000 men attacked us.

It is impossible to  estimate with any correctness the loss of the enemy, owing to the extent of country over which they attacked and retreated, but it could not have been less, I consider, than 1000 killed. By noon Ulundi was in flames, and during the day all military kraals of the Zulu army and in the  valley of the Umvolosi were destroyed. At 2 P.M. the return  march to the camp of the column commenced. The behaviour of the troops under my command was extremely satisfactory; their steadiness under a complete belt of fire was remarkable. The dash and enterprise of the mounted branches  was all that could be wished, and the fire of the artillery very good. A portion of the Zulu force approached our fortified camp, and at one time threatened to attack it. The native contingent, forming a part of the garrison,  were sent out after the action, and assisted in the pursuit.

"As I have fully accomplished the object for which I advanced, I consider I shall now be best carrying out Sir Garnet Wolseley's instructions by moving at once  to Entonganini, and thence to Kmamagaza. I shall send back a portion of this force with empty waggons for supplies, which are now ready at Fort Marshall."

All were rejoiced that Lord Chelmsford should have been able to  gain this victory before the arrival on the scene of Sir Garnet Wolseley, and there were many among his friends who regretted when he resigned.

The following quotation from the London Gazette explains the most  conspicuous of the brave deeds that were done during this campaign, though there Were many more which came near to rivalling them, so many, indeed, that it would have been impossible to have given honours to all who deserved  them

"WAR OFFICE, June 17.

"The Queen has been graciously pleased to signify her intention to confer the decoration of the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned officers and soldier  of her Majesty's army, whose claims have been submitted for her Majesty's approval for their gallant conduct during the recent operations in South Africa, as recorded against their names, viz.

"Captain and  Brevet-Lieutenant-Colonel Redvers 14. Puller, C.B., 6oth Rifles, for his gallant conduct at the retreat at Zlobane on the 28th of March 1879, in having assisted, while hotly pursued by Zulus, in rescuing Captain C. D'Arcy, of  the Frontier Light Horse, who was retiring on foot, and carrying him on his horse until he overtook the rear-guard; also for having on the same date and under the same circumstances conveyed Lieutenant C. Everitt of the  Frontier Light Horse, whose horse had been killed under him, to a place of safety. Later on Colonel Puller, in the same manner, saved a trooper of the Frontier Light Horse, whose horse was completely exhausted, and who  otherwise would have been killed by the Zulus, who were within eighty yards of him.

"Major William K. Leet, first battalion 13th Regiment, for his gallantconduct on the 28th of March 1879, in rescuing from the Zulu's Lieutenant A. M. Smith of the Frontier Light  Horse, during the retreat from Zlobane. Lieutenant Smith while on foot, his horse having been shot, was closely pursued by the Zulus, and would have killed had not Major Leet taken him upon his horse and rode with him, under  the fire of the enemy, to a place of safety.

'Surgeon-Major James Henry Reynolds, Army Medical Department, for the conspicuous bravery during the attack at Rorke's Drift on the 22nd and 23rd of January 1879, which he exhibited in his attention to the wounded under fire, and in his voluntarily conveying ammunition from the store to the defenders of the  hospital, Whereby he exposed himself to a cross fire from the enemy both in going and returning.

"Lieutenant Edward S. Browne, first battalion 24th Regiment, for his gallant conduct on the 29th March 1879, when the Mounted Infantry were being driven in by the enemy at Zlobane, in galloping back  and twice assisting on his horse, under heavy fire and within a few yards of the enemy, one of the mounted men, who must otherwise have fallen into the enemy's hands.

"Private Wassell, 80th Regiment, for his gallant  conduct in having, at the imminent risk of his own life, saved that of Private Westwood of the same regiment. On the 22nd of January 1879, when the  camp at Isandlwana was taken by the enemy, Private Wassell retreated towards the Buffalo River, in which he saw a comrade struggling and apparently drowning. He rode to the bank, dismounted, leaving his horse on the Zulu side,  rescued the man from the stream, and again mounted his horse, dragging Private Westwood across the river, under a heavy shower of bullets."