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Full text of "History of the war in South Africa, 1899-1902"

ilSTORT OF 

ITHE WAR IN SOUTH 
AFRICA I899-I902 

rOMPimO BY THE DIRECTION 
mmS MAJESTYS GOVERNM^T 
VOfclV 



HISTORY OF THE 
WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA 

1899-1902 




HISTORY 



OF THE 



WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA 



1899-1902 




WRITTEN BY DIRECTION OF HIS MAJESTY'S GOVERNMENT 



VOLUME IV 

b>iv- Trec^©r»ck I^laUrK^ and 
Captain MAURICE HAROLD GRANT 

(Devonshire Regiment) 

LONDON I ^ 

HUEST AND BLACKETT LIMITED 

1910 
All right* reserved 



AI3f 




PREFACE. 

This Volume comprises the account of the War in South Africa from 
the assumption of the command-in-chief by General Lord Kitchener, 
G.C.B., G.C.M.G., to the termination of hostilities. It might, there- 
fore, be considered as dealing with a distinct phase of the campaign, 
even if the peculiar nature of the operations did not of themselves 
distinguish it from what had gone before. From December, 
1900, to May, 1902, was waged incessantly guerrilla warfare of the 
purest type and on the most extensive scale between an army of 
195,400 men on the one side and of 30,000 to 50,000 men on the other. 
The contest was remarkable in many respects, but in none, perhaps, 
more than in its duration. When it is considered that at the moment 
at which this narration opens the Boer forces were already beaten, 
inasmuch as their cause was irretrievably lost, their long -sustained 
effort to ward off the end requires some military explanation. It is 
to be found in the fact that in their expiring struggle they reverted to 
weapons which were peculiarly their own and precisely those in which 
their opponents were least practised. Casting off the trammels of 
formal warfare, and disintegrating into a thousand bands, they 
compelled the British Army to conform, and agitated the whole vast 
theatre of war with an infinite complexity of movement which never 
for a moment desisted, nor for more than a moment was marked by 
any distinguishable trend. 

To trace in detail the components of this universal stir has been 
the author's task. It was necessary to do so minutely. An official 
historian owes a duty from which a general writer is exempt ; his 
work would be valueless to military students if it could not be referred 
to for information concerning the minutiae of the campaign, the lesser 
as well as the greater tactics, the work of units, and even of individual 
officers and men. Moreover, a campaign such as that recorded in the 
following pages especially calls for dissection, because it was mainly 
composed of a myriad of events, each so small, yet contributing to so 
vast a sum, that it was often impossible to determine which was 



vi THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

greater than another, or wliich was worthy or unworthy of mention. 
The elimination of every minor operation would, in fact, have 
resulted in almost total silence on a whole campaign of small affairs 
which together composed one of the greatest feats of the British 
Empire and Army. As much as possible, therefore, has been briefly 
recorded ; to record it all was beyond the power of man. 

Of one deficiency in the scheme of the Volume the author is well 
aware, namely, the rarity of any periodical " purview " or general 
glance over the theatre of war. This has not been neglected because 
it was forgotten, but because it seemed alike valueless and impossible. 
Rarely was the campaign marked by any permanent development of 
the situation ; never, until the end, by one that affected it all. If 
the enemy appeared few and dispirited on one day, they were 
numerous and aggressive on the next ; the clearance of one area did 
but embroil its neighbour ; defeats and victories of columns and 
commandos followed one another with a regularity in which the 
gradual attrition of the weaker side was scarcely to be perceived. In 
short, it could never be said precisely how matters stood at any given 
moment ; those who attempted to do so from the seat of war were 
sadly at fault. Now, as then, only the size of the campaign can be 
truly stated, for shape it had none. 

For the assistance of the reader it may be remarked that the 
work has been so designed that those desirous of following the 
operations in any particular province of South Africa may do so by 
omitting the intervening chapters which deal with other parts. 

In cases where a number of officers of the same name were in the 
field, the initials are repeated as often as is necessary to avoid 
confusion. 

A mass of technical material for which there was no place in the 
text has been incorporated in Appendices. 

In conclusion, the author wishes to record his indebtedness to 
two ofi&cers, namely. Captain J. Bowers (Army Service Corps) and 
Captain L. Oppenheim (2nd Dragoon Guards, Queen's Bays), who 
took charge of, and extracted the essentials of the enormous and 
intricate mass of material from which this Volume has been written. 
He can say no more, and no less, than that without their services 
the work could not have been completed. 

M. H. Grant. 



CONTENTS. 



VOLUME IV. 

CHAI*. PAGE 

I. — Events in the Western Transvaal. December, 

1900 I 

II. — Events in the Eastern Transvaal. December 

1ST, 1900 — January 30TH, 1901 ... 23 
III. — Events in the Orange River Colony. December, 

1900 — January, 1901 45 

IV. — Events in Cape Colony. December, 1900 — 

February 28th, 1901 60 

V. — Events in the Orange River Colony. {Con- 
tinued from Chapter III.) February — June, 

1901 93 

VI. — Events in the Eastern Transvaal. (Continued 

from Chapter II.) January — March, 1901 . iii 
VII. — Events in the Western Transvaal. (Continued 

from Chapter I.) January — April, 1901 . 128 

VIII. — Events in the Eastern Transvaal and Natal. 

{Continued from Chapter VI.) April — May, 1901 139 
IX. — Events in the Orange River Colony. {Continued 

from Chapter V.) April — June, 1901. . . 156 
X. — Events in Cape Colony. {Continued from Chapter 

IV.) March — April, 1901 .... 172 
XI. — Events in the Western Transvaal. {Continued 

from Chapter VII.) May — August, 1901 . i8i 



viii THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

CHAP. PACK 

XII. — Events in the Eastern Transvaal. (Continued 

from Chapter VIII.) June — September, 1901 . 198 
XIII. — Events in Cape Colony. {Continued from Chapter 

X.) June — September, 1901 .... 224 
XIV. — Events in the Orange River Colony. {Continued 

from Chapter IX.) July — August, 1901 . . 245 
XV. — Events in Cape Colony. {Continued from Chapter 

XIII.) September — October, 1901 . . 270 

XVI. — Events in the Western Transvaal. {Continued 

from Chapter XI.) September — November, 1901 291 
XVII. — Events in the Eastern Transvaal. {Continued 
from Chapter XII.) The Action of Baken- 
laagte, October 30TH, 1901 .... 304 
XVIII. — Events in the Orange River Colony. {Continued 

from Chapter XIV.) August — November, 1901 316 
XIX. — Events in the Western Transvaal. {Continued 
from Chapter XVI.) November, 1901 — January, 

1902 339 

XX. — Events in the North- West and West of Cape 

Colony. April — December, 1901 . . . 349 
XXI. — Events in the Eastern Transvaal, {Continued 
from Chapter XVII.) November, 190 i — 

January, 1902 371 

XXII. — Events in the Orange River Colony. {Continued 
from Chapter XVIII.) December, 1901 — 

February, 1902 382 

XXIII. — Events in the Western Transvaal. {Continued 

from Chapter XIX.) January — March, 1902 . 406 
XXIV. — Events in the Orange River Colony. {Continued 

from Chapter XXII.) February, 1902 . . 423 
XXV. — Events in the Northern Transvaal. April, 

1901 — May. 1902 ...... 435 



CONTENTS. ix 

CHAI'. I'AGK 

XXVI. — Events in Cape Colony. {Continued from Chapter 

XX.) January — May, 1902 .... 453 
XXVII. — Events in the Orange River Colony. {Continued 

from Chapter XXIV.) March — May, 1902 475 

XXVIII. — Events in the Western Transvaal. {Continued 

from Chapter XXIII.) March — May, 1902 . 491 
XXIX. — Events in the Eastern Transvaal. {Continued 

from Chapter XXI.) February — May, 1902 . 512 
XXX. — The Conclusion of Peace 523 



ILLUSTRATIONS. 

WiTKOPPiEs — Views of, from the North and West 

Facing page 104 



APPENDICES. 

»0. PAGE 

1. SuMMARV OF Supplies sent by the Natal District for 

General French's Force, Garrisons, etc., February — 
March, 1901 567 

2. The Evolution of the Blockhouse System in South 

Africa 568 

3. Letter from General C. R. De Wet to General J. C. 

Smuts, appointing him Successor to Kritzinger and 
GIVING Instructions as to the Conduct of the 
Campaign in Cape Colony, February 8th, 1902 . . 577 

4. Orders by Lieut. -General Sir I. S. M. Hamilton, 

K.C.B., D.S.O., Commanding Columns operating in 
Western Transvaal, May 6th, 1902 .... 581 

5. Notes on the Supply System in South Africa, 

1901— 2 . 584 

6. Notes on the Transport System in South Africa, 

1901 — 2 598 

7. Notes on the Royal Army Medical Department 

IN South Africa, 1901 — 2 602 

8. Notes on the Army Ordnance Department in South 

Africa 617 

9. Notes on the Army Post Office Corps in South Africa 625 

10. Notes on the Military Railway System in South 

Africa 629 

11. Notes on the Army Remount Department . . . 650 
T2. Notes on the Refugee Concentration Camps in South 

Africa, 1901 — 2 659 



xii THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

NO. PAGE 

13. Strength of the Garrison in South Africa on August 

1ST, 1899, AND Reinforcements, etc., from Home and 
Colonies during the War up to May 31ST, 1902 . 671 

14. Drafts, etc., despatched to South Africa during the 

War, 1899 — 1902 675 

15. Statement showing : — 

(a.) Comparative Recruiting Figures of the Army 
and Militia prior to and during the War in 
South Africa 678 

(b.) Recruiting Figures during the War of 
THE Imperial Yeomanry, Volunteers, South 
African Constabulary, etc. . . . . 679 
i6. Casualties, Wastage, etc., in the Army in South 

Africa during the War, up to May 31ST, 1902 . . 680 

17. Statement of Casualties, by Corps, during the War 

IN South Africa, 1899 — 1902 681 

18. Expenditure incurred on Army Votes in consequence 

of the War in South Africa 698 

19. A List of Recipients of the Victoria Cross during the 

War in South Africa, 1899 — 1902 .... 700 

20. Statement of Boer Prisoners of War, showing how 

disposed of . ....... 704 

Monthly Comparative Statement for 1901 — 2, 

Casualties in the Boer Forces .... 705 

Summary, showing Decrease of Boer Forces . . 705 



LIST OF MAPS AND SKETCHES. 
VOLUME IV. 



No. 56. Eastern Transvaal. 

No. 57. The Action of Bakenlaagte. October 30th. 1901. 

No. 58. South Africa, showing lines of Blockhouses, Stationary Garrisons 

and Posts, May, 1902. 
No. 59. Western Transvaal. 
No. 60. General Sir Ian Hamilton's " Drive " in the Western 

Transvaal, May 6th — nth, 1902. 
No. 61. Plan of Railway Line. Illustrating System of Blockhouses, etc., 

generally adopted. 
No. 62. Plan of Road — Machadodorp and Lydenburg. Illustrating 

System of Blockhouses, etc., generally adopted. 
No. 63. Cape Colony. 
No. 64. Orange River Colony. 



MAPS TO VOLUME IV. 

The general remarks on maps prefacing Volume I. are applicable also 
to the maps in this Volume. Maps Nos. 56, 59 and 64 have been 
compiled chiefly from the four-miles- to-one-inch sheets issued by the 
Topographical Section of the War Office previous to the war, and 
these again were prepared from the Government Farm Surveys of 
the Transvaal and Orange Free State. Where the ground is not 
covered by that series, Jeppe's Map of the Transvaal has been used. 

No. 57 is an enlargement made from some reconnaissance 
mapping done since the war. 

Nos. 58 and 63 are compiled from ordinary published maps of 
South Africa revised in parts from special sketches made by officers. 

No. 60 is from Jeppe's Map of the Transvaal. 

Nos. 61 and 62 are from special sketches. 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



CHAPTER I. 

EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL, DECEMBER, IQOO.* 

At the moment of Field-Marshal Lord Roberts' departure 
from the theatre of war, and of the assumption of the chief 
command by General Lord Kitchener, G.C.B., G.C.M.G., 
the Western Transvaal seemed very little disturbed except General 
by rumour. Of the combined Boer descent upon Cape the West. 
Colony nothing had materialised except De Wet's single- 
handed incursion between the Orange and Caledon rivers, where 
that daring leader was daily becoming more deeply involved in 
one of the most dangerous predicaments of his career, f Botha 
himself was not to be seen ; his foremost troops were supposed 
to have fallen back into the Pilands Berg. Liebenberg, near 
Ventersdorp, and De la Rey, known to be hovering between 
the Harts river and Wolmaranstad, seemed to be cut off alike 
from De Wet by distance, and from their Chief to the north 
by Lord Methuen's garrisons at Lichtenburg, Otto's Hoop, 
Zeerust, by Cunningham's at Rustenburg, by Douglas', Barton's, 
Hart's and Clements' along the Klerksdorp — Pretoria railway, 
and by the various columns which certain of these Generals 
despatched from both flanks to and fro across the Zwart Ruggens 
between Otto's Hoop and the Magaliesberg mountains. At 
the end of November, 1900, the western approaches to that 
range were being patrolled by Broadwood, whose nominal coad- 

* See map No. 59. t See Volume HI., pages 494 and 495. 

VOL. IV. I 



2 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

jut or, Clements, was tied up in Krugersdorp ; Hart was operating 
in the Gatsrand. All these were under general command of 
Lieut. -General French, who had been placed in charge of the 
entire Johannesburg district,* which extended westward to 
Klerksdorp and southward to the Vaal river. 

Yet though there was no sign of any considerable concentra- 
tion of hostile forces, there were several troublesome parties 
in the country beyond the Magaliesberg to the west of Rusten- 
burg. During November they had been kept moving by Broad- 
wood, and he was in constant touch with them as he fell back 
for orders behind Olifants Nek in the first week in December. 
Situation in On December ist the reported arrival of De la Key himself at 
the Magahes- yiakhoek in the midst of these bands gave their presence a 
fresh significance, and Clements was ordered northward from 
Krugersdorp to join Broad wood in clearing the neighbourhood, f 
Clements had already arranged to do this some days earlier ; but 
the constant depletion of his command whilst in Krugersdorp — 
some of his men and guns being lent to Hart in the Gatsrand, 
some sent to Potchefstroom, some chained to garrison duty 
in Krugersdorp during Hart's absence, and at the fortified com- 
munication post at Rietfontein, whilst Broadwood himself had 
possession of half of one of Clements' battalions — all this had 
so weakened Clements that he considered himself practically 
immobile, and on November 27th had informed Broadwood that 
any joint action must be postponed for the present. The 
Commander-in-Chief's orders of December ist found him in no 
better position ; nevertheless, they were peremptory, and on 
December 3rd Clements marched northward as far as Dwarsvlei 
with about 1,500 men and ten guns, J Broadwood arriving at 

♦ See Volume III., Chapter XXI. 

t Telegram No. K. 33, from Lord Kitchener to General Clements, December ist, 
1900. 

* Composition — ^Two hundred and forty-two men 2nd M.I., 211 men Kitchener's 
Horse, 199 men Imperial Yeomanry, P. battery R.H.A. (four guns), 8th battery R.F.A. 
(four guns), a 4.7-in. gun and a Vickers-Maxim, 38th company R.E. (twenty-four men), 
2nd Northumberland Fusiliers (560 men), 2nd King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry 
(279 men). 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 3 

Oorzaak, on the north side of OUfants Nek some thirty miles 
away, on the same date. On that very day, and almost mid- 
way between the two, the enemy struck a blow more unex- 
pected from its direction than its weight, though it was heavy 
enough. 

At Rustenburg, it will be remembered, Cunningham had been 
stationed since the re-occupation of that town in October. He 
had some 2,000 officers and men in the place, too few to com- 
bine the guardianship of a large dep6t with field operations, 
especially at a post which might have to be evacuated at any 
time, yet numerous enough to require frequent convoys to keep 
them supplied. These convoys had been wont to travel along 
the Rustenburg — Pretoria road. It was so long since the enemy 
had been seen in this quarter that the track had come to be 
considered " as safe as Piccadilly."* To and fro throughout 
November the baggage trains had passed regularly without 
molestation, with escorts growing gradually weaker and vigilance 
relaxing ; yet the passage was long and difficult, unguarded 
westward of Commando Nek, and open to sudden forays from 
either side. Noting these things, and being in need of supplies 
himself, De la Rey kept watch upon the road from the southern 
side of the mountains, determined to seize the first opportunity 
for a coup. In the last week in November a convoy of more 
than 260 wagons, having discharged its load at Rustenburg, pro- 
ceeded eastward to refill. The journey was made in peace, 
and on December 2nd, the road being reported as safe as usual, 
the wagons once more headed westward for the return march. 
De la Rey saw his chance. Broadwood was still beyond the 
western arm of the mountains, kept there by the presence of 
the aforementioned patrols ; Clements lay inactive on garrison 
duty in Krugersdorp. Stealing into the gap between, De la Rey 
dashed across the range by Breedts Nek, and on the morning of 
the 3rd was in hiding with 800 men near Buffelspoort, flanking 
the track of the advancing convoy. This was marching in two 
equal divisions, the leading half escorted by twenty men of the 

* Description by an officer. 
VOL. IV. I* 



4 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Victorian Mounted Rifles, two companies 2nd West Yorkshire 
regiment, twenty-one men ist King's Own Yorkshire Light 
Infantry, two guns 75th battery R.F.A., the whole under com- 
mand of Major J. G. Wolrige-Gordon (ist Argyll and Suther- 
land Highlanders). The rear portion, accompanied by twenty 
men of the Victorian Mounted Rifles and two companies Argyll 
and Sutherland Highlanders, was under Captain A. Patten 
(Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders). The whole train covered 
some eight miles of road, so that with an escort of the strength 
and composition detailed it was practically defenceless through- 
out its length, whether the troops were kept concentrated at 
Loss of a one point or distributed in many. At 3 a.m. on December 3rd 
Declsrd.iooo. *^® convoy left its halting-place of the night before, near Wol- 
huter's Kop, and proceeded along the lower of the two tracks 
leading to Rustenburg, the more northerly and safer road having 
been rendered impracticable by a fortnight's fall of rain. Two 
hours later the foremost wagons were abreast of Buffelspoort, 
and here the scouts reported the presence of a hostile party close 
ahead. This was at once a surprise and a confirmation. The 
road had indeed been reported clear on all sides by every British 
authority, but a native headman, coming in to the bivouac at 
Wolhuter's Kop, had warned Wolrige-Gordon of De la Rey's 
passage of the Magaliesberg, adding, however, the misleading 
information that the Boer General had gone away to the north- 
ward, and had not returned. Immediately after the first dis- 
covery — too quickly to allow of the wagons being parked for 
defence — a hot fire-attack was delivered from the south of the 
road ; many of the draught oxen were shot, the native drivers 
and conductors fled, and the head of the convoy fell into instant 
disorder. In the few moments at his disposal the commander 
of the escort made prompt preparations for defence. On both 
sides of the track stood kopjes some 700 yards apart, that to 
the south of small dimensions, but 500 feet higher than the 
northern hill, which was longer and divided by a depression. 
Seizing the former with half a company of the West Yorkshire, 
Wolrige-Gordon posted half a company of the same battalion 
on the western end of the northern kopje, and the guns and the 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 5 

handful of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry on the nek 
to the east, sending back at the same time to warn the second half 
of' the convoy, which was now some six miles in rear. It hap- 
pened that at this moment the leading half of the convoy was 
itself divided into two parts by the intervention of a spruit. In 
front of the second part of the train marched another company 
of the West Yorkshire, which was immediately pushed forward 
into the bed of the spruit, whilst the wagons were parked behind 
it. But the company itself was first in difficulties. Dense bush, 
which there was no time to clear, blinded the banks of the 
stream ; the enemy, crawling through the thickets, closed around 
in force, and, firing suddenly from point-blank range, shot down 
sixteen of the soldiers and made prisoners of the rest when 
their ammunition was exhausted. Before this Wolrige-Gordon, 
seeing the predicament of his rearguard, had signalled to Patten 
to bring up his men to the rescue from the rear division of 
the convoy. Patten, who had laagered his section of wagons 
at the first alarm, complied ; but on approaching the spruit 
under heavy fire he became aware that the Boers were turning 
his own flanks to get at his now unguarded wagons, and he pru- 
dently fell back to protect them, leaving the company in the 
spruit bed to its inevitable fate. Meanwhile the troops at the 
head of the convoy were being hard pressed. The dispositions, 
of necessity hurriedly made, were all in favour of the enemy. 
The higher hill on the south of the road, the key of the other, 
was held by but thirty-five non-commissioned officers and men ; 
they had no officer with them, and being directly between the 
main kopje and the enemy, who attacked from the south, had 
to bear the full brunt with no possibility of support by fire 
from their comrades behind, whose guns and rifles their posi- 
tion effectually masked. Nor was any assistance, except re- 
plenishment of ammunition, sent to them ; and at 3.30 p.m., 
after having lost but four killed and wounded, they surrendered 
to the enemy. This placed the main defences almost at the 
mercy of the captured crest. From it the Boers looked down 
into the hastily built sangars, and, firing fiercely into them, 
they began an enveloping movement which it was impossible 



6 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

to check. Towards 6 p.m., when the kopje was practically sur- 
rounded, the Boers rushed in to carry it, directing their greatest 
efforts against the artillery, which with its paltry escort and bushy 
surroundings seemed a certain prey. Then arose a combat 
which General De la Key himself, than whom there was not in 
the whole theatre of war a keener critic of close fighting, watched 
with admiration. Encircled by the enemy, the rapidly diminish- 
ing infantry shot back as fast as their nfegazines could be 
emptied and re-charged. The guns — finely commanded by 
Captain H. J. Farrell, R.A., an intrepid officer, who when many 
of his men were down armed the rest with rifles taken from the 
slain and laid the field-pieces himself — were run trail to trail, 
and with depressed muzzles shattered the front of the charge 
at only forty yards' distance with case shot and shrapnel fuzed 
to zero. The infantry around the guns showed equal valour. 
Of the twenty-one men of the King's Own Yorkshire Light 
Infantry, who formed the escort, eleven fell ; but of the soldiers 
of this regiment it was to be known that so long as any remained 
aHve guns were safe in their keeping. The survivors rifled the 
pouches of the dead for cartridges with which to avenge them. 
But not only here did the troops fight with resolution ; over all 
the kopje the loss of half the defenders found the rest still resist- 
ing to the utmost, and when darkness fell the Boers had ex- 
hausted their spirit, if not their strength, for they were six to one. 
About 7.30 p.m. they ceased firing and fell back amongst the 
wagons on the encumbered road. There their booty was heavy 
enough to make amends for the failure to conquer the British 
detachment on the ridges above. One hundred and twenty-six 
wagons of supplies, much needed, especially by Broad wood, and 
1,862 oxen were driven off or destroyed ; losses to the number- 
of 118* had been inflicted on the escort. Tactically, the results 
were that the Rustenburg communications were effectually 
severed, and Cunningham at that place and Broadwood at Olifants 
Nek were cut off alike from Pretoria and from Clements at 
Krugersdorp. But De la Rey, knowing how more prompt his 

* Casualties— Killed, eighteen; wounded, forty-six ; prisoners, fifty-four. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. ; 

opponents were to avenge than avoid a disaster, had no inten- 
tion of being caught with his practically beaten men between 
converging forces. Already troops were on the march from 
Rustenburg, more might be coming out of Pretoria, whilst Broad- 
wood, though he had not yet stirred, was certain to be on the 
scene shortly. Moreover, De la Rey had plans afoot which 
rendered him particularly anxious not to hazard his force. He 
therefore drew off, and a relieving detachment from Rustenburg* 
which at i a.m. on December 4th reinforced Wolrige-Gordon 
on the kopje, had nothing to do but to conduct the surviving 
troops and wagons to their destination, which was reached on 
the 7th. Broadwood had come up soon after the Rustenburg 
troops ; but no sooner had he arrived than he received insistent 
warning from Rustenburg that the Boers were now making for 
Ohfants Nek, with the intention of attacking that key to the 
western Magaliesberg. Accordingly Broadwood hurried back 
to Oorzaak, only to be met there on the 6th by a message from 
Clements, ordering him eastward to begin the pre-arranged co- 
operation. Clements by this time was upon the Magaliesberg Clements 
above Scheerpoort, and hearing only on the 5th of the capture MaJjaUesberg. 
of the convoy, he proposed marching westward along the moun- 
tain crests towards the scene of the disaster, and to meet Broad- 
wood. Once more Broadwood set out eastward, and on the 7th 
at Kromrivier, to the south of Buffelspoort, gained touch with 
Clements, who had advanced along the Berg to Doornhoek, in- 
tending to take the joint forces on towards Olifants Nek in search 
of the destroyers of the convoy. But Clements had now become 
aware of the real nature of those marauders. Not now had he to 
deal with the usual gangs of freebooters such as had formerly 
infested the Magaliesberg ; he was in the presence of a strong 
and aggressive force, led by one of the most able Generals of 
the federal armies. To search out and attack so formidable an 
opponent in unfavourable country with his own diminished and 



* Strength — Detachment Victorian Mounted Rifles, two companies West Yorkshire 
regiment, and two guns, under Lieut. -Col. W. Fry, West Yorkshire regiment. This 
detachment had left Rustenburg at 3 p.m. on December 3rd. 



8 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

almost immobile column seemed to him the height of impru- 
dence. In any case he required reprovisioning, and concen- 
trating his troops at Nooitgedacht on December 8th, he sent a 
convoy to Rietfontein for the rations, and renewed his requests 
both to French and to Headquarters that the rest of his proper 
troops might be freed from their garrison duties in Krugers- 
dorp and despatched to reinforce him. French, not knowing 
where to find other guards for the important centre, refused, and 
so at first did Headquarters ; but in the meantime Hart returned 
to Krugersdorp from his expedition, and on the nth and 12th 
Clements, who was now stationary at Nooitgedacht, was told 
that his men had been ordered to proceed to him on the 13th. 
At this moment rumour, the will-of-the-wisp of troops in the 
field, spirited Broadwood from him just as he had at last got 
him to his side. First, Broadwood had on December nth 
moved across to Elandskraal, consequent on a report that 
Commando Nek was in danger of a raid from the north. Here 
he was still in close touch with Clements ; but he had halted for 
only a few hours when another alarm from the exactly opposite 
direction called him to horse again, Rustenburg once more 
warning him that Olifants Nek was about to be attacked from 
the west. Back to the Nek for the third time hurried the 
cavalry leader, nor could he well refrain, since to keep open 
the Rustenburg road was the chief of his duties in the Magalies- 
berg. Yet dire events were to hang largely on his departure, 
and what can be said of the system which allowed a brigade 
of cavalry to be thus abstracted from its column and led about 
a mountain range by the messages of friends and feintings of 
hostile patrols ? At this time, indeed, the whole military 
machinery in the Magaliesberg was out of gear, largely owing 
to a somewhat confused delimitation of areas of command. 
Clements, whilst at Krugersdorp, had been under French ; but 
that General's jurisdiction did not extend to the Magaliesberg, 
so that Broadwood had been always in a different sphere of 
command from his colleague, until Clements, having reached 
Nooitgedacht, became himself beyond the orders of an officer 
who yet retained command over the considerable portion of 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 9 

his force which remained behind ; finally, as has been seen, 
Clements was unable to keep Broadwood near him for more 
than a few hours together. Thus doubly weakened, Clements' ^ 
column lay in the mountains during the second week of December, 
its continued isolation carefully noted by the scouts of a Boer 
commander whose manoeuvring had done much to produce it. 
For De la Key had now, with a skill worthy of all admiration, 
played the opening moves of a game as well conceived as any 
which had been undertaken by the federal tacticians, a game, 
moreover, which was to be for heavy stakes. Ever since the 
dchdcle at Komati Poort a cloud had hung over the Boer arms, 
casting a shadow all the darker because, though the disintegra- 
tion of Botha's commandos had its origin in the fine encounter 
at Bergendal, its final stages had lacked the glamour of severe 
fighting. Exhaustion and bewilderment had done more than The Boer 
combat to scatter the Boer forces, and an army which breaks up 
thus is harder to mend than one shattered by defeat in a pitched 
battle. Botha, sheltering unmolested in Pietersburg, had worked 
hard to piece together his dissevered armament ; and so well 
did he succeed that by the end of November he was ready 
with a scheme, which if it could not save the campaign, or even 
set it back greatly in favour of his side, would at least revive 
in his commandos the spirit of offence which was fast rotting. 
That it could do more than this the Commandant-General could 
scarcely hope, for he, almost alone amongst his compatriots, had 
an eye to measure the disaster which had overtaken his country. 
His plan was to fall upon the Johannesburg — Krugersdorp line, 
and to capture if possible one or both of these places, the first the 
mainspring of his enemy's existence in South Africa, the other the 
Mecca of his countrymen, where stood the monument sacred 
to all burghers slain by British and Zulus from 1836 to the 
triumph at Majuba Mountain forty-five years later. To approach 
this line was tactically easy by way of the Magaliesberg and 
the Witwatersrand, but all depended upon the strength of the 
British forces at those defensible ranges. All depended, too, 
upon the quality of the leadership, and Botha, looking about 
for men to conduct the enterprise, found one at his side and 



10 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

another mthin easy call. At Pietersburg was General Beyers, 
an officer who had had need of all his great strength of character 
to overcome the unpopularity caused by his somewhat brusque 
supercession of the aged and beloved Grobelaar, the former 
commandant in those parts. The other was General De la 
Key, a leader who in his sombre intensity of purpose, his courage, 
and his high sense of honour, bore witness to the Huguenot 
blood which preserved in him a personality somewhat foreign 
and aloof from his compatriots. These two would undertake 
the operation. At the beginning of December the situation in 
the Magaliesberg was as favourable as it was ever likely to be. 
Paget, with his efficient scouting service, had been removed 
to the eastward too far to be able to keep watch on the road. 
The garrison at Rustenburg was practically immobile ; at 
Krugersdorp there was no sign of movement, except in the oppo- 
site direction. The only free troops in the Magaliesberg were 
those of Broadwood. Him it was very desirable to lure aside, 
and, as has been seen, De la Rey found little difficulty in doing 
so at will by demonstrating at the western arm of the Magalies- 
berg. So surely as he showed troops there was Broadwood 
called to the spot, a victim to the tactics which had placed a 
mountain range in the keeping of a brigade of cavalry. De 
la Rey had first tested his power in this manner on December 
3rd, when, having drawn Broadwood away to Ohfants Nek, 
he had captured the convoy a few miles behind his back at 
Buffelspoort. He had then retired through Breedts Nek, which 
was unguarded by British troops, to Boschfontein, to await 
the coming of Beyers from the north, only falling back a 
little way to Zeekoehoek when Clements and Broadwood 
effected their brief and fruitless union at Kromrivier and 
Doomhoek. 

On December 6th Beyers marched from Warm Bath with 
some 1,600 men of the Krugersdorp, Zoutpansberg and Water- 
berg commandos. Moving slowly at first — he was only at 
Boer Hamanskraal on the nth — a night march of sixty miles carried 

in Uie"^*'°" him with a rush across the Rustenburg road and into touch with 
M^;aiiesb€rg. De la Rey. Plans were quickly made for an attack on Clements. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. il 

That General had now lain for a week in the same camp at 
Nooitgedacht below the Magaliesberg ; every detail of his posi- 
tion was known, and they all seemed to favour an attack. 
Broadwood was away to the west ; the reinforcements from 
Knigersdorp had not yet started ; nothing was to be feared 
from Rustenburg, where the small garrison was shut up in strong 
entrenchments as became an isolated post with the enemy in 
strength in the field. 

Clements, in truth, had done httle to discount the many dis- 
advantages under which he laboured. Of Beyers' approach, 
indeed, he knew nothing; but he was aware of De la Rey's 
presence at Zeekoehoek, and recent events were sufficient in- 
dication that the Boer was not there for sport. So little did 
Clements divine the true situation that, weak and isolated as 
he was, on the very day of Beyers' junction with De la Rey he 
telegraphed to Headquarters that his presence at Nooitgedacht 
prevented " any combination of Boers in south joining those in 
valley north of Magaliesberg." 

This, had it been true, were enough and good reason for his 
long pause at Nooitgedacht ; but the General's supposition rested 
on no foundation. At Nooitgedacht he blocked no passage 
through the MagaHesberg ; the nearest, Breedts Nek, he knew 
to be at that very moment in the hands of a strong force of the 
enemy,* apparently ignored by the British, though it had been 
and was shortly to be again a gateway of the greatest value to 
De la Rey. At Nooitgedacht, in short, Clements hampered the 
movements of no one but himself, for he lay under the MagaUes- 
berg where they rose most sheer. His tactical position was as 
dangerous as his strategical. Where, at Nooitgedacht, a steep 
ravine indented the Magaliesberg, he had pitched his camp Clements' 
close against the mountain side, holding the crests of the cliffs ^*th°" 
high overhead with a line of piquets, whose chief duty was to Magaliesberg. 
maintain communication with Broadwood. These were found 
by four companies of the 2nd Northumberland FusiUers, which 
were disposed, two on the height east of the ravine, and two on 

* Major-General Clements' report, evening of December I2th. 



12 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

that to the west, which was more lofty than the other. The left 
front, where the crest receded and fell abruptly southward, was 
watched by a post of Legge's mounted infantry, whose camp lay 
close behind them on the western buttress of the ravine. South 
of this, on an isolated knoll called Green Hill, were forty men 
of Kitchener's Horse, their post protecting the camp from the 
south-west. Some kopjes which rose separately from the flat 
ground below the range, to the east and south-east of the camp, 
were held by men of the 2nd King's Own Yorkshire Light In- 
fantry. The defects of such an arrangement from the point of 
view of defence were many. The piquets on the mountain could 
neither be reinforced nor withdrawn quickly. So steeply fell the 
ground behind them that the ravine constituted the only line 
of approach or retreat, and the use even of this narrow and 
difficult way depended on the integrity of the heights on both 
sides. Should either fall, not only would the troops on that 
opposite be cut off, but the camp itself and the artillery within 
it would lie at the mercy of plunging rifle fire, from which escape 
would be difficult, for the only line of retreat ran across the flat and 
exposed ground skirting the foot of the heights. But there were 
even more serious internal faults in the position. Solid rock, 
crowning the mountain top, rendered entrenching impossible ; 
the ground in front of the crest either continued to rise gently 
or fell in rounded shoulders which hid the neighbouring hollows. 
The piquets, in short, could neither see nor shoot for any great 
distance, so that the only lines of observation and resistance 
were of little avail for either purpose. Finally, the eastern half 
of the piquets, invisible from the camp below, could only signal 
to Headquarters through the western section ; and both portions, 
though divided by the nature of the ground, were under a single 
commander. Against this not very formidable disposition De 
la Key and Beyers planned a triple attack, to be carried out by 
Beyers himself across the mountains against the piqueted British 
front ; by Commandant Badenhorst, from De la Key's contingent, 
against the camp itself, from under the foot of the range from 
the west ; by De la Key's main body from the south-west, whence 
he would threaten the line of retreat. A reconnaissance on the 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 13 

previous day had pointed to the mountain tops being but 

weakly held ; for the piquets, though they had detected the 

investigation, had refrained from firing according to rule, though 

on this occasion, perhaps, a smart fusilade might have inspired 

a groundless respect for the strength of a front, the position of 

which was already known to the enemy. At midnight on 

December 12th Beyers ordered his men to saddle their almost 

exhausted horses, and led them out towards the northern slopes 

of the Magaliesberg. His plan of attack was simple and tactic- The Boer 

ally perfect. The British piquets lay in a shallow line, their atfackupon 

main body hundreds of feet below the cliff behind ; their left Clements. 

flank, the key to the whole, in the air. This flank he intended to 

roll up with the Waterbergers, whilst the Krugersdorpers engaged 

the right, and the Zoutpansberg men, advancing up a central 

depression which led up to the head of the rift between the 

two portions of the position, would endeavour to cut the hostile 

line in two. He himself accompanied the Waterbergers, both 

because their task was the crux of his tactics, and because much 

depended on making connection with Badenhorst on the lower 

ground on the same flank. Guides from De la Key's force, 

who knew the ground more intimately than the northerners, 

accompanied each division. Before dawn on the 13th the 

three commandos began to climb the slopes. The first blow 

at the British, however, was not to come from them. At 3.40 

a.m., Badenhorst, betrayed into too great haste by his easy 

line of advance below the mountains, fell hotly but single-handed 

upon the mounted infantry post to the west and south of 

the piquet line. For a time he carried all before him. The The action at 

mounted infantry, reinforced by a company which Legge D^.'?3^th^*^ *' 

despatched to the front at the first shots, stood firmly with '900. 

the bayonet against the determined rush of the Pretoria and 

Krokodil River burghers ; but Badenhorst had nearly 400 men, 

some of the posts were soon annihilated, and through the gaps 

thus formed the enemy darted in until the whole spur was 

practically in their hands. Their hold was as brief as the 

fight for it had been. In a few minutes Legge was upon them 

with every man from the mounted infantry camp ; and though 



14 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

he himself fell in the forefront almost at once, his men, well 
handled by Colonel G. A. Cookson, and aided by two guns of 
P. battery R.H.A., under Lieut.-Colonel Sir Godfrey Thomas, 
and a Vickers-Maxim which was brought across at full speed from 
the main camp by General Clements in person, fairly wrested 
the ridge back from the Boers by hard fighting, and re-occupied 
it themselves, heavy losses occurring on both sides. Baden- 
horst was flung back westward ; not a shot had supported him 
from the crest ; he had struck too soon, and his opponent's 
impression that this had been but an ordinary attack on out- 
posts seemed to be confirmed. Badenhorst, however, had 
been premature by so few moments that his discomfiture points 
again the old moral how with the utmost care and calculation 
perfect co-operation by separated units in a night attack is 
practically impossible except by chance. Scarcely had the 
echo of his rifles died away when distant shots were heard 
coming from the extreme left of the Une of infantry piquets on 
the summit of the Magaliesberg. There the four companies of 
the 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers, under Captain C. Yatman, 
were not only fully prepared for but expectant of an attack. 
Whilst standing to arms before dawn they had heard the firing 
during Badenhorst's abortive attempt ; the Boer reconnaissance 
of the day before, the movement of lights all night about their 
front, had given certain warning that a hostile body wis near, 
and every man was vigilant. The many precautions taken 
did not, unfortunately, include either a demand for reinforce- 
ments or the supply of a reserve of cartridges, of which there 
was only the normal field supply in the pouch of each soldier. 
An attempt to communicate with Broadwood, a matter of vital 
importance, was foiled by the haziness of the dawn. There 
was to be little opportunity to repeat it. At 4.25 a.m., quiet 
being restored in the camps below, the officer in command was 
about to dismiss his spare men from parade, when the enemy 
suddenly appeared in front of the extreme left of the piquet line, 
and advancing swiftly, speedily enveloped it, shooting rapidly 
the while. The troops fought well, but they were outnumbered 
and outflanked from the first. Group by group from the left 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 15 

they were overwhelmed, the Boers steadily gaining both ground 
and prisoners as they worked eastward along the ridge towards 
the head of the rift behind the centre of the hne of piquets. 
For half an hour or more there was severe fighting along this, 
the left, section of the Northumberland Fusiliers ; but during 
all that time Yatman, though the rapidly swelling firing was 
plainly audible to him, knew nothing of the fate befalUng the 
key of the position, for being on the eastern and lower half of 
the ridge, much of the ground to his left was invisible. At 
the first outbreak of shooting his own attention had been at- 
tracted by a strong body of the enemy who came in sight for 
a moment upon a patch of green grass some 1,700 yards to his 
front. These were fired on by his men so long as they were 
visible ; but, riding forward, they were soon lost to view in the 
dead ground nearer the position, and for a time the two eastern 
companies had nothing to do but listen to the unaccountable 
uproar drawing momentarily nearer to their left flank. Whilst 
they stood, the Boers on their own front were making rapid and 
silent headway. They too heard with anxiety the heavy firing 
to the west, for all depended on success in that quarter. As, 
still unseen, they approached the crest they were given cheering 
evidence that matters had gone well on the right. Away from 
the back of the Waterbergers' position marched a band of a 
hundred British prisoners. A few moments later, about 6 a.m., 
Yatman's two companies found themselves under a warm fire 
from front and right and left fronts, and worse, soon from left 
and left rear, for the Waterbergers, having swept away the 
British left, had worked eastward along the ridge as far as the 
dividing rift, from the edge of which they commanded the 
remaining defenders in flank and reverse. Yatman's position 
was doubly lost ; for even without this turning of his flank, the 
frontal attack which he had now to meet was many times 
heavier than his men could bear. The Boers, safe in their 
superior numbers, disdained all cover and advanced like veteran 
infantry, adopting as their formation that enclosing horn which 
at the price of many a devastated laager they had learned from 
the Zulu impis. The Northumberland Fusiliers faced in all 



i6 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

directions and strove desperately to keep off the swarm of rifle- 
men ; but they had no cover from such a ring of bullets, and 
soon were without bullets themselves, for their furious firing 
all but emptied their pouches. At 6.45 a.m. came the in- 
evitable end ; when only some score out of the original 150 
soldiers remained effective, the officer in command ordered the 
white flag to be hoisted to save the lives of the rest. About 
that time Clements returned to camp, from which he had been 
absent since Badenhorst's attack on the western piquets. He had 
heard the shooting on the Magaliesberg, and riding towards the 
front to investigate the cause, had himself come under fire ; 
but it was not until, puzzled, he sought information in camp 
that he learned that the summit was in the hands of the Boers. 
Lieut. -Colonel the Hon. C. Lambton, the commanding officer 
of the Northumberland Fusiliers, who had been left in charge 
of camp, had earlier inkling of the situation. Reinforcements 
and ammunition mules which he had sent to close the lower end 
of the ravine had instead gone to the top; but had been un- 
able to reach the piquets. The Fife and Devon Yeomanry lost 
half their numbers as they attempted to emerge from the head 
of the kloof, whilst a half company of the King's Own York- 
shire Light Infantry, who climbed the precipice by a goat track 
in single file, were shot down man by man until their officer 
withdrew the survivors. Then a last signal message had come 
down from the mountain to the effect that the enemy was 
within 300 yards of the piquets, which were cut off. In a few 
moments the worst fears were confirmed by a warm plunging 
fire from the crest beginning to beat at medium range upon 
the defenceless camp. Now in one instant every vice of his 
position came home to Clements. With the loss of his piquets 
his lines of observation and resistance had disappeared together. 
He had lost all chance of communicating with Broadwood ; he 
had lost one half of his force, and it seemed as though nothing 
could save the other half from as summary a fate, so totally 
exposed was it to an unanswerable fire from high overhead. But 
Clements' skill was only awakened by a situation which would 
have confused or appalled a weaker soldier. The camp, which 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 17 

was becoming mixed under the searching fire, was quickly brought 
to order by his cool and rapid commands. Leaving the guns to 
bombard the crest of the Magaliesberg, he ordered the transport, 
hospitals, etc., to make for a hill, called Yeomanry Hill, to the 
south-east, where he intended to gather his troops and make 
a stand. The artillery in the main camp at this moment con- 
sisted of the 8th battery R.F.A. (four guns), under Major H. 
Chance, and a 4.7-in. gun Eastern Division R.G.A., under Major 
N. B. Inglefield. The four guns of the R.H.A. were with the 
mounted infantry on the other side of the ravine, two being in 
the camp there, and two in the piquet Une, where they had gone 
to assist in the repulse of Badenhorst. All were completely 
exposed, and the gunners and teams suffered heavily ; but, 
covered by a united fire, Clements gradually evacuated his 
camps in spite of inconceivable difficulties caused by the de- 
struction and terror amongst his draught animals and the flight 
of most of the native drivers. Nearly two hours elapsed before 
the wagons could be got to move, and during that time nothing 
but the admirable practice of the guns kept the enemy from 
pouring down the mountain side. The danger of the situation 
reached its cUmax when it became the turn of the artillery 
to retire. Referring first to P. battery R.H.A. , on the west 
side of the ravine, Lieut. -Colonel Sir G. Thomas, seeing the stir 
of retreat in the main camp, and finding that the enemy was 
gradually closing upon his two guns in the piquet line, sent them 
back by a circuitous track which he had fortunately discovered 
and investigated during the week's halt at Nooitgedacht. This 
track was somewhat protected ; for on the knoll which marked 
the south-western extremity of the destroyed piquet Une, 
Kitchener's Horse were still holding on, though the advance of 
De la Rey from the south-west was threatening to make their 
position untenable. Both guns, after coming into action again 
on an intermediate position, retired in safety on the main body. 
After their departure Sir G. Thomas hurried back to the other 
two guns in the mounted infantry camp close behind. He found 
the officer whom he had left in charge wounded ; one gun was 
being vigorously fought by a sergeant, the other stood silent 

VOL. IV. 2 



i8 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

and deserted, all its gunners out of action, its last round ex 
pended. The teams of neither piece were to be seen, for they 
were sheltering in two separated kraals in rear ; but when found 
they were brought up into a clump of scrub as near to the guns 
as the hot lire permitted. Then, by dint of crawling on the ground, 
Sir G. Thomas and a few volunteers contrived to make fast the 
ends of eighty-foot ropes to the trails, the pieces were hauled 
into the bush, and were driven off under the very eyes of the 
enemy. A little later the whole battery came into action again 
from near Yeomanry Hill. At the main camp, the 8th battery 
R.F.A., which had been firing heavily from a knoll close behind 
the tents of Clements' Headquarters, fell back with little difficulty 
by the direct route to Yeomanry Hill. There remained only 
the 4.7-in., and the fate of this ponderous cannon seemed certain. 
It stood on rising ground towards the north of the camp, in an 
emplacement which had at first been surrounded by scrub and 
brushwood. To gain a field of fire this, however, had been cleared 
away on all sides except the northerly, where it still grew so 
high and dense as to screen the weapon from view of the crest 
of the Magaliesberg. To this fortunate circumstance, which 
emphasised once more how little the mountains had been con- 
sidered the true front of the position, the 4.7-in. owed its rescue. 
The Boers were beginning to come down from the hills, from 
which a fierce fire continued ; the troops had departed, and but 
for his detachment and escort Inglefield was almost alone. His 
team of bullocks, which he had inspanned at the first alarm, 
had stampeded, and their drivers were not to be seen. To 
extricate so large and heavy a target seemed a forlorn hope ; 
but after half an hour's search Inglefield collected nine bullocks, 
seven less than the proper team. To drive these up to the em- 
placement was impossible, so hot was the fire. The gun had 
to be dragged to them, and after one failure the five tons of metal 
began to move over the rough ground. The stirring of the 
weapon from the bushes betrayed to the Boers how great a prize 
was slipping from their grasp. Every rifle was levelled at the 
spot, and two of the detachment were wounded. But the gun, 
now travelling fast downhill, rolled on beyond reach; more 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 19 

bullocks were found and yoked in, and soon Inglefield, from 
Yeomanry Hill, was bursting shell over the very spot whence he 
had so narrowly escaped, for he had barely got clear when the 
whole camp was in the hands of the Boers. 

Scarcely had Clements concentrated the remnants of his 
force, some 350 rifles in all, upon Yeomanry Hill, when fresh 
misfortune befell him. De la Key's advance from the south- 
west had been unexpectedly tardy, largely owing to the firm 
stand of Kitchener's Horse on Green Hill ; but now he too 
began to draw near, and opening fire with his artillery, made as 
if to surround Yeomanry Hill. His two guns were quickly 
silenced ; but not before they had almost completed the ruin of 
the column, for the shells, falling amongst the already terrified 
transport animals, sent the whole baggage-train careering in 
panic towards Rietfontein to the south. Bands of Boers had 
already been seen in that direction, others were coming in from 
east and west ; the wagons were rushing straight into the arms 
of the enemy. Clements had always been famous as a horse- 
man ; his skill in the saddle was now to stand him and his troops 
in good stead. Galloping with a few others at full sp)eed after 
the receding mob, he succeeded in heading and turning them 
back, a feat the difficulty of which only veteran stockriders can 
appreciate. So narrow was the margin of safety that his own 
aide-de-camp, who accompanied him, rode into the enemy in 
the course of the chase, and was taken prisoner. This disaster 
averted, Clements had now to face the multitude of dangers by 
which he was confronted, nay surrounded, for by this time 
the Boers were on all sides of Yeomanry Hill. Shortly before 
the stampede of the transport he had received a message from 
the Intelligence Department warning him of Beyers' march from 
Warm Bath with 2,000 men. The information, coming cir- 
cuitously from Rustenburg through Paget far to the east, was 
late indeed ; half his infantry were already prisoners to that 
very Boer leader ; but it was not without value, for it con- 
firmed Clements in the knowledge of the great superiority of 
the forces which had fallen upon him. He had previously de- 
termined to entrench and fight to the last at Yeomanry Hill ; 

VOL. IV. 2* 



20 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Clements 
retreats. 



but having lost nearly 640 men,* the warning of the numbers 
surrounding him rendered this too desperate a resource, and he 
now watched narrowly for a chance of withdrawing. For a 
brief moment such a chance was given. Wearied by their night's 
marching and the long fighting of the morning, which had cost 
them about one hundred men, the Boers paused in their advance. 
To the indignation of their officers, they hngered in the de- 
serted British camps, looting freely, and little encouraged to 
advance by the shells from the batteries on Yeomanry Hill. 
Their bands on flank and rear were not yet formidable. Clements 
saw his opportunity and that it must be seized instantly or not 
at all. At 2.30 p.m. he gave the order to retire, and setting out 
three quarters of an hour later, the column marched almost un- 
molested, and with fine discipline, through the night, arriving at 
Rietfontein at 4.30 a.m. on December 14th. Clements' action 
at Nooitgedacht will long be remembered, but rather for his 
triumph over almost incalculable misfortunes than for the errors 
which led to them. The disaster, indeed, ought never to have 
been incurred ; but having occurred, it should by the laws of 
tactics and topography have been final, so deeply had the troops 
been compromised. That it was not fatal was due to the presence 
of a commander able to collect a broken force and lead it out 
from the very midst of ten times its numbers, f 

At Rietfontein Clements found reinforcements enough. 
During December 14th his own men, released at last from 
Krugersdorp, marched in, nearly a thousand strong, comprising 

• Summary of Casualties, December 13TH, 1900. 



Ranks. 


Killed. 


Wounded. 


Prisoners 

and 
Missing. 


Total. 


Remarks. 


Officers 

Other ranks ... 


9 
65 


*7 
ti79 


13 

355 


29 
609 


»i died of 
wounds. 

ti3 died of 
wounds. 


Totals . . . 


74 


186 


368 


638 





t For gallantry at this action Sergeant D. Farmer, ist battalion Cameron High- 
landers, was awarded the Victoria Cross. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 21 

the ist Border regiment, 200 mounted infantry, and two guns 
of the 8th battery R.F.A. Here, too, he was joined by Brigadier- 
General E. A. H. Alderson with 800 mounted men and J. bat- 
tery R.H.A. Nevertheless a critical moment had arrived, not 
so much for Clements as for the whole balance of the campaign 
in this area. The Magaliesberg were now in the hands of the Results of the 
enemy, for Broadwood and Rustenburg were for the moment NSgedacht. 
negligible quantities, and even in extreme danger. And these 
mountains were the key to the Western Transvaal, indeed 
to the whole theatre of war, so closely did they command the 
most vital parts of the country. The briefest pause might 
confirm the Boers in possession of the range, and Lord Kitchener 
saw that no time was to be lost in wresting it back. Appointing 
French to command the whole zone, he directed him to use 
all the troops for the clearance of the district, at the same time 
bringing a brigade of cavalry across from Heidelberg to the 
Krugersdorp line, and summoning Paget westward towards 
Hamanskraal. Within three days of the repulse at Nooitgedacht 
the columns took the offensive to regain the lost advantage. 

December i6th, Dingaan's Day, ♦found French busily gather- 
ing troops into the town in which the Boers had vowed to 
celebrate the festival. But the place was in little danger ; 
once more the enemy showed his incapacity to follow up a 
stroke or maintain a brisk offensive. The collaboration of 
Beyers and De la Rey failed just when it might have been fruit- 
ful, and Nooitgedacht, the first of their united efforts, was also 
their last. French at Krugersdorp and Clements at Riet- 
fontein concentrated their units with little hindrance, and on 
the 19th joined forces at Thorndale in the Hekpoort valley. 
The enemy was there in strength ; but Nooitgedacht seemed to 
have exhausted his courage as well as his energy ; a very brief 
encounter sufficed to sen4 2,000 Boers " in a panic-stricken 
rout "f northward, through Breedts Nek, losing some fifty as 

* An annual festival of the Boer States, commemorative of the defeat of the Zulus 
under Dingaan by Pretorius on Sunday, December i6th, 1838. 

t Lieut. -General French's telegram, December 20th, 1900. 



22 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



they ran. These were De la Rey's men, and leaving Clements 
to deal with them, French sent Gordon westward down the 
French clears Hckpoort Valley, driving Beyers before him towards Broadwood, 
suuation. ^^^^ ^^^ been summoned southward to co-operate. Having 
thus effectually cut up the Boer combination, French returned 
to Krugersdorp, and thence to Johannesburg, where he organised 
a force for the complete clearance of the disturbed sub-district. 
The immediate danger to be met was a descent upon Potchef- 
stroom by Beyers, who appeared to be circling southward on 
finding himself pursued by Gordon and headed by Broadwood. 
To keep him off the Potchefstroom — Johannesburg railway 
French decided to estabUsh a centre at Ventersdorp, which was 
easily occupied on December 28th. 

By the last day of December French had drawn a line of 
columns from Ohfants Nek through Ventersdorp to Klerks- 
dorp, thus denying to the enemy all the vital tract to the east- 
ward, whilst Clements and Alderson in the Magaliesberg acted 
as a similar guard against incursion from the north. Thus, 
the stir in this region abated, the year closed less anxiously than 
had seemed probable, for undoubtedly the Boer arms had for 
a few hours pointed near to the heart of the British occupation 
of the country. 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 





« 




bow 








§* 




.ss 

•a-5 


CO 

a 
9 




COLUMN. 


•0 

V 

a 

1 


1 
a 


9 cS 

.9 ' 



a 

1 




December, 1900. 












Maj.-Gen. R. A. P. Cle- 












ments 


6S2 


863 


10 


2 




Brig.-Gen. R. G.Broadwood 


444 


344 


7 


2 




Brig.-Gen. E. A. H. Aider- 












son 


800 


~ 


4 







23 



CHAPTER II. 

EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL.* 
DECEMBER 1ST, I9OO — JANUARY 3OTH, IQOI. 

Following on Paget's engagement at Rhenoster Kop,t the situation on 

month of December witnessed much, if somewhat unproductive ^y raih?^. 

activity along the eastern Une. On the ist Payne's, and on 

the 3rd Carleton's and Macbean's columns returned to their 

bases at Middelburg and Belfast, having neither inflicted nor 

suffered any but trifling losses. The outgoings included an 

expedition by Barker from Balmoral on the 3rd, and another 

under W. P. Campbell (ist K. R. Rifles) on the 7th, the latter 

being designed generally for co-operation with Paget, and 

specifically to close the Waterval Drift (Wilge river) to any 

Boers who might fall southward away from Paget's force. A 

week had, however, elapsed since Viljoen's retirement, and in 

any case that leader's command had withdrawn in good order, 

not south, but north to the Botha's Berg. Campbell, therefore, 

met but few opponents ; and after communicating with Paget 

on the loth — only then to be apprised of the direction of the 

enemy's retreat — he returned to Middelburg on the 12th, Paget 

remaining entrenched about Rhenoster Kop. Troops, indeed, 

could ill be spared from a line of communication, which, even 

in their presence, appeared almost at the mercy of the enemy. 

On the 5th, 6th, 8th, J 20th, 24th and 26th,§ attacks were made 

* See map No. 56. 

t See Volume III., page 450. 

t Casualties — Two men killed and five wounded, one officer and thirteen men taken 
prisoners. Near Barberton. 

§ British casualties — One man killed, one officer and four men wounded. Boer 
casualties — One killed, seven woimded. At Pan. 



24 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

on trains, rail or fortified posts, causing occasional loss of each. 
The series culminated on the 29th in a memorable onslaught. 

Towards the end of December, General B. Viljoen removed 
his laager from the Botha's Berg to Windhoek in the Sten- 
kamps Berg. Since leaving Rhenoster Kop his command had 
been nearly doubled by the addition of the Lydenburg and 
Middelburg commandos ; and Viljoen, eager to use his strength, 
ooked for the weakest hnk in the chains of British posts which 
traversed the district. Nor was his choice easy : there were 
many posts ; none escaped the scrutiny of his scouts, and few 
were numerically formidable, though all were sufficiently en- 
trenched to demand an assault to bring them down. But in 
Viljoen the too elastic tactics of his countrymen were braced 
by a soldierly confidence in the timely use of weight of men as 
well as of lead ; and of all the federal leaders none would have 
made better use than he of the steel which was missing from the 
equipment of his burghers. And so much more powerful is 
leadership than training with natural soldiers like the burghers, 
that, as will more than once be seen, the very presence of such 
a man at the head of commandos sufficed to convert them from 
evasive guerillas into daring and determined regiments, not afraid 
of close combat, though without the only proper weapon for 
such work. Viljoen's men, too, were in high feather from other 
causes. The affair at Rhenoster Kop, whether victory or 
rebuff, mattered little compared with cheering events outside, 
which, now some months old, must have worked far in their 
favour. In November Viljoen had received information, the 
egregious source of which, as is usual with good news in the 
field, was disregarded in the delight of the message. At a 
conference held at Paris, so ran the telegram, England had 
begged in vain of the Powers six months in which to attempt to 
finish the war. The German Consul at Pretoria had received 
instructions from BerUn to remain accredited, not to the British, 
but the Republican Government. As for France, she was ready 
to land troops in England at any moment. The Czar of Russia 
had received the Boer delegates at St. Petersburg as represen- 
tatives of a friendly State. The Belgian monarchy was pre- 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 25 

paring to do the same. In America the hoped-for election of 
Mr. Bryan to the Presidency wais assured. Internally the cause 
of Britain was in even greater straits. Australia, India, Canada 
and Cape Colony were clamouring for the return of their con- 
tingents. Two thousand five hundred loyalist troops in Cape 
Colony had already broken with the army, had been disbanded 
and their arms burnt.* Such documents, the excreta of warfare, 
would not be worth recording, were they not in this case actual 
weapons of war in the hands of the leaders of an immured and 
gullible people. In the field all armies credit fair prophecies as 
blindly as men in the desert press on for cascades suspended in 
the far-off air. None were even more prone to feed on myths, 
or were more lavishly fed, than the Boers ; and it is as difficult 
to measure the stimulant thus derived as to determine its 
morality. With his burghers in this spirit Viljoen cast about to 
do damage, and he soon selected Helvetia for his first blow. 

This post — originally dropped, it will be remembered, by Sir 
R. Buller in September, as the first link of his communications 
with Lydenburg — was held by a mixed force of 344 officers 
and men with a 4.7-in. gun, under Major S. L. Cotton (King's 
Liverpool regiment). It consisted of four separate kopjes 
aligned east and west, of which the outside two, called respect- 
ively King's Kopje and Gun Hill, were somewhat distant 
from those in the centre, i.e.. South Hill and Middle Hill. All 
were defended by closed works and by barbed wire entangle- 
ments. In front (north) of the centre kopjes a camp was pitched 
for the troops of the detachment not on outpost duty. The 
nearest adjacent posts were at Zwartkoppies, some three miles 
to the north-east, at Machadodorp, the same distance to the 
south, and at Waterval Boven, four miles to the south-east. 
Well situated and defended, and adequately garrisoned, the 
place seemed strong enough for all contingencies ; appearing 
especially inaccessible to the enemy on its eastern and southern 
sides, since these were practically surrounded by neighbouring 

* Telegram from Superintendent of Telegraphs, Ermelo, to General Viljoen, 
November 2nd, 1900, embodying the report of a German doctor recently released from 
the British lines. 



26 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

garrisons. The configuration and garrison of the post were 
well known to Viljoen, and since it was probably most alert 
towards the north and west he decided to assail it from the 
south and east. 

Leaving Windhoek on the night of December 28th with 
some 580 men, he marched through Dullstroom and across the 
Crocodile, upon the left bank of which he paused to arrange 
the attack. Against a place so ringed in by friendly camps as 
Helvetia, Viljoen had to provide as much for the safety of his 
command as its success. But the very audacity of his plan of 
attack relieved him of the necessity of detaching largely in order 
The attack on to fend off reinforcements from adjacent garrisons. Insinuating 
DeJ^db, ^s whole force between Helvetia and its neighbours, he ordered 
1900. two field-cornetcies (120 men) to attack Zwartkoppies simul- 

taneously with his own descent on Helvetia, whilst the main 
body (350 men), encircling the eastern extremity of the line 
of kopjes, would both deliver the assault and keep off any 
assistance coming from Water val Boven. A third body of 
about 100 men, chiefly composed of State artillerists, serving as 
mounted riflemen since the loss of their guns, would act at once 
as a reserve and as scouts towards Machadodorp and Belfast. 
Viljoen fixed 3.30 a.m., December 29th, as the hour of attack. 

A thick fog descending about 2 a.m. aided the main body to 
take up its positions undetected, but the eastern detachment 
lost its way, and failed to find Zwartkoppies. Nevertheless, at 
the appointed time, Viljoen, who had been apprised of this 
mischance, gave the word, and his men, discharging a burst of 
musketry, ran in upon the kopjes. Gun Hill, the nearest, fell 
at once ; and with it the 4.7-in. gun upon it and its twenty-one 
attendant artillerymen passed into the hands of the enemy. 
This, the first blow, was tactically and morally the worst for the 
defence ; for Gun Hill commanded the other knolls, whilst the 
officer in command of Middle and South Hills, deprived of judg- 
ment by a severe wound in the head, thought nothing worth 
saving when the gun was lost, and ordered a surrender. Thus, 
only the isolated King's Kopje remained, and there the defenders, 
a half company (sixty-five men) of the Liverpool regiment, 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 27 

under Lieutenant F. A. Wilkinson, knowing nothing of the capture 
of the cannon, resisted so stoutly that no effort of the enemy 
could reduce them. The value of this handful's tenacity 
appeared when at daybreak the Boers proceeded to remove their 
trophy and the prisoners, who numbered 235, from Gun Hill. 
This they began to do by way of the track running westward 
close below Helvetia Kopjes, and away from Zwartkoppies, which 
was now thoroughly alert and had brought two guns into action. 
But the undiminished shooting of Wilkinson's detachment 
effectually denied the route, and the captors of the gun, com- 
pelled to make a detour to the northward, came under the 
shrapnel from Zwartkoppies, which not only did execution, 
but forced them to abandon the only wagon-load of 4.7 pro- 
jectiles, and another containing the rifles of the prisoners of 
war.* Viljoen then made off with his cortege towards DuU- 
stroom, soon releasing the prisoners, but retaining the gun, 
which was now nothing but an unwieldy trophy, for the loss 
of its store of ammimition had rendered it useless. 

The news of the surrender of Helvetia sent a thrill through 
the British army such as had not stirred it since the sombre 
affair at Nicholson's Nek ; but its effect proved actually detri- 
mental to the enemy. There is no better touchstone of the 
quality of troops who have been long in the field than their 
attitude after disaster, an indication by no means trustworthy 
with fresh and inexperienced soldiers. Over the theatre of war 
were scattered a multitude of posts similar to Helvetia, and 
Uable momentarily to a like trial ; and in them there served no 
officer or soldier who did not look again to his defences, his 
vigilance, and his resolution, and promise himself that such a 
test would not find him so easy a victim. 

If on the other Une of communication in the Eastern Trans- 
vaal — i.e., the railway from Johannesburg through Standerton 
into Natal — no event had transpired of such importance as 
that at Helvetia, the troops thereon were incessantly employed 



• Casualties — Killed, eleven men ; wounded, one officer and twenty-eight men ; 

prisoners, four officers and 231 men. 



28 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

throughout December, and any departure from the fortified line 
entailed fighting or skirmishing with hostile bands. But though 
from Heidelberg down to Zandspruit there was scarcely a 
patrol or an outpost which did not exchange shots with the 
enemy, the absence of any notable Boer leader in these parts 
enabled much to be done in the way of clearance of crops and 
supplies from the country-sides adjacent to the railway, Especi- 
Events on the ally was this the case in the northern district, where the Boers, 
Nat^"^^^"'^" though bolder and more numerous than in the south, were kept 
railway. on the move by the constant peregrinations of Lieut. -Colonel 

A. E. W. Colville's mobile column of about 1,400 men of all 
arms, with eight guns, which was usually based on Greylingstad. 
Trains, the easiest prey of guerillas, were more than once inter- 
cepted, resulting on one occasion (December 9th, at Vlaklaagte) 
in the loss of 124 horses ; but not until the end of the month 
did the Boers seriously take the initiative. On December 24th 
a foraging party from Eden's Kop, near Heidelberg, was roughly 
handled by a band of 100 with a Vickers-Maxim, losing sixteen 
out of the 150 men of the 2nd Devonshire regiment who were 
engaged. Two days later Colville's column was itself heavily 
attacked twelve miles to the west of Greylingstad. Colville's 
constant depredations amongst the farm-borne stock and 
supplies, upon which the enemy depended for subsistence, had 
greatly exasperated the local commandos under Buys and 
Trichard. The clearance of Rietvlei, south of Vlakfontein, 
on December 24th, had already been more strongly opposed 
than usual*, and when, two days later, Colville, turning south- 
ward, undertook Roodewal, the Boers were ready with a trap, 
which they all but closed upon the column. Having cleared 
one farm, not without considerable opposition, Colville moved 
forward to another, leaving the baggage, guarded by 150 men 
of the Rifle Brigade under Captain C. E. Radclyffe, with a 
Vickers-Maxim, some distance in rear. As the column advanced, 
continually engaged in front, it was reported to Colville that a 
body of the enemy had worked around his flanks and was closing 

* Casualties — Killed, one man ; wounded, two men. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 29 

in upon the baggage. He therefore ordered a retirement, which 
was begun at about 1.15 p.m., the Boers following too closely 
for much speed to be made. Before the column could come 
within reach, the blow which it was hurrying to avert, fell. 
Surrounding the transport, the enemy opened a furious fire upon 
the parked wagons, and were with difficulty kept off by the 
escort, until Radclyffe, having got the oxen inspanned, moved 
the train off towards the approaching column. The Boers 
pressed hard, the Vickers-Maxim narrowly escaped capture, 
and Radclyffe, as the only means of saving his charge, dehvered 
a dashing and successful counter-attack, with very inferior 
numbers, which gained him a covering position 800 yards in 
front of the wagons. Here he was reinforced by artillery and 
by a company of infantry which Colville had sent in mule- 
wagons from his own force. The baggage was thus enabled to 
draw off in safety, but at a cost to the rearguard of fifty-seven 
casualties, including Radclyffe himself, wounded. The majority 
of the losses arose from the annihilation of a detached half 
company, which was surrounded and decimated, and forced 
to capitulate after firing the last cartridge. Altogether, the 
day's losses amounted to eighty-one*, out of a total of ninety 
sustained by the column during the whole month of December. 

Meanwhile the troops of the Natal command had been kept Signs and 
uneasy by sporadic fighting, not, indeed, within the colony itself invasion of 
but in the south-east angle of the Transvaal, which marched Na^ai. 
with the frontier. Persistent rumours of a hostile concentration 
on a large scale for the invasion of Natal were afoot, and seemed 
to be warranted by the numbers and aggressions of the enemy, 
who appeared to be aiming at bases for an important movement 
in these parts. Thus, Wakkerstroom, Utrecht and Vryheid 
were centres around which revolved continually bands which 
were evidently anxious to test the strength of the defences. A 
half-hearted and easily repelled inquiry at the Vryheid outposts 
on December ist was followed by a sharp skirmish outside 



* Casualties — Killed, eleven men ; wounded, ihree officers, forty-seven men ; 
prisoners, twenty men. 



30 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Utrecht on the next day,* and that by a brief but warm bom- 
bardment of the Wakkerstroom lines on the 6th, when in one 
hour two Boer guns sent a hundred shells against the entrench- 
Attackon ments. Then on the nth Vryheid, despite these warnings, was 
D^^oth— surprised by night and all but lost. The defences there were 
nth, 1900. as singular from their strength as their configuration. North of 
the village rose a high, steep hill, named Lancaster Hill, upon the 
flat top of which was pitched the camp of the half battahon 
2nd Royal Lancaster regiment who defended it. The rim of 
the summit, which was roughly square, was armed at the four 
comers with natural bastions formed by projections of the 
almost precipitous faces, and upon the north-westerly and south- 
easterly of these, 12-pr. guns were strongly emplaced, the 
infantry lining the others and the " curtains " between. Five 
hundred feet below the sheer western side of Lancaster Hill an 
oval fiat, called Mounted Infantrj^ Plateau, projected like the 
low forecastle of a turret ship, and on this were the camp and 
outposts of a company of the 5th division mounted infantry, 
from which one small advanced post, under an officer, was thrown 
out upon the Utrecht road, 2,200 yards to the north of the 
mounted infantry encampment, and another midway between 
this and the north gun on Lancaster Hill. Sentries were 
numerous and well posted, their supports strongly entrenched. 
The distance of the mounted infantry camp from the infantry 
supports, the isolation of the weak posts at night, the presence 
of tents so close to the piquets, and the fact that both the 
officers and visiting non-commissioned officers slept in them, 
the exposed position of the horse Unes, were nevertheless defects 
which were soon to be all discovered in turn. 

At 2 a.m. on the morning of December nth, the Boers 
gathered around Vryheid in numbers over a thousand strong. 
The detached post to the northward fell into their hands at once, 
not a warning sound reaching the camp behind. They then 
moved on against the plateau, rushed the line of sentries from 

* British casualties — Killed, two men ; wounded, one officer and four men ; 
missing, three men. Boer casualties — Killed, six men ; wounded, ten men ; prisoner, 
one man. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 31 

end to end, and breaking into the lines, stampeded all the horses, 
and used the very rows of saddles on the ground as cover from 
which to pour a fire which threw the whole mounted infantry 
camp into confusion. The troops made every effort to recover 
possession. Time after time knots of men, hastily rallied by the 
officers, charged, and engaging the enemy hand to hand with 
bayonets and clubbed rifles, drove them out temporarily. But 
the attackers were in overpowering strength, and the mounted 
infantrymen had either to fall back or to be demohshed. The 
Boers then closed around Lancaster Hill, collecting thickest 
below the gun emplacements on its opposite sides. There the 
garrison was ready, and denied any further advance with a girdle 
of musketry. An attempt to rush the northern gun at 3.30 a.m. 
was trapped within fifty yards of the crest by a barbed wire 
entanglement ; the southern gun, its muzzle depressed to the 
utmost, defended itself by sweeping the steep hillside. At 4 a.m. 
Lieut. -Colonel J. M. Gawne (2nd Royal Lancaster regiment), the 
officer in command and District Commissioner at Vryheid, led 
a half company up from the village, where he was in residence, 
towards the scene of the fighting. High up the track he 
came upon a knot of mounted infantry, whom two young officers 
had collected and posted to keep the enemy from descending 
into Vryheid. The reinforcement, hotly assailed at close range, 
could get no further, Gawne himself being mortally wounded as 
he attempted to cUmb higher ; but its presence here still further 
safeguarded the town. Thus the attack was everywhere held 
in check, and the Boers, relinquishing all further attempts at 
assault, settled down under cover to an aimed musketry, which 
lasted without intermission throughout the day. At 7.30 p.m., 
when Lancaster Hill had shown itself the master, and retire- 
ment was covered by dusk, they made off. The day's fighting 
had cost the garrison fifty-eight officers and men, and nearly all 
the horses. 

Lieut. -General H. J. T. Hildyard lost no time in despatching 
troops to the eastward. Colonel C. J. Blomfield (commanding at 
Dundee) taking a column of all arms across De Jager's Drift on 
the I2th, in co-operation with a mounted force under Lieut.- 



32 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Colonel H. De la P. Gough, which hurried out from Nqutu. 
Though the actual attackers of Vryheid had vanished north- 
ward, Blomfield and Gough on the 14th encountered on the 
Schurwe Berg, to the west of that place, a strong body which 
they all but succeeded in catching between them, the enemy 
losing heavily as he galloi)ed for safety under a searching shrapnel 
from the 69th battery R.F.A.* On the same day, a small 
column, under Major-General J. Talbot Coke, marched to 
Wakkerstroom. On the i6th Blomfield, warned at Vryheid 
that Utrecht was threatened, reconnoitred vigorously in that 
direction, driving the enemy over the Kambula Mountain 
with no loss to himself, and securing stock which brought his 
total captures during the two days' fighting up to nearly 10,000 
head. Thereafter, nothing noteworthy occurred until December 
26th, when reiterated reports of an attempt to be made on 
Utrecht were justified to the full. 

Never in the whole coui-se of the campaign had a British 
force been fore-armed with more ample information of an im- 
pending attack. There was not only a fantastic epistle from 
a Russian officer, who on the 24th wrote demanding supplies 
from the District Commissioner under menace of a descent 
which was actually to be made at the time threatened, but the 
Boers themselves seemed to have thrown to the winds their 
accustomed secrecy, for there were reports of speeches by their 
leaders promising them Utrecht in compensation for Vryheid, 
There was so much prophecy, indeed, that it rendered the possi- 
bility of an actual attack almost incredible in a campaign where 
it had become an axiom that the expected did not happen. 
Attack on Nevertheless, it was duly deUvered, and the commander at 
Dec^^^zSth— Utrecht, profiting by his unusual good fortune, had made all 
26th, 1900. ready to receive it. The force available consisted of six com- 
panies of infantry drawn from the ist and 2nd York and 
Lancaster, the 2nd Royal Lancaster, and 2nd Middlesex regi- 
ments, of which two companies lay in the town, one on a hill 
to the east, and three, with a 12-pr. gun, two Maxims, and sixty 

♦ Casualties — Two killed, four missing. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 33 

mounted infantrymen, on another hill to the northward, the 
whole under command of Major A. J. Chapman (Royal Dublin 
Fusiliers). To deceive the many eyes which he knew were 
directed on his defences, that officer practised an artifice which 
can never fail to mystify the most wary of adversaries. Posting 
his men towards evening, but in full light, as if in their defences 
for the night, he would transfer them as soon as it was dark to 
completely different positions, so that hostile scouts and spies 
were alike baffled to report their true situations. Remembering 
Vryheid, Chapman furthermore emptied his tents and manned 
his trenches by night, giving the troops rest in the daytime ; 
he also removed his horses from their lines into a sheltered 
donga. 

Against this well-prepared post the Boers advanced on 
Christmas night, and at 2 a.m. attacked it on every side. On 
the side of the town a band, shouting a battle cry of " Utrecht ! 
Utrecht ! " poured a violent fusilade against the untenanted 
camp and its entrenchments. Encouraged by the silence, they 
then rushed through both, only to be disconcerted first by 
the deserted state of the defences, and next by an unmistakable 
summons to halt from the rifles of the inner line. Here, then, 
a heavy interchange of lead began to stream from and to the 
town, the inhabitants of which, by a pre-arranged plan, had at 
once sought safety in the church. Meanwhile, a determined 
onslaught was being made upon the hill to the west. This was 
a kopje so broken and precipitous that it could be defended 
only in parts where there was room for half a dozen men to 
entrench, and the hill was dotted with such posts. The fore- 
most, which lay under a low cliff, was surrounded and captured 
early, the Boers, who had wrapped sheepskins round their feet 
to deaden the sound, climbing to the verge of the overhanging 
cliff, whence they shot straight down upon the soldiers. But 
the other posts, warned by the firing, were not to be caught ; 
and though the enemy approached within fifteen yards of the 
rifles — in one case cutting through a barbed-wire entanglement 
in their ardour to close — and though, when repulsed, they more 
than once came on again, the knots of British, standing firm and 

VOL. IV. 3 



34 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

shooting steadily, lost not another foot of ground, and heavily 
punished their assailants. Before daybreak the Boers were in 
retreat on every side, carrying with them many dead and 
wounded, amongst them the before-mentioned Russian, mortally 
struck as he headed an attack on one of the groups of infantry. 
The British losses numbered but seven, of whom four were 
prisoners ; few, indeed, and little indicative of the closeness of 
the fighting until it is remembered how little dangerous is a 
night attack when the advantage of surprise has been lost, and 
there is no steel to make it good. An attack on the hill to the 
north at the same time as that on the east hill came to nothing^ 
owing, so said the enemy, to the cowardice of the commanders 
detailed to lead it. 

These successes, though they by no means cleared the dis- 
tricts, ensured for Natal almost complete repose for a month, 
during which the interest of the eastern campaign again shifted 
to the Delagoa Bay railway. 

The anxiety of the Commander-in-Chief to unlock at least 
a portion of the army of troops on that expensive line of com- 
munication for more active service in the open field found 
expression in earnest soHcitations to the commanders to reduce 
their permanent posts and increase the strength of their mobile 
columns. But if no channel of supply absorbed more men per 
mile, none was more continually harried, and in the first week in 
January, 1901, an unmistakable hint was given that in the 
presence of an enemy who could put even strong posts, strongly 
entrenched, in jeopardy, weak columns in the open were scarcely 
Botha to be thought of. On the 3rd and 4th of January, 1901, 

rffD^fag^ Commandant-General Louis Botha rode up from Ermelo with 
Bay line. His 1,200 men Under Generals C. Botha and T. Smuts. Leaving the 
'^*"^' commandos on the Upper Komati, between Carolina and Bel- 

fast, Botha himself with his subordinates crossed the line east 
of Middelburg by night, and on the 5th summoned all his officers 
to receive his orders at Hoedspruit, a farm on the western slopes 
of the Botha's Berg. Amongst others, General Ben Viljoen 
repaired to the spot, receiving there the congratulations of his 
chief on his recent feat at Helvetia. Botha had in mind no less 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 35 

a plan than a wholesale demolition of the British eastern line 
of communications by means of simultaneous night onslaughts 
on its central section from both sides, by Viljoen from the north, 
and by C. Botha and Smuts from the south. As the points of 
attack he selected Machadodorp, Dalmanutha, Belfast, Wonder- 
fontein and Pan, with the smaller posts linking these garrisons. 
Such a scheme possessed radical defects which by no means 
escaped the criticism of Botha's Ueutenants. With an available 
strength of under 3,000 men it contemplated an operation on a 
front of forty miles, and that by divided forces at night, when 
the advantage of darkness would be more than counterbalanced 
by the difficulties of timing and intercommunication. Neverthe- 
less, the conception commended itself by its very boldness to 
the majority of the Boer leaders, and it was resolved to carry it 
out to the letter. 

The night of January 7th exhibited every circumstance of General attack 
vileness which is prejudicial to defence. It was intensely p'^y^fiJ^^''^"* 
dark ; a fine cold rain fell persistently, and a piercing easterly !»"• 7th— 8th, 
gale, which deadened the ears of sentries, did nothing to '^'* 
dissipate the driving mist which blinded their eyes. With 
everything in their favour the various Boer detachments 
gathered, and at midnight each hurled itself upon its appointed 
victim. But the lesson of Helvetia — a lesson which Botha him- 
self had feared might prove a marplot* — had not been wasted. 
As at Utrecht, commanders of garrisons had long turned night 
into day for their men ; the trenches were bivouacs guarded on 
every side by mazes of barbed wire and often by chained watch 
dogs ; the soldiers who slept fully armed therein had been 
taught to anticipate a night attack as a certainty. Nor were 
they entirely without specific warning. A native, coming 
into Nooitgedachtf at dusk, had foretold a visitation that night, 
and the word had been passed along the posts, which, however, 
were now habitually prepared without it, and indeed gave little 

• General B. Viljoen, " The Anglo-Boer War," page 309. 

t This place, which lies close to Pan upon the line midway Ijctween Belfast and 
Middelburg, is not to be confused with another of the same name situated midway 
between Machadodorp and Nelspruit, i.e., some fifty miles to the eastward. 

VOL. IV. 3* 



36 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

credence to intelligence from such sources, so often disproved. 
Thus each post, suddenly struck, was ready at once with a 
counter-blow, and all along the line arose bouts of fighting, 
so close, so well contested, and so disconnected, that they must 
be recounted, however briefly, in detail, and for convenience 
from east to west. 

Attack on Machadodorp, the headquarters of Reeves's section of the 

°^^' line, was attacked simultaneously by Viljoen's Lydenburgers 
from the north, and on the other side by the Ermelo men, under 
Smuts. The garrison consisted of the 2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers, 
with guns and cavalry, disposed on three heights, Rocky Hill, 
Natal Hill, and Signal Hill, all of which were separately engaged 
by the enemy and stoutly defended. On the first-named 
especially was there a remarkable combat in which ninety-three 
men of the FusiUers and six artillerymen withstood and iinally 
repulsed the onset of nearly seven times as many burghers. 
Natal Hill and Signal Hill, though closely beset, were in Uttle 
danger from smaller commandos, and by 3 a.m. on the 8th the 
whole attack, decisively defeated, was withdrawn. 

Attack on Dalmanutha, to the westward, was attacked at the same time, 

Dalmanulha. , ' , , ' , . . , 

but at first from the south only. This garrison, the easternmost 
of Smith-Dorrien's section, was held by two companies (161 
men) of the 2nd Royal Berkshire regiment, and a troop of the 
19th Hussars, with a 12-pr. gun. The defences on the north side 
of the railway consisted of a redoubt, surrounded by smaller 
works, and an entrenched piquet on the hne itself, the ground 
on the southern side of which fell sharply. The southern side, 
the weakest and most accessible, was selected by the enemy, 
who, collecting below the slope, charged suddenly up the hill, 
shooting from the saddle as they galloped, rode over the sentries 
and groups, and had lined the railway before they were checked 
by the fire of the entrenched piquet only thirty yards away on 
the other side. So hot was their reception here that the attack 
faltered in spite of the efforts of the Boer leaders, who shouted 
encouragement to their men. At i a.m. the burghers ceased 
firing altogether, hoping thus to silence the unendurable fusilade 
from the British trench. Meanwhile another party, working 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 37 

round to the north, fell upon the redoubt and the gun-pit, their 
attack being accompanied by so overwhelming a recrudescence 
of fire from the railway that the entrenchments began to crumble, 
and the piquet seemed likely to be overpowered. The Boers, 
however, knew nothing of the effect they were producing and, 
being in worse case themselves, soon fell back. At 2.15 a.m. 
Dalmanutha was free, the losses numbering but four in killed 
and wounded, and a few prisoners, who were shortly -afterwards 
released. 

Belfast, the key of the hne, and Smith-Dorrien's Head- Attack on 
quarters, had a far more severe trial. Here were over 1,300 ** ' 
infantry of the ist Royal Irish regiment, 2nd Shropshire 
Light Infantry, ist Gordon Highlanders, ist Royal Inniskilling 
Fusiliers, together with 230 men of the 5th Lancers, 180 mounted 
infantry, the 84th battery R.F.A., and two 5-in. guns. But this 
was all too small for the ground to be defended, which, extend- 
ing over a perimeter of fifteen miles, cut up the force into detach- 
ments nowhere strong enough to be safe against such attacks 
as those which were launched against them by Botha in person. 
Every post, was, however, strongly entrenched, and so thickly 
belted round with wire that it seemed as if they must be im- 
pregnable from that cause alone. The system of defence, which 
was divided by the railway into northern and southern sections, 
was as follows : Monument Hill, to the north-east of Belfast, 
and about one and a half miles from it, was crowned by a fort 
containing a company of the Royal Irish regiment, which found 
piquets in subsidiary works in front. Another company, not on 
outpost duty and under canvas in rear, brought the numbers 
on the hill to ninety-three officers and men. Outside the north- 
east .corner of Belfast the Shropshire Light Infantry, less one 
company on duty in the town, garrisoned a fort, which, like that 
on Monument Hill, was piqueted by troops in smaller works. 
A drift, due north of Belfast and midway between the two above- 
mentioned heights, was held by mounted infantry ; and this 
completed the northern section. South of the railway a semi- 
circular hne of defences was in the keeping of the Gordon High- 
landers, who maintained it by means of the two main works 



38 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

on either flank, connected by circular fortalices of stone, the main 
body of the battaUon lying encamped behind the centre, in 
support. Belfast was thus well watched on every side, but as 
there were neither troops nor ground for an inner line, its de- 
fences possessed the weakness common to all in which the Unes 
of observation and resistance are compelled to be the same, 
namely, the liability to be ruptured by the mere surprise of an 
outpost. The first and heaviest stroke fell upon Monument 
Hill. Nowhere were the fog and drizzle thicker than here, 
so dense, indeed, that not only did the sentries fail to detect 
the approach of an enemy, but the Boers themselves, about 
500 Johannesburgers and Boksburgers under MuUer, saw 
nothing until they were through the outlying posts, which, in 
consequence, fell into their hands. They then broke through 
the entanglement, especially at one point where it was weak 
owing to a failure of the stock of wire, and rushed upon the 
fort calling upon the garrison to surrender. The soldiers, 
unable to stop them with their rifles, answered with defiant 
shouts as they met them at the parapet, and a fierce meUe 
ensued in which bayonets and butts of rifles were freely used, 
some even fighting with their fists, whilst others wrestled upon 
the ground. Everywhere the garrison, hopelessly outnumbered, 
resisted desperately, their commander, Captain F. L. Fosbery, 
animating all by his example until he was slain. Amongst so 
much valour as was displayed there is room here to mention 
none but the most conspicuous, and that was shown by Private 
J. Barry (No. 3733). Seeing the regimental Maxim gun sur- 
rounded by the enemy, this brave soldier burst into the group 
and proceeded to smash the lock in order to render the trophy 
useless ; and this, in spite of threats, he persisted in doing, 
until one of the Boers, less chivalrous than the rest, shot him 
dead.* For half an hour the struggle continued before the 
garrison, having lost thirty-eight of its number, was overpowered. 
Together with the fort, two officers and fifty-one rank and file, 
belonging chiefly to the second company on the hill, were taken 

• For Private Barry's gallant act a Victoria Cross (posthumous) was awarded. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 39 

by the enemy, who lost thirty-four in the assault, and dared not 
wait for light on the scene of their triumph, which was re-occupied 
by the British at dawn. 

Simultaneously with the above a combat, only less disastrous 
because on a smaller scale, was in progress at the Colliery to 
the westward. Here, as usual, the outl5^ng post fell a victim, 
but not until it had covered itself with glory by its resistance. 
In the small work in front of the Shropshire fort were nineteen 
men under a subaltern, who were suddenly set upon by a band 
more than ten times their number, chiefly composed of Viljoen's 
State artillerymen, led by Coetzee. For an hour this handful 
held their own, shooting down some two dozen of their assailants 
before they themselves succumbed, having lost their officer and 
thirteen men killed and wounded. The main work behind was 
then threatened, but the tenacity of the annihilated post had 
taken the sting from the attack, and the Boers were easily driven 
back. A demonstration against the mounted infantry at the 
drift between Monument and Colliery Hills led to heavy inter- 
change of firing, but was pressed no further. 

The attacks on the north of Belfast had been in progress 
some time before Botha's men made their descent upon the 
southern section ; and the Gordon Highlanders, warned by the 
distant uproar, had reinforced their outposts and were lying in 
readiness for what might befall. At. 1.15 a.m. matters opened 
by an onslaught by 400 Boers upon the extreme right, or south- 
west work, which was occupied at first by twenty-five men and 
two officers, who were soon assisted by the approach of two 
companies from the supports. Severe fighting followed here. 
The Boers, carrying stones, built up sangars within forty yards 
of the parapet, and actually inside the wire entanglements, 
which, as at other places, had failed to keep out their determined 
rush. But the Highlanders kept them at bay, and at the end of 
two hours the Boers fled beaten, leaving their dead behind. 
From this spot, however, the attack of the Ermelo and CaroHna 
men had developed rapidly all along the arc, and there was no 
entrenched group but had to fight its hardest to avoid destruction. 
Only one, a post of ten men under a corporal, somewhat exposed 



40 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Attack on 

Wonderfon- 

tein. 



Attack on 
Wildfontein. 



Attack on 
Nooitgedacht. 



near the eastern flank, after losing six of its number and firing 
nearly 200 rounds per man, was eventually demolished by the 
invasion of 200 Boers. So much for the defence of Belfast, 
which cost the garrison 134 casualties. 

Next in order of place, though not of time — for it was one of 
the first to be attacked — came Wonderfontein, where separated 
trenches of strong profile, guarded by a continuous and complex 
zigzag of barbed wire, sheltered the 150 men of the 2nd Royal 
Berkshire regiment who formed the garrison. Here the enemy 
were unfortunate from the outset, themselves giving warning 
by a preUminary reconnaissance which was discovered by 
the sentries, whilst sounds of fighting from other parts had 
already brought the defence to arms when at midnight the 
Middelburgers and men of Germiston opened upon the piquets 
to west and north of the enclosure. The post on the railway 
was most heavily engaged, some 200 burghers emptying their 
rifles against it, striking the officer and seven of the eleven 
men who lay therein. But here for once the formidable wire 
did its work, and after attempts to get in at different spots, 
which lasted two and a half hours, the enemy fell back, their 
retirement being hastened by shrapnel from two 12-pr. guns 
which had been mounted on armoured trucks upon the line. 

At Wildfontein, too, the soldiers had been called to the loop- 
holes by the firing on either side. Here some 100 men of the 
Royal Berkshire were entrenched within an oval enclosure, 
having the railway as its longer axis ; a detached triangular 
work sheltered a detachment of the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers 
on the south of the line. The latter was first attacked, but the 
firing soon spread, until both southern and western forces were 
fully engaged. Matters, however, went no further, and when 
the enemy departed at 2.30 a.m. the British detachment had 
suffered but three casualties. 

Nooitgedacht, warned as related, was as admirably entrenched 
as every other post held by the Royal Berkshire, a regiment 
which since the days of McCracken's Hill* had been notable 



See Volume I., Chapter XXIV. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 41 

for its skill in field fortification. One hundred and fifty men 
of that battalion, a detachment of the 5th Lancers and a 
section of the 66th battery R.F.A. held the place, which was a 
square formed of rifle pits on three faces, and on the fourth — 
the southern — of loopholed farm buildings of brick and 
masonry. It was against this side that the Boers, creeping up 
two bifurcating ditches, advanced in two parties. So doing — 
a faint moon giving some intermittent Ught — their heads were 
discerned by the sentries, who aroused their comrades. A trap 
was then set for the would-be surprisers. A sudden volley at 
close range staggered the advance and checked it once and 
for all, shrapnel from the field guns joined in with effect, and 
Nooitgedacht remained intact with but two casualties. 

Finally Pan, kept by a company of the Royal Berkshire, with Attack on 
two field guns, had to withstand an attack from the east, a ^^"* 
bridge guard on the railway in that direction retiring just in 
time to avoid capture. Secure in their strong and well-designed 
trenches, which formed a parallelogram about the station, the 
garrison easily held its own, with the loss of one man, against an 
attempt less determined than at other places, and at 1.30 a.m. 
its vicinity was clear enough for the bridge to be re-occupied. 

Such was the memorable attack on the eastern line of com- 
munication on January 7th ; and if it seem to have been dwelt 
upon with overmuch detail, yet too much that was creditable 
to the arms of both sides has been unwillingly omitted.* 

Throughout the rest of the month of January, the flame, 
which for one night had been concentrated, spread and broke 
out at every spot along the eastern line which afforded it 
momentary fuel. On the 8th, 12th, 14th, 23rd, 25th and 29th 
skirmishes occurred near the line ; a convoy of wagons and 
sheep was captured near Bronkhorstspruit Station on the 13th ; 
on the 9th one train was wrecked, on the 17th three trains ; the 
line being severed on several other days, on one occasion (23rd) 
cutting off the Commander-in-Chief from Middelburg, whither 
he was proceeding for an interview with Lyttelton. On the 

* For full casualty list see end of chapter. 



42 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

night of the i6th, Rocky Hill at Machadodorp was twice 
attacked, whilst Helvetia had to repulse attempts on the nights 
of both the 19th and 21st. In short the line was harried with 
a persistency which seemed to point to more than a desire to 
cause annoyance. Botha, indeed, had long been occupied 
with preparations from which he anxiously wished to divert 
attention. To that end had been inflicted every damage which 
the British had suffered on the Hne and in the field since Viljoen's 
affair at Rhenoster Kop. His proceedings were, however, well 
known to the British Intelligence Department, Every report 
disclosed a powerful concentration of commandos about Bethel 
and Ermelo, and all that was at first uncertain was its purpose. 
By the time that became clear. Lord Kitchener had already de- 
vised measures to avert what might have proved a grave crisis. 
To both the Transvaal and Free State generalissimos, as with 
the majority of their brothers in arms, the south still glowed 
with the memories of early successes. Along the Tugela, on 
the heights of Cape Colony, and the Modder, the campaign had 
once seemed so nearly won that it might perhaps still be saved 
Botha's fresh there. Botha and C. De Wet had determined, therefore, to turn 
again that way from the disastrous north, and had planned a 
simultaneous re-invasion of Ca-pe Colony and Natal, the former 
to be carried out by De Wet, Hertzog, the Free State judge, 
and Kritzinger, of Zastron, whilst Botha reserved for his own 
hands to grasp at the well-remembered mountains and valleys 
across the Buffalo. Some talk there was also of a ship to be 
met by Hertzog at Lamberts Bay, laden with munitions of war 
and mercenaries from the Europe which almost every burgher, 
except the Commandant-General himself,* still believed to hold 
his interests first in its heart. This scheme had already 
partially broken down by the failure of the very leader whose 
success had been most confidently expected. A month earlier 
De Wet, hemmed in by the flooded waters of the Caledon 
and Orange rivers, and pursued by a pack of columns, had so 

* "It is useless for us to entertain the thought of intervention, and we shall 
have to fight the matter out ourselves." — Letter to General C. De Wet, January 15th, 
1901. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 43 

narrowly escaped destruction* that he was no longer to be 
counted on as a factor m Botha's strategy. But Hertzog and 
Kritzinger had fared better. They were at this moment in the 
heart of Cape Colony, re-opening everywhere the deepest sore 
in the British cause. f Such success could only be partial, but 
a vigorous offensive in the east might yet confirm it, and Botha 
persisted in his plan. Slowly — for communication was more 
difficult than of yore — he gathered together some 4,000 men 
at the places mentioned, employing part of them on January 7th 
in the raid upon the Une which, costly failure as it had proved, 
might yet, he hoped, have served as a useful bUnd to his and 
De Wet's proceedings in the opposite direction. 

But now, with every railway in British hands, the theatre of 
war had resolved itself into a series of fortified angles within 
one or the other of which every Boer force still in the field was 
compelled to operate. Thus Botha, marching southward from 
Ermelo, would find himself entering the narrowing tract shut 
in on the one side by the Swazi and Zulu borders, and on the 
other by the railway posts until they gave place to the forts 
and garrisoned drifts which screened and defended the Buffalo. 
Into this corner Lord Kitchener prepared to hunt him with a 
pack of columns to be directed by Lieut. -General French ; but 
whilst they made ready he first, on January 25th, despatched 
Smith-Dorrien to Carolina with about 4,000 men of all arms and 
fourteen guns to try the ground. This column had to fight all 
the way out and back, and when it returned to Wonderfontein 
on the 30th had suffered fifty-five casualties at the hands of 
2,000 Boers who were left close to CaroUna. Smith-Dorrien then 
awaited on the line the approach of the great expedition in which 
he was to play a part, and which French had already set in 
motion two days earlier. 

On the Heidelberg — Standerton section of the Une nothing of 
importance had occurred during January. Only Colville in the 
course of his usual patrolUng encountered near Vlaklaagte on the 
i6th another combination of some 900 Boers who attacked his 

* See Volume III., pages 494 to 496. f See Chapter IV. 



44 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



baggage and drove in the rearguard, only to be handsomely 
beaten by a bayonet charge, followed by a pursuing fire, de- 
livered by six companies of the ist Rifle Brigade which formed 
his main body. The enemy lost fifty men, and Colville but 
sixteen. At the end of the month he was as before in the 
neighbourhood of Greylingstad. 



Casualties — Railway Line of Communication — East of Pretoria- 
Night Attack by Boers, January 7th, 1901. 





Killed. 


Wounded. 


Captured or 


Total. 












Missing. 




Action. 




















t^ 


1- in 


r. 


h a 


C 


u in 


iS 


Si 




w 


*> ^ 


V 


v^ 


V 


<u^ 


4> 




1 



•s s 
oc2 


u 




5§ 





0(2 





•s g 


Machadodorp 


I 


I 


_ 


II 




_ 


I 


12 


Dalmanutha 


— 


I 


— 


J 


— 


— 


— 


4 


Belfast 


I 


16 


3 


2 


70 


6 


134 


Wonderfontein 


— 


3 


I 


7 







I 


10 


Wildfontein 


— 


I 





2 


__ 


_ 


— 


3 


Nooitgedacht 




— 


I 


I 


— 


— 


I 


I 


Pan 




~ 


~ 


I 

73 


~ 






I 


Totals 


2 


22 


S 


2 


70 


9 


165 



The Boer casualties numbered approximately 100, of which some thirty were killed. 
Commandant-General Botha returned his losses as twenty-one killed, sixty-one wounded, 
and two missing, but this was somewhat under the mark. 



45 



CHAPTER III. 

EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY.* 
DECEMBER, IQOO — JANUARY, IQOI. 

After his abortive attempt to enter Cape Colony in December, 

1900, t De Wet turned northward hoping to find a retired spot 

about Hammonia where he could prepare for another effort. 

His reputation and his force were alike little weakened ; his De Wet turns 

numbers, indeed, were actually increased by bands which joined orange°rTver!* 

him upon the left bank of the Caledon, and he was soon at the 

head of some 5,000 burghers. Only his horseflesh had suffered 

greatly in the forced marches up and down the miry river 

banks : his passage 6i the Caledon alone had cost him 500 

animals ; more dropped out at every mile, and deprived of 

horses, De Wet, Uke every Boer, was like an engine without 

steam. But he had small immediate prospect of the respite 

he so greatly desired. His fortunate escape from a circle of 

floods had but delivered him into the midst of another of British 

troops and forts. On December nth, when his commandos 

gained Helvetia, J Major-General C. E. Knox was so close behind 

that the Boer rearguard was actually engaged with the three 

columns of Lieut. -Colonels J. S. S. Barker, W. H. Williams and 

W, L. White (the latter replacing Lieut. -Colonel E. B. Herbert). 

Further back, in the Rouxville district, was Colonel C. J. Long 

* See map No. 64. 

t See Volume III., pages 494 to 496. 

X Not to be confused with the place of the same name on the Delagoa Bay 
railway. 



position. 



46 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

with Lieut. -Colonels T. D. Pilcher and H. M. Grenfell advancing 
in front of Herbert in support at Aliwal North. Colonel Sir C. 
Parsons, who had reheved Major-General H. H. Settle at Eden- 
burg on the 5th, was on the left front at Reddersburg ; Colonel 
A. W. Thomeycroft and Lieut. -Colonel the Hon. J. Byng, 
brought from Standerton and Volksrust respectively, were hning 
up from Israels Poort through Thabanchu and Springhaan 
Nek to the banks of the Caledon, thus shutting off the north- 
east, or right front. C. Knox first manoeuvred to drive the Boers 
upon Sir C. Parsons at Reddersburg ; but De Wet, kept well 
informed by his scouts, edged away to the north-east, and, pass- 
ing between the Caledon and Dewetsdorp, laagered at Daspoort, 
seven miles to the east of the latter on the night of December 
13th. C. Knox and Sir C. Parsons were then only ten miles 
behind, with Pilcher, the foremost of Long's command, twenty- 
five miles in rear again. 
J^|s_<iangerous De Wet was now voluntarily entering a trap very similar to 
that from which, four months before,* he had escaped with his 
own small following, leaving the Orange Free State army fast in 
the toils of the Brandwater basin. He was perfectly aware of 
the situations of his various opponents, of the line of troops and 
blockhouses barring his front, the great topographical strength 
of their disposition, and of the exact distance of his pursuers. 
His haven was only to be gained by extreme good fortune or an 
expensive engagement, whilst failure, of which there was every 
chance, would mean total ruin, for half a day's march by C. Knox, 
in rear, would shut him up. Here, as elsewhere, indeed, De 
Wet, compelled to stake everything upon long odds, made it 
doubtful whether he did not shine brighter as an inspired 
gambler than as a serious leader of men. A greater than he had 
indeed set, at Somosierra for instance, the seal of genius upon 
feats of unbridled tactical licence based upon penetration as pro- 
found as it was instantaneous of his enemy's condition. But 
in tactics, as apart from policy. Napoleon never risked his all 
except once, when all was already lost ; whereas De Wet, now 

* See Volume III., pages 292 to 306. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 47 

become on his smaller scale, even more than Napoleon, the 
soul of his country's resistance, had to hazard on one throw 
the whole campaign. But he knew that his chances were better 
than they appeared, and neither he nor his adversaries failed 
to improve them. The line taken up on the night of December 
1 2th by Byng and Thorneycroft ran, as stated, from Israels 
Poort to the banks of the Caledon river facing south. Thorney- 
croft, who was in command, assigned the right, from Israels 
Poort to the foot of Patchoana, to Byng, taking post himself 
on Patchoana, about the left centre. On either side of Tha- 
banchu his disposition followed the course of the existing 
block-houses, which, indeed, the columns had been sent by 
the Commander-in-Chief to reinforce. These defences had the 
double defect of lying too far apart, and of stopping short at an 
important point. For example, the pair called Springhaan Post 
and Intermediate Post, which had been designed to command 
Springhaan Nek, the best outlet towards Hammonia and the 
north, were no less than 4,000 yards apart. Another 2,700 
yards separated the latter of these from its nearest neighbour, Springhaan 
Hut Post, the easternmost defence of the Nek, beyond which 
again a stretch of rideable ground extending to Patchoana 
Mountain was entirely unobstructed. Intervals like these over 
so wide a front the two commanders, who had less than 1,100 
men between them, were unable to fill and at the same time 
preserve strength and mobility to strike from any part. It 
was absolutely necessary to retain the power of offensive ; for 
though Springhaan Nek was the main entry, it was neither the 
only passage, nor from its very prominence that most Ukely 
to be attempted. De Wet himself had avoided it to make ure 
of another, namely, the space between Hut Post and Patchoana, 
on his recent march southward to the Orange, and there was 
soon given another sign of the enemy's preference for this 
track. 

Its importance had been by no means overlooked by Thorney- 
croft. Well aware of the weakness at this spot, he had already 
requested Byng, in whose section it lay, to make it good ; but 
Byng could find no troops for the duty. Immediately on 



Nek. 



48 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

his arrival on Patchoana, therefore, Thorneycroft pushed 
out a company of his own regiment midway into the space, 
where it entrenched itself, an orderly being sent to the officer 
at the Hut Post to acquaint him with the proceeding. Soon 
after this man had delivered his message, and while it was 
still dark, a strong body of horsemen appeared in the gap, 
coming not from the south but the north. They rode forward 
with such confidence that the garrison of Hut Post, believing 
them to be Thorneycroft's approaching company, refrained 
from shooting, thereby letting Prinsloo's Bethlehem commando, 
some 400 strong, pass through undamaged. Descending the 
Nek in safety, Prinsloo pursued his way southward and joined 
De Wet at Daspoort. On this being reported, Thorneycroft, 
though he could ill spare the men, at once entrenched another 
company in a series of detached posts across the space, leaving 
himself less than 300 mounted men available for offence. 
Neither he nor Byng could do more for the centre, for Tha- 
banchu on the one side and Patchoana on the other were them- 
selves by no means unlikely to be completely turned. Thus 
Springhaan Nek proper, except for the inadequate defences 
on its widely separated flanks, remained open ; and it was 
pecuUarly vulnerable because close in front of it a height called 
Ngoana towered some 700 feet higher than the general line 
of defence, forming both a secure gathering ground for a rush 
upon the Nek and an excellent point from which to reconnoitre 
the whole of the British dispositions. This mountain, the true 
outwork of the passage, was left unoccupied. De Wet, as 
he approached the gateway, had in fact determined to win 
t by his former route, which would carry him outside the 
defending blockhouses instead of between them. Prinsloo's 
undisputed passage promised well, and he trusted that the 
troops since arrived in this quarter were too few, and had had 
too little time to entrench to be able to oppose him seriously. 
He had more fear of those in the direction of Thabanchu, whom 
very little delay on his part in front of Springhaan would 
assuredly bring down upon him, when, even if he could master 
them at all, it must be at such expense of time that C. Knox 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 49 

would inevitably come up on his rear and ruin him. To keep 
the defence extended, then, and to pierce it quickly were vital 
objects, and to this end he set in motion a train of masterly 
tactics. 

In order to contain the western troops and hold them to De Wet's 
their position it was necessary, unless De Wet detached largely springhaan 
himself, to threaten them from a point which would arouse Nek. 
more apprehension than a merely frontal demonstration. 
De Wet determined, therefore, to send a small force to break 
through the weak centre, and to place it directly in rear of 
the Thabanchu section of the line. It was probable that the 
commander there, menaced from so unexpected a direction, 
would not venture to move a man to the assistance of any other 
quarter. For this service De Wet selected the last arrivals, 
the Bethlehem burghers, whose horses were fresher than his 
own exhausted animals, who, moreover, had but the morning 
before traversed in one direction the very ground over which 
his plans required them to return. Before light on December 
14th, Prinsloo, marching well ahead of the main body, ap- 
proached the gap at a point between Hut Post and the most 
westerly of Thorneycroft's detached outposts. He was imme- 
diately detected and fired upon ; but keeping his men well 
together, and protected by the darkness, he charged through 
the narrow gap almost unharmed, indeed almost unseen, for 
the troops were under the impression that they had driven back 
the majority of the party, and so reported to Thorney croft 
when he sent a patrol to ascertain the cause of the firing. In 
a few seconds Prinsloo was safely on the other side, when he 
swung north-westward, and made for the reverse of. Byng's line 
of defence. 

At sunrise Thorneycroft received a heliograph message from 
Wepener to the effect that De Wet and Steyn, with 4,000 men 
and three guns, were approaching him from the south. But 
he had little need of warning. Soon, from the top of Patchoana, 
the Boer army came full into view, marching from the direction 
of Dewetsdorp. Guns, transport and commandos were all 
plainly discernible, and warning was sent along the line to all 

VOL. IV. 4 



50 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

the posts, all, that is, with the exception of Thabanchu itself, 
which was so thickly shrouded in mist that the heliograph was 
useless. As a consequence Byng, who from the first had had 
no very clear idea of the situation, remained throughout in partial 
ignorance of the significance of the ensuing events, though his 
uncertainty had but little effect upon the results, for he had 
not a man to spare. 

De Wet now manoeuvred to discover his best crossing place. 
Still bent on that immediately to the east of Hut Post, at 
5.30 a.m. he sent his scouts forward to prove it. But day- 
hght had rendered it impassable. The fire from the Post, 
and from Thorneycroft's western detachment covered all the 
space. The Boer scouts then probed further to the east, to- 
wards Patchoana ; but here matters were even worse, for still 
Thorneycroft's men lay in front, whilst from the slopes of 
Patchoana the artillery joined in denying the passage. Though 
baulked here, the reconnaissance gave De Wet the clue to the 
problem before him. His old route was closed ; but the dis- 
closure of the presence of the British main strength upon 
Patchoana rendered Springhaan Nek itself not only his sole 
hope, but no bad one. The wide separation of its defending 
forts was known to him ; it was unhkely that Thorneycroft's 
extension had been continued so far to the west, whilst Byng's 
must by this time be surely checked and contained by Prinsloo's 
appearance on his rear. Nevertheless, Thorneycroft was still 
nearer to the Nek than De Wet himself, and it was essential to 
pin him to his ground until the last moment. FaUing back, 
therefore, with half his force under the shelter of Ngoana, 
De Wet sent the other half, nearly 2,000 strong, to threaten 
the outer or eastern flank of Thorneycroft upon Patchoana, 
feigning an intention against the difficult but almost unguarded 
tract between Patchoana and the Leeuw river. Whilst this 
demonstration was in progress, De Wet edged the wing upon 
Ngoana under the mountain side towards a point opposite the 
entry of Springhaan Nek. Thorneycroft, to whom the above 
evolutions were plainly visible, was now in a greater quandary 
than if he had seen nothing at all. It was impossible to devise 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 51 

the enemy's real intentions. He had, as stated, a striking force 
of less than 300 men left under his hand ; to strip Patchoana 
of these in order to reinforce Springhaan would be to expose 
his baggage, his left flank, and the ground beyond to a force 
six times the strength of his own. To withdraw the already 
entirely inadequate defences of the Nek would present the 
main passage as a free gift. It was impossible to summon 
Byng to the spot, even more so than Thorneycroft was 
aware. 

Hidden in thick mist, Byng was at this moment preoccupied 
by reports of attacks from all sides, and practically isolated by 
the necessity of dealing with Prinsloo, who was well seconding 
the able tactics of his chief by his close attentions to the 
Thabanchu defences. Sending a Colt gun to Hut Post, and to 
Intermediate Post a section of Byng's mounted infantry which 
had joined him the night before, Thorneycroft therefore remained 
on Patchoana, watching keenly for the slightest disclosure of the 
real attack. He had not long to wait. At about 8 a.m. the 
commandos with De Wet, having wound around Ngoana, began The forcint,' 
to move rapidly upon Springhaan. As they advanced the ^^Spnnghaan 
body on the right inclined inwards, and refusing the front of Dec. 14th, 
Patchoana, swiftly closed in upon the others. Only one party '^°°* 
of 300 men under Commandant Haasbroek of Winburg re- 
mained behind, and, turning back at Ngoana, disappeared 
westward down the Khabanyana river. Instantly Thorneycroft, 
his doubts removed, issued from Patchoana with three companies 
of his regiment, two guns R.F.A. and a Vickers-Maxim, and 
galloped for Springhaan Nek, leaving but one company to 
guard the baggage on the mountain. 

As he debouched, the enemy also broke into a gallop, and in 
two compact bodies rushed for the entry. The first, led by 
Vice-Chief-Commandant P. Fourie, burst through almost un- 
scathed by the hurried long-range fire from the badly placed 
flanking forts, before Thorneycroft came within reach. Having 
passed the fire zone, this party of Boers swung eastward and, 
facing round, took up a fire position which commanded not only 
the rear of the Nek, but also the flank of Thomeycroft's 

VOL. IV. 4* 



52 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

advance, an admirable piece of tactics which would have done 
much to ensure success had much been necessary. Flankers 
from this band soon engaged Thorneycroft's foremost troops, 
and, though they were driven back, the slight delay enabled the 
main Boer body to get through the more safely, because 
Thorneycroft found himself obliged to detach from his handful 
in order to cope with so dangerous a menace to his flank. 
With one united rush the second portion of De Wet's force, 
under Field-Cornet J. Hattingh, covered the space between 
the forts, the hurried and distant fire from which was again 
almost ineffectual. Just as all had passed Thorneycroft threw 
himself with his few remaining men athwart the gap, his guns 
shelling the receding horsemen with some effect. To pursue in 
force was out of the question, but a strong patrol which 
Thorneycroft sent out upon the line of retreat met with 
gratifying success. The capture of forty-two stragglers, a 15-pr. 
gun, a Vickers-Maxim (the former part of De Wet's booty at 
Dewetsdorp) and 60,000 rounds of ammunition, in some 
measure made amends for the loss of the main issue of 
the day. 

De Wet's daring and lucky venture had not been made a 
moment too soon. By mid-day C. E. Knox, marching up on 
a broad front through Daspoort, W. H. Williams' column on 
the right, Barker's in the centre, W. L. White's on the left, 
had practically closed all retreat from Springhaan Nek. Haas- 
broek's band was actually caught at dusk by White near 
Victoria, and before it escaped in the darkness lost nearly 
forty burghers, the majority at the hands of " A " squadron 
1 6th Lancers and a party of the Welsh Yeomanry, who, under 
Colonel W. Forbes, charged into the midst of the laager, 
taking twenty prisoners and killing and wounding as many 
more. At nightfall C. Knox halted on either side of Ngoana. 
Pursuit of On the next day, December 15th, Thorneycroft, having col- 

lected his men, went in pursuit of De Wet, who had disappeared 
in the direction of Walspruit. On clearing this farm in the 
forenoon the Boer rearguard was seen falling back across Brands 
Drift on the Linyana Spruit, and Thorneycroft's advance parties 



De Wet. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 53 

pushed on to gain touch. But they found De Wet posted 
too strongly to be interfered with on the heights commanding 
the Spruit from New Holstein down to Hoepel, with a party 
thrown in advance of his right flank on the mountain at Lokoala. 
Thomeycroft could do no more than remain in observation at 
Maseru Farm. About i p.m. the Boers ostentatiously withdrew 
their piquets along the whole front, and despatched their convoy 
down the Linyana towards Zamenkomst. Thomeycroft, suspect- 
ing that a trap was being set for his greatly outnumbered force, 
prudently stood fast on Maseru. His caution was soon amply justi- 
fied. A pause of half an hour exhausted the patience of the enemy, 
who, seeing that the column was not to be inveigled, suddenly 
emerged, nearly 3,000 strong, from behind New Holstein, and 
followed their baggage northward. Still a considerable body 
remained concealed, and the outlying force on Lokoala was 
actually reinforced. But early on the i6th Thomeycroft 
detected both parties, and remained stationary, whilst Barker 
joined him at Maseru, White moved up towards his left flank, and 
Pilcher, who had caught up with C. E. Knox the day before, 
took post upon his right. This alignment was complete on 
December 17th, and a united movement in pursuit of De Wet 
was on the point of being made, when orders were received 
which broke up Knox's combination in the Thabanchu district. 
Thomeycroft, W. H. Williams, Byng and Sir C. Parsons were 
now to hasten to Bloemfontein to entrain for Cape Colony, 
where Hertzog and Kritzinger, more fortunate than their 
chief, were rapidly penetrating British territory by west and 
east.* Only Pilcher, W. L. White and Barker remained with 
Knox, and with these the chase of De Wet was resumed. 

A three days' advance by Clocolan, Mequatlings Nek, 
Evening Star and Conoviam confirmed the north-easterly 
direction of the Boers' retreat. All three columns were con- 
stantly in touch with one portion or another of De Wet's widely 
extended rearguard, which on the 25th appeared to be cover- 
ing a position lying between Gouverneur's Kop and Ficksburg. 

• See Chapter IV. 



54 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

In the last-named town much activity was apparent, and 
Knox sent Pilcher and Barker upon the place by way of the 
Caledon, whilst White moved on Hammonia. This advance 
into the heart of the most tangled district of the Orange River 
Colony promised to lead to serious fighting. But De Wet was 
more intent on husbanding his resources for his main strategy, 
a renewed invasion of Cape Colony, than on giving battle. 
De Wet He knew well that so long as he kept his large force together 

forces.^" '^ neither men nor horses would have rest from pursuit. Moreover, 
he was being rapidly driven into a district every town of which, 
Lindley, Senekal, Reitz, Frankfort, Bethlehem, was held by the 
troops of Sir L. Rundle, based on Harrismith, portions of whose 
division, under Lieut. -Colonel C. P. Crewe and Major-General 
J. E. Boyes, were already moving on his flank with convoys 
for Lindley from Winburg and Senekal. At this point, there- 
fore, De Wet broke up his army, dispersing it, part under 
Assistant-Head-Commandant P. Botha, part under Vice-Chief- 
Commandant P. Fourie, part under Commandant Davel, to 
which last he also entrusted the guardianship of President 
Steyn. Davel's party made towards Reitz. De Wet himself, 
with a small guard, rode for the Heilbron district, intending 
there to collect, with General P. Froneman's assistance, transport 
and ammunition for his next attempt on Cape Colony. Thus 
the British columns, though unaware of the cause, found their 
task at once lightened and confused. Ficksburg, in spite of its 
strong defences, was at once yielded, whereupon Pilcher hastened 
to the assistance of W. L. White, whose single column at 
Hammonia had as much as it could manage with a considerable 
hostile body. On December 28th White and Pilcher advanced 
to Rietvlei ; Barker, having destroyed the flour mills in Ficks- 
burg, moved to Commando Nek. Next day all three turned 
northward upon Rexford, on the Senekal — Bethlehem road, 
White and Pilcher in front. Barker following to Rietvlei. The 
columns were now in close touch with Fourie's detachment, 
which was pushed through Rexford, and kept in a north-easterly 
direction by a movement by White on Tweepoort, and Pilcher 
on Luipaardsfontein, Barker halting at Rexford. This band 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 55 

then seemed to disappear ; but on December 30th another, 
that of P. Botha, was discovered in the other direction upon 
Kaffir Kop, a strong position on the northern spurs of the Witte 
Bergen. C. E. Knox manoeuvred to surround the Kop by 
despatching White around the north by Lindley, Barker towards 
the south, whilst Pilcher moved directly against the position. 
The appearance of a strong line of battle on the morning of 
the 31st heralded an engagement, and for four hours the three 
columns skirmished with clouds of riflemen, who were especially 
thick opposite Barker on the left. But a threat of closer 
quarters and the practice of the howitzers speedily cleared the 
mountains, and the commando vanished towards the north. 
White then marched to Lindley, Pilcher back to Tweepoort, 
and Barker camped close to Kaffir Kop. 

On January ist, 1901, all three concentrated at Lindley, and 
on the 3rd White and Barker led the advance eastward upon 
Reitz. Arrived at Plesier in the afternoon, the two columns 
were joined by Crewe, who had been sent from Boyes' command 
at Winburg with 500 men of the Colonial division. (At this 
time both Winburg and Senekal were garrisoned by troops from 
Boyes' column.) Crewe arrived in the presence of disaster. It 
happened that some 150 men of an irregular corps from White's 
force, entitled the Commander-in-Chiefs Bodyguard, had been 
sent to reconnoitre in front of Plesier towards the head of 
Liebenbergs Vlei. At Kromspruit this party, which regardless 
of rules and experience was in close formation and without 
even ground-scouts, fell suddenly in with P. Botha's vastly 
superior force, which had not been seen since its evacuation of 
Kaffir Kop, three days before. In a moment the patrol was 
completely surrounded. A desperate but hopeless combat 
ensued, which was maintained until forty officers and men, 
including the commanding and three other officers, had been 
killed and wounded. The remainder then surrendered, were 
immediately disarmed, but as quickly released, White dashing 
up to the rescue a few moments later. 

Once more P. Botha's and every other formed body dis- 
appeared, and C. E. Knox, tvirning from Reitz, cast vainly north- 



56 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

ward in search of something to strike at. He began to suspect 
that the enemy had doubled and was now behind him. Accord- 
ingly on January 5th he concentrated his columns at Gelderland, 
north-west of Reitz, preparatory to a movement southward, 
that is, by the way he had just come. On the 6th he was 
at Winbult, close by his former halting-place at Plesier. Here 
he lost Barker's and White's columns which were ordered to 
Kroonstad for reconstruction and subsequent service under 
Bruce Hamilton, who was coming from Hoopstad to organise 
a force for operations against De Wet. Knox pursued his 
way uneventfully with Crewe and Pilcher to Senekal (January 
loth) where he found Boyes, come from Winburg, together with 
a column of 500 horsemen, chiefly Bethune's mounted infantry, 
under Colonel S. C. H. Monro, which had been railed from 
Dundee, in Natal, to relieve Lindley at the end of December. 
Monro had reached Lindley on January 2nd, and two days 
later had joined Boyes. On January 6th, when marching to- 
gether on Senekal, both had been heavily attacked in flank and 
rear by the ubiquitous P. Botha at Rietpan, where there was 
some difficulty in saving the guns, one of which was disabled, 
the other deprived of its horses. In the skilfully conducted 
rearguard action the columns lost fifteen, the Boers twenty 
casualties. Throughout the march such large hostile bodies were 
discovered in the Lindley district that, on his arrival at Senekal, 
Boyes was able to report the main body of the Boers in that 
quarter. Nevertheless, a council of war between the five com- 
manders resulted in the decision that, in accordance with orders 
received from the Commander-in-Chief, Boyes should return 
to his proper sphere, Harrismith, and Monro into Lindley, to 
evacuate the perilously placed garrison of that town. C. E. 
Knox himself, completely at a loss amid conflicting reports 
and an invisible foe, marched on to Winburg, which he 
entered on January 12th. 

Monro lost no time in undertaking his dangerous mission. 
For such a task as probably awaited him, his force, composed 
of only 400 mounted men, 100 regular and 200 militia infantry, 
with three guns, was totally inadequate, just such a body, 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 57 

indeed, as De Wet loved to discover isolated upon the 
veld. Fortunately the Free State leader was intent on 
other schemes, and Monro pushed on almost unnoticed, en- 
countering only a weak Boer force on January nth at 
Bronsfontein, midway to his object. On the 13th he 
entered Lindley unopposed, cleared the place of its garrison 
and stores, and safely gained the railway at America Siding 
on the 23rd. 

Boyes had more trouble on his march to rejoin Rundle at 
Harrismith. He moved by Honingfontein and Wilansspruit, 
in the angle of the Senekal — Lindley and Senekal — Bethlehem 
roads, a route which, for a time at least, afforded some support 
to Monro. On the last-named of these two roads a commando 
was discovered, which moved parallel with Boyes as far as 
Rexford, and when he turned south-easterly for Bethlehem, 
placed itself upon his left front about Onverdacht, disputing 
his further advance on January 13th from a strong double 
position. For nine hours Boyes fought for his passage, much Actional 
hindered by the enveloping nature of the enemy's dispositions, j^n^^jfh)**' 
and by a 15-pr. gun which was accurately served against his 1901- 
troops. The key of the advance was a prominent hill some 5,000 
yards in the direction of Bethlehem. Although this was un- 
occupied by the enemy, approach to it was difficult, because of 
the danger of being surrounded on the way ; for the Boer rifle- 
men lapped partly around the left rear, only awaiting an oppor- 
tunity to close in. Boyes, keeping off the left attack with his 
guns and infantry, collected his mounted men, under Lieut. - 
Colonel R. B. Firman, on his right, which was protected by the 
Zand river at Wilansspruit, and at 3 p.m. ordered them to 
go forward and attempt to seize the commanding hill in front. 
Firman moved out boldly, and approaching the height, saw that 
he could do even better than secure it, for his line of advance 
led him with good cover actually around the enemy's left flank. 
He therefore circled rapidly to his left, and furiously charged 
the flank of the Boer first line, which instantly dissolved. In 
ten minutes the whole situation had been reversed. Boyes 
then pushed forward allhis strength and carried both positions, 



58 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

the enemy's second line not awaiting his attack. He was no 
more opposed on the west of Bethlehem, which he entered 
on the 15th. Thence he moved to and emptied Reitz. Orders 
were then received from Rundle to join hands with Major- 
General B. B. D. Campbell at Elands River Bridge, and this, 
with constant skirmishing by the way, was carried out on 
January 23rd. Boyes' column arrived in a deplorable con- 
dition. Not only the incessant marching with columns more 
mobile than itself, than which nothing is more exhausting to 
any unit, had worn its efficiency to the last thread. A form of 
low fever had infected the ranks and claimed many victims. 
Both the commanding officer and his brigade-major were 
seriously ill. Out of the two battaUons which composed the 
column 170 had already come in sick to the base. One of 
these regiments, which Rundle had sent out 700 strong, returned 
with only some 300 men able to stand on parade, and of these 
nearly half were reported by the medical officer as unfit for 
active service. The other battalion was little less debiUtated. 
All were in rags, the majority bootless. 
De Wet turns On the very day on which Boyes and Monro reached their 
^iony°'^^^ respective destinations, De Wet, having completed his pre- 
parations, joined his reunited commandos on the Doornberg, 
and prepared to lead them once more southward to the invasion 
of Cape Colony. Lord Kitchener had kept in remarkably close 
touch with his obscure manoeuvres of the previous three weeks ; 
in closer touch, indeed, than his subordinates on the spot, whom 
a less elaborate intelhgence service and the constant encounter- 
ing with bodies of unknown strength served to bewilder beyond 
all hope of distinguishing the Boer main body. No sooner was 
De Wet on the march when Bruce Hamilton, at Kroonstad, and 
C. E. Knox, who had worked his way round to Leeuw Kop 
again, were ordered to converge upon his rendezvous and cut 
him off from the south. Then followed the events next to 
be described in connection with De Wet's second inroad into 
Cape Colony.* 

• See Chapter IV. pages 75 to 78, 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 59 

Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 

foregoing chapter. 





t 




.£ S 


i 






X 




na'Z 


3 






c 

s 


b 


.2 5 







Column. 


c 

c 


<n u 


1 






5 




2 <j 
0|5 


:s 




December, i<^po^/anuary, 1901. 










Lieut. -Colonel J. S. S. Barker 


750 


90 


4 


2 


] Major - General 


„ W. H. Williams 


340 




3 


6 


C. E. Knox in 


„ W. L. White 


830 


138 




I 


command. 


„ „ T. D. Pilcher 

„ H. M. Grenfell 

„ E. B. Herbert 


1,070 
450 
386 


82 

no 




2 


Col. C. J. Long 
in command. 


Colonel A. W. Thorneycroft 


500 


150 




— 




Lieut. -Colonel the Hon. J. H. G. Byng ... 


380 






— 




Colonel Sir C, Parsons 


500 


— 




3 




Lieut. -Colonel C P. Crewe 


640 


— 




2 


] Lieut. - General 


Major-General T- E. Boyes (later Harley) 


3'8 


1,361 




3 


Sir L. Rundle 


„ B. B. D. Campbell 


34a 


1.393 




2 


J in command. 


Lieut. -Colonel S C. H. Monro 


320 


480 


2 


— 




Major-General Bruce Hamilton 


830 


752 


8 


3 





6o 



CHAPTER IV. 

EVENTS TN CAPE COLONY.* 
DECEMBER, I9OO — FEBRUARY 28tH, I9OI. 

To a commander in the field a more constant anxiety than an 
open foe is a wavering ally. Such a confederate must be alter- 
nately tnisted and suspected ; though he may at any moment 
assume the offensive, he must be given no cause of offence ; 
his territory is sacred, yet must be watched like that of a hostile 
State ; the very grasp of his right hand must be received witli 
Attitude of caution, in case his left conceal a dagger. When, in addition. 
Cape Colony, g^ doubtful a friend dwells upon the chief hnes of communica- 
tion, the danger and difficulty of dealing with him become 
doubled ; for, even should he himself be too weak or timorous 
to strike, he may have a welcome for enemies bolder than him- 
self, who \\'ill ask no more than admittance within his borders. 
Such was the position of a large portion of Cape Colony through- 
out the war in South Africa.f The reasons why long years of 
prosperitv under British rule had failed to win the loyalty of 
many sections of this great province have been already given ; 
the first outbreaks of disaffection and their suppression have 
been described. J Let it suffice to say that when, after the 
paltry rebellions of the spring of 1900, Sir Charles Warren ceased 
his punitive expeditions in July, none who knew the colony, 
none, indeed, who knew war, were deceived into the belief that 

* See map No. 63. 

f Roughly, the parts about Colesberg, Philipstown, Hanover, Burghersdorp, Albert, 
Steynsburg, Aliwal North, Wodehouse, Prieska, Kenhardt, Griqualand West, Hay, 
Herbert and Barkly West. 

J Volume ni., Chapter I. 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 6i 

the immense communications of the western theatre of war 
stood at last upon a firm foundation. The fear of a wide- 
spread rebellion had, indeed, become more remote. The enthu- 
siasm of the disloyal farmers for the Republican cause had now 
been diagnosed. In the majority of cases it was likely to indulge 
itself very little further than the giving of supplies and informa- 
tion to the favoured side, and withholding them from the other, 
valuable, nay indispensable, military aids to guerilla bands, 
but in no way symptomatic of a universal conflagration. More- 
over, the merciful measures taken by the British Government 
after the first rebellion had considerably dulled the edge even 
of that enthusiasm. Martial law has never been more leniently 
administered than it was upon the armed rebels of the early part 
of 1900, who found not only their lives, but their liberties, 
possessions, and even their business, preserved for them after a 
mere pretence at arraignment. But disaffection, in spite of 
all opiates, is a light sleeper ; if it slumbered throughout the 
summer of 1900, the Boer leaders had good hopes that it only 
awaited the time and the call to awake. Neither were long 
delayed ; nor could the moment for the summons have been 
better chosen. The early days of 1901 found Cape Colony 
thinly and unscientifically occupied by British troops, and stir- 
ring uneasily from its lethargy. In November, 1900, so-called 
" congresses," in reaUty meetings of conspirators, engineered 
by agents of the Boer Government, had been held at various 
centres of unrest, notably Graaff Reinet and Worcester, with no 
more interference by the British authorities than had been exer- 
cised with the target practice of notorious rebels in the previous 
year. It was a moment when something of a St. Martin's summer 
was beginning to revive the waning Republican cause ; when 
their forces all over the theatre of war were being strengthened 
by the reappearance of hundreds of burghers, who were driven, 
or rode voluntarily, back from their sworn neutrality into the 
ranks of the commandos. The British armies, on the other hand, 
were in the act of depriving themselves of most of the first 
contingents of Colonials, whose presence had bestowed the very 
qualities which the regular troops most lacked and the campaign 



62 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

most demanded. It has been seen how, despite these advan- 
tages, the Boers' initial strategy in the contemplated double 
scheme of invasion went to pieces amidst the waters of the 
Orange and Caledon.* But this did not save Cape Colony. 
Two of De Wet's officers, less closely watched than their famous 
leader, contrived to evade both the floods and C. E. Knox's 
columns ; and soon the disturbance of the whole colony, down 
to its very seaboard, was to point the lesson how that the least 
De Wet's Considered factors of an enemy's combination may, in certain 
advanced circumstances, prove the most troublesome of all. On December 

parties invade 

Cape Colony. 15th and i6th, Commandants P. H. Kritzinger and Judge 
Hertzog dashed across the Orange river, the former between 
Bethulie and Odendaal Stroom, the latter by Sand Drift, oppo- 
site Philippolis. To have foreseen this sally on the part of 
one at least of the invaders should have required no great gift 
of prophecy. For the past fortnight Lieut. -Colonel H. M. 
Grenfell, in the Rouxville district, and Sir H. MacDonald, recon- 
noitring across the Orange from Aliwal North, had been in close 
observation of Kritzinger, and their reports gave no uncertain 
indication of his designs. It was known on December 8th that 
the Free Stater was seeking information about the drifts over 
the Orange, that the whole Zastron district was covered with 
his parties busy collecting fresh horses. Continually, too, he 
edged southward, and on the 14th was at Wolve Kop, within a 
march of the main drift at Odendaal Stroom. Still no hint of 
his intentions was gathered ; his refusal to be headed northward, 
and his long delay about Rouxville, were attributed only to the 
presence of C. E. Knox at Smithfield, whilst the recent repulse 
of De Wet rendered inconceivable a single-handed foray south- 
ward by his weakest lieutenant. Kritzinger's appearance south 
of the Orange, then, caused as much surprise as though he 
had ridden secretly 500 miles to effect it, instead of from 
one bank of the river to the other. Not only the audacity of 
these unsupported invaders showed their supreme and signifi- 
cant confidence in the sympathy of the British province. Their 

* See Volume III., Chapter XX. 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 63 

forces were small ; Kritzinger had but 700 men, Hertzog some 
1,200, nearly all of them oath-breakers.* They carried with 
them no wheeled vehicles of any kind ; artillery would be of as 
httle service as transport to leaders who intended to rely for 
success on avoiding engagements, and for provender on the 
innumerable friendly farms, with the names of which the sleepn 
less agents of the Boer cause had furnished them. So dispro- 
portionate, in short, seemed these expeditions to the task of 
serious invasion that the British Headquarters were scarcely 
to be blamed if they regarded them as merely marauding bands. 
Though they were, in fact, httle more than this, the inroad of the 
two Free Staters was a serious diversion, partly because it was 
evidently designed for the purpose of collecting horses and 
supphes from the rich districts within the British borders for 
the use of a larger force which was to follow, but still more because 
of its constant incentive to that large section of the people which, 
though it had proved aUke its stupidity, timidity and egotism, 
was Repubhcan to the core. However damp the powder in the 
barrel, the entry of sparks even so feeble as the armed bands of 
Kritzinger and Hertzog might provoke an explosion at any 
moment. 

The passage of the Orange placed the two Boer forces at 
once in rear of the only formed body of troops in Cape Colony. 
This was part of a brigade of Guards under Major-General 
Inigo Jones, which was disposed on either side of Norval's Pont, 
along the Orange river. There was no second hne, nor any- 
where else a force in being either of foot or horse ; only the 
mihtia and irregular levies under Major-General Sir H. Mac- 
Donald, who commanded at Aliwal North, and of Lieut. -General 
Sir F. Forestier-Walker at Cape Town were distributed in small 
guards along the hnes of communication. There, however, 
they were invaluable. The possession of the railways, always ol 
the first importance, becomes practically the sole means of coping 
with an adversary of superior mobihty. Already the British 
commanders had learned how to wage guerilla warfare on the 

• De Wet to Botha, dated from Stnilhfie d, December loth, 1900. 



64 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Importance of rails. Throughout the complicated operations which followed, 
the skilful employment of the railways was so constant a feature 
of their tactics that it ^^dll not always be especially remarked 
upon. For a general scheme of defence this would have been 
simple enough. The tracks were seldom in the enemy's hands. 
Their general direction towards the southern ports, through 
the parallel moimtain ranges and desert plains which guarded 
them like lines of fortifications and glacis, rendered easy the 
conveyance of troops from the remotest garrisons in South 
Africa into strong positions covering the most valuable por- 
tions of the colony. Against a regular enemy the province 
could quickly have been rendered impregnable. Armies could 
have lain in the Roggeveld, the Sneeuw Bergen and the Storm 
Berg, covering Cape Town, Port Ehzabeth and East London 
as securely as Lisbon was covered from Torres Vedras. But 
here was an enemy of a different type, one who operated from 
no base and towards no objective, whose victories lay in escapes, 
and in the length of time during which he could remain im- 
trapped ; who could never be said to advance or retire, but 
merely to move, now this way, now that, his tactics rendered 
imfathomable either by utter lack or rapid change of purpose. 
Against such an opponent cross railroads are the chief need, 
and these were infrequent in the eastern part of the colony, and 
altogether absent in the west. In the east, from Hopetown to 
Cape Town, there existed but one cross communication with the 
Norval's Pont — Port Ehzabeth line ; from that, and the Port 
Alfred hne which joined it at Middleburg, to the Ahwal North — 
East London railway, but one. With what infinite resource 
these meagre facihties were managed will only be understood 
when it is told how seldom the great spaces between the hues of 
railway were free from the presence of roving bands, and how 
seldom these were unattended by columns which had been 
hurried into contact by train. In the west the value of the 
main and only line lay chiefly in its power to provide for the 
protection of the capital by placing troops in possession of the 
encircUng ranges from either side. For the offensive within 
the vast equilateral triangle, whose sides, each 300 miles long, 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 65 

were the Atlantic seaboard, the Orange river and the railway 
itself, the absence of branch Unes rendered it useful only as a 
moveable base. 

A strong hold upon the railway system of an extensive theatre 
of war goes so far to nullify the weakness or faulty disposition 
of troops in any part, that the Director of Railways and his pro- 
tecting troops are the real props and executive of strategy. 
Within a week of the violation of the frontier of Cape Colony, 
no less than sixteen bodies of troops were within the border 
and organised for the field. To Hanover Road from the Roux- 
ville district, where they had been left by Major-General C. E. 
Knox after his operations against De Wet, came the commands 
of Lieut. -Colonels H. M. Grenfell, G. F. Gorringe and E. B. 
Herbert ; from other parts of the Orange River Colony the 
columns of Colonel Sir C. Parsons, Lieut.-Colonels A. W. Thomey- 
croft, R. K. Parke, the Hon. J. H. G. Byng, E. C. Bethune and 
W. H. WilUams and H. de B. de Lisle to Naauwpoort ; from the 
Transvaal, Lieut. -Colonel W. Lowe with the 7th Dragoon Guards 
and Brabant's Horse ; Kimberley provided a force of Yeomanry, 
whilst Inigo Jones immediately formed three mobile columns 
under Major H. G. D. Shute atColesberg, Lieut.-Colonels E. M. S. 
Crabbe at Petrusville, and the Hon. A. H. Henniker at De Aar. 
All these were placed under the general command of Major- 
General Sir H. H. Settle, who had been called up from Cape 
Town to Naauwpoort on December i8th. His first task was to 
delimitate the commands. Taking himself the western area, 
with Headquarters at De Aar, he assigned to Inigo Jones the 
central, with Headquarters at Naauwpoort, to Sir H. Macdonald 
the eastern. Headquarters at Burghersdorp. In endeavouring to 
obtain a grasp of the enemy's plan of campaign a strange diffi- 
culty beset him. The closer his touch with Kritzinger and 
Hertzog — and he was at once in touch — the more imcertain be- 
came their motives. On December i8th Shute found Hertzog 
south of Petrusville ; next day Grenfell touched Kritzinger near 
Venterstad. On the 19th Hertzog passed through Philipstown, Tactics of the 
and three days later entered Britstown, whilst Kritzinger, though '"^* "^' 
he loitered below Venterstad, still pointed southward on Ste5ms- 

VOL. IV. q 



66 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

burg. Thus there seemed an inclination of the Boer leaders to 
separate rather than combine, tactics so unusual that it was 
some time before the British commanders, accustomed as they 
were to the occurrence of the unexpected in Boer warfare, could 
reahse that bodies so weak had ventured to invade a vast hostile 
territory on divergent hues and unsupported. When, however, 
the full significance of such a movement was suspected, it 
increased the necessity of taking prompt measures against the 
marauders. Their single-handed persistence and daring left 
little room for doubt that De Wet himself was soon to form 
the body to his far-thrown wings. To manoeuvre to gain time 
and a bloodless penetration of Cape Colony became at once 
the main object of Kritzinger and Hertzog ; to destroy them 
before they could be Unked by the redoubtable Commander-in- 
Chief of the Free State, before, in short, the disconnected forays 
were transformed into a real invasion, was Settle's insistent 
problem. Now, therefore, his campaign resolved itself into two 
distinct operations — the chase of Hertzog in the west, of Krit- 
zinger in the east. By the arrangement of commands above 
referred to, the piu-suit of Hertzog came within his own province, 
of Kritzinger within that of Inigo Jones and Sir H. MacDonald, 
and the fortimes of each must be briefly followed. 

It would be an endless task to describe in detail the efforts 
to find and engage in a vast terrain bands whom a single hollow 
could conceal, who rode fast, and who were bent on nothing so 
much as avoiding battle. Space denies all but an indication 
of the toil involved, the constant scouting, marching, and 
entraining, the never-ceasing contest of wits on the part of the 
leaders on both sides, of endurance on the part of their men. 
Kritzinger On December 26th Kritzinger, shadowed by Grenfell (in com- 
heads south- maud of Goniuge and Herbert), by Colonel A. A. Garstin, who 
had come from Kimberley to command Lowe, W. H. Williams, 
Byng and Shute, suddenly headed for Stormberg, was turned 
back at Henning from crossing the Stormberg — Rosmead rail- 
way, and sidhng first north-westward between the Zuur Berg 
and Kikvorsch Berg towards Colesberg, and then southward 
past Arundel, attacked Sherborne and Bangor on December 30th. 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 67 

He then went on south, making presumably for the historic 
centre of Boerdom in Cape Colony, Graafi Reinet. Next day 
he was not to be seen, and the five columns concentrated at 
Middleburg and Rosmead to search for him. 

At Britstown Hertzog threatened the very centre of the 
western system of supply, the great depot at De Aar, and 
instant efforts were made to chase him thence. On December 
23rd Sir H. Settle arrived at De Aar, and on the same day de Pursuit of 
Lisle, Thomeycroft and Parke marched westward. Hertzog, " °^' 
however, had passed through Britstown, which was occupied 
by Thomeycroft on the 25th, and was now reported at Stryden- 
burg. Accordingly the columns, moving on a broad front, 
swung northward, the left on the Ongers river, on the banks of 
which de Lisle ran into the enemy near Houwater on the 26th. 
A sharp skirmish resulted in the Boers slipping away towards 
Prieska ; but the encounter proved a valuable reconnaissance, 
for it revealed both the strength and composition of Hertzog's 
force, which was discovered to consist of six commandos, 
1,200 strong in all, xmder Hertzog, Brand, Wessels, Pretorius, 
Theunissen and Nieuhoudt. On this day and the next Sir C. 
Parsons and Bethime appeared on the scene, the former detrain- 
ing at Victoria West, the latter at De Aar. Both had been 
intended to march northward, but on the 28th Hertzog, doubhng 
de Lisle's left flank, struck suddenly southward, arousing fears 
both for Carnarvon and Victoria West. Bethune was accord- 
ingly railed to the latter place. Sir C. Parsons hastened by forced 
marches to the former, whilst de Lisle, Thomeycroft and Parke 
clung closely to Hertzog through Vosburg and Brandewjms 
Kuil. On December 30th the commandos were within seven 
miles of Carnarvon, and Bethune from Victoria West prepared 
to turn them back into the arms of the pursuing columns. 

In this he was unsuccessful ; but his movements had the 
effect of diverting the enemy's advance from south to west, Hert«^ turns 
and the occupation of Fraserburg and Camarvon by Sir H. ^^^^^" • 
Settle's troops cut all communication between Hertzog and 
his confederates in the eastem part of the colony. The western 
and southern counties were still open, however, and these, the 

VOL. IV. c* 



68 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

richest agricultural districts in all South Africa, were Hertzog's 
real object. There he could subsist in plenty for an indefinite 
period, requisitioning with small risk of refusal amongst 
prosperous farms well stocked with horses, grain and every 
kind of provender, and inhabited many by open, many by 
secret sympathisers. At present this hunting groimd could 
hardly be denied to the marauders, and only on his possession 
of the railways could Sir H. Settle base his hopes of barring 
Hertzog from the approaches to the capital, and the raiding 
of the southern seaboard counties, which would turn a mere 
incursion into a veritable invasion. 

Thus the New Year of 1901 saw the virus of rebellion 
nmning deeply into the receptive veins of the colony. The 
Boer plan of campaign was now more obvious than the means 
of confoimding it. Experience had taught that to come to 
Difficulties of tcrms with bands like those of Kritzinger or Hertzog by fair 
™F*'gn- chasing was a remote hope. They possessed mobility such 
as their opponents could never attain. Provided with two or 
three horses apiece they could always keep ahead of pursuit ; 
made acquainted by the reports of their spies with every 
granary and pasture, they were sure of supplies ; whilst so great 
was their elasticity that their usual habit was to march and 
forage at full speed over a front of fifteen or twenty miles, 
concentrating at a given point at the end of the morning or 
afternoon stage to receive fresh orders. The only way to deal 
with such an enemy is to press him hard, and at the same time 
to throw troops across his path. These tactics must absorb 
a large number of men, all, indeed, that were available in Cape 
Colony ; and it was now more than a suspicion that Krit- 
zinger and Hertzog were purposely drawing the British troops 
aside to east and west in order to leave a clear course down the 
centre of the colony for the expected rush of De Wet. The 
problem, in short, was of a complexity only to be fully under- 
stood when it is remembered on what dangerous ground it had 
to be worked out ; ground beneath which rebellion smouldered 
hke an imprisoned flame, ground upon which rested not only 
the stability of the armies manceuvring in the Orange River 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 69 

Colony and the Transvaal, but the whole British ascendency in 
South Africa. The loss of Cape Colony, even temporarily, or 
even a serious struggle within its frontiers, might transform 
the whole campaign. Therefore, Cape Town itself stirred 
uneasily on the news of the inroad of these insignificant bands ; 
the men-of-war lying in its harbours prepared for a possible part 
in a campaign which had recently seemed to be dwindhng far 
in the interior of the sub-continent towards the Tropic of 
Capricorn, Loyalty, which never slumbers on a bed so uneasy as 
Cape Colony, sprang to arms in every county. Within three 
weeks 10,000 officers and men were enrolled, and despatched in 
detachments to hold the towns and villages which stood in the 
path of the commandos. And as for the regular troops, they 
threw themselves once more into the weary task of running 
down an enemy swifter than themselves, who promised infinite 
toil before he could be caught, and little honour in the catching. 
On January ist Sir H. Settle confessed his inabihty to con- 
fine the raiders to the north by moving his Headquarters down 
to Beaufort West, Next day Thomeycroft and de Lisle, having 
by great exertions followed Hertzog to Spioen Berg, east of 
WilUston, were obhged to leave him to seek supphes at the 
railway. Thus disencumbered, Hertzog turned due southward 
once more, and de Lisle and Thomeycroft were thrown hur- 
riedly into Fraserburg ; Sir C. Parsons, few of whose men had 
mounts, was ordered to follow. It was less likely, however, 
that Hertzog should trouble to surmount the difficult mountain 
ranges which intervened between him and Cape Town, than 
that he should turn them where they sank towards the western 
seaboard by ClanwiUiam and Piquetberg. This, indeed, if 
done earher, would have been a master-stroke, and it was not 
yet too late for the Boer to attempt it if he were really in earnest. 
Sir H, Settle, therefore, appreciating the fortunate trend of his Sir h. Settle 
communications, requested Sir F. W. Forestier-Walker at Cape (w Town, 
Town to send a garrison for ClanwiUiam by sea, whilst, in order 
to shut off the south, he railed portions of his own troops to 
Matjesfontein, whence he extended them westward, Bethune 
through Sutherland, and Henniker along the passes of the 



yq THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Roggeveld mountains, the natural outpost line of Cape Town. 
This last was a delicate manoeuvre, the result of which hung in 
the balance of moments, until Henniker, by an admirable forced 
march from the line had made all safe at the passes. Now, 
therefore, was presented the singular spectacle of one set of 
forces hurrying southward by train, another northward upon 
the ocean, converging towards the critical spot at a speed 
beyond the utmost capacity of their opponents. But Hertzog 
was as quick to perceive as Sir H. Settle to utilise the dangers of 
the narrowing angle. He continued to sidle westward, and on 
January 7th de Lisle was ordered to entrain for the south at 
Beaufort West, and to move on Clanwilliam by Piquetberg, 
which was held by a levy under Major H. J. Du Cane, R.A. 
As Hertzog's westerly movement became more pronounced, 
Bethune was railed southward to Touws River to follow de 
Lisle ; Lowe and Parke came down to Prince Albert Road ; 
Thomeycroft, still followed by Sir C. Parsons, from Fraserburg 
to Sutherland ; whilst at Matjesfontein, which Sir H. Settle 
now made his Headquarters, a mounted corps, called Kitchener's 
Fighting Scouts, was being raised under Colonel Colenbrander 
for the operations in the west. Henniker, with Du Cane on his 
left at Piquetberg, remained in the Roggeveld. By January 21st 
Hertzog found himself cut off from south and east by an ad- 
vancing semi-circle traced from Sutherland through Ceres, Tul- 
bagh, Piquetberg and Clanwilliam to the open sea itself, where 
H.M.S. Syhille, the true left flank of the British forces, was 
steaming up to Lamberts Bay. Hertzog immediately drew in 
his horns. Foraying amongst the farmsteads of Prieska, Ken- 
hardt and Calvinia, he had let slip the moment when he might 
even have outrun the railway, which had now placed an im- 
penetrable fence of colunms in his way. He checked his advance 
on the Doom river, and Sir H. Settle, whose chief anxiety up to 
now had been to save the colony from being overrun, saw that 
the tide had reached its height, and immediately assumed the 
offensive. 

On January 30th de Lisle and Colenbrander, supported by 
Bethune, were ordered to cross the Doom river and march on 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 71 

Van Rhyns Dorp and Calvinia, which were occupied on February 
6th. They found their advance unexpectedly easy. Hertzog, Hertzog fails 
making no pretence at resistance, fell back rapidly through Willis- 
ton, and thence past Carnarvon, which de Lisle reached on the 
i6th. But the Boer leader retired, not in alarm, but in hope ; 
his task in the west was completed, and he was now hastening 
to take his part in events of which his own incursion had been 
but the foreshadow. As he marched the chase grew weaker ; 
the same causes which drew him northward with equal urgency 
calling off his pursuers. More dangerous game than Hertzog 
was now afoot. 

Meanwhile, it will be remembered that by the end of Decem- 
ber Kritzinger had penetrated the eastern part of the colony as 
far as Middleburg. On January ist, 1901, when Colonel D. 
Haig arrived to take command of the four British columns, 
Kritzinger was moving southward on New Bethesda, and orders 
were issued for Lowe and Grenfell to be railed to Graaff Reinet 
to forestall him by operating northward. Shute's colunm 
accompanied them to garrison this, the kernel of Boer influence 
in the colony, and from this time forth the place was kept quiet, 
if not loyal, by that officer's administration. Kritzinger, how- 
ever, who was now marching fast, was first in the town, and on 
the 4th Haig disposed his forces so as to enclose him, Byng on 
the east in front of the Cradock border, Grenfell on the south 
between New Bethesda and Graaff Reinet, Lowe on the west, 
whilst W. H. Williams remained to hold the passes of the Sneeuw 
Bergen on each side of the lofty Compass Berg. This pressure Pursuit of 
was too much for Kritzinger, who on January 6th, finding him- '^"''•"s^''- 
self checked in all directions but the west, turned that way as 
Hertzog had done on the other side of the colony, and for greater 
safety divided his forces into two parts, one of which imder 
Commandant Scheepers moved on Richmond, the other, under 
his own leadership, on Murraysburg. Haig at once followed in 
pursuit, much hampered by the want of reliable information, 
always the chief difficulty of a commander in chase of separated 
forces. On the 13th Kritzinger and Scheepers reunited ten 
miles west of Murraysburg, only to move southward singly once 



72 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

more, the one by the Willowmore road, the other by that lead- 
ing to Aberdeen. Haig then sent Lowe round by rail to Prince 
Albert Road, and attempted to throw Byng and W. H. Williams 
between the Boer columns, Grenfell falling out to refit at Beaufort 
West. But the enemy was travelUng too rapidly to be caught ; 
on the i8th, Haig, reaching Willowmore, found the commandos 
still to the south of him, and with nothing between them and 
the coast. Mossel Bay, Knysna and all the coast townships 
were in a ferment, the first-named especially, for it was now 
an important supply dep6t for Haig's columns. The place had 
neither defenders, defences, nor transport until Captain W. L. 
Grant, R.N., arriving in H.M.S. Doris, by great energy succeeded 
in organising not only fencible forces, but a complete system of 
supply and communication with Haig. The subsequent appear- 
ance of H.M.S. Widgeon, which scouted beyond Plettenberg 
Bay, still further reassured the coast dwellers, who had given 
themselves up for lost. 

On January 19th Lowe, from Prince Albert, was at Klaar- 
stroom, watching, but by no means safeguarding, the approaches 
to Cape Town, whilst the Free Staters, again separating, sprayed 
outwards over the seaboard counties, Kritzinger towards 
Kritzinger Oudtshoom, Scheepers towards Uniondale. Haig, now for the 
first time favoured by the configuration of the ground, soon had 
them in difficulties. Blocking the Oudtshoom — Klaarstroom 
end of the OHfants River valley with the columns of Lowe and 
Grenfell, who had now rejoined, he despatched W. H. Wilhams 
to Uniondale, whilst he himself with Byng drove down the 
Olifants from the direction of Willowmore. Wilhams, entering 
Uniondale early on January 21st, all but put a summary end 
to Scheepers, whom he surprised at breakfast with his commando 
at the village inn. The Boers escaped, however, with the loss 
of four of their number. Haig's dispositions now had the effect 
of herding the enemy amongst the Kammenassie mountains, 
where, on January 24th, Haig proceeded to surround them 
by means of Lowe and Grenfell on the west, Williams from the 
north, B5mg from the east, a fifth column — a new organisation 
of 500 Colonial Defence forces imder Colonel G. F. Gorringe — 



near ihe coast. 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 73 

approaching from Steytlerville to co-operate. For two days 
Kritzinger lurked in the mountains, uncertain how to escape, 
for Haig's troops appeared to occupy every outlet. On January 
26th he made a dash for the west by Dysseldorp, but running into 
Grenfell, who had artfully changed the stations of his piquets 
after dark, he retired precipitately. An attempt to emerge in 
the opposite direction near Avontuur was similarly foiled by 
Major H. E. Gogarty, who had come on from Willowmore with a 
party of details, the Boers losing five killed and several wounded. 
But Kritzinger, seeing that he must break out or be lost, renewed 
his attempt at the same spot before dawn on the 28th, and 
favoured by the darkness slipped by Avontuur and made for 
Haarlem, closely pursued by Gogarty, and threatened in front 
by Gorringe, who was approaching from the east over the diffi- 
cult mountain ranges between Uniondale and Steytlerville. 
Kritzinger's commandos lost nine men in the resulting skir- 
mishes, and broke up into small bands, which, scattering north- 
ward, fled into the Baviaans Kloof mountains, a stronghold of 
gorges and precipices. 

Meanwhile Scheepers, instead of following his chief east- 
ward, had left him to attempt a break-back through Zuur- 
berg Poort towards Willowmore. The Groote Zwarte Bergen 
passages were here held by Parke's Yeomanry, whom Haig had 
especially cautioned to guard a certain footpath by which the 
enemy might escape. Scheepers' first attempt was frustrated, 
and he fell back in a somewhat perilous plight. He then heard 
that a party of Yeomanry was marching to block the footpath 
in question, which hitherto had been left unguarded. Knowing 
that his sole hope of safety rested on keeping this outlet open, 
he advanced towards the approaching troops with the intention 
of fighting. The Yeomanry, fifty in number, marching care- 
lessly without the proper scouts and flankers, were completely 
surprised, and after a brief resistance captured ; whereupon 
Scheepers, dashing for the footpath, got clear north of the Groote 
Zwarte Bergen. Now the Boer leaders, abandoning all idea of 
concerted action, made haste northward by widely different ^"'^l"p', 

J J turned back 

routes, Scheepers heading towards Beaufort West, Kritzinger in northward. 



74 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

the direction of Aberdeen. Grenfell, clinging closely to Scheepers, 
harried him through Amos Poort, and on February 9th was 
in front of him at Letjesbosch, on the railway. Grenfell was 
then ordered into Beaufort West for more urgent operations 
elsewhere, and Scheepers had a temporary respite. Kritzinger, 
hunted by Lowe, and raced by W. H. Williams on the railway, 
made for Swanepoerls Poort, where a vain attempt was made 
to entrap him, thence over the railway near Klipplaat (February' 
7th), and north-west, as if pointing on Murraysburg. On 
February loth he was at Been Kraal, amongst the headstreams 
of the Kariega river. Once more Haig reshuffled his cards, rail- 
ing Byng up from Willowmore to Aberdeen Road for Camdeboo, 
Gorringe from Uitenhage to Beaufort West for Murraysburg, 
Lowe to Graaff Reinet to forward supplies, whilst W. H. Williams 
was sent to beat up the Kariega River valley from its lower end. 
Byng's appearance at Camdeboo on the nth had the effect of 
deflecting Kritzinger north-eastward through Bassons Hoek 
to near Murraysburg, whence, given no rest, he circled towards 
Graaf! Reinet. On the i6th Byng pushed him hard, whilst 
Lowe coming from Graaff Reinet by way of Zuurpoort placed 
himself in front of the commandos. Thereupon Kritzinger, 
swinging rapidly westward and northward, hurried across the 
Sneeuw Bergen directly to Dassiefontein, south-east of Rich- 
mond. There on February 17th he found the pressure unex- 
pectedly eased by the withdrawal of three of the pursuing 
columns. The same urgent summons as had relieved Scheepers 
of Grenfell, and Hertzog of the attentions of de Lisle, Thomey- 
croft and all the columns in the west, now called Haig with 
Lowe, Byng and Williams to other parts of the colony. What 
that summons was Hertzog by this time knew, and Kritzinger 
News of De and Schccpcrs could surely guess. De Wet had crossed the 
Orange river ; he had been already a week within the colony, 
and the time had come for the consummation of the campaign 
in front of which the three Free State Commandants had scouted 
long and anxiously from the frontier down to the seaboards of 
the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, 

To the Boers, Transvaalers as well as Free Staters, great 



Wet 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 75 

events waited on the inroad of De Wet. Two months earlier 
Kritzinger had written that the Cape farmers were only waiting 
for the event to rise en masse* Assistant-Commandant-General 
J. C. Smuts, when on the eve of his temporary trimnphs at 
Modderfontein and against Cminingham in the Gatsrand,t 
promised to come with General Beyers and 2,000 men to 
aid an enterprise of which the fruits were to be a " general 
revolution and declaration of Independence of Cape Colony 
. . . the beginning, not only of the real independence of the 
Republics, but also the dehverance of the whole of South Africa 
and the union of our people into a great nation from Table Bay 
to the Equator. "J But his hopes would have soared, less high 
had he known that the Free State Chief had already lost his 
most trusted weapon, that of surprise. De Wet had indeed been 
less adroit than usual in retaining it. Lord Kitchener had 
suspected and fully prepared for his design from its earUest 
initiation in the interior of the Orange River Colony. The proba- 
bility of an effort to wipe out the memory of the rebuff from 
the Caledon had always been recognised. The unrest in the 
Smithfield and Rouxville districts, and the bold perseverance 
of Kritzinger and Hertzog in Cape Colony tended to confirm 
the cloud of rumours which invariably arose whenever the 
invasion of British soil was in the air. 

On January 22nd the Commander-in-Chief was warned that 
De Wet was on his way to join his commandos, the majority 
of which had been on furlough, at the Doomberg, north-east 
of Winburg. Next day the Free State leader, accompanied by 
President Steyn, crossed the railway near Holfontein Siding, 
and was traced on his way to the Doomberg, whereupon Major- 
General Bruce Hamilton at Kroonstad and Major-General C. E. 
Knox at Leeuw Kop were ordered to concentrate and engage 
him before he could organise his forces and set out for the south. 
The two British commanders arranged to attack the Doom- 

* Kritzinger to De Wet, December 22nd, 1900. 

t See Chapter VII. 

X Smuts to De Wet, January 20th and February loth, 1901. 



76 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Pursuit of De berg on the 28th ; but De Wet, who was watching as keenly 
the o^ge^ as he was watched, sHpped between the converging columns 
River Colony, on the night of the 27th, crossed the Winburg branch hne, and 
moved southward at full speed with more than 2,000 men under 
Commandants Froneman, Fourie and Haasbroek, two 15-pr. gims 
and a Vickers-Maxim. C. E. Knox, who was nearer than Bruce 
Hamilton, followed in pursuit at once with a twin command 
composed of forces imder Lieut.-Colonels T. D. Pilcher (Bedford- 
shire regiment) and C. P. Crewe (Border Horse), whilst Bruce 
Hamilton hurried into Winburg and Smaldeel, hoping to be 
able to throw his troops by train between the Boers and the 
Orange river. De Wet was travelling at a great pace ; but he 
was driving before him large flocks and herds, the food supplies 
for his intended campaign, and lingering to let these gain an 
offing, he allowed Knox to come up with his rearguard on the 
Tabaksberg, forty miles north of Thabanchu, on January 29th. 
Action on the The position was immensely strong, and Knox, sending Pilcher 
Jan. 29th, ' against the front, and Crewe with only 600 rifles and three 
*9oi- field guns around the Boer right flank, no less than ten miles 

distant to the eastward, found his divided forces, which would 
have been fully employed even if acting together, almost 
over-matched. Pilcher, attacking doggedly, made ground with 
difficulty all day against a delaying action, which was dangerous 
from the accuracy of the shrapnel burst by De Wet's artillery- 
men. By the evening, with a loss of fifteen killed and wounded, 
including two officers, he had sent the Boer rearguard after its 
main body, and occupied its ground. Crewe, isolated to the 
eastward, fared more hardly. His appearance on the flank 
endangered the enemy's line of retreat, but he was too weak to 
push his advantage, and could barely withstand the resistance 
which his threatening position brought against him. Indeed, 
only the fine conduct of his troops, especially of the Kaffrarian 
Rifles, preserved him from destruction, for he was outnumbered 
by three to one, and it was vital to De Wet to disable him. 
In a fierce attack made in the afternoon the Boers got so nearly 
home that they actually surrounded and captured in his fines 
a Vickers-Maxim gun which had jammed. Crewe was then 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 77 

practically surrounded; but seizing commanding ground in the 

very midst of the enemy he concealed his transport below it, 

and entrenched himself successfully, beating of? another heavy 

attack deUvered during the night. Altogether his casualties 

numbered thirty-five, making fifty in both columns. The 

enemy lost about the same number, but they had Crewe's gun, 

and had kept their southward road open. On January 30th 

De Wet, outpacing Knox and forestalling Bruce Hamilton, 

reached Israels Poort, whence, hearing of no body of British 

troops between himself and the frontier of Cape Colony, he raced 

on southward and disappeared. Lord Kitchener now saw that 

direct pursuit was fruitless, and that De Wet could only be 

headed upon the same swift steed that had outstripped Krit- 

zinger and Hertzog, the railway. Ordering well-nigh every body Preparations 

of troops in Cape Colony to the strategic points, and simimoning De wet's 

the columns of Paget and Plumer from far-distant Balmoral and ij^^ision of 

Brugspruit, he called in Bruce Hamilton and C. E. Knox to ° °"^" 

Bloemfontein, to entrain for BethuUe. He further withdrew all 

the township garrisons in the Smithfield and Rouxville districts, 

and transferred the forces which had been acting in those districts 

under Lieut.-Colonels E. B. Herbert and J. W. Hughes-Hallett 

from the right bank of the Orange to the left. Finally at Naauw- 

poort he concentrated a new mobile force, composed of the ist 

(King's) Dragoon Guards and two battalions (900 men) M.I., 

just landed from England, the Prince of Wales' Light Horse, 

3rd Dragoon Guards and G. battery R.H.A. The cavalry 

and horse artillery were formed into a brigade under Lieut.- 

Colonel E. C. Bethune ; two battalions of mounted infantry 

with four field guns into a fresh column imder Colonel T. E. 

Hickman (Worcestershire regiment). These and all other troops 

in Cape Colony were then placed under Lieut. -General the Hon. 

N. G. Lyttelton, who left the Pretoria — Komati Poort line of 

communications to take charge of the defence of Cape Colony 

against the oncoming Free State forces. 

Whilst all these measures were being prepared against him, 
De Wet, with singular lack of penetration or information, ac- 
quired confidence instead of suspicion from the sudden cessation 



78 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

of the pressure on his rear, and delayed his march upon the 
Orange. Not until February 4th were his scouts in observation 
of the river, which they found so strongly guarded on both sides 
of Norval's Pont that a passage there was out of the question. 
Thereupon De Wet, crossing the railway at Pompey Siding, struck 
westward, and was lost to sight at the very moment when close 
touch would have been most valuable. He cleverly obscured 
his intentions as well as his movements. Even when it was 
discovered that he was pointing directly upon Sand Drift, the 
passage by which Hertzog had entered the colony six weeks 
previously, the continued presence of strong commandos under 
Fourie, whom De Wet had purposely detached in the Rouxville 
district, rendered it by no means impossible that the real invasion 
was to be from that side, and the westward march nothing but 
a blind. Awaiting the resolution of these alternatives, and with 
insufficient troops for both, Lyttelton held his forces in readi- 
ness for either until, on February 8th, on which day Fourie 
followed his chief, Bruce Hamilton, reconnoitring north-eastward 
from the line of the Slik Spruit, found the coimtry clear. To 
the west, then, the crossing would probably be made. On 
February 9th C. E. Knox was ordered from Bethuhe to Philip- 
polis, Bruce Hamilton to follow from the Slik Spruit, and the 
troops in the colony were directed towards Sand Drift. 

On the nth Knox was at Philippolis, Bruce Hamilton at Priors 
Siding ; Plumer, passing through Colesberg, by a forced march 
reached Onverwacht, on the Seacow river. But these move- 
ments, admirably designed to shut in Sand Drift from both banks 
of the river, were two days too late. De Wet had thoroughly 
De Wet confused his opponents. On February loth whilst Army Head- 

Orange river quarters were telegraphing to Lyttelton that they still believed 
Feb. loth, that the crossing place would be between Bethulie and Aliwal, 
^^'' the Free State leader took all his forces across the Orange by 

Sand Drift. On the 12th Pilcher, from C. E. Knox's column, 
traversed the flooded drift far behind him, followed by Bruce 
Hamilton who, after crossing, turned from the direct pursuit 
of De Wet to hasten for an intercepting position to the south 
of him. Then Plumer, coming down the Seacow with Cradock 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 79 

and Jeffreys in extended line, encountered the heads of the 
invading commandos at Hamelfontein. This was a critical meet- 
ing, for all De Wet's hopes of penetrating into the interior of 
Cape Colony depended on his being neither delayed nor deflected 
at this moment. Plumer's problem, on the other side, was of 
the utmost nicety. To keep the invaders from the vitals of the 
colony he must not only turn them, but turn them westward. 
The enemy's left, in short, was the strategical flank, and Plumer, 
though he fully recognised this was fortunately served by 
subordinates able to anticipate his orders before they could be 
conveyed across the field. It happened that the enemy was first 
struck into by a reconnoitring squadron of the Imperial Light 
Horse, commanded by Captain G. T. M. Bridges, R.A. Had 
this party bungled in its tactics infinite harm might have resulted ; 
but the situation was as clear to Bridges as to his chief. He 
instantly sprang towards the proper flank and, establishing him- 
self in a defensive position, successfully clung to De Wet and 
warned him away from the east imtil Jeffreys' column, coming 
up, finally barred the south and east, and bent the hostile line 
of advance in the required direction. After a sharp skirmish, in De Wet is 
which six of Plumer's men were wounded, the Boers drew off ^j. ^"^ 
towards Phihpstown, whence another part of the Boer vanguard 
was beaten off by the small garrison, opportunely supported by 
Henniker's Coldstream Guards, after eleven hours' fighting. 

De Wet now began to have misgivings. The preparedness 
of his adversaries, and their swift recovery from the false scent 
about Bethulie took him by surprise. He had intended to have 
penetrated the colony in three separate divisions, but forced 
marches had much diminished both his strength and mobility ; 
he was already short of 600 men, many of the remainder 
went afoot ; there were hostile columns both before and behind 
him. He had been compelled already to abandon his southerly 
incursion ; but his enforced deflection might yet turn to his ad- 
vantage, for Hertzog was pressing to join him with 1,500 fresh 
horses, the fruits of his forays amongst the stud farms of the west. 
On February 13th he swung back to the Hondeblafs river, and 
laagered at De Put, north of Philipstown. Here late in the after- 



^ THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

noon he was unearthed by Plumer, who, drawing in his wings 
at Venter's Valley, had followed the trail closely from Hamel- 
fontein. Hastily mounting, the enemy retreated westward to 
Wolve Kuil, Pliuner, who was beset by a great thunderstorm, 
being compelled to call a halt at Leeuw Berg, after a march of 
thirty-four miles. The rain continued to fall ; all that night 
and the next both sides halted knee-deep in water. On the 
14th the Boers, anxious to give their convoy time to get away 
over the quaggy roads which led around the northern end 
of the Bas Berg, stood firmly on the strong position at 
Wolve Kuil. Plumer lost no time in attacking, and once 
more one of his officers, this time Cradock, on his own ini- 
tiative anticipated his wishes by faUing instantly and with 
vigour upon the Boer left, thus holding them up still to the 
westward. Contained in front by the King's Dragoon Guards 
and Imperial Light Horse, and turned by the 3rd Imperial 
Bushmen and New Zealand Mounted Rifles, after consider- 
able resistance, which cost Plumer fourteen casualties, the 
Boers followed their transport around the Bas Berg, pursuit 
being shortly foiled by another storm which laid the tracks 
two feet deep in mud. Meanwhile C. E. Knox, hampered by the 
same causes, had not yet reached Philipstown, Pilcher, who led 
his advance, being still six miles short of that place, which was 
entered on the 15th. Then Knox, learning how closely Plumer 
was pressing the commandos, judged that they would soon 
double southward, Bruce Hamilton had already made De Aar, 
and Knox took his own troops towards Hout Kraal, where an 
armoured train and a small column composed of a company 
of the 3rd Grenadier Guards, two guns and 150 mounted 
troops under Colonel E. Crabbe had already arrived, expecting 
to be joined by another vmder Henniker, which was on the 
march from Philipstown. These bodies had been hastily formed 
at De Aar by Sir H. Settle for the express purpose of clinging 
to De Wet until the regular columns should arrive. At 4.30 a.m. 
on the 15th, before either Knox or Henniker appeared on the 
scene, Crabbe discovered the Boers in the act of crossing the 
railway four miles north of Hout Kraal. De Wet had destroyed 



I 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 8i 

the track on either side of the crossing, and the armoured train, 
which promptly steamed towards the spot, could only shell the 
rear portion of the convoy, whilst Crabbe was too weak to do 
more than follow in observation. About noon he was joined 
by Plumer, whose march in pursuit of the commandos would have 
been rendered intolerable by the morasses had not these ex- 
hausting obstacles held so many derelict Boer wagons as to cheer 
his men with evidence that the enemy's case was worse than 
their own. More than twenty wagons, for the most part laden 
with flour and ammunition, lay embedded in the mud, to be 
joined soon by as many of Plumer's. The night's scurry from 
Wolve Kuil and Plumer had indeed reduced the Boers to an 
abject plight. It confirmed the suspicion which had already 
arisen in the minds of the majority of the burghers, that their 
trusted leader's sole triumph in Cape Colony was to be that 
over the floods of the Orange river, a victory which that un- 
certain stream might yet avenge. They were now without re- De Wet in 
serve ammunition or the certainty of supply ; horses and men 
were faihng as rapidly as their adversaries were increasing 
around them. General Fourie, who had remained behind to 
attempt to extricate the wagons before they fell into Plumer's 
hands, had disappeared. At this moment their adventure threw 
off the last rags of the disguise which "had begun to drop from 
it from the day of their entering the colony. Nor was there now 
any burgher so bUnd as to mistake this headlong flight for the 
hurry of invasion. Later on the 15th Henniker joined forces 
at Hout Kraal, after skirmishing his way through from Philips- 
town with a few casualties. Next day the chase was resumed. 
The enemy had pointed on Strydenburg, and Plumer, most of 
whose supphes were still fast in the bogs of the Bas Berg, pressed 
on that way to Brits Kraal, followed by Crabbe and Henniker 
as far as Pienaars Pan, whilst C. E. Knox pushed his leading 
troops through Hout Kraal to Rhenoster Vlakte. On the 17th 
De Wet fled northward, intending to strike for Prieska by one 
of the lower drifts of the Brak river. 

Whilst resting his weary forces at Gous Pan he was once 
more marked down by Plumer's efficient Intelligence Staff, 

VOL. IV. 6 



82 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

conducted by Captain B. Williams, R.E., who, fastening on the 
spoor, and guided more than all by the receipts for commandeered 
horses and provender which De Wet thoughtlessly left behind 
him at every farm, never lost touch with the enemy during 
300 miles of tortuous riding. A threat of attack sent the 
commandos on again, to be hunted as far as Geluks Poort, where 
their breaking up into various bands seemed to indicate a 
dissolution. But at this moment Plumer was compelled to caU a 
halt. He was absolutely destitute of supphes ; neither man 
nor horse had fed that day, the latter were almost immoveable 
from fatigue. He had nm himself to a standstill at the very 
brush of his exhausted quarry. However, a few carts came up 
during the night, and Crabbe and Henniker, who closed up from 
the rear, shared what scanty rations they had with Plumer's 
starving troops, who thought themselves fortunate at receiving 
one biscuit apiece, with five pounds of grain for their horses, 
after a succession of forced marches as severe and under con- 
ditions as trying as it is possible to conceive. On February 
i8th the three columns pushed on, tracking the commandos by a 
trail of foimdered horses through Elsjes Vlakte and Gras Vlakte 
to Krans Pan. There at 4 p.m. the troops once more came in 
sight of the game, just as their own force was spent and that 
of De Wet's men renewed by the brief rest which was the re- 
ward of their short but irreducible lead. De Wet, too, had 
made good a measure of his losses in horseflesh by vigorous 
requisitions, and this advantage he retained throughout by 
depleting the stables and paddocks close in front of his pursuers. 
Next day (February 19th) Plumer employed his last fragment 
of strength in struggling on to Zout Pan. Halting there, he col- 
lected the remaining crumbs of his supplies, and picking from 
the three columns imder his command the best mounted men, 
he despatched them, 230 in number under Major Vialls (3rd 
regiment AustraUan Bushmen), towards the banks of the 
Brak to endeavour after all to deny the passage to De 
Wet, or at least to keep him in sight. Vialls started at 
9.30 a.m. and bivouacked in the evening at Vrouw Pan, 
having reported to Plumer at i p.m. that the Boers were 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 83 

now heading south-west, that is, up the course of the 
Brak. To intercept this fresh direction seemed impossible, 
which indeed it was for Plimier. But C. E. Knox, accurately 
forecasting on the i8th De Wet's dash towards Prieska, 
and knowing that the Brak ran high, had thrown his own 
troops wide on Plumer's left flank in the hopes of placing 
them between De Wet and the river, which a few hours' fine 
weather would convert from a barrier to an outlet of escape. 
Three messengers whom he sent to Plumer, who was at 
that moment lying well-nigh exhausted at Krans Pan, were 
captured by the enemy's scouts ; but Knox, though completely 
out of touch with his colleague, persisted in his movement, was 
at Springbok Vlakte on the 19th, and next day at Khp Drift 
on the Brak river, thus denying to De Wet all but the lower and 
heavier waters of the Brak. Knox even contrived to send a 
strong patrol under Pilcher across the raging stream to demon- 
strate upon the other bank towards Karabee. On the 20th 
Plumer, bankrupt of every form of supply, was forced to fall 
back on Elsjes Vlakte, bitterly regretting that — so he thought — 
he must yield the drifts of the Brak to a quarry who had so barely 
outstayed him. But Knox's tactics fully counterpoised the 
enforced abandonment of the direct pursuit. On the day of his 
appearance at Klip Drift De Wet arrived on the banks of the 
Brak some ten miles above its confluence with the Orange, 
and sought eagerly for a practicable drift. But the Brak was 
a torrent, "its great waves roaring like a tempestuous sea,"* DeWet foiled 
and it would have been less foolhardy to brave the troops of '^^ ^^^ ^^^^ 
Knox, whose approach was now reported, than the whirlpools 
of the swollen river. De Wet, however, had hopes of en- 
countering neither. One way of escape still remained, if indeed 
that could be called escape which exchanged one peril for anothe r, 
a way so hazardous that De Wet, before he threw the dice, 
thought proper to submit the chances to Mr. Steyn. This was 
to double back eastward, past the right flanks of Vialls at Vrouw 
Pan and Plumer at Elsjes Vlakte, and to dash for the Orange river 

» "Three Years War," by C. R. De Wet, 1902. 
VOL. IV. 6* 



river. 



84 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

below Hopetovvn, trusting that the main stream might have 
fallen. The plan teemed with dangers. To be discovered meant 
to be hemmed in between two rivers at present impassable ; 
and even if undetected the Orange might remain in flood, when 
nothing but a miracle could deliver him. The first throw fell 
well. Taking advantage of a night of intense darkness, De Wet 
led his burghers, many of them dismounted, down a broad de- 
De Wet pression which sheltered him from Vialls' outposts, and striking 

w^rd.^^^^' north-eastward was abreast of Plumer by dawn on February 
2ist. By this time Vialls had discovered the evasion, and 
Plumer, receiving his report, hastily threw Crabbe and Henniker 
in the direction of the Leeuw Berg. C. E. Knox, it should 
be mentioned, had also anticipated this last shift of De Wet, 
and had done his best to close the gap between Plumer and the 
railway by ordering the Kimberley column, which was marching 
westward from Hope town, under Major Paris, to halt between 
that place and Geluks Poort. Then Knox himself, learning the 
news, began to move north-eastward towards Zout Pan, whilst 
Bruce Hamilton, who was at this moment driving another band 
of Boers from Beer Vlei towards Knox, deflected his columns 
instead towards Strydenburg. De Wet was thus shut into the 
great loop of the Orange, where it receives the Vaal, by a semi- 
circle of troops curving from the confluence of the Brak river 
through Bhnk Kop to Hopetown, whilst Plumer, Crabbe and 
Henniker, who were hurrying up by different routes to Welgevon- 
den, were close upon him. Still closer, though De Wet did not 
know it, was a party of Queensland Imperial Bushmen, whom 
Vialls had despatched from the Brak to keep contact with the 
commandos. These men, in spite of the difficulty of subsistence 
— for they carried no supplies and were directly in the wake 
of an enemy who left the farms bare — never lost the trail from 
beginning to end of the chase, and their feat was only robbed 
of its full value by the difficulty of transmitting news to Plumer. 
For De Wet all depended on the mood of the Orange river. 
The frontier stream proved to be in league with the waters of 
the Brak against their common violator. The Orange, although 
faUing, was still impassable. De Wet turned upstream, trying 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 85 

every yard foi' a practicable crossing, only to find each drift a Finds the 
cataract. At the entry of the Vaal river the ferry punts, which J^^^bie 
ordinarily were moored there, were found to be destroyed. The 
report that a boat had been discovered some miles higher up 
sent the despairing commandos cantering in that direction ; and 
though the boat proved to be a mere wherry it was joyfully 
hailed as a means of escape from the dreaded colony. By 
the evening of February 21st 200 burghers had been trans- 
ported over the river by this means, a few more in their eager- 
ness crossing by swimming. The rest bivouacked at nightfall 
on the left bank, awaiting daylight to enable them to follow 
their envied comrades. But dawn brought news of Plumer's 
near approach, and De Wet hurried on to De Kalk, where he 
off-saddled and halted to draw breath. Here Plumer, who 
had marched in the dark from Welgevonden, discovered him 
about 10 a.m. and rushing upon him with all the force his 
wearied troops could muster, threw him in utter confusion past 
Kameel Drift, Slyp Steen and Dooters Kraal, the Boers scatter- 
ing in all directions. At Slyp Steen Plumer was informed 
about 3.30 p.m. that De Wet's guns were close ahead, with 
beaten animals. The troop-horses were all but exhausted, but 
a mixed party of his own and Henniker's men, consisting of the 
King's Dragoon Guards, Victorian Imperial Bushmen, and 
Imperial Light Horse, pushed on, led by Colonel Mostyn Owen 
and Henniker's staff officer. Captain R. J. Marker (Coldstream 
Guards). After a three hours' chase, which foundered most of Capture of 
the horses, the two pieces of artillery, a 15-pr. and a Vickers- ?,ns^** 
Maxim, were sighted on the road at Disselfontein, surrounded 
by burghers who, thinking that they had outrun pursuit, were 
preparing to bivouac. Every Boer immediately galloped in 
panic from the less than half a dozen troopers with Marker 
who had been able to urge their horses to the spot. By night- 
fall, when Plumer ordered a halt at Disselfontein, besides the 
guns and two ammimition carts, 102 burghers were prisoners, 
an unlooked-for celebration of the anniversary, the forty-seventh, 
of the foundation of their native State. Meanwhile, little more 
fortunate, De Wet and the rest struggled on upstream, hoping, 



86 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

but scarcely expecting, to be able to double by the west of Hope- 
town and strike across the railway below the town towards 
Petrusville. But De Wet's rapid countermarch from the Brak 
river had actually saved him, by bringing the pursuit closer 
on his heels. When it had become certain that De Wet, foiled 
at the Pont, at Mark's Drift and every other drift within the 
angle of the Vaal confluence, was pushing south-east up the left 
bank of the Orange, it became of the first importance to inter- 
cept as well as press him. Pursuit alone, the hotter it was made, 
could but tend to drive him the faster out of the imprisoning 
angle towards an outlet only partially filled by Paris at Geluks 
Poort. Plumer, of course, could not abandon the direct pursuit. 
It was his incessant harrying alone which had turned De Wet's 
retreat into a rout. At any moment he might run the Boer down, 
and he knew too well the danger of relaxing even for an hour 
the pressure on so elusive a quarry. It was for the commanders 
in rear to provide the " stops," and one of these was prompt to 
recognise the emergency. Henniker, marching northward from 
Verlaten Dam upon Welgevonden, had perceived the advantage 
to be gained by a change of direction ; but though permission 
to turn eastward was given as soon as asked, it came too late. 
De Wet indeed had escaped but narrowly at De Kalk and Dissel- 
fontein ; but he asked no more ; he could at least run as fast 
as his pursuers could follow. As he approached Hopetown he 
learned that Paris' column extended between that place and 
Middelplaats. The discovery little dashed his rising hopes of 
safety. Paris' column was small, and alone. A rapid night 
ride would carry him around its flank with less risk than that 
which had led him past Plumer' s associated columns at Wel- 
gevonden. De Wet's chief anxiety was for his dismounted 
men, of whom he was now hampered by many. These it was 
impossible to take with him on a march so fast and far as that 
which lay before him. He therefore detached this unhappy 
band under Commandant Haasbroek, and bade them strike 
by a short cross road for the banks of the Orange, where they 
must trust to fate for a crossing. Then with the rest he rode 
all night clear around Paris, passing outside, that is, to the 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 87 

westward of him, until, having got well to the south of Hope- DeWet 
town, he turned sharply eastward and broke across the railway Hopetown. 
above Kraankuil at 11,30 on the morning of February 24th. 

Meanwhile Bruce Hamilton, by hard marching, had reached 
Strydenburg. At De Aar he had received orders from the Com- 
mander-in-Chief to block the west and south ; and moving up 
the Ongers river about Houwater he had been in touch since 
February 21st with a strong commando, evidently not that of 
De Wet, which he had chased northward through Beer Vlei, 
until, as described, the movements both of his own quarry and of 
De Wet himself turned him towards Strydenburg. Bruce 
Hamilton soon discovered that he was on the heels of no less Reappearance 
a personage than Hertzog, then hurrying from the raided western ° ertzog. 
counties to join his chief. On the evening of the 23rd Hertzog 
was still in front of Hamilton, travelling north-eastward with 
the evident intention of effecting a junction with De Wet above 
Hopetown ; but, turned, as De Wet had been, by the troops at 
Middelplaats, he swimg eastward instead, and darted in two 
bands for the railway. Bruce Hamilton, who was in Stryden- 
burg early on the 24th, thus found the pursuit of both the Free 
State leaders temporarily in his hands alone. For the moment 
Plumer and C. E. Knox, both beyond Hopetown, were out of the 
chase. Only Paris, turning rapidly southward from his now 
useless Middelplaats — Hopetown line, was following the stragglers 
of De Wet's broken bands north of the Elands Berg. Lyttelton 
had already, on the 23rd, ordered Thomeycroft, who had been 
left in a watching position further down the line, to entrain at 
De Aar for the north, to attempt to intercept De Wet wherever 
he should strike the line. With the rest of his troops he made 
after Hertzog's divided commando, which he was unable to 
prevent from crossing the railway at Paauwpan and Potfontein. 
Thomeycroft went very near to better fortune. At 10.30 a.m., 
an hour before De Wet began to cross above him, his trains 
arrived at Kraankuil ; but the station was so congested with 
transport trains that Thomeycroft did well to get his coliuim 
on the march by 2 p.m., when he hurried after De Wet to Bak- 
oven Pan. Next day, Febmary 25th, he pressed on the trail 



88 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

towards Zoutpans Drift, to leam that De Wet had turned from 
that impracticable passage towards Petrusville. Thomeycroft 
heard also of Hertzog's approach from across the railway, in 
strength reported as 1,500 men. Whilst he continued the pur- 
suit up the Orange, Plumer and C. E. Knox marched into Hope- 
town, Crabbe and Henniker into Kraankuil, and a newly arrived 
column, under Hickman from Hout Kraal, to Philipstown. 
Of these Knox alone received some compensation for the 
enormous and apparently wasted exertions of the past ten 
days. News having been brought to him that Haasbroek's 
horseless unfortunates were engaged in stealing across the Orange 
by means of a small boat below Hopetown, Knox despatched 
thither the Scottish Yeomanry. Although the majority of the 
fugitives had crossed when the troops arrived, they secured thirty- 
seven burghers, killed ten, and were only prevented from doing 
greater damage by the jamming of the Maxim gun. 

Meanwhile, the commandos flying with De Wet were under- 
going every vicissitude of hope and fear. The cheering effect 
of the successful passage of the railway was brief enough. The 

The Orange Orange was still inexorable ; it ran even higher than before ; 

abie.""^'*^" Zoutpans Drift was impassable ; Bosjesman's Drift, Vissers 
Drift, Lemoenfontein Drift, by Petrusville, were the same, and 
Thomeycroft chased the fugitives furiously through that town. 
A still greater danger than the direct pursuit was the column of 
Hickman, which was coming up on the flank from Philipstown ; 
but from this the Boers were deUvered by an error of tactics 
on the part of their opponents. Hickman had rightly intended 
to march straight on Sand Drift, where he might well have 
anticipated the commandos. Instead, he received an order to 
go to Petrusville, which would bring him in touch with Crabbe 
and Henniker, but must inevitably place him behind instead 
of before De Wet. As he reached De Put Hickman discovered 
the Free Staters hurrying out of Petrusville across his front 
eight miles ahead. He immediately dashed for the mouth of 
the Hondeblafs river ; but he was too late ; the enemy was 
already to the south of him. Meanwhile, Crabbe and Henniker 
reached Kalkfontein, Thomeycroft halting outside Petrusville. 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 89 

Lyttelton now rested upon the railway, the last expectation of 
heading De Wet, and he ordered Plrnner to entrain for Coles- 
berg, where Byng, from Haig's command, was about to detrain 
whilst W. H. Wilhams and Lowe, from the same force, had • 
been railed to Hanover Road, with orders to advance on Philips- 
town. With the Boers every hope centred on Sand Drift and 
many a prayer went up that the gateway which had ushered 
the commandos in to the conquest of Cape Colony should now 
let the remnants of them out to save themselves from destruction. 
But here, too, the water covered man and horse, and the two 
burghers who tested the crossing for the rest aU but lost their 
lives. As De Wet, his hopes nearly extinguished, turned once Union of De 
more upstream, he was joined at last by Hertzog and Brand with ^^^ »"d 
all their burghers; with them came Fourie. last seen below the ""''"^• 
Bas Berg. Such a union, effected in the very midst of encircling 
columns, and in the course of a disastrous flight, constituted a 
tactical feat as wonderful as it was now useless. Hertzog's 
reward for his bold entry into the zone of peril could only be 
to share the confusion and perhaps the capture of his general 
On February 27th the British cordon began to tighten round 
both, though the converging movements were much retarded 
m the case of some of the columns by delays in the railway 
arrangements, of others by the length of the marches and the 
severe storms which ruined the marching. The neglect to post 
signallers on Coles Kop, whose lofty summit became visible to 
every column in turn, further militated against speedy com- 
munication and transmission of orders and information On 
this day Hickman was in closest touch with the enemy whom 
he might have shut in had the line of the Seacow been held in 
time. On the 28th Byng was about De Eerste Poort, intending 
to throw his right to the Orange at Twyfel Poort, his left towards 
Karee Kml, where Lowe and Williams would link him with 
Hickman at Venters Valley. On Hickman's left at Riet Valley 
was Thomeycroft, coming down to close the Hartzen Berg 
from Kattegat, Crabbe and Henniker at Elands Kloof beyond 
completing the circle to the river. Plumer was hastening up 
from Colesberg ; Paris, who since the 24th had been on the trail 



90 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

of a wandering party in the direction of Britstown, was ap- 
proaching Venter's Valley from Kraankuil. These movements, 
improvised by consultation between the various commanders 
during the morning of the 28th, were in progress when they were 
suddenly interrupted, about 2 p.m., by the news that De Wet 
had already crossed the Seacow river opposite Goede Hoep, 
and was two hours on his south-eastward way. Byng, who was 
at that time about Weltevreden, immediately threw his flankers 
out to Bastards Nek — Rietfontein Ridge, following with his main 
body to Ortlepp's Request, marching forty-five miles during 
the day in the endeavour to get to the Orange at Colesberg 
Bridge before De Wet. But his efforts were in vain. A long 
night march had carried De Wet across the front of the columns, 
and on to the bank of the Orange at LeHefontein, close to Coles- 
berg Bridge. Here was a drift, the fifteenth which he had 
sounded during his flight, but one so Uttle known and used that 
there seemed small chance of its proving the prayed-for means of 
De Wet salvation. With intense anxiety the burghers watched the pro- 

fhTSTi^e*^ gress of the few whom De Wet ordered to essay the passage, 
mrer, Feb. -pj^g Stream Still ran high ; it washed over the saddles ; but just 
as a cry of despair went up over yet another failure, the horses 
floundered into shallow water and emerged on the other side. 
" Soon," wrote the Free State leader in after days, " the river 
was one mass of men from bank to bank."* Thus, with psalms 
of thankfulness for their deUverance, the broken rabble rushed 
from the territory into which, a Uttle more than a fortnight 
before, they had ridden to conquer. Their campaign had been 
but one headlong flight ; abandoned guns, horses, transport, 
and prisoners marked their track. Their reputation amongst 
their adherents in Cape Colony had fallen as low as their con- 
fidence in themselves. That they, who had lost everything 
else, still retained their trust in their leader was on this occasion 
at least more to the credit of his irresistible personality than 
to any display of skill. De Wet's invasion had been guided 
by little of the tactical genius which had led, and was again 

* " Three Years War," by C. R. De Wet. 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 91 

to lead, to successes which made his name famous. Truly 
once on the left bank of the Orange he was guiltless of the mis- 
fortunes of his burghers. There he was crushed by superior 
numbers, worn down by men as inexhaustible as himself, warred 
agamst by the rivers, until his mere escape from such odds 
seemed a miUtary miracle. His error lay rather in the initial 
strategy of his campaign; in the advertisement of his intentions 
by the despatch of Kritzinger and Hertzog in advance; by the 
delay m supportmg his forerunners until his opponents had 
ample time ahke to comprehend the warning, to reduce his 
detachments to impotence, and to prepare for himself. His own 
undisguised and dilatory march from the Doomberg had but 
intensified the rashness of his passage of the Orange. Not for 
one moment had Cape Colony been in danger; and if the exer- 
tions of the British columns in pursuit of him had been almost 
superhuman, it was rather in the fervent hope of capturing his 
person, the highest prize in aU South Africa, than of foiling 
lus campaign, the futihty of which had been apparent from 
the first. 



92 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 



December, 1900 — February. 
1901. 

Maj.-Gen. Sir H. MacDonald 
Lt.-Col. H. M. Grenfell 
Lt.-Col. G. F. Gorringe 
Lt.-Col. E. B. Herbert 
Col. Sir C. Parsons 
Lt.-Col. A. W. Thomeycroft 
Lt.-Col. R. K. Parke 
Lt.-Col. the Hon. J. H. C 

Byng 

Col. E. C. Bethune . , 
Lt.-Col. W. H. Williams . 
Lt.-Col. H. de B. de Lisle 
Lt.-Col. W. H. M. Lowe . 
Col. A. A. Garstin . . 
Maj. H. G. D. Shute 
Lt.-Col. E. M. S. Crabbe . 
Lt.-Col. the Hon. A. H 

Henniker . . 
Maj. H. J. Du Cane 
Maj. H. E. Gogarty 
Lt.-Col. T. D. Pilcher 
Lt.-Col. C. P. Crewe 
Maj.-Gen. B. Hamilton 
Col. S. C. H. Monro 
Maj.-Gen. A. H. Paget 
Col. H. B. Jeffreys . . 
Lt.-Col. M. Cradock 
Lt.-Col. J.W.Hughes-Hallett 
Col. T. E. Hickman 
Maj. A. Paris 



140 
450 
SCO 
380 

195 
SCO 
500 

380 
130 
340 

639 
400 
200 
200 
122 

220 
220 
640 
1.070 
640 
400 
320 
100 
455 
503 
25 
880 
326 





tew 


1 




« fi 


a 


i^ 


^1 


p 



s 

i 




V 

a 


l-l 


si 


u 




5? 


S 


500 


2 

3 


I 


640 


I 
2 


2 


320 


2 


— 


ISO 


5 


I 


— 


3 

2 

3 


6 


3 


3 


— 


— 


2 


I 


300 


2 


I 


3SO 


2 


I 


360 


2 


I 


640 


2 


2 


300 


2 
I 

7 


— 


82 


2 


— 


4 


2 


— 


7 


2 


480 


2 


— 


2,200 


4 
g 


3 





2 


2 


385 


2 
5 
3 


I 


176 


— 



I Maj.-Gen. C. E. Knox 
i in command. 



I Brig.-Gen. H. C. O. 
f Plumer in command. 



93 



CHAPTER V. 

EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 

{Continued from Chapter III.).* 

FEBRUARY — JUNE, IQOI. 

On February loth, his pinions already considerably shorn. 
De Wet passed out of his native country to begin that feverish 
rush of seventeen days over the northern portion of Cape Colony 
described in the previous chapter. His departure left to the 
Orange River Colony an interlude of comparative quiet. Only 
B. Campbell and Colonel G. E. Harley (who succeeded the 
invalided Boyes) manoeuvred about Harrismith, whilst small 
columns, under Major W. G. Massy. Lieut.-Colonel E. C. Ingouville 
WiUiams and Major J. E. Pine-Coffin, revolved about Bloemfon- 
tein. Heilbron and the Doomberg under the auspices of Lieut.- 
General C. Tucker, the commander of the lines of commimication. 
Amongst other successful performances Williams withdrew the 
garrisons and inhabitants of Frankfort and Ventersburg, the 
latter after a sharp engagement which cost eleven casualties. 
But the peace was short-lived. On the last day of February 
De Wet brought with him in his leap back to his own side of the 
Orange a dozen columns and a very whirl of activity. The 
operations at once resolved themselves into two distinct 
portions, i.e., those to the east and west of the Bloemfontein 
railway. The latter, as being concerned with the immediate 
pursuit of De Wet. will be first dealt with. 

On the day after De Wet's passage at Leliefontein. Plumer, Pursuit of 
whose columns were in Paget's command, crossed the Orange in Jj^nu^" *'°"' 
pursuit at Norval's Pont ; C. E. Knox, Pilcher and Lieut.-Colonel 

* See map No. 64. 



94 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

C. P. Crewe and Lieut. -Colonel E. C. Bethune crossed at Orange 
River Bridge, the first being thus immediately behind the fugi- 
tive, the others upon his left (western) flank. Plumer earnestly 
desired to find himself at Springfontein, whence it would be pos- 
sible to throw himself into Philippolis and across the front of the 
commandos. Indeed, had his plans been carried out, he would 
now, even at this eleventh hour, most surely have cut De Wet 
off from the north, and perhaps have brought about his ruin. 
Plumer's two columns. Colonel H. B. Jeffreys' and Lieut.-Colonel 
M. Cradock's, had been entrained at Hopetown in three parties, 
the first comprising Jeffreys, the second Cradock, the third 
Plumer himself and his staff. All were on the rails in excellent 
time to be carried across the river past De Wet to Springfontein. 
But on arriving at Colesberg Plumer foimd to his chagrin that 
Jeffreys had been ordered to detrain at that place ; his trains 
blocked the way of Cradock's and the rest, and much invaluable 
time was lost before the troops could be again sent on their 
way. Not until late on March ist was Plumer in Springfontein, 
whence he hurried across to Philippolis, only to learn that De Wet 
had already passed on his way to Fauresmith, parting with 
Hertzog, whom he had deflected with 500 men towards Luckhoff. 
Paget, who had accompanied Plumer's colunms, then returned 
to Springfontein, after sending orders to Massy, who happened 
to be well placed to the west of Edenburg to be on the alert 
to act as a " stop." Plumer, continuing the pursuit northward, 
made forced marches to Zuurfontein (March 4th) and Faure- 
smith (5th), but by no exertions could he gain upon De Wet, 
who, putting forth equal efforts, kept from eighteen to twenty 
hours ahead. Nor could Plumer gain touch with any friendly 
column imtil, having crossed the Riet river at Kalabas Drift, 
he came in signalling communication with Bethune on his left 
late on the night of March 5th. Bethune had crossed at Orange 
River Bridge on the ist, and had only made less speed than 
Plumer because of the necessity of dealing with the strong flank 
guards which De Wet threw out as he posted northward. One 
of these, nearly 1,000 strong, he all but brought to action at 
Openbaar on the 4th and 5th, and a small wagon laager fell 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 95 

into his hands. Both columns then pushed for the Modder 
nver, which Plumer reached at Abrahams Kraal on the 7th. 
when Bethune entered Petnisburg behind him. The news of 
De Wet was for once authentic, but the reverse of encouraging. 
He was still eighteen hours ahead of the columns, a lead which 
there was now Httle hope of reducing, for Plumer was obliged 
to halt a whole day for suppUes. When Plumer reached 
Hagenstadt on March loth. De Wet had not only doubled his 
former advantage, but had practically thrown out the chase by 
turning eastward and breaking across the railway nine miles 
north of Brandfort. Plumer foUowed to Brandfort on the nth, 
his last hopes of coming to terms with De Wet being there ex- 
tinguished by torrential rains, which stopped all progress on 
the i2th. Giving up the pursuit he went into Winburg on the 
15th. and four days later entrained his column for Pietersburg, 
having thus, in the course of a single month, performed arduous 
service in the remotest extremities of the theatre of war. His 
subsequent operations in the Northern Transvaal are elsewhere 
described.* At this time Major-General A. H. Paget returned 
to England. 

Bethune found Petnisburg infested with the enemy, even 
before the last of Plumer's troops had quitted it. A party of 
thirteen men of Plumer's force, who had been left in charge 
of some empty wagons, had already been attacked, and when 
Bethune entered the place he found them disarmed, having been 
captured and released in the brief interval between Plumer's 
departure and his own appearance. When next day (8th) 
Bethune marched on for Abrahams Kraal, he left an ambuscade 
in Petrusburg ; but the Boer patrols which entered the town 
behind his rearguard were saved by the discharge of a prema- 
ture shot. The enemy, in short, appeared to be on every side. 
A convoy of empty wagons which Bethune despatched towards 
Bloemfontein was heavily attacked on this day, and only ex- 
tricated by the prompt arrival of reinforcements from the 
column. On March 13th Bethune entered Bloemfontein, where 
he remained awaiting orders. 

» See Chapter VIII. 



h 



96 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

The ubiquity of these small commandos was not at once 
to be accounted for. As he had done after his first rebufi from 
De Wet again Cape Colony in December, De Wet had sought safety in dis- 
for^"^ *"^ persion, sphtting his force into no less than twenty imits, each 
of which, under its own Field-Comet, repaired towards its local 
habitation, skirmishing with whomsoever it met on the way. 
Thus every column engaged in driving northward was surprised 
to fall in with bands which seemed to have httle connection 
with De Wet's supposed general retirement. C. E. Knox, 
crossing the Orange on March 4th with Pilcher and Crewe, 
and marching by Ramah and Koffyfontein, found the enemy 
on the 8th at Venter's Poort, where one of Pilcher's patrols, 
advancing too far to the front, was lost, three being kiUed, five 
wounded, the rest, numbering nine men and an officer, captured. 
Next day Crewe, who was marching apart from Pilcher, ran 
down near Olievenberg, to the south of. the Bloemfontein — 
Petrusburg road, a convoy belonging to the Petrusburg com- 
mando, which Uke the rest was returning to its own district. 
After a chase of sixteen miles Crewe secured the whole, con- 
sisting of twenty-one vehicles, and some 11,000 head of stock ; 
but he soon had to fight hard to hold his capture. At 4 p.m. 
a strong body made desperate efforts to retake their supphes 
at Driekop, and were only driven off at dark. This, it will 
be seen, occurred within a few miles and hours of the passage 
of Plmner and Bethune. On March nth C. E. Knox entered 
Bloemfontein, where Crewe left him to take part in the opera- 
tions in Cape Colony. There remained but one column engaged 
in the pursuit on the west of the railway, namely, that of Colonel 
D. Haig, which had crossed the Orange from Nerval's Pont 
three days later than Plumer. Haig made for Philippolis, and 
De Wet being now hopelessly out of reach, he turned instead 
upon Hertzog, whom he pushed in the direction of Luckhoff. 
Haig was then called in to the fine, and moving by Fauresmith 
and Jagersfontein, reached Edenburg on March loth. 

Meanwhile, on the east of the railway, Lieut. -General the 
Hon. N. G. Lyttelton had been organising an operation of a 
more coherent nature than the improvised scurry after De Wet 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 97 

on the western side. This was a " drive " on a broad front from 
the Orange river to the Bloemfontein — Thabanchu — Basutoland 
line of posts, which was reinforced by Harley's (late Boyes') 
column from Sir L. Rundle's command. For this purpose 
Lyttelton took under his control the three columns (Lieut.- 
Colonels Monro, Maxwell and White) of Bruce Hamilton's com- 
mand at Ahwal North, Colonel T. E. Hickman's column at 
Bethulie, Haig's at Edenburg, and that of Thomeycroft, who, 
having crossed the river at Norval's Pont on March 6th, was at 
Springfontein on the 9th. On March loth Lyttelton began his 
advance, and for the next ten days the array rolled slowly 
northward, hampered at every mile by enfeebled oxen and 
tracks axle-deep in mud, and by an ever-increasing mob of 
captured cattle. The enemy's bands scattered in all directions, 
but few fell victims, for the enclosing lines were by no means 
so impenetrable as had been hoped. First Hickman, then 
Thomeycroft and finally Bethune fell in on the left of the hne 
as it progressed, whilst Pilcher placed himself by Harley's side 
at Hout Nek to act as a " stop." On March 20th the operation 
closed at the defended hne with seventy prisoners, 4,300 horses 
and an enormous mass of stock to its credit. 

The columns then dispersed in accordance with a redis- 
tribution of commands which had recently taken effect in the 
Orange River Colony. Bethune, clearing the country by Win- 
burg and Ventersburg, repaired to Kroonstad on April 2nd. 
There he came under command of Major-General E. L. Elliot, Distribution 
who, having recently arrived in South Africa from India, had S'ntheoTangc 
been allotted the northern section of the province down to J^'^cr Colony, 
the hne Bultfontein — Winburg — Ficksburg and west of Frank- 
fort — Reitz — Bethlehem, beyond which Sir L. Rundle retained 
his jurisdiction. Thomeycroft marched into Bloemfontein on 
March 19th, thence on the 26th to Brandfort, replacing now the 
departed Crewe as a unit of C. E. Knox's sphere, which on the 
north marched with that of EUiot, and on the south terminated 
along the hne Petrusburg — Thabanchu — Ladybrand. South of 
this Lyttelton commanded down to the Orange river, Haig 
proceeding to Commissie Drift on the Caledon river to strengthen 

VOL. IV. 7 



98 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

the watch on the frontiers of Cape Colony. Finally, Bruce 
Hamilton, with Hickman's in addition to his own three columns, 
after commencing a fresh sweep from the Basuto border towards 
Wepener and Dewetsdorp, was ordered to concentrate south- 
ward to intercept an expected northerly movement on the part 
of the invaders of Cape Colony, where Kritzinger especially 
seemed about to be hustled back across the Orange river.* 
On the last day of March Bruce Hamilton had all his columns 
in and about Springfontein. 

The various manoeuvres recorded above were not made 
without an immensity of labour and incident, which were not 
always commensurate with the damage inflicted on the enemy's 
fighting strength. Now, as long after, the columns, passing 
through almost virgin tracts of hostile territory, had strict orders 
to clear the country wherever they moved ; and often a com- 
mander, when in not too promising pursuit of some body of 
the enemy, found himself in doubt as to whether he should 
not turn from the possibly fruitless chase to the certain profit 
to be gained from the teeming flocks and herds, the spreading 
crops, and the well-garnished farmhouses which surrounded 
him. The decision of leaders in such situations will commonly 
be in favour of the enemy, who would probably in any case 
escape, and against the stock and produce which cannot. There 
will be few willing to risk the verdict of failure which will be 
incurred by one whose very zeal after the foe brings him into his 
base with nothing to his credit, neither prisoners, nor herds, 
beasts and tons of farm stuffs. The duties of pursuit and 
clearance are always widely separated ; they are actually anti- 
pathetic when fugitives so mobile and resourceful as Boer com- 
mandos lead the chase. The failure resulting from the attempt 
to compass both ends, and the delusive gains of a sole devotion 
to the less important aim were alike seen too often during 
the campaign in South Africa to be omitted from its history. 

Massy and E. C. Ingouville Williams, their duty of block- 
ading De Wet on the west of the railway ended by the 

* See Chapter X. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 99 

Boer leader's disappearance eastward, recrossed the line on 
March 24th and, combined as one column under Williams, 
successfully swept up the neighbourhood of Heilbron imtil 
the middle of April. Similar duties about Ficksburg, Tha- 
banchu and Vrede, the last of which was now completely 
evacuated,* occupied the mobile portion of Sir L. Rundle's 
Harrismith command, namely, the columns of B. Campbell 
and Harley ; Pilcher, from Bloemfontein, co-operating with 
Harley in the more westerly operations. Finally, to com- 
plete the account of March, the doings of Major A. Paris' 
Kimberley column must be briefly mentioned. After playing 
his part in the pursuit of De Wet in Cape Colony, Paris 
had returned to his own district, reaching Kimberley on March 
12th. From the 26th he raided between the railway at Boshof, 
continually and sometimes heavily engaged with bands found at 
Doombult, Raadel, Kameelfontein and the adjacent farms. 
All of these he dispersed with the loss to his own force of six 
killed and a few wounded, and on April 2nd returned to Kim- 
berley with 9,000 head of stock, having taken or destroyed 
some forty vehicles besides and a large amount of foodstuffs. 

The early days of April, 1901, were spent by the troops in 
the Orange River Colony in refitting and reorganising in accord- 
ance with the scheme of redistribution above detailed. Their 
greatest need, however, at this time was certainly that of a definite 
object. De Wet's wholesale dissemination of his army had 
practically paralysed the initiative of his opponents, who found 
themselves forced to a necessity the most uninspiring to an 
energetic army, that of undertaking something for no better 
reason than the undesirabiUty of doing nothing. De Wet, 
repudiate as indignantly as he might the term " guerilla,"t only 
failed to shine when he undertook operations which encroached 
on the province of legitimate warfare. None employed worse 
than he the arts necessary to imited action for a grand purpose, 

♦ See Chapter IX. 

t "Three Years' War," by C. R. De Wet, page 282. The Boer leader failed to 
observe that the term " guerilla " refers not to a measure but a form of warfare. 

VOL. IV. 7* 



lOO THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

such, for instance, as the invasion of Cape Colony ; none better 
the thousand annoyances, distractions and local triumphs 
which are the best arms of the outnumbered partisan. Especi- 
ally was he skilful in the timely use of the weapon of dispersion, 
to which, as has been seen, he never failed to resort when danger, 
want or fatigue became too pressing. Time after time he had 
thus in one moment torn to pieces the plans of the British Head- 
quarters, cancelled their carefully compiled lists of his com- 
mandos, and obliterated all traces of his own much sought-for 
person, which certain staff officers only lived to shadow, detective 
like, day and night. Such an artifice as this dispersion, indeed, 
can seldom lead to success ; but it may often atone for failure, 
and the commander of regular forces who finds the terrain domi- 
nated by innumerable small bands in place of a single large and 
tangible body will usually confess that the last state of his 
district is worse than the first. Confronted by circumstances 
such as these, the army in the Orange River Colony, in default of 
an enemy, had to content itself with warring instead upon the 
countryside on which he subsisted. 

In the first week of April Elliot had partially completed at 
Kroonstad the organisation of a division 6,000 strong, composed 
of the three columns of H. de B. de Lisle, R. G. Broad wood 
Elliot's first and E. C. Bethune. On the loth he moved out with the object 
of sweeping the western side of the railway up to the Vaal, 
traveUing slowly, both to effect a thorough clearance and to 
acclimatise his men and animals, many of whom were fresh to 
campaigning. With very little incident the three columns 
worked northward in line, and on April 15th Bethune on the left 
touched the Vaal at Vlakfontein, foUowed next day by Broad- 
wood in the centre to Rensburg Drift, de Lisle somewhat with- 
holding the right at Paardekraal. At Parys, which Bethune 
entered on the 17th, the column of E. C. Ingouville Williams, 
from Wolvehoek, was met with. Since April 9th Williams had 
been conducting a successful raid within the quadrilateral formed 
by the lines Wolvehoek — Heilbron — Frankfort — the Vaal river. 
Putting in at Wolvehoek on the 17th, he had been ordered by 
Elliot to co-operate with the cavalry division on the west of the 



' drive. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. loi 

railway. A south-easterly swing then brought in Elliot's force 
on the 20th to Vredefort Road, where it was revictualled. 
Williams returned to Wolvehoek to hand over his column to 
Lieut. -Colonel W. G. B. Western, he himself proceeding to 
Pretoria to command a new contingent from New South Wales. 
The booty obtained by both commanders had been chiefly 
in the nature of supplies, and the amount brought in from the 
area which had been partially cleared — a mere strip bordering 
on the railway and the Vaal — bore testimony to the magnitude 
of the task of subjugating a nation of farmers by such means. 
Up to April 2oth Elhot had secured 35,000 head of stock, forty- 
seven wagons and carts, 184,400 lbs. of grain. His losses in 
killed and wounded exactly equalled those of the enemy, namely, 
three killed, five wounded, but the columns had come the worst 
out of the trifling exchanges by the loss of a complete patrol of 
an officer and thirty-five men, who were taken on the Rhenoster 
river on the 14th, and subsequently released. Williams' two 
raids had resulted in the gathering of 14,500 animals and 
twenty-four vehicles, besides the destruction of thousands of 
bags of flour and of the mills which had ground it. After one 
day's pause Elliot disposed his troops for a second march, this 
time to the east of the line. 

The new plan, communicated by the Commander-in-Chief 
on April 14th, was of greater scope. Whilst EUiot's three 
columns moved eastward, on the broad front Heilbron — Lindley, 
C. E. Knox, from the south, would drive the scattered bodies 
hovering between Senekal and Bethlehem in the way of the 
march by despatching a column towards Reitz ; Western perform- 
ing a similar service from the opposite flank, from the line of 
the Wilge river north of Frankfort. When his left-hand colunm Elliot's second 
should have cleared Heilbron, Elhot, pivoting his other two "^** 
units on that place, would circle northwards, his right passing 
through Frankfort, the whole then moving upon the Vaal. 
During this second phase columns were to come out from 
Standerton and Heidelberg towards him. Finally, as a third 
phase, the whole hne, turning at the Vaal, would sweep down 
the Klip river, inside the hne Frankfort — Tafel Kop — Vrede to 



I02 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

the borders of Natal, when it would have scoured the great 
triangle whose angles lie at Vereeniging, Heilbron and Botha's 
Pass. 

In accordance with the first part of this scheme, from the 
24th to the end of April Bethune moved eastward from Vrede- 
fort Road to Heilbron, Vechtkop, Uitkyk, Hamburg; de Lisle 
from Roodeval by Tulbagh, Elandskop, Kleinkop ; Broadwood 
from Honingspruit by Lindley and Buff els vlei. In the neigh- 
bourhood of Reitz on the 28th Broadwood momentarily came 
in sight of Pilcher, from C. E. Knox's force,* who thus per- 
formed the duty assigned him under the scheme of combination. 

On the 30th EUiot re-rationed his whole command in mid- 
veld from a convoy which came out from Heilbron, and next 
day a twenty-five mile march took Headquarters and de Lisle's 
colunm into Frankfort. At this time a few small Boer convoys 
flitted about the front, of which one was now and then brought 
in by one or other of the coliunns to swell the enormous booty 
which Elhot was accumulating. After four days' raiding, with 
some skirmishing, from Frankfort up to the Vaal, Elliot, hear- 
ing of the richness of the country towards Vrede, decided to 
traverse it. When on the point of starting Broadwood became 
unfitted for immediate work and was sent back to Heilbron 
under an escort which turned its journey into profit by capturing 
on the way two Boer laagers, with sixteen prisoners, thirty-five 
vehicles and 500 cattle. De Lisle then took over Broadwood' s 
column, Lieut.-Colonel R. Fanshawe replaced de Lisle, and 
Colonel W. H. M. Lowe relieved Bethune, who was also tem- 
porarily absent. On May 7th the columns lay as follows : 
Lowe at ViUiersdorp, de Lisle at Parys and Perth, Fanshawe 
at Tafel Kop. On the gth Cornelia was cleared, and the next 
day de Lisle surprised and surrounded Vrede, taking seven 
prisoners. The curious nature of this species of warfare was 
seldom better exemphfied than by the fact that Fanshawe, sup- 
porting de Lisle to Driespruit, that is, immediately in rear of 
an irresistible combination of troops, was hotly engaged through- 

* See page loi. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 103 

out his march, a portion of his rearguard being at one time 
surrounded. Approaching De Lange's Drift on May nth, 
communication was estabUshed with Lieut.-Colonel A. E. W. 
Colville's colunm from Standerton. Two days later Elliot 
handed over to Colville for escort to the line twenty- three 
prisoners, 70,000 head of stock, 106 captured vehicles and many 
more belonging to the refugees, who numbered 826 souls ; all 
these were the proceeds of only ten days' operations, for the 
General had already sent back with the convoy returning to 
Heilbron thirty-three carts and wagons and nearly 9,000 stock. 
At De Lange's Drift Bethune rejoined the command. 

The fourth phase of the operation comprised a four days' 
south-easterly sweep parallel to and on the west of the Khp 
river, on the other side of which Colville kept in hne, having on 
his own outer flank a small column under Lieut.-Colonel F. J. Pink, 
from Zandspruit, which scoured the Verzamel Berg.* At every 
mile the country became more difficult, for not only had the 
columns to cross the innumerable tributaries of the Khp, but 
they were approaching the buttresses of the Drakensberg, which 
become more broken as they protrude westward and sink to the 
great plateau on which they are founded. On May 19th Elliot 
called a halt at the mouth of Botha's Pass, through which he 
sent his wagons to be refilled at Newcastle, and a further 22,000 
head of stock, the gleanings of the Klip basin. 

The increasing activity and numbers of the enemy had for 
some days past aroused, a suspicion in EUiot's mind that he 
was intruding upon some secret haunt of the enemy. For 
example, at Vlaknek and Rietport Passes, the western posterns 
to the greater gateway of Botha's Pass, the Boers had strongly 
disputed the passage on the i8th ; indeed, Lowe could scarcely 
have forced Rietport without the aid of de Lisle, who, having 
fought his way through Vlaknek, sent a detachment to open 
the other entrance from inside. Since then every raiding 
excursion had been resisted in a manner hitherto imusual, 
and ElUot looked about for the source of this sudden volume 

*See Chapter VIII., page 154. 



io4 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

of opposition in so remote a comer of his district. He was 
not long in discovering it. Some twenty-five miles to the west 
of Botha's Pass a horseshoe of isolated downs, ten miles in 
length, arose from the High Veld, crowned with crags so sheer, 
and so squarely hewn by Nature, that the hiUs appeared to be 
crenellated by a parapet of Norman castles. This remarkable 
feature was shown upon no map ; information about it was 
difficult to obtain ; it was, indeed, a place of some mystery, 
and there were strange tales of miles of caves which burrowed 
into its depths as if eaten out by the waves of some long 
vanished sea. 

The place was a typical Boer stronghold, and its almost 
unsearchable recesses had long been used as a magazine and 
a remount dep6t for the Orange Free State commandos. At 
this very moment, so ElUot was informed, De Wet and 
Steyn were in the neighbourhood endeavouring to organise the 
scattered horse and cattle guards to keep him from their 
sanctuary. He therefore decided to search the place at once, 
and on May 20th manoeuvred to get upon its flank and rear by 
despatching Bethune back through Vlaknek Pass for Boschhoek, 
placing Lowe upon the Elandshoek Plateau, and supporting 
him by de Lisle at Mowbray. This march was httle opposed, 
though the road ran through so veritable a canon that Lowe 
had actually to blast a track up to the plateau. Next day de 
Lisle and Lowe faced west and advanced straight upon the 
Witkoppies, Bethune being then at Boschhoek on the right. 
Only a few Boers, some 400 in all, had gathered to hold their 
ramparts, and these speedily broke and scattered in all direc- 
tions on being shelled. Their occupation here was shown by 
a thousand horses which they left to be driven in by the invaders. 
The columns then marched over the Witkoppies, finding nothing 
more above ground, and not pausing to search the subterranean 
vaults, of which at that time rumour had scarcely reached them. 
Once more on the open veld, Elliot spread his columns again, 
sending Lowe north-westward, Bethune to the west, and de 
Lisle southward in chase of the dispersed commando. On 
May 23rd Headquarters and de Lisle entered Harrismith with 



r V, 






t 



i' 







EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 105 

1,700 captured horses. Elliot then ordered a concentration at 
Vrede which was effected by the end of the month, all the 
columns loading themselves afresh with four-footed captures, 
and meeting with constant but ineffectual opposition on the 
way to the rendezvous. 

The opening of the fifth and last phase of the great foray 
was somewhat delayed by the difficulty of obtaining supphes 
owing to the enormous demands being made at this time upon 
the depot at Standerton. Elliot was now to return to Kroonstad 
by way of Reitz and Lindley, a road which never failed to afford 
fighting ; and as a precaution he had already sent de Lisle 
forward with what rations he could spare, to hold Pram Kop, 
towards the Wilge river. From the moment of starting, on 
June 3rd, the enemy was in active attendance, especially on the 
rearguards, which they pestered not only with rifles but with 
miles of flames urged across the grass by a following wind. On 
June 5th Lowe was in contact with and took nine wagons from 
a commando reported to belong to De la Rey. On that evening 
de Lisle was on the Wilge at Schurvepoort, east of Reitz, and 
was there ordered to push a party across the river to search for 
a Boer laager reported to be in the neighbourhood. De Lisle 
sent 100 men of the 6th (Bedfordshire regiment and (iordon 
Highlanders) mounted infantry, and 100 South Austrahan 
Bushmen, under Major J. R. F. Sladen, who, early on the 
morning of the 6th, discovered a large convoy upon Graspan, 
seven miles east of Reitz. A dashing charge resulted in the 
capture of 114 wagons and carts and forty-five prisoners, 
whereupon Sladen, parking his booty, sent sixty of his 
Australians to regain touch with de Lisle. This party had 
hardly disappeared when Sladen suddenly found himself 
almost surrounded by a semi-circle of horsemen more than 
double his own strength, which with scarcely a pause bore 
straight down upon him. 

Sladen' s position lay on a spur, at the foot of which he The action at 
had drawn up h's captured wagons ; his men lined some scattered 61^,^1901. ^ 
kraals above, in one of which were immured the prisoners. In a 
moment the enemy was at the wagons, and dismounting there, 



io6 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

some remained under cover, others ran forward to the shelter 
of the nearest native huts which Sladen had been unable to 
occupy. Then, whilst some of those behind secured and drove 
off the wagons, the rest of the Boers settled down to a fire attack 
at less than fifty yards' range, which seemed hkely to have 
but one end for the outnumbered and outflanked mounted 
infantry. Sladen had indeed fallen into a nest of hornets, and 
his prospects, bad as they plainly were, were even less hopeful 
than they appeared. Behind him de Lisle, as yet in total 
ignorance alike of his detachment's first success and its subse- 
quent predicament, was being greatly delayed by a bad drift 
over the Wilge. Around him, even in his midst, lay a com- 
mando whose daring and promptitude bespoke no common 
leadership. Such was in fact the case. No lesser personages 
Presence of than De Wet and De la Key led the attack, drawn to the spot 
DeURey!^ by chances which will be described later. The wagons were 
already practically retaken, many were being fast removed, with 
the mass of the Boers between them and the troops. It seemed 
equally impossible to retain the prisoners, who lay in a hut 
within ten yards of the foremost of the attack, the escort con- 
sisting of but two men.* Giving up for lost the wagons at any 
rate, Sladen's men turned stubbornly to keeping themselves from 
capture, and for four hours their rifles were neither silent nor 
ineffective. Meanwhile de Lisle had at last made the passage 
of the Wilge and, all unaware of the above events, was march- 
ing towards the spot. Not until 3 p.m., when yet six miles 
distant, did he receive a message from Sladen, learning more 
soon after from a fugitive who had been captured and released 
by the enemy. De Lisle at once pushed on and soon arrived 
on the scene at the gallop. He found Sladen's detachment 
still holding its own, despite the loss of a quarter of its numbers. 
By its indomitable resistance it had even gained the upper hand. 

* Sergeant Sutherland and Corporal Geddes, of the Gordon Highlanders. Both 
were especially commended in Colonel de Lisle's report for the way in which they 
prevented the escape of their forty-five charges. Sutherland performed his duty in 
spite of a severe wound obtained when assisting a wounded comrade outside the hut. 
He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Geddes being promoted to sergeant 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 107 

The losses of the attack were heavy, the burghers were disincUned 
to close in further, and at the sight of the reinforcements they 
at once broke and fled, leaving twenty dead and wounded on the 
field. In the pursuit which followed de Lisle recaptured all 
but two of the wagons and 6,000 oxen. Altogether the enemy's 
losses — fifty killed and wounded, including two officers, and 
forty-five prisoners — ^nearly doubled those of the troops, which 
numbered three officers sind twenty-three men killed and twenty- 
four wounded. The severity of the fire may be gauged by the 
fact that, though somewhat covered by the kraals, nearly 150 
horses were shot. The whole affair redounded greatly to the 
credit of all concerned, and especially, if distinctions can be 
made, to two young officers. Lieutenants C. P. Strong of the 
Bedfordshire regiment, and G. E. Cameron of the Gordon 
Highlanders, who both fell in the forefront. 

Not their foe but their friends had brought together the chief 
of the Republican leaders at this unimportant spot in the Orange 
River Colony. Early in May the Government of the Transvaal, 
in a moment of weakness, had actually laid before the directorate 
of the sister State proposals for an armistice with a view to 
negotiations for peace. The spreading desolation of their country, 
the certainty of ultimate defeat, had so dismayed the Trans- 
vaalers that even ardent patriots like J. C. Smuts, B. Viljoen 
and F. W. Reitz, the last, especially, the incarnation of the 
spirit of irreconcilable resistance, had felt it their duty to put 
their hands to a document which had been forwarded to Presi- 
dent Steyn for his consideration. But this unexpected thrust 
only struck fire from the leader of the Orange Free State. In an 
indignant reply he had repudiated on behalf of his nation all 
thought of yielding. If the Transvaal laid down her arms, he 
said, his own countrymen, who had endured the first blows of 
the campaign, would assuredly strike the last. He would be no 
party to this " National Murder,"* and even were he to be so 
base, he knew that his people would abandon, not their country 

* President Steyn's reply to Secretary of State F. W. Reitz's communication on 
behalf of his Government, dated from the Government Offices on the Veld, Ermelo 
District, May loth, 1901. 



io8 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

but himself, and would continue the struggle without him. 
Reason of Then, fearful lest his ally should take some irrevocable step, 

De Wet's 

presence. Steyn had summoned De Wet to his side for a visit in company 
to the Transvaal Headquarters. At that moment De Wet 
himself was on the point of meeting De la Key in the Western 
Transvaal to discuss plans for a joint invasion of Cape Colony, 
ever the ultima ratio of the strategy of the Western leaders. 
In view of the freshly arisen contingency, De Wet had then 
requested De la Key to meet him instead in the presence of Steyn, 
and June 5th found all three in laager on the Liebenberg's Vlei, 
less than thirty miles in front of EUiot's returning army. Close 
by a large convoy of wagons laden with local families and their 
household effects was seeking to escape from the British troops. 
On the morning of June 6th Sladen's successful dash upon these 
wagons was reported to the assembled Boer leaders, who imme- 
diately decided upon a rescue, with the results already seen. At 
the conclusion of the affair the Boer officers made off for Lindley, 
thence to make their way by circuitous routes and with many 
an adventure to a momentous conference on the banks of the 
Waterval river, east of Heidelberg, which will be described 
elsewhere.* 

After the affair at Graspan, Elliot, his left flank sweeping 
through Bethlehem, marched on Reitz (June 9th) and thence 
in to the railway at Kroonstad, which was re-entered on the 
15th. During his seven weeks' absence he had deprived the 
enemy of 100 prisoners, thirty-six kiUed, 131,500 cattle, sheep 
and horses, 264 wagons and carts and an incalculable amount 
of foodstuffs. At Kroonstad Elliot remained a week, a pause 
of which advantage wiU be taken in a subsequent chapter to 
synchronise with his . operations the work of the other divisions 
of troops in the Orange River Colony. One unit may, how- 
ever be first dismissed, that of Western, which, acting as the 
northerly " stop " as Elliot passed Frankfort, had held the 
drifts over the Wilge from its confluence with the Vaal 
up to Leeuwbank Drift from May ist to 6th. After raiding 

• See Chapter XII. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 109 

13,000 head of stock, Western moved into Heilbron on 
the 8th, There he was met by a wire from Headquarters 
acquainting him with the presence of a laager at Buffelsvlei. 
He immediately took his force thither by two divergent lines 
of march, so as to come u|X)n the camp from opposite sides, 
tactics which were most successful. At dawn on May loth Major 
D. P. Driscoll with his regiment of Scouts surprised the Boers 
from the east, and with no loss to himself secured thirty-one 
prisoners, seventeen vehicles, 100 horses and more than 3,000 
stock. Western then pursued his way to Vereeniging, on both 
sides of which he foraged until the end of the month, when he 
had sent into Vereeniging from the country side sixty-one 
carts and wagons, 7,300 animals and some 7,500 bags of grain. 
His next move was towards Parys, which, in the face of sharp 
opposition, he entered and cleared on June 4th. Two days 
later, reconnoitring from Vredefort, Western gained touch with 
his Parys opponents, 150 in number, and chased them for five 
miles, capturing two. Passing Reitzburg he then made for a 
laager at Witkopjes, which he attacked and dispersed on the 
8th, taking eight prisoners, thirty-nine vehicles, 1,400 stock and 
a quantity of grain and ammunition. Thence he put in at Kopje 
Station, taking the field again on the 17th to clear the banks 
of the Rhenoster river down to the Vaal. A ten days' active 
raid brought him into Klerksdorp with eight prisoners, ten 
wagons and spans of oxen and 3,000 stock, having destroyed 
as much again on the march. Western was then attached to 
G. Hamilton, at Klerksdorp, thus passing out of the area 
under review in this chapter. 



no 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 



Column. 



February— June, 1901. 

Lieut. -Colonel J. S. S. Barker . 
„ W. H. Williams . 
„ W. L. White 
„ T. D. Pilcher 
„ H. M. Grenfell . 
Colonel A. W. Thorneycroft 
Lieut. -Colonel the Hon. J. H. G. Byng. 
Colonel Sir C. Parsons 
Lieut. -Colonel C. P. Crewe 
Major-General J. E. Boyes (later Harley) 

B. B. D. Campbell 
Lieut. -Colonel S. C. H. Monro ... 
Major-General Bruce Hamilton ... 
Lieut. -Colonel W. G. Massy 

,, ,, E. C Ingouville Williams 

(later G. W. B. Western) 

Major J. E. Pine-Coffin ... 
Colonel E. C. Bethune 
Brigadier-General H. C. O. Plumer 
Colonel H. B. Jeffreys 
Lieut. -Colonel M. Cradock 
Major-General Bruce Hamilton'scolumns : 
Lieut. -Colonel S. C. H. Monro 

,, ,, C. Maxwell (later S. W. 

Follett) 

Lieut. -Colonel W. L. White 

Colonel D. Haig's columns : 

Lieut. -Colonel the Hon. J. H. G. Byng 
„ W. H. Williams 

„ ,, H. J. Scobell 

Colonel T. E. Hickman ... 

Lieut. -Colonel E. B. Herbert 

,, ,, the Hon. A. Murray 

Major A. Paris 
Brigadier-General R. G. Broadwood 

(later de Lisle) ... 
Colonel E. C. Bethune (later Lowe) 
Lieut. -Colonel H. de B. de Lisle (later 

R. Fanshawe) 
Lieut. -Colonel W. G. B. Western 
„ A. E. W. Colville 
„ F. J. Pink 



i 

1 


1 


05; 


s 



c 




£3 


c 


tn V 


M 








a 


^ 

s 




750 


90 


4 


2 


1 Major - General 


340 
830 


~'^ 


3 
5 


6 

I 


[ C. E. Knox in 
J command. 


1,070 


82 


7 


2 


1 Col. C. J. Long 
J in command. 


450 


— 


3 


— 


500 


150 


5 


— 




380 


— 


3 


— 




19s 


320 


2 


— 




640 


— 


4 


2 


Lieut. - General 


318 


1. 361 


5 


3 


Sir L. Rundle 


342 


1.393 


S 


2 


in command. 


320 


480 


2 


— 




400 


— 


2 


— 




510 




3 


I 


Lieut. - General 
• C. Tucker di- 


459 
447 


625 


4 
3 


I 


recting. 


130 


... 


2 


~ 


Major - General 


1 .522 


~ 


10 


2 


A. H. Paget in 
command. 


290 


— 


3 


— 




650 




6 




Lieut. - General 






the Hon. N. G. 


617 




3 




Ly t t e 1 ton 


654 


— 


4 


— 


directing. 


3SI 


— 


3 


3 




639 


II* 


3 


— 


> 


560 


— 


S 


— 




380 


— 


3 


I 




185 


— 


2 


I 




32s 


131 


2 


I 




2,083 


— 


4 


I 


Major - General 


1,411 


"— 


5 


— 


- E. L. Elliot in 
command. 


700 


22* 


— 


I 


J 


764 


266 


3 


— 




267 


376 


5 


I 




170 


280 


2 


— 





Cyclists. 



Ill 



the columns. 



CHAPTER VI. 

EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL* 

[Continued from Chapter II). 

JANUARY — MARCH, I9OI. 

By the evening of January 27th eight columns, of a fighting 
strength of 15,000 men and sixty-three gims.f had taken stand 
around the fringe of the Eastern Transvaal, under the supreme 
command of Lieut. -General J. D. P. French. From left to right 
they were placed as follows : — At VVonderfontein, Major-General Positions of 
H. L. Smith-Dorrien with 3,000 men and twelve gims ; at Middel- 
burg, Colonel W. P. Campbell with 1,250 men and five guns ; 
at Mooiplaats, Brigadier-General E. A. H. Alderson with 1,900 
men and nine guns ; at Bapsfontein, Colonel E. C. Knox with 
1,850 men and eight guns ; at Putfontein, Lieut.-Colonels E. H. H. 
Allenby and W. P. Pulteney with respectively 1,560 men and 
seven guns and 1,800 men and eight guns ; at Springs, Brigadier- 
General J. G. Dartnell with 2,600 men and nine gims ; and at 
Greylingstad, Lieut.-Colonel A. E. W. ColviUe with 650 men 
and five guns. The scheme had originally included the force 
of Major-General A. H. Paget ; but the threat to Cape Colony, 
the most sensitive nerve-centre of the campaign, had caused 
his withdrawal from the eastern theatre, and he was at this 
moment marching westward to entrain for service in the south. 
W. P. Campbell filled the gap in the arc, and Pulteney, hitherto 
intended to be held in reserve, came up as a unit of the first line. 

* See nup No. 56. 

f Exclusive of machine guns. The numbers quoted are of combatants only ; the 
whole assembly totalled over 22,000 men and 20,000 animals. For state, see page 127. 



112 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

The topographical situations of the above-named columns 
foreshadowed the general intention. The Eastern Transvaal was 
to be swept diagonally ; at first eastward — whilst W. P. Campbell 
and Smith-Dorrien barred the northern exits; then south-east- 
ward towards the broken cul de sac between the Buffalo and 
the forbidden native border. Thither, it was hoped, the com- 
mandos of Botha would be headed, and there receive a coup de 
grdce such as Prinsloo had undergone in the Brand water basin. 
The country Imagination must supplement the map if the scope of such an 
an t e p an. Qpgj-a^^jon is to be grasped. Briefly, it comprehended a clearance 
of the High Veld, a tract 170 miles by 150 in area, destitute 
of aU supplies save those afforded by the infrequent and 
impoverished townships and by the scattered farms whose 
produce in all which is required by armies was in inverse ratio 
to their acreage ; a tract on which movement alone was easy, 
though even that grew difficult as the immense prairies, as if 
constricted by their narrowing political frontiers, piled them- 
selves up into the mountains of the south-east comer. Further, 
as is commonly the case, facility of movement was hable to be 
heavily braked by the anxious question of subsistence. The 
columns were to start with supplies for ten days ; but an army 
in the midst of the High Veld might be almost as isolated as 
one at sea, so vast the distances to be traversed, and so 
exposed to the enemy the routes. In one particular, however, 
the conditions favoured the projected manoeuvre, in that the 
columns whilst marching away from one base would be 
approaching another. Their supply thus resolved itself into 
two separate phases. To deal with the first stage Colville 
was detailed to escort convoys working out from Greylingstad 
by a line of advance which would be daily more masked and 
protected as the fighting columns swung south-eastward. He, 
perhaps, might serve as far as Ermelo, and thereafter French 
must look for sustenance to Natal, where, in the quietude of 
January, preparations to that end had been in full progress. 
There is space for only a suggestion of the infinite and minute 
calculations which formed the basis of the Commander-in-Chief's 
orders under this head ; computations of places, times, and 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 113 

loads ; of the comings, goings, and interchanges of full and 
loaded convoys ; of the provision of escorts, and a thousand 
other details which had to be none the less exact because the 
weather, the roads, or the enemy, might confound them all. 
Truly the spirit of prophecy must inform those whose duty it 
is to supply armies in the field. Such was the plan, and such 
the material ; it remains now to describe the issue. 

On January 28th French struck eastward with the columns Opening of 
of Alderson, E. C. Knox, Allenby, Pulteney and Dartnell. The J^^i^ ,„ 
first obstruction was the line of the Wilge river, running due Jj^e Eastern 
north and south across his front, with the commandos of General jan. 28ih,' 
Beyers and Commandant Badenhorst watching it from end to '9oi- 
end. Beyers was merely in observation ; but skilfully utihsing 
the long ridge, the local watershed, which runs from Baps- 
fontein across to Bethel, he stood in turn at Boschmanskop, 
Rolspruit and Rooipoort. Four days' operations and several 
sharp encounters threw him back on Bethel. On February 4th Occupation 
French, accompanying Pulteney's column, reached that village, peU^lh,'' 
which was foimd deserted. The positions of the other colunms 1901. 
on this date were as follows : — Smith-Dorrien at Onbekend, six 
miles south of CaroHna ; W. P. Campbell at Boschmanskop, on the 
Middelburg — Ermelo road ; Alderson, who was now in touch with 
Campbell, at Schurvekop, on the eastern fork of the Ohphant 
river ; E. C. Knox at Eerste Geluk, due south of Alderson and 
four miles north-east of Bethel ; Allenby at Rietfontein, the same 
distance south-east of Bethel ; Pulteney, as stated, at Bethel ; 
Dartnell, due south of Allenby, at Schaapkraal ; Colville at 
Niekerksvlei, eleven miles out on the Standerton — Ermelo road. 
None had been seriously engaged except Campbell, who had 
fought successfully every day since leaving Middelburg, and 
Allenby and Pulteney, on whom had fallen the brunt of Beyers' 
rearguard tactics from the Wilge river until he disappeared at 
Rooipoort, leaving a gun in Allenby's hands. With 2,000 men 
Beyers fell back on Ermelo, his arrival swelling the forces there to 
some 6,000 ; and French, in Bethel, learned that Botha intended 
to give battle at De Roodepoort, before Ermelo. French, there- 
fore, on February 5th, manceuvred to surround that place, and 

VOL. IV. 8 



114 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

had all but got his columns into position when a blow fell upon 
one of them which not only dislocated his plan, but seriously 
affected the whole enterprise. In Botha French had an opponent 
in many respects resembling himself, one as quick to escape as 
to draw a cordon, and as sure of eye to detect a single doorway 
opening into or out from the midst of his enemies. The Boer 
General, though he already gave up hopes of marching as an 
invader over the southern mountains, had no intention of being 
driven into them, still less of being " corralled"* in mid veld, 
Botha as French bade fair to do at this juncture. He determined to 

to e^f«!^ break loose at once, sent word to Viljoen to demonstrate strongly 
against the eastern railway, and looking around for the best 
outlet, fixed his eye on the north, and on Smith-Dorrien. 

On the evening of February 5th that general's column went 
into bivouac at Bothwell, at the north end of Lake Chrissie. 
There had been little fighting during the day, and the main 
trend of the enemy seemed still to be in the opposite direction, 
for a convoy, many miles in length, had been sighted at 9.30 
a.m. on the move from Ermelo towards Amsterdam, and had 
been pursued until dusk. Nothing, therefore, seemed less 
probable than an attack from the south. The night passed 
quietly. At 2.55 a.m. on the 6th an officer from French's 
Headquarters arrived, bearing orders for Smith-Dorrien relative 
to the converging movement upon Ermelo. As he rode into the 
Botha's attack Unes, a semi-circle of fire broke like a squall against three sides of 
Dofrkn^ the outpost-line which fringed the bivouac, striking most heavily 
Feb. 6th, upon that section held by the 2nd West Yorkshire regiment. f 

* As it will be found necessary frequently to employ throughout this volume similar 
expressions borrowed from the domain of sport, an explanation may not be found super- 
fluous by every reader. A "corral" is a pen or enclosure into which wild game is 
driven for capture or destruction. " Beaters " are men whose duty it is to " flush " or 
arouse game from its hiding place. Their combined action in a straight or curved line, 
and in a given direction, constitutes a " drive." " Stops " are men or groups posted at 
intervals some distance ahead of or on the flanks of an advancing "drive," in order 
to confine the game fleeing from the "beaters" within a desired area, by turning 
back any attempt to break out. Though devices such as these are common to both the 
sporting and military arts, the latter has no terms which so adequately express them. 

t For gallantry at this action Sergeant W. B. Traynor, 2nd West Yorkshire regiment, 
was awarded the Victoria Cross. 



1901. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 115 

The piquets stood firm, but the interior of the camp fell into wild 
disorder. Some, thinking the enemy had penetrated, ensconced 
themselves amongst the bushes, and began to fire in all directions. 
The horses of the cavalry, lashed by innumerable bullets, 
wrenched themselves from their fastenings, and stampeded in a 
body through the outposts. Outside they were turned again 
by the oncoming commandos, whereupon they wheeled and 
galloped back the way they had come, carrying with them a 
knot of Boers who, hidden in the mob of animals, dashed into 
the camp, and swelled the promiscuous shooting from inside. 
Their speedy annihilation of two of the piquets opened a road 
for their comrades. But the rest of the outposts remained 
immoveable ; the supports closed up, and by a furious fire 
shattered the rush of the Boer main body before it closed upon 
the camp. At 4.15 a.m. the commandos abandoned the attack 
and passed on, leaving thirty-three killed and wounded on the Botha breaks 
field, and filling every farm with their injured as they made of! ^rdon!^^ 
northward ; for imfortunately they had not been turned, nor 
could anything have turned them from that direction. The 
British losses were eighty-two officers and men killed and 
wounded, and in horses no fewer than 254 killed and lost, 
besides a number of animals belonging to the supply column 
which Smith-Dorrien was conve5ang to W. P. Campbell and 
Alderson. Thus Botha, with more than 2,000 men, was free 
to unite with the not inconsiderable forces whom Smith- 
Dorrien had brushed aside, and who had harassed W. P. 
Campbell abreast of CaroUna. Smith-Dorrien, ordered to re- 
main motionless on the 6th, was joined by W. P. Campbell 
on the morning of the 7th, the two columns thenceforward 
working under the first-named officer's direction. 

February 6th had not passed without fighting in another 
quarter. French, hopeful of securing the Boer convoys, which 
were on the eastern of the two roads crossing the Vaal at Witpunt 
and Beginderlyn, ordered AUenby to pursue. On the night of 
the 5th AUenby was at Vereeniging on the Kaffir Spruit, and at 
dawn on the 6th he pushed on for the drift at Witpunt. But 
the enemy, fighting a delaying action with 1,000 men at 

VOL. IV. 8* 



ii6 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Kromdraai, successfully covered the passage of their train 
which had got a start of many miles, and there was nothing 
for it but to resume the chase with the whole army. 
Occupation of In closing in upon Ermelo, French had bared both his own 
Feb!\°h flanks. To prevent being turned by the right, he despatched 

1901- Dartnell southward on the 7th by Beginderlyn to Amersfoort, 

which was reached and occupied on the 8th ; whilst Smith- 
Dorrien extended eastward on the 9th to close the gap on the 
left. So doing, he seized a chance of damaging severely his 
vanished assailants of the 6th. Heavy rains had swollen the 
spruits and clogged the tracks, and Botha, speeding north- 
ward, had far outstripped his transport, which was labouring 
after him by a circuitous route close under the Swazi border. 
On the 9th the head of the convoy had got no further than the 
north bank of the Umpilusi river, where it was sighted by Smith- 
Dorrien's cavalry, the Imperial Light Horse, commanded by 
Lieut. -Colonel D. McKenzie. The convoy was strongly guarded, 
but McKenzie, despite the fatigue of his horses, which had 
already covered more than twenty miles, fell impetuously 
upon the column, and after a spirited encounter drove off the 
Smith- escort and captured some sixty wagons, 18,000 head of stock 

lures'aco^oy ^^^ twenty-one prisoners, with which he returned in triumph 
Feb. 9th, to the bivouac at Lillibum. The Umpilusi, running high in 
"^^' flood, prevented any enterprise against the rest of the Boer 

transport which was water-bound on the south bank, nor could 
operations be immediately undertaken by the other columns, 
which were awaiting supplies from Standerton. During the 
night of the loth Colville safely dehvered at Ermelo 117 wagons 
which he had escorted from Niekerksvlei, and on the next day 
French, evacuating Ermelo, pushed on. Meanwhile, Smith- 
Dorrien's engineers had been strenuously bridging the raging 
Umpilusi, which he crossed to Warburton on the loth, effecting 
next day a further capture of twenty wagons and 5,000 head 
of stock. 

Pulteney and Allenby, crossing the Vaal at Witpunt and 
Uitspan, were next in sight of the quarry, both converging on 
the tail of the retiring train at Klipfontein on February 12th. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 117 

The Boer rearguard was brushed aside by a charge delivered 

by the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons, who, getting amongst the 

burghers with the sabre, accounted for many and took ten 

prisoners, with the loss of five troopers. The two columns 

camped that night at Rotterdam and Kalkoenkrans, on opposite 

banks of the Mabusa Spruit ; E. C. Knox at Zandspruit, within 

eighteen miles of Amsterdam ; Alderson at Sandcliff , midway 

between Knox and Smith-Dorrien, the last of whom, by means 

of an improvised bridge of sunken wagons, had crossed the 

Umpilusi for the second time to Busby. Dartnell being still 

at Amersfoort, the columns were now arrayed in an unbroken 

diagonal line from the Swazi border to the apex of Natal. 

Though a heavy booty seemed assured, it was even more 

certain that the most desired quarry, Botha and his force, was 

already at large behind them. On the 13th the army moved 

forward as follows : — Smith-Dorrien to Mary vale, Alderson to 

Khprug, Knox to Zandspruit, Allenby to Donkerhoek, Pulteney 

to Taaiboschspruit, and Dartnell from Amersfoort into the 

Elands Berg to Mooipoort. On the 14th Smith - Dorrien Occupation of 

entered Amsterdam, remaining there whilst General French andViei*'" 

with the columns of Knox and Pulteney occupied Piet Retief p^l*^^' 

on the i6th, and Allenby made good the Slangapies Berg by i6ih, 1901. 

the seizure of the pass at Langgewacht. A small mounted 

force under Rimington, detached by Pulteney to Meyershoop, 

kept touch between Headquarters and Dartnell. 

French now turned to Natal for supplies, which were sorely French 

needed. Throughout the month Hildyard's chief occupation hisUse, 

had been the accumulation of enormous quantities of stores and ^«^- ^^^^' 

1901. 
wagons, and he had at this moment three large convoys ready 

for forwarding, borrowing troops from other commands to 

furnish the escorts.* On the 12th he had despatched the first 

convoy, containing supplies for 12,000 men and for 15,600 

horses and mules, with a number of fresh horses, with orders 

to be at Liineberg on February i6th or 17th. He had provided 

for the safety of its march by posting a small force under Colonel 

* For details of supply and transport work done ly Natal during February and 
March, see Appendix i. 



Ii8 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Delay of 
supplies. 
Heavy rains. 



Captures by 
Henry's M.I, 



G. M. Bullock in the mountains east of Wakkerstroom. But 
Dartnell, arriving at Liineberg on the appointed date to meet 
the convoy, found that it had not arrived, and moved on east- 
ward on both sides of the Slangapies Berg to Marienthal. The 
convoy, delayed by fog, floods, precipitous gradients and muddy 
roads, was, in fact, no nearer than Vaalbank, outside Utrecht, 
on the 1 6th, with the barrier of the Elands Berg still before 
it. Not until the 19th, when it had safely surmounted the 
Elands Berg, did Bullock gain any communication with Dart- 
nell, and still nearly thirty miles separated the two. Six more 
days elapsed before the first wagons were received by Dartnell 
at Marienthal. Meanwhile the troops of the columns had been 
enduring great privations. The rain, which had seldom ceased 
since the start, settled down on the i8th to a downpour of six 
days' unbroken duration, swelling the smallest spruits to im- 
passable torrents, turning the roads into bogs, and placing 
camps and bivouacs in an indescribable state. On the 19th 
supplies totally failed owing to the non-arrival of the convoy, 
which was itself at this time contending with atrocious con- 
ditions. The columns had then to subsist upon the country, 
a task which armies have found difficult even in districts of fat 
harvests and well-stored villages, but here, on the starveling 
uplands, necessitating resort to shifts which recalled those of 
long besieged garrisons. The enemy suffered still more severely. 
Not a day passed but they were deprived of stock, crops, wagons 
and fighting men. Their heaviest loss in one day occurred 
on March ist, when Colonel St. G. C. Henry's mounted infantry, 
in advance of Smith-Dorrien's column which was in process of 
sweeping along the Swazi border, fell upon the convoy of 
the Piet Retief commando near the junction of the Shela 
and Compies rivers, and took fifty-six prisoners, twenty-four 
wagons, and a quantity of stock. The Boer Commandant, 
vainly hoping to retrieve a desperate situation by a voluntary 
surrender, fled from the field with thirty burghers and gave 
himself up to W, P. Campbell, who was operating a few miles to 
the southward ; but as the wagons had already fallen in fair 
fight into Henry's hands, the Boer lost both his commando and 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 119 

his liberty.* On the loth and the night of the 12th further 
successful enterprises by Henry resulted in the capture of 
twenty-six prisoners, eighteen wagons and more sheep and 
cattle. The positions of the various columns on March 15th 
were as follows : — Smith-Dorrien at Rustplaats, north-west of 
Piet Retief ; W, P. Campbell and Allenby on the Assegai river 
at Zandbank and Mahamba ; Alderson at Marienthal, midway 
between Campbell and Dartnell, the last-named being on the 
Intombie river north-east of Liineberg. A small force under 
Rimington south of that place guarded the convoy road about 
Schikhoek, whence Brigadier-General J. F. Bum-Murdoch held 
the hne to Utrecht. Bullock was still to the east of Wakker- 
stroom, and Headquarters with E. C. Knox's and Pulteney's 
columns in Piet Retief. 

On March 6th the rain, which had given a brief respite, began 
again, to fall continuously for eight days, until for the troops, 
exposed day and night and hemmed in by cataracts, health, 
cheerfulness and movement seemed ahke impossible. Never- 
theless they remained healthy, their good spirits were never 
more marked, and they were kept in full activity ; for though 
confined temporarily within narrow hmits, every column 
thoroughly cleared its immediate neighbourhood, and each had 
to make its own roads through the morasses, its own bridges 
and ferries across the almost innumerable streams, and its own 
living from the scarce and hidden foodstuffs which, as a rule, 
only heavy bribes to the natives succeeded in bringing to light. 
For a full month, from February i6th to March i6th, these 
conditions prevailed, and though daily surrenders and cap- 
tures bore witness to the value of the work done, yet every 
description of ill luck had caused it to fall short of the results 
which the columns had set out to procure. The proper finish 
to the great sweep, from which so much had been hoped, seemed 
now to be drowning in the deluge of rain. Botha's refusal on Botha refuses 
March i6th of terms of peace proffered by the British Govern- Sch leTh,"' 
ment at an interview with Lord Kitchener at Middelburg on '90'- 

* For gallantry in an outpost affair near Derby, on March 3rd, Lieutenant F. B. 
Dugdale, 5th LAncers, was awarded the Victoria Cross. 



I20 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

February 28th,* was not only in itself evidence of the indecisive- 
ness of the campaign in the south-east, but it blew up again the 
flame which for a moment had seemed to flicker. The Com- 
mander-in-Chief began to be impatient for the conclusion of 
French's operations and for the return of troops who were 
urgently needed elsewhere. French, however, had still to 
accomplish much that only the terrible weather and the failure 
of supplies had prevented him from doing three weeks earlier, 
and Lord Kitchener left him to his task. 
French On March i6th French abandoned the Liineberg — Utrecht 

HnToHuppiy, ^^^^ ^^ communications which had proved so unreliable, and, 
March i6th, trusting to a new line vid Volksrust and Wakkerstroom, and 
to Vryheid, which Hildyard had filled with supplies, resumed 
his advance. Securing the lines of the Pongola and Pivaan 
rivers by means of Alderson's and Rimington's columns, he 
directed Dartnell on to P. P. Burg, which was occupied on 
the 1 8th. Smith-Dorrien, who had absorbed Allenby in 
addition to W. P. Campbell, then came down into Piet 
Retief, relieving E. C. Knox and Pulteney, who marched 
southward across the Assegai. On the 25th French was 
in Vryheid with Pulteney, Dartnell and Rimington ; Knox 
being at Ersterling on the right bank of the Pivaan, next 
to Alderson at Welgevonden. At Vryheid French had a 
personal interview with Hildyard, and a telegraphic con- 
versation across 320 miles of wire with Lord Kitchener. 
On March 27th the last beat of the " drive " was set on 
foot. The tracts still to be cleared fell naturally into 
two triangles, each with its apex pointing eastward ; the one 
lying between the confluent Pongola and Pivaan rivers, its 
central point being P. P. Burg ; the other, and larger, between 
the converging Unes of the Pongola and the Zulu border, Vry- 
heid standing on the centre of its base. French assigned the 
clearance of the former to Knox, detailing for the latter Aider- 
son, Dartnell and Pulteney, with whom he himself intended 
to take the field. The result of these movements could only 

» See Chapter XXX. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 121 

be to drive the enemy against the Swazi border, and Smith- Various opera- 
Dorrien with his own, W. P. Campbell's, and AUenby's columns sou"h'raSJern 
was instructed to hold a blocking Une from Piet Retief through Transvaal. 
Zandbank — Mahamba — Plat Nek — Henwoods to Langdraai on 
the Pongola. On the 27th Dartnell, with supplies for ten 
days, marched from Vryheid eastwards to Rietvlei, followed 
by Pulteney, who was to operate on his right flank, as far as 
Welgevonden. Alderson, who was designed to cover Dart- 
nell's left rear, was at Express on the 28th, when Dartnell 
made Welkom, and Pulteney Vaal Krantz, the latter also 
reconnoitring towards Alderson as far as Waterval. The 
enemy fell back before them in such straits that C. Emmett, 
the principal remaining leader and a bold man, offered to sur- 
render if he could obtain the authority of his officers. But 
there was no surrender. On the 29th the chase continued to 
Pietersrust, Toovemaarsrust and Bloemendal. On the 30th 
Dartnell, finding the roads becoming impassable for wheeled 
transport, formed an entrenched dei>dt at Toovemaarsrust 
and turned thence northward to Wonderboom, whilst Aider- 
son drew towards him to Kruisfontein, and Pulteney moved 
to hold at Rietvlei the road which Dartnell had quitted. The 
driven Boers now began to throw themselves against Smith- 
Dorrien's " stops." At Langdraai an attempted passage of 
the drift yielded three guns, some prisoners, transport and 
stock to Allenby, who was there on watch ; at De Kraalen, 
where the Piet Retief road crossed the Assegai, W. P. Campbell 
surprised a small Boer convoy in the act of crossing, and cap- 
tured the whole. On the next day (March 31st) Emmett 
endeavoured to make a stand with the few men — under 500 
in number — he could collect, and for a time contested Dart- 
nell's advance at Smaldeel. But his burghers fought without 
heart, and allowing themselves to be outflanked, were driven 
away with the loss of a gun, nearly 150 wagons and carts, and 
some 14,000 head of stock. Dartnell then proceeded to 
Langverwacht, where he was joined next day by Alderson, 
who had outstripped his infantry and transport at Mooikhp. 
Having raided as far as Uithoek in company, the two colunms 



122 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

again separated on April ist, Dartnell's going on to Wonder- 
boom, Alderson's returning to its main body at Mooiklip. For 
the next few days these colmnns scoured this neighbourhood. 
Dartnell, reaching the easternmost point of the operations, 
Zuikerkran, on April 2nd, descended thence along the Zulu 
border to Morgenzon, where he turned his face homeward. 
On the 5th he broke up his depot at Toovernaarsrust and 
marched by Welkom back to Vaalbank, near Hlobane Moun- 
tain, where he arrived on the 6th, and remained for four days 
awaiting the cessation of the operations. Alderson, who had 
preceded him to Vaalbank on the 3rd, was outside Vryheid 
until the 6th, when he passed through the town and took up 
a line through Zaaifontein to the Blood river, in preparation 
for an excursion down the angle between the Umvolosi river 
and the Nqutu wedge of Zululand. On the 7th and 8th he 
was on the line Tintas Drift — Strydplaats, on the 9th on Brand 
Kraal — Spitzkop — Wanbestuur, on the loth at Scheepers- 
laagte, whence he took the road vid Leeuwnek (April nth) 
back to Vryheid, thus concluding the clearance of the lower 
triangle. 

Meanwhile E. C. Knox, sweeping up his river-enclosed area, 
had seen little of the enemy until on April 5th he surprised 
and took a convoy and nine prisoners at Dordrecht, ten miles 
east of P. P. Burg. On the lOth he, too, was in Vryheid on 
his way to the railway at Glencoe. Pulteney had already 
departed the same way a week earUer ; Dartnell followed on 
the I2th, Alderson on the 14th, and two days later French, 
entraining at Dimdee, quitted the scene for Johannesburg. 
Results of His two and a half months' labours, though unattended by 
o'^^radons. ^^y remarkable coup, had not been unproductive. At a cost 
of 150 casualties* to his own force, he had deprived the enemy 
of over 1,300 fighting men, of eleven guns, of 2,281 carts and 
wagons, of 272,752 head of stock, and of a quantity which is 
not to be measured of crops and farm produce. If the opera- 
tions had failed of their chief expectations by the escape of 

* Casualties — Killed, five officers, forty-one men ; wounded, four officers, io8 men. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 123 

Botha with nearly 3,000 of his following, they had neverthe- 
less contributed largely to a crisis in the affairs of the Re- 
publics. Rumours of capitulation filled the air, and doubt 
and mistrust the burghers, who, after each day of disaster, knew 
well how many of their weaker brethren — even men hither- 
to honoured as "splendid burghers"* — were stealing away by 
night to give themselves up to the invaders. By the middle 
of March Botha, who had hurried from Lake Chrissie to join 
the Government at Roos Senekal, was back at Ermelo, estab- 
lishing his Headquarters at Rietspruit, outside the town. 
There he learned of the failure of De Wet's descent upon Cape 
Colony. This, then, was the real end of an enterprise which a 
month earlier had been reported to him as opening with a 
triumphal march through the Orange River Colony, attended 
by the destruction of two British camps, and the death of 
General C. E. Knox, and culminating in the approach of the 
commandos to Cape Town — " rumour says right in the Cape."t 
On March 2Qth Botha took horse for Vrede to ascertain the Botha visits 

Dc Wet 

truth from De Wet in person. At this moment, indeed, 
the Commandant-General found himself beset by a multitude 
of falsehoods, both of good and evil rep>ort, which gathered as 
numerous as his enemies in the field. Even he did not 
escape the universal breath of suspicion which, like a 
poisonous gas, had begun to creep amongst the discomfited 
commandos all over the southern theatre of war. His 
flight from the front to Roos Senekal, his pourparlers with 
Lord Kitchener, and even his present visit to De Wet, 
all met with cavilling, which, though only whispered, Botha 
deemed loud enough to be refuted.J Nor was mistrust the 
only foe which he had to drive from his own laagers. It was a 
time when many of the commandos were so untrustworthy 
that it was imsafe to call them from the homes to which they 

* Letter from Commandant-General to Acting State President, April 5th, 1901. 

t Report from Acting Chief-Commandant C. Badenhorst, February 14th, 1901. 

X Letter from Commandant-General to General B. Viljoen, March 17th, 1901 ; and 
other sources. 



124 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Depression 
amongst the 
Transvaal 
commandos. 



had retreated* ; when even such stalwarts as General B. Vil- 
joen " emphatically urged that the war must now be brought 
to an end,"t when the Acting President himself evinced a 
gloom which, had it been universally shared, had speedily 
ended the struggle. " All human help," wrote Burger to his 
" Brother in oppression,"J " upon which we have hitherto 
rehed has proved a broken reed. Europe is silent, and the 
enemy proceeds to destroy our people with his great force, 
. . . The question is, what must we, what shall we do ? 
May we, can we, continue the struggle further ? " Such 
despondency was not confined to high places. That sudden 
dejection which the historian has noted even in victorious armies, 
for example in the Germans marching in full career against Paris 
in 1870, had descended heavily upon the harried forces of the 
Transvaal, and the weaker spirits were yielding in hundreds 
to it and to their enemy. But Botha, though his military in- 
sight had long condemned him, too, to dread the issue of the 
struggle, saw in this wastage of his numbers the very means 
of making his foes pay the more dearly for their inevitable 
triumph. Only now, in fact, in its darkest hour, was his army 
undergoing that process of sloughing off the old skin of its de- 
fective system and undisciplined spirit, which, under the attrition 
of war, no guerilla levies can escape, which many have not sur- 
vived at all, and from which few indeed have emerged so re- 
invigorated as the federal forces were to do. None better than 
Botha, none, perhaps, except he, could have safely tided over 
this most critical period of his country's campaign. For none 
knew better how indomitable a spirit lay like a core within his 
fast-shredding commandos, a spirit the finer in temper the less 
it was in touch with the influences of the old Dopper regime ; 
the spirit, in short, of the young men who had grown up with 
himself. Yet he had been loyally silent when many had loudly 
declared that had this spirit of the Young Transvaal been 

* Letter from Commandant-General to State President, March 23rd, 1 901. 
t Letter from Commandant-General to President, Orange Free^State, April 28th, 
1901. 

X Letter from Acting-President Schalk Burger to President Steyn, March 21st, 1901, 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 125 

invoked to begin instead of finish the war, under his leadership 
the British had long ago been driven to the sea, leaving the 
Republican flags floating over their territories behind them. 
In the breasts of men of this stamp the Acting President's cry of 
despair found faint echo. Not from them came the lament that 
the commandos moved about their ancestral veld like " the 
ghosts of the past in a haunted house."* Unlike the greybeards, 
they looked not for the miracle, but the victory which should 
save them, remaining in the very midst of the destitution wrought 
by French's columns " as cheerful as if they were living like 
kings."* Sustained by such a reserve, though at the lowest 
ebb of fortune, Botha had refused terms such as have rarely 
been offered by the conquerors of a province. He now sternly 
silenced the cry, so difficult to stifle, " We are betrayed ! " which 
had begun to sound in his ranks, and for long to come his 
followers were to show that such a raid as this of General French 
was but a tooth of the file required to wear them down. 

On April ist Botha returned from Vrede to his camp at Botha returns 
Rietspruit. Two decisions had resulted from his interview Trnnsv^L*™ 
with the Free State leader ; one, that owing to the shortage 
of small-arm ammunition operations in the open should be 
abandoned in favour of incessant interruption of the British 
communicating railways, until, perhaps, a captured train or two 
should have replenished tlie bandoliers ; the other, that a 
meeting should be contrived between the Governments of 
the two States. To the former resolve were due the fresh 
series of attacks on the line from Middelburg to Standerton, 
and as far south as in Natal, where a train was attacked 
and a farmstead burned below Majuba on April 7th. To 
effect the meeting of the Governments was a less easy task, 
for neither President knew on one night where his resting-place 
for the next might be, and an adventurous ride through hostile 
forces and across two closely-guarded railways lay before 
whichever official elected to visit the other. But Botha, 
assuredly grown accustomed to safeguarding his peripatetic 
Executive as an addition to his multifarious cares, made all 

* Diary of a Burgher. 



126 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

arrangements. On April 12th, Burger and his entourage 
were safe at Ermelo ; on the 13th they set out for Vrede, 
and on the i6th Botha, who had escorted them, was back at 
Rietspruit, where on the 21st he saw Smith-Dorrien go past on 
his way northward to VVonderfontein. 

Of all the columns engaged in the above-described opera- 
tions, those of Smith-Dorrien alone returned by road. On 
April 1 2th he had drawn in his widely-extended lines, and 
starting northward in two divisions on the 13th, arrived at 
Wonderfontein on the 27th after a march which bogs, swollen 
streams, weak horses and a cumbersome train had hampered 
more than the Boers, though they were never absent. Little 
Events in the of importance had occurred on the Delagoa Bay railway line 
Trans^i?"' during Smith-Dorrien's long absence. Viljoen's somewhat feeble 
efforts to create diversions in favour of his hard-pressed 
chief had, nevertheless, the effect of drawing troops from the 
thinly manned line to deal with him. On February 12th two 
small columns of 700 and 900 men and nine guns, from Belfast 
and Lydenburg respectively, united under Major-General F. W. 
Kitchener at Zwartkoppies, near Dullstroom, proceeding next 
day to reconnoitre towards Roos Senekal, where Viljoen was 
known to be in laager. A scrambling fight ensued in which 
neither leader, each over-estimating the strength of the other, 
risked any definite course of action. F. W. Kitchener came 
into Belfast on the 14th and took over command of the line 
of communication, which L5d;telton had reUnquished to pro- 
ceed to Cape Colony. Nothing further transpired until the 
end of the month, when Lord Kitchener's fruitless conference 
with Commandant-General Botha took place at Middelburg. 
Much more blood and treasure were still to be expended to 
purchase the very terms then offered and refused.* 

The month of March was little more eventful, being chiefly 
marked by a succession of blown-up trains. The losses caused 
thereby were set off, first by an ambush laid on the 29th near 
a destroyed train at Wonderfontein, which resulted in the 
death of seven Boers ; secondly by a success at Lydenburg, 

♦ See Chapter XXX. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 127 

where Colonel C. W. Park, of the ist Devonshire regiment, 
commanding in the absence of F. W. Kitchener, surrounded 
a laager at Krugerspost, capturing thirty-six Boers and a 
quantity of stores. Equally infested was the railway along 
the Heidelberg section, where scarcely a day in February passed 
but damage was done by raiders, resulting in the loss of 
two complete trains, and on almost every occasion in the 
severance of communication. During March this section 
had more quiet, though attacks on cattle guards were 
frequent, and a train was blown up on the 22nd. These two 
months passed with Uttle incident over the Standerton sec- 
tion, where the enemy remained as before few in numbers 
and very little venturesome. Finally, Colville's mobile column, 
busied during February in supply work in connection with 
French's operations to the eastward, spent the greater part 
of March about Standerton, and was very slightly engaged 
with the enemy. 



Lieutenant-General French's Force. 

Approximate Strength of Columns during Operations described in 

foregoing chapter. 





Feeding Strength 
(approximate only). 


Fitting Strength (exclusive 
of R.A., R.E,, A.S.C., etc.). 


COLUMN. 


d 
«> 


B 


i 

9 


1i 




Guns, includ- 
ing Vickers- 
Maxiros. 




Brigadier-Geneml J. G. Dartnell ... 

Colonel E. H. H. AUenby 

Colonel W. P. Pulteney 

Colonel E. C. Knox 

Brigadier-General E. A. H. Alderson 

Colonel W. P. Campbell 

Major-General H. L. Sinith-Dorrien 
Lieut. -Colonel A. E. W. Colville ... 


4,222 
2,000 
2,956 
2,572 
2,674 
1,600 
6,000 


2,500 
1,600 
1,600 
1,900 
1,600 
1,000 
1,400 


1,400 
1,000 
1,200 

1,300 

1,000 

900 

1,500 


1,901 
',079 

936 
1,362 
1,348 

430 
1 304 

'207 


708 9 
481 7 
878 1 8 
490 8 

529 i 9 

829 5 

1,840 1 12 

440 1 5 


4 
3 
3 

i 

2 

5 
I 


Totals 


22,024 


11,600 


8,300 


8,567 


6,195 1 63 


27 



128 



CHAPTER VII. 
EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL* {continued front Chapter I.). 

JANUARY — APRIL, IQOI. 

At the beginning of January, 1901, the situation in the Western 
Transvaal was as follows : At or near Ventersdorp were the 
Headquarters of the columns brought together by Lieut. - 
General J. D. P. French, namely, those of Major-General J. M. 
Babington (920 men), Colonel W. P. Pulteney (940 men), 
Brigadier-General J, R. P. Gordon (1,160 men), and Colonel 
R. G. Kekewich (980 men). Brigadier-General R. G. Broadwood 
was now invalided, and his brigade, handed over to Colonel 
E. C. Knox, was refitting at Potchefstroom. Major-General 
R. A. P. Clements was at Wolhuter's Kop, passing convoys 
to Rustenburg, where Brigadier-General G. G. Cunningham was 
still in command. Major-General A. H. Paget was on the march 
westward from north of Balmoral, arriving at Commando Nek 
on the 8th. Major-General A. FitzR. Hart held the railway 
from Welverdiend to Krugersdorp, with posts in the Gatsrand. 
Although the lines of communication were now protected, 
• the Rustenburg and Hekpoort districts had been by no means 

cleared by the incursion of so many troops. De la Rey and 
Beyers were still at large, and though no longer acting in 
concert, were all the harder to find and deal with from their 
Situation Very isolation. Herein were illustrated once more two ever- 
Magaiiesber present embarrassments of the campaign. In ordinary war- 
fare to break up the enemy is a victory ; in South Africa it 
usually only doubled the difficulty of subduing him. Again, to 
introduce thousands of fresh troops into an area of conflict 

• See map No. 59. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 129 

is commonly to assure the desired result. In South Africa 
these troops had at once to be thinly spread over the par- 
ticular line of communication threatened, and this the more 
urgently the smaller the bands into which the defeated or 
voluntarily separating enemy had broken. In short, if the 
defensive was difficult, an effective offensive was almost impos- 
sible, and time rather than arms had to be invoked to get the 
better of the enemy. Such a prospect was no new thing in war, 
and had for some time been evident to students of such cam- 
paigns as had had for their object the reduction of an entire 
nationality. The European forefathers of these very burghers 
had proved that the weaker people need not own even time 
itself as their subduer, but rather as their deliverer. The flag 
of peace in South Africa, then, was still below the horizon, and 
nowhere did it seem less likely to emerge immediately than in 
the Western Transvaal at the New Year of 1901. 

Babington, left at Ventersdorp in command of his own, 
Gordon's, Kekewich's and Pulteney's columns, was early on the 
move towards Rustenburg, with the intention of driving north- 
ward, whilst Breedts Nek, recognised at last as the enemy's 
chief passage through the mountains, was blocked by Gordon. 
On January 5th De la Rey was come upon near Naauwp)Oort, 
between the Witwatersrand and the Magaliesberg, and was duly 
pushed northward, not, however, before he had inflicted a loss 
of forty-eight men upon the scouts of the Imperial Light Horse, 
who rode too eagerly into close range of his lines. On the 9th 
Babington was back at Ventersdorp, leaving the patrolling of 
the Magaliesberg and the Hekpoort valley to Paget and Plumer, 
who had arrived at Commando Nek the day before, to Clements 
on the Rustenburg road, and to Gordon south of Breedts Nek, 
As he marched south Beyers on his left flank did the same, and 
on the 8th fell in with a convoy for Gordon coming from Krugers- 
dorp. The Boers were repulsed with loss ; but Beyers was under 
urgent orders to join Commandant-General Botha in the expedi- 
tion against Natal, and, pushing on, he camped on the night 
of the nth only ten miles north of Johannesburg. On the 12th 
he fell upon the railway with all his force, and after a warm 

VOL. IV. Q 



130 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

bombardment broke across to the eastward, laagering that night 
at Bapsfontein on a position too strong for the small forces which 
hurried out froni Springs and Germiston in pursuit. Gordon 
from Breedts Nek, E. C. Knox from Johannesburg, and Plumer 
from the Hekpoori: valley were immediately on Beyers' track, 
Knox coming into contact with him on the 13th. But the 
Boer leader was travelling too fast to be caught or turned 
from his union with Botha at Ermelo. Knox's column there- 
fore abandoned the chase, to resume it in a few days as a 
unit in the extensive operations in the Eastern Transvaal 
described in the last chapter. 

Meanwhile De la Key remained in the west, and Babington, 
his Headquarters transferred to Naauwpoort, watched him as 
closely as possible with the columns serving in the district. 
To these had been added the force lately commanded by Clements 
and now by Cunningham, who handed over Rustenburg to Lieut. - 
Colonel B. J. C. Doran (Royal Irish regiment), and marched 
through OHfants Nek to join the rest. So doing he was hotly 
attacked in the defile, and for two days was hard put to it to 
hold his own in the unfavourable ground. Babington's approach 
from Ventersdorp on the 25th eased the pressure, and getting 
through with a loss of fifty-seven killed and wounded, Cunning- 
ham gained touch with Babington and camped at Vlakfontein. 
De la Rey had now thrown detachments in all directions. One 
penetrated into Bechuanaland ; another, more than 1,000 strong 
under the State Attorney, J. C. Smuts, entered the Gatsrand, 
Capture of and on January 31st surrounded Modderfontein. This post, 
fontei" ^^ter an attack lasting forty-four hours, was literally over- 

Jan. 31st, whelmed by force of numbers, many of the soldiers being dis- 
armed, as they were shooting in one direction, by Boers coming 
up from the other.* A convoy which arrived from Krugersdorp 
at the height of the fighting — the failure of the sun having made 
a warning heliogram impossible — became part of the enemy's 
booty. Cunningham, who had come down to Gemsbokfontein 

* Casualties — Killed, two officers and eighteen men ; wounded, two officers and 
forty-seven men ; captured and missing, three officers and 190 men. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 131 

on January 31st, was immediately ordered to Modderfontein, 
together with six companies of infantry, under Lieut. -Colonel 
the Hon. U. de R. B. Roche (South Wales Borderers), which 
had been detailed to relieve the place as soon as its danger 
had become known. On February 2nd Cunningham marched 
southward with 2,500 men, and was quickly in touch with the 
captors of the garrison. But Smuts had been reinforced and 
was now so strongly fortified that Cunningham, after vainly 
endeavouring to turn his flank, was glad to be able to withdraw 
with no more than forty casualties, and marched back to the 
railway at Roodepoort, intending to try to turn the Boer position 
by a wide movement from the western arm of the Gatsrand. 
For some days, therefore, Smuts was left master of the field, and 
in such high feather that he wrote to De Wet proposing to join 
him in his descent on Caf>e Colony " to bring about a revolu- 
tion."* A week elapsed before Cunningham was again on the 
offensive, working now in co-op)eration with a column which 
had been formed at Potchefstroom under Colonel G. E. 
Benson, R.A. Cunningham's instructions were to make for 
the Frederikstad area, and for the rest of February he 
patrolled the Gatsrand with little damage to himself or to the 
enemy, who was not now to be found anywhere in strength 
except on one occasion at Buffelsdooms (February 13th) when 
he was left undisturbed. On the 28th Cunningham was back 
at Krugersdorp, 

Meanwhile Lord Methuen had entered this sphere of opera- 
tions from the west. Throughout December and January he 
had been manoeuvring without cessation, now between Lichten- 
burg and Otto's Hoop and Zeerust, at all of which he left 
garrisons; now into Griqualand West (January 22nd), where a 
Boer incursion from the south caused anxiety ; now at Vryburg 
(December 31st), and finally at Taungs, whence he garrisoned 
and provisioned Kuruman, ninety-eight miles south-west of 
Vryburg (January i6th — 25th). Owing to the departure of 
the columns from the Krugersdorp command, and the disturbed 

* Smuts to De Wet, February loth, 1901. 
VOL. IV. O* 



132 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

condition of the country south of that place, Lord Kitchener 
Lord Methuen decided to call Loid Methuen eastward. On February «ith he 
ward. left Taungs, had a shght engagement at Schweizer Reneke (which 

he had evacuated on January 9th), and on the 13th reached 
Wolmaranstad. Continuing his march on the 15th he obtained 
information that a large laager belonging to the commandos 
which had hung about him since leaving Taungs lay at Brakpan, 
north-west of Klerksdorp. He further discovered that the Boer 
fighting force was lying in wait for him at Hartebeestfontein, 
across the direct Klerksdorp road, leaving their encampment 
weakly guarded at Brakpan, which they thought to be safely 
out of the line of march. Lord Methuen, therefore, determined 
to strike at the laager first, and marching at midnight on the 
17th, surprised the camp guards. By noon he was in possession 
of the whole laager, with thirty-six prisoners, sixty-seven wagons 
and carts and quantities of gear of every description. He then 
turned towards Hartebeestfontein. Here he found himself con- 
Lord fronted by nearly 1,500 Boers, under De Villiers and De Beers, 
operatfons posted on the plateau on either side of a defile which led towards 
in the Klerks- Klerksdorp, and bent on resisting to the utmost the despoiler of 
their laager. Lord Methuen first attempted to gain the western 
height, but the 5th Imperial Yeomanry whom he sent thither 
with a Vickers-Maxim were so hotly received that they were 
unable to gain ground, though they were not to be shaken off 
all day from the spurs and flanks of the hill. Leaving them 
to hold the enemy there. Lord Methuen ordered the loth Imperial 
Yeomanry to storm the eastern wall, covering the advance by 
four field guns. The attack was brilliantly delivered, and the 
nearer crest won with Uttle loss ; but the Boers then fell back 
to the more distant edge of the plateau, and the task of the 
Yeomanry became formidable. Not only had they to face a 
serious fire from the front, but the enemy on the unconquered 
western crest now had them in full view ; a flanking fire from the 
left swept the summit of the plateau, whilst danger appeared in 
the rear in the shape of 500 Boers who approached and engaged 
the escort of the convoy. Reinforced by the Victorians the 
Yeomanry continued to gain ground, fighting like veteran troops 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 133 

from one cover to another ; finally, greatly relieved by detached 
attacks which Lord Methuen launched against prominent parts 
of the Boer stronghold on either flank, the whole line charged 
against the southern edge of the plateau and tumbled the enemy 
on to the plain below, where he was punished severely with a 
following fire. By this spirited action, which cost forty-eight 
casualties,* the road to Klerksdorp was opened, and on February 
19th Lord Methuen marched in with all his forces and cin immense 
mass of captured stock, forage and Boer families. 

Lord Methuen, however, was not to remain long in the 
Klerksdorp district. After a few days of bustling operations 
in conjunction with Benson in the triangle Klerksdorp — Pot- 
chefstroom — Ventersdorp he again turned towards his own 
district in order to withdraw the garrison of Hoopstad, march- 
ing by Wolmaranstad, south of which, on March 6th, he found 
the local commando standing between him and Commando 
Drift, by which he intended to cross the Vaal river. A run- 
ning fight of twenty-three hours' duration brought the column 
to the banks of the stream ; but a high flood was in progress, 
and try where he would Lord Methuen was unable to find a 
practicable passage, though he marched down the whole length 
of the right bank as far as Fourteen Streams, which was reached 
on March 14th. 

This enforced change of direction, unwelcome as it was, De la Rey 
was perhaps fortunate, for behind Lord Methuen on March 8th c°"=«"»™''»' 
there occurred at Wolmaranstad a concentration of commandos 
strong enough to have overmatched the British column, which it 
was the Boers' avowed object to pursue to Bloemhof. At War- 
renton Lord Methuen was placed temporarily on the sick list, and 
Colonel the Earl of Enroll, who assumed command, carried out 
the original purpose of the march by leading the column to 
Hoopstad and back between March 27th and April 7th. On 
April 23rd Lord Methuen resumed command, and at once trans- 
ferred his force to Maf eking for service against De la Rey, who 

* Casualties — Killed, three officers, thirteen men ; wounded, five officers, twenty- 
seven men. 



134 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

had been practically unmolested in the Lichtenburg district for 
the past two months, since Babington's Une of posts was almost 
powerless beyond its own piquets. De la Key had employed his 
freedom to singularly small purpose, save in fermenting the 
country and deluding British columns into long and purposeless 
attacks marches. On March 6th De la Key, with CelUers and Vermaas, 

March 6th'^' ^'5^^ "^^^ i° ^1' made an attack on Lichtenburg which seemed 
1901. at first certain to be successful. Penetrating the outposts, 

which were widely separated owing to the large circumference 
of the defences, the Boers surrounded each piquet in turn and 
cut them off from all communications with Headquarters. The 
piquets, however, were strongly entrenched, and fought va- 
liantly, and the enemy could get no further during twenty-four 
hours, finally retiring after as singular an investment as had 
occurred during the campaign. The Boers lost, besides much 
credit, sixty-Seven burghers ; the troops, who were ably com- 
manded by Lieut. -Colonel C. E. Money (Northumberland 
Fusiliers), had sixteen killed and twenty-six wounded, and 
gained great honour for their stout resistance to superior num- 
bers. Foiled at Lichtenburg the federal combination then 
rushed southward, and on the 8th joined the Wolmaranstad 
men at their capital with the intention, as previously referred 
to, of cutting off Lord Methuen from his march down the Vaal. 
But the British commander had two days' start, and all inno- 
cent as he was of the storm gathered in his rear, was making too 
good speed towards Fourteen Streams to be worth following. 
Immediately on news of the attack on Lichtenburg reaching 
Headquarters, Babington, still at Naauwpoort, was ordered to 
the relief of the place, to be joined at Ventersdorp by Lieut. - 
Colonel H. P. Shekleton with a column from Rooipoort. It 
was fortunate that Lichtenburg was in no need of assistance, 
for Babington, delayed by bad weather, did not appear until 
the 17th. He then turned southward after the long vanished 
enemy, arriving at Klerksdorp on March 21st with sixty-two 
prisoners taken in the constant but unimportant skirmishing 
which had fallen to his lot. 

Two days later De la Rey, with 500 men and three guns, 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 135 

beset one of Babington's patrols at Geduld, within twenty miles 
of his Headquarters. The patrol, which was composed of men 
of the ist Imperial Light Horse, was less than half the strength 
of the enemy, and had but one Vickers-Maxim, but it was well 
handled by Major C. J. Briggs (King's Dragoon Guards), and 
defended itself so resolutely that once more De la Rey had 
the mortification of seeing his men retire beaten from a field 
where all the odds had been in their favour. The Boers lost 
some two dozen killed and wounded ; the British party two 
officers and five men killed, three officers and thirteen men 
wounded. Babington coming up next day drove the Boers 
still further northward, and on the 24th completed their rout is defeated 
by overtaking and capturing the whole of their guns, nine in Sfafch'lllftlr"' 
number, including two 15-prs., a Vickers-Maxim, and six Maxims, 1901. 
all with ammunition complete, transport to the number of 
seventy-seven wagons and carts, and all the camp stuff, together 
with the escort of 140 men, on the banks of the Taaibosch 
Spruit. The action which brought about this success was a 
model of pursuing tactics. The enemy continually took up 
strong rearguard positions, out of which Babington as constantly 
manoeuvred them by vigorous threats at the flanks, with- 
holding a powerful and menacing front until the defence had 
actually begun to dissolve under the lateral pressure. The 
result was a series of hasty retreats on the part of De la Key's 
rearguard, soon degenerating into a rout which infected the 
whole force and hurried it in disorder from the field. This 
was a heavy blow to De la Rey, whose star was now consider- 
ably obscured by such repeated terminations to forays, the 
first speed and spirit of which had died at the moment of action. 
Babington with Shekleton then made for Ventersdorp, where 
he halted on March 26th, Shekleton soon after handing over 
command of his column to Lieut. -Colonel Sir H. Rawlinson. 

It is necessary now to revert to Benson, who, it will be 
remembered, had been in co-operation with Lord Methuen for 
the short time that officer was in the Klerksdorp area before 
his departure to Fourteen Streams and Hoopstad. Benson then 
received orders to traverse the country east of Frederikstad, 



136 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

and arriving there on March 4th, marched to Kaalplaats next 
day. He was busily employed in clearing the farms when the 
news of De la Key's attack on Lichtenburg caused him to 
be recalled to Frederikstad, and thence to Potchefstroom 
(March 9th), where he remained hemmed in by flooded roads 
until the 15th. Thence he proceeded to scour the country 
lying between the Vaal, the railway and the Gatsrand, being 
in constant touch with the enemy until the end of the month, 
when he halted on the Riet Spruit with fifteen prisoners, fifty 
wagons and a great herd of captured stock. On April 4th 
Benson marched to Krugersdorp where his force was broken 
up, and he and his staff transferred to another column, the 
eventful career of which will be followed elsewhere.* 

During March Cunningham had been holding Naauwpoort 
since Babington's departure for the relief of Lichtenburg. On 
April 7th he was relieved in command by Brigadier-General 
H. G. Dixon, who also absorbed the column lately commanded 
by Benson. The command of the Klerksdorp area had shortly 
before been delegated to Major-General M. W. Willson, who thus 
forund himself in control of the columns of Babington, Dixon 
and Sir H. Rawlinson. These he was anxious to concentrate 
for combined operations in the Schoon Spruit district ; but the 
Commander-in-Chief was unwilling to relax even temporarily 
his hold on Naauwpoort, the key of the campaign in these 
parts ; Dixon, therefore, remained about Naauwpoort during 
April, making sundry raids between that place and the railway 
at Welverdiend, and was finally diverted on April 28th towards 
Tafel Kop. 

Babington, based on Ventersdorp, operated on both sides of 
that place during April, being at Tafel Kop on the 4th, and on 
the 1 8th near Klerksdorp, to the west of which he found De 
la Rey with Kemp in full strength on his old ground at Harte- 
beestfontein. The enemy was not pressed, however, and 
Babington moved by the Schoon and Taaibosch Spruits to 
Syferkuil, thus leaving the enemy threatening his communica- 

• See Chapter XVII. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 137 

tions with Klerksdorp, on which he depended for supplies. 
As a result, an empty convoy which he despatched to Klerks- 
dorp on the 22nd was attacked from all sides at Brakspruit on 
the Schoon Spruit by 700 Boers, who rode out of the Harte- 
beestfontein hills ; but the skill of its commander, Major 
H. T. Lyle (Royal Welsh Fusiliers), and the stoutness of the 
escort preserved it from capture. The enemy was beaten back 
with the loss of more than thirty men, and the convoy 
proceeded in safety with the loss of eight of its guards. 

Sir H. Rawlinson had for the most part co-operated in 
Babington's operations during April, and his movements were 
generally indistinguishable from those of his superior. On 
one occasion, however, he had an experience individual indeed. 
On April 13th a laager had been discovered near to the scene Affair at 
of Lord Methuen's capture two months earlier at Brakpan. Apina'th, 
The laager, which contained a 12-pr. gun and a Vickers-Maxim, 1901. 
was surprised by a night march conducted by Babington, and 
captured with all its contents by Sir H. Rawlinson's . column. 
It was not until after they had lost their camp that the enemy 
returned from a sauve qui peut to fight. So close did they come 
in from all sides that the guns of P. battery R.H.A. had to face 
in opposite directions to drive skirmishers almost from their 
muzzles, whilst Sir H. Rawlinson, who was riding close behind 
the battery, found himself in the midst of a band who shot his 
horse and disarmed him. In the confusion caused by the 
short-range artillery fire he contrived to escape, and rejoining 
his troops, easily held the enemy for the rest of the day with 
the assistance of Babington, who had been marching wide on 
the right and now came across to reinforce. This was a most 
successful affair, for whilst the Boers lost, besides their guns 
and all their impedimenta, twenty-three prisoners and sixteen 
other casualties, Sir H. Rawlinson had but three men sUghtly 
wounded. These, though a host of minor incidents are neces- 
sarily omitted, were the chief events of the campaign in the 
Western Transvaal up to the end of April, 1901. 



138 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 



COLUMN. 


H 


c 
42 

c 


00 to 


e 






i 


►— ( 


a^ 











o> 


S 




January— April. 1901. 












Maj.-Gen. J. M. Babington 


470 


450 


6 


I 


•V 


Col. W, P. Pulteney 




941 


3 


I 


Lt.-Gen. J. D. P. French 
in command. 


Brig.-Gen. J. R. P. Gordon 


1,08 s 


80 


II 


4 


Col. R. G. Kekewich 


700 


280 


5 


3 




Col. E. C. Knox . . 


883 


370 


8 





_ 


Maj.-Gen. R. A. P. Cle- 












ments 


883 


1,647 


14 


3 




Maj.-Gen. A. H. Paget 
Col. M. Cradock . . 
Brig-.Gen. H. C. O. Pluraer 


100 
500 
450 


1,400 


4 

2 

8 


I 
I 


? Maj.-Gen. A. H. Paget 
( in command. 


Brig.-Gen. G. G. Cunning- 












ham 


100 


1,460 


6 


3 




Lt.-Col. G. E. Benson 


365 


515 


6 







Lt.-Gen. Lord P. Methuen 


1.294 




8 


5 




Lt.-Col. H. P. Shekleton . . 


1,500 





8 






Brig.-Gen. H. G. Dixon . . 


1,050 


I,3l6 


8 


3 


(Maj.-Gen. M. W. WiU- 
( son in command. 


Maj.-Gen. J. M. Babington 


860 


580 


9 


— 


Col. Sir H. Rawlinson (late 










Shekleton's) 


1,350 


— 


3 


— 


1 



139 



CHAPTER VIII. 

EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL AND NATAL* 

{Continued from Chapter VL). 

APRIL — MAY, I9OI. 

Nearly three weeks before the conclusion of French's operations preparations 
south of the Pretoria — Delagoa Bay railway, Lord Kitchener for clearance 
had taken the preliminary steps in a similar scheme, to be north-eastern 
worked out to the northward of that Hne. On March 26th Transvaal. 
Brigadier-General H. C. O. Plumer was despatched to Pieters- 
burg, which was occupied almost without fighting on April 8th. 
Plumer, who for this purpose was withdrawn from the pursuit 
of De Wet in the Orange River Colony,! had with him a moimted 
force, composed of Australian and New Zealand corps, and 
numbering 1,200 men with eight guns. He remained at Pieters- 
burg until the 14th, his hne of communications with Pretoria 
being held by the 2nd Gordon Highlanders, the 2nd North- 
amptonshire, and 2nd Wiltshire regiments. 

Meanwhile, for the projected clearance six columns had been 
prepared, under the command of Lieut. -General Sir B. Blood, 
which on the evening of April 13th were stationed as follows : 



Place. 


Commander. 


Infantry. 1 


Mounted 
Troops. 1 


! Guns, including 
Vickers- Maxims. 


Lydenburg 
»» 

Witklip ... 

Belfast ... 
Middelburg 


Lieut. -Col. C. W. Park 
Major-Gen. F. W. 

Kitchener 

Lt.-Col. W. Douglas... 

Lt.-Col.W. P. Pulteney 
Lt.-Col. G. E. Benson 

Maj.-Gen. S. B. Beatson 


930 

2,290 
1,280 

800 
350 

1,020 


200 

SSO 
330 

7SO 
720 

600 


' Under command 
6 - of Major-Gen. 
A F.W. Kitchener. 

Under command 
8 . of Major-Gen. 
8 1 R. S. R. Fether- 
) stonhaugh. 

4 




6,670 


3.150 


33 




9,820 





* See map No. 56. 



t See Chapter V. 



X Round numbers only. 



t46 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

The country to be swept was roughly a square, nearly 
bisected by the Steelpoort river, and bounded on the north by 
the 25th parallel of latitude, on the south by the railway, on 
the east by the Stenkamps Berg, on the west by the OHphant 
river. Towards its central point — the reported refuge of the 
Transvaal Government at Roos Senekal — the columns were 
to converge from north, east, and south, the expected break- 
away to the westward being blocked by the seizure of the drifts 
over the Oliphant by Plumer, who would thus enact along 
that river a rdle similar to that recently performed in the 
south-eastern Transvaal by Smith-Dorrien around the Swazi 
border. 

Two days before the machine was set in motion the Acting 
President and his officials had slipped out of its reach, and were 
in safety by the side of Commandant-General Botha. On the 
very day on which Blood's columns moved to enclose Roos 
Senekal, the Transvaal Government body was setting out from 
Ermelo to meet ex-President Steyn at Vrede. Whether this 
timely evasion was by accident or design, the British opera- 
tions in the north came as no surprise to Botha. A month 
earlier he had warned General B. Viljoen of the probability of 
such an event, and had cautioned him against being taken 
unawares.* It wiU be seen how narrowly that leader escaped, 
despite the foresight of his chief. 
Sir B. Blood's Of Sir B. Blood's columns that of Park was the first to move. 
mirj'°'^ Leaving Lydenburg on the evening of April 12th, Park marched 
north-eastern northward by Krugerspost, seeking a position whence he could 
block the northern exits of the Steelpoort and Waterval valleys. 
At dawn on the 13th he reached Vlakfontein. A commanding 
nek near De Grootboom, which threatened to bar his next day's 
progress, was seized the same evening by a party of mounted 
infantry under Major H. B. Walker (Duke of Cornwall's Light 
Infantry) who performed a forced march of thirty-five miles to 
gain their end. The main column followed to Klipkloof on the 
13th, and next day to De Grootboom, where an attack on the 

* Letter from the Commandant-General to General B. Viljoen, March 17th, 1901. 



EVENTS IN EASTERN TRANSVAAL AND NATAL. 141 

rearguard was driven off with three casualties. On the 15th 
Park reached Bergfontein, where he took a small laager and much 
ammunition. Thence he sent on a detachment to seize the 
Magnets Hoogte which commanded the passage of the Steel- 
poort. Park then moved to Rietfontein. F. W. Kitchener had 
left Lydenburg on the night of the 13th and come up by Bosch- 
hoek and Boschfontein, in hot pursuit of a 94-pr. gun. This 
piece, the identical cannon which had bombarded Ladysmith 
from Pepworth Hill sixteen months before, was blown up by the 
enemy as it was on the point of being taken. On April 17th 
F. W. Kitchener moved on towards Magnets Hoogte, whilst 
Park, remaining at Rietfontein, sent into the eastern valley-fork 
of the Dwars river two small columns under Lieut.-Colonel 
H. W. N. Guinness (Royal Irish regiment) and Major C. L. E. 
Eustace (King's Royal Rifles). These met with immediate 
success ; for the enemy, chased eastward from the valley by 
Guinness, ran into Eustace as he lay in wait at Vygehoek, and 
sixty-two burghers with 1,000 cattle were the prize. The two 
parties remained out until the 20th, when Park, recalling them, 
turned his attention to the Waterval valley, which he shut up 
with four divisions of his command, thereby enclosing and cap- 
turing on April 25th, forty-two Boers, two guns, and much 
stock. He then returned to Rietfontein, where he remained 
until May 3rd, leaving no corner of his neighbourhood unscoured. 
Meanwhile F. W. Kitchener had arrived on the Magnets Hoogte 
on the 1 8th, marching the next day vid Pokwani to Fort 
Weeber, where he gained touch with Plumer, whose 
movements in the interval must now be described. 

Leaving a garrison in Pietersburg, Plumer had quitted the 
town on the 14th April, pointing on the Oliphant river. On the 
i6th, after an uneventful march, he was upon the banks of the 
stream, which he proceeded to hold from its junction with the Plumer on the 
Malips river to some fifty miles up stream, by means of the ^vJr^*"^ 
drifts at Port Scheiding. Tabakplaats, Oliphant's Poort, Bath- 
fontein, to Koedoes Kop, with many lesser passages between ; 
extending eventually (April 22nd) as far as Commissie 
Drift, twenty-two miles further up the river. Plumer received 



142 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

supplies from P. P. Rust for his posts on the upper river, for 
those on the lower from Pietersburg. The journeys of 
convoys, though never interrupted, were not unaccompanied 
by fighting. On one occasion (April 24th) fourteen Boers were 
captured during an attack on an escort commanded by Lieut.- 
Colonel J. W. Colenbrander, at Jaskraal. 

Plumer by no means contented himself with passively watch- 
ing the drifts. He had early sent patrols into F. W. Kitchener's 
Unes at Fort Weeber, and his parties wandered far afield. On 
April 25th Lieutenant G. E. Reid (4th Imperial Bushmen's 
corps), the officer at Commissie Drift, located a Boer camp 
fifteen miles to the south-east. This was a party resting 
from a twenty-four hours' flight from the ist Devonshire 
regiment, of F. W. Kitchener's force. Under cover of dark- 
ness Reid surrounded it with only twenty men who at day- 
break rushed in and captured the whole laager, taking the 
commandant, twice their own number of burghers, a Maxim 
gim, besides wagons, horses and cattle. On April 29th, when 
Sir B. Blood's operations were drawing to a conclusion, 
Plumer concentrated at Commissie Drift, and on the follow- 
ing days marched down the lines of the Elands and Kameel 
rivers, vid Uyskraal, Slagboom, Pieterskraal to Enkelde- 
dooms. Beatson was at this time moving parallel to Plumer 
down the Wilge river towards Eerstefabrieken, whilst AUenby, 
fresh from the operations at Piet Retief, was out from Witbank 
in co-operation with the two columns which were working south- 
ward. From Enkeldedoorns Plumer detached a party under 
Major H. G. Vialls (3rd regiment Australian Bushmen) in pur- 
suit of bands which were scattering across the railway about 
Hamanskraal from the area traversed by Beatson. Vialls, 
having chased them about all day, bivouacked at Haakdoorn- 
fontein in the evening, with twenty-seven prisoners, and a 
convoy of Boer wagons and cattle in his possession. On May 
4th Plumer gained the eastern railway at Eerstefabrieken. 

Whilst the " stop " on the OUphant river was thus occupied, 
the main " drive " to the eastward had been in full progress. 
On April 14th, when Park was at De Grootboom and F. W. 



EVENTS IN EASTERN TRANSVAAL AND NATAL. 143 

Kitchener at Boschhoek, Douglas, trending south-west from 
WitkHp, seized the Zwagershoek Pass, camped at Zuikerbosch- 
hoek that night, at Palmietfontein on the next, and on the i6th, 
after handsomely repulsing a determined attack by 700 Boers 
led by Muller, entered Dullstroom, which he made his centre 
of operations for the remainder of the month. Pulteney, who 
had come up along the Belfast road by Moeyelykheid, joined 
Douglas at Dullstroom on the 17th, whilst on the same day 
Beatson, who had struck north from Middelburg, and marched 
by Driefontein and Klipplaatdrift to Naauwpoort, fought a 
successful skirmish in the Botha's Berg. Benson's — the other 
column from Middelburg — with which went Sir B. Blood, 
was then at Bankfontein, facing north-east with the object 
of turning the Botha's Berg by the east, as Beatson meant 
to turn that range by the west. Thus a circle of troops 
some seventy-five miles in diameter had begun to compress 
the area around Roos Senekal, and had there been any 
formed bodies of the enemy therein, they must soon have 
been forced to a battle. But the commandos of B. Viljoen, 
in spite of his efforts to hold them together, had scattered viijoen's 
into the thousand rifts and secret places of the district, '°'''^'^* ^^^"^ 
until the whole country-side teemed with small groups, which 
lurked invisible until by chance or perseverance some were 
discovered and hunted from their holes. Only a minority 
remained around Viljoen, who began to look about anxiously 
for a sally-port. The cordon around him tightened daily. 
On April 20th Sir B. Blood was with Benson at Blink water, 
behind the Botha's Berg ; Pulteney close to the eastward 
at Windhoek ; Beatson, who had turned the Botha's Berg 
by Avontuur and Laatste Drift, at Leeuwfontein to the west- 
ward ; F. W. Kitchener and Park being, as already described, 
respectively at Fort Weeber and in the act of clearing the Dwars 
River and Waterval valleys. On the 19th Benson had scored a 
signal success by the capture of twenty-nine Boers with a 
convoy at Klipspruit, Beatson taking a smaller number near 
Wagendrift. On his arrival at Blinkwater Benson was met 
by a body of 100 Boers desirous of surrender, most of whom 



144 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

had been previously deprived of horses and ammunition by 
Viljoen. 

Operations next day by Benson resulted in the voluntary 
surrender of thirty-two more burghers and the capture of thirty- 
one ; a Krupp gun, discovered upset in a kloof, was also 
secured. On the same day one of Beatson's patrols, consisting 
of only six men under Lieutenant J. H. Brabazon (Victorian 
Mounted Rifles), ranging far across the OUphant, and even 
across the Moos river, chased and captured a convoy of ten 
wagons and fourteen Boers. Meanwhile F. W. Kitchener had 
cleared the coimtry southward through Pokwani down to Paarde- 
plaats, where he camped on the 23rd. Pulteney during the 
same period had moved northward from Windhoek to Klip- 
bankspruit, and thence on the 22nd to Roos Senekal, capturing 
four, and accepting the surrender of sixty Boers on the way. 
Sixty-eight more capitulated during the next few days, which 
Pulteney devoted to searching the environs of the town, finding 
amongst other trophies a Vickers-Maxim and a 15-pr. gun, both 
destroyed, and a parcel of Transvaal banknotes of the face 
value of £50,000. Pulteney joined Headquarters at Blink- 
water on April 29th, by which time F. W. Kitchener had 
descended to Holnek, and Beatson, working from Roodepoort, 
had thoroughly swept the angle formed by the sharp easterly 
turn of the Oliphant river at Slaghoek. Benson had joined 
Douglas at Dullstroom on the 28th, and on the 30th both 
columns, under Douglas's command, proceeded to attack a band 
which had gathered at Roodekranz, a position threatening the 
line of retreat on Belfast. In the brief engagement which 
resulted, three Boers were killed and two captured ; and aU 
were dislodged, though mist and the difficulty of the ground 
prevented an attack being pressed home. F. W. Kitchener, 
now on his homeward way, had come still further southward, 
and on April 30th held a Une from Buff els vlei, through Rooi kraal 
to Kleinfontein on the northern slopes of the Botha's Berg ; 
Park was still at Rietfontein ; Benson and Douglas in the neigh- 
bourhood of Dullstroom ; Pulteney with Sir B. Blood at Bhnk- 
water ; Beatson, whose share in the operations was now ended. 



EVENTS IN EASTERN TRANSVAAL AND NATAL. 145 

was about Roodeiwort, whence he soon after began the march 
back to the Hne in the co-operation with Plumer which has 
already been referred to. 

Meanwhile B. Viljoen, wandering about Mapoch's Gronden Viijoen's 
in the very vortex of the revolving columns, had been making ^^ape.'° 
desperate efforts to escape. On the 20th April his position had 
become intolerable, and Benson's success at Klipspruit warned 
him that but a few hours remained in which to make a dash for 
liberty. On that night Viljoen burnt all his transport, destroyed 
his few remaining guns, and stole out southward, intending to 
work his way down the valley of the Steelpoort to Wonder- 
fontein, there to cross the railway and gain the freedom of the 
High Veld. But his scouts found Benson barring the way at 
Blinkwater, and Pulteney at Windhoek ; and Viljoen, baffled 
on every side, returned before dawn to his abandoned bivouac 
at Mapoch's. Previous to his march a hundred of his burghers, 
chiefly men of the Boksburg commando, having no heart for 
such an adventure, had deserted him in a body, openly an- 
nouncing their intention to surrender These, as related, 
gave themselves up to Benson at Blinkwater. Shut in on east 
and south, Viljoen saw that his only hope of safety, and that a 
faint one, lay to the westward. As soon as darkness fell on the 
22nd, he led his men across the Steelp)oort at Lagersdrift, struck 
thence north-westward along the Bloed river, and evading 
Beatson's patrols and outposts reached the banks of the Oli- 
phant before dawn on the 23rd. By sunrise he was safely over 
a dangerous and little known drift situated near the confluence 
of the Bloed and Oliphant rivers. Viljoen then gave out to 
the natives — the best intelligence department of his adver- 
saries — that he was bound for Pietersburg, and for a while 
marched steadily in that direction. But striking the Moos 
river, he swung suddenly south-west along its course, and by 
the evening was on its headstream at Roodepoortje, Next day, 
turning eastward, he crossed the Wilge below Langkloof, and viijoen 
bivouacked at Blackwoods Camp, less than twenty miles north ^*^P"* 
of Balmoral, where he hoped to cross the railway. Here, 
actually in rear of the columns which had hunted him for a 

VOL. IV. 10 



146 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

fortnight, he remained for several days, so confident of security 
that he ventured to send a detachment back across the Oliphant 
to attack the post at Wagendrift. In the first week in May the 
commando, divided into two parties, safely effected the passage 
and re-crosses of the hue between Balmoral and Brugspruit. Viljoen, leaving 
the railway, ^us men to a much needed rest at Kromdraai, near the sources 
of the Wilge river, then rode on to join the Commandant-General 
at Beginderlyn on the Vaal, south of Ermelo. In this manner 
did Boer leaders, not once, but on many occasions, slip from the 
grasp of their pursuers ; nor are there methods of war which 
can frustrate them, except by a fortunate chance. In a wide 
country full of innumerable hiding places, against an enemy 
who is acquainted with them all and has a mobiUty which 
enables him to vanish from one haunt when it becomes unsafe 
to the next, and again to a third or a fourth in the course of a 
day or a night, what art can close every outlet, or what number 
of troops watch every hollow and every thicket, though any one 
may contain the sought-for game ? Under such conditions the 
escape of well-led fugitives even from vastly greater forces 
is not only practicable but easy, and few but the careless, 
the treacherous, or the faint-hearted will be caught. 

On May 2nd, Pulteney, surrounding Roos Senekal after a 
night march from BUnkwater, secured a small laager to the north 
of the town, the Boers losing thirteen men. This was the last 
noteworthy incident of the operations, which were soon after- 
wards concluded. On May 5th Sir B. Blood returned to Middel- 
burg, and during the next few days all his columns regained 
their respective bases. Three weeks of ceaseless activity had 
resulted in the capture of 1,439 armed Boers, nine guns, 750 
rifles, half a million rounds of S.A. ammunition, 964 wagons 
and carts, and nearly 55,000 head of stock, besides two engines 
and thirty-six trucks found by Plumer in Pietersburg station. 

With scarcely a pause the Commander-in-Chief now turned 

the tide of war from north to south of the Pretoria — Delagoa 

o/operations Bay railway. Once more the scattered townships of the south- 

^'^^'?^ eastern Transvaal — refuges which French had vainly solicited 

south-eastern .. " ,,-ii .xj.xi.t- 

Transvaal. permission to raze to the ground — had begun to attract the 



EVENTS IN EASTERN TRANSVAAL AND NATAL. 147 

hunted bands who roved the country in search of rest. There 
was, in short, every indication of a re-occupation by the enemy ; 
to nip it whilst yet in the bud no fewer than thirteen columns 
were prepared early in May. 

Colonel G. M. Bullock, relieved of his supervision of French's 
convoys in the Wakkerstroom Hills, had come into Volksrust, 
and there, on April 25th, had taken over from Dartnell — whose Bullock and 
political duties recalled him to Natal — the command of his ""'"e^°" 
column, with promotion to the rank of Brigadier-General. This 
force, in conjunction with another under Colonel M. F. Rimington 
from Standerton, Lord Kitchener now directed on Ermelo, whilst 
eleven other columns made ready to thresh out the same area. 
Bullock, leaving Volksrust on April 29th, marched by Amers- 
foort, the Riet Spruit, Tweefontein, and Vereeniging, faiUng 
to gain touch with Colville's and two other small columns which 
went out to co-operate from Standerton and Platrand towards 
Blauw Kop. On May 9th Bullock arrived at Ermelo, after several 
spirited skirmishes with General Botha who was here in com- 
pany with B. Viljoen, the latter just come from the scene of 
his adventures around Roos Senekal. Rimington started from 
Standerton on May 14th and moved along the Ermelo road 
with a convoy for Bullock, whom he joined on the i6th. There- 
after the two units, raiding the country in all directions, took up 
a stopping line from Ermelo up to Lake Chrissie, blocking the 
exits from the area about to be swept by the main force. A 
column at Nelspruit under Brigadier-General J. Spens effected 
the same service at the northern outlets, playing indeed a double 
part, for Park was driving the country from Lydenburg down 
to Nelspruit vtd the Mauch Berg, and Spens placed himself 
to turn both Park's quarry fleeing southward, and fugitives 
making nortnward out of the Ermelo district. Now began 
two distinct but converging sets of operations, one by Sir B. 
Blood from the Delagoa Bay railway, the other by Plumer 
from Pretoria and the western line. These it will be necessary 
to describe separately. 

The tactics of Sir B. Blood had as their object a junction Sir B. Blood's 
with Bullock, and a complete clearance of the zones around '**^""- 

VOL. IV. 10* 



148 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Sir B. Blood 
inarches 
south from 
Middelburg. 



Caxolina, Steynsdorp, down to Amsterdam, much of which had 
been untouched by French during his raid of March and April. 
For this task six columns and a brigade of cavalry were allotted 
which up to May 12th were posted as follows : — At Middelburg, 
Major-General F. W. Kitchener and Lieut. -Colonel W. P. 
Pulteney ; at Belfast, Lieut. -Colonel G. E. Benson ; at Machado- 
dorp, Lieut. -Colonel W. Douglas ; at Wonder fontein, Major- 
General J. M. Babington with the cavalry brigade ; at Nelspruit, 
Brigadier-General J. Spens, to be joined later by Colonel C. W. 
Park from Lydenburg. 

F. W. Kitchener and Pulteney marched out of Middelburg on 
May 13th, and sweeping the coimtry on either bank of the Klein 
Ohphant river, were between its source and that of the Komati 
river on the i6th, camping at Groblers Recht and Witkrans 
respectively.* Douglas reached Uitkomst on the same date, his 
left flank harassed all day from Schoonwater, and his wagons 
impeded both by morasses and by bands whom he finally drove 
with loss south over Boschoek into the Komati valley. F. W. 
Kitchener and Pulteney reached the Carolina — Ermelo road 
at the source of the Vaal river on the i8th, when Benson, who had 
only left Belfast on the i6th, was at Bonnefoi, where he joined 
hands with Douglas, and co-operated with him in hunting the 
scattered groups of Boers who were in hiding in the Komati 
valley. Carohna, guarded on three sides, was now safe, and 
there the cavalry brigade was based on the i8th for operations 
to the eastward. Pulteney, echelonned on F. W. Kitchener's 
right-front at Goodeverwachting, made Lake Chrissie on the 
19th, these two columns pushing on to Florence and Lilliburn 
on the 20th, next day to Weltevreden and Holnek, and on the 
22nd to Jacht Lust and Pittville, whilst Benson and Douglas 
to the northward cleared to the banks of the Komati about 
Kalk Kloof and Driehoek. On the 27th Pulteney occupied 
Steynsdorp. 

Whilst the columns circled about these areas, running down 
with an infinity of toil the broken handfuls of Boers who fled 

* For gallantry on May i6th Lieutenant F. W. Bell, West Australian M.I., was 
awarded the Victoria Cross. 



EVENTS IN EASTERN TRANSVAAL AND NATAL. 149 

before them, or hid in their very midst, the cavalry, coming 
forward by Rietfontein, Silverkop and Boschoek (on the Zekoe 
Spruit), entered the Komati valley below Benson, and en- 
deavoured likewise to track fugitives, drive cattle, and collect 
wagons and Boer families. The brigade returned to Boschoek 
on the 28th with but a single prisoner, with twenty-five burghers 
voluntarily surrendered, and a quantity of stock and wagons. 
Where infantry, scrupulously searching for individuals or 
trifling laagers over the scarred country by day and night could 
reap however small a harvest, cavalry might have been expected 
to glean more than a few ears. The total gain of all these 
columns by the end of May was but 142 Boers (of whom four 
were killed in action, and forty-four had voluntarily surrendered), 
about 270 wagons and carts, and some 36,000 head of stock ; 
and both troops and commanders were mortified to discover 
how httle their severe exertions were affecting the fortunes of 
the campaign. From the end of May to the middle of June, 
F. W. Kitchener and Pulteney beat up these districts between 
the Komati and Impilusi valle)^, and from Lake Chrissie to the 
Swazi border. The cavalry worked from Silverkop, concen- 
trating there on May 30th, when Benson returned to Carolina ; 
whilst Douglas, after exhaustive operations around Driehoek, 
retouched tlie line at Machadodorp on June 5th. On that 
date also Bullock, having marched with many a foray by 
Beginderlyn, went into Standerton with thirty prisoners and 
r8o Boer wagons. 

Meanwhile, Plumer with his own, Allenby's, and E. Knox's piumcr 
columns had been similarly employed in the western half of ^"h'^om 
the High Veld area. Plumer, it will be remembered, had gone Siiverton. 
to Eerstefabrieken, after his operations on the drifts of the 
Oliphant. Thence he moved to Siiverton, where he lay on May 
13th, his coadjutors, Allenby and E. C. Knox, being at Witbank 
and Greyhngstad respectively on that date. On May 14th all 
three columns started to converge on the sources of the Wilge 
river. At Kromdraai still rested the exhausted commandos 
which Viljoen had temporarily abandoned in order to join the 
Commandant-General at Beginderlyn. Viljoen was now on his 



ISO 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Plumer at 
Bethel. 



Plumer 

continues 

southward. 



way back to his command, with a wary eye for Bullock, who was 
raiding to the east, and Rimington, who was making his way out 
from Standerton to join Plumer. Of Plumer and his trio of 
columns, however, he knew nothing until, arriving on the 
Steenkool (or Steenbok) Spruit, on the evening of the 15th, he 
was startled to hear first of Knox's sortie from Greyhngstad. 
Guessing his purpose Viljoen hurriedly extricated his commando ; 
and uniting with Commandant Mears, an independent freebooter 
of a type irregular even in that army of partisans, spent the 
ensuing period darting about in the midst of the increasing 
crowd of his enemies, trying at every hour every point of the 
compass for an opportunity to sting or a chance to escape. 

On May 15th Plumer, marching by Klipkoppies, reached 
Leeuwpoort, where the Queensland Imperial Bushmen, chasing a 
knot of fifty Boers, rode them down and captured five. AUenby 
on the same day camped at Zaaiwater, midway between the 
Wilge and the Oliphant rivers ; and E. C. Knox, at Paardefontein. 
The two former columns both searched Kromdraai on the i6th, 
Knox, who had been delayed, getting no further than Zondags- 
kraal, and on the 17th to Grootpan where he communicated with 
Plumer. On the i8th, Allenby, after handing over a convoy to 
Plumer, set out vid Cypherfontein and Bloemendal for Springs, 
arriving there on the 20th with eight prisoners, many Boer 
families, and 6,300 head of stock. At Springs he remained 
some days preparing to co-operate with Beatson in another series 
of operations which will be described later. Finding Kromdraai 
to be an empty nest, Plumer now pushed on to Bethel. There 
by way of Blesbokspruit, and on a front Kaffirskraal — Tweedraai, 
he arrived with E. C. Knox on May 20th, having been much 
pestered on the way by skirmishers who clung to his flanks and 
rear, but melted like mist before his van. 

On May 21st Rimington, on his return journey from Bullock 
at Ermelo, came into touch with Bethel and reported the state 
of the districts through which he had passed. Plumer's inten- 
tion had been to send this column northward, but hearing that 
considerable forces still roved between Bethel and Ermelo, he 
detained Rimington, and arranged a joint drive by the three 



EVENTS IN EASTERN TRANSVAAL AND NATAL. 151 

columns in a southerly direction. By the 23rd he had drawn a 
line of mounted troops completely across the interval between 
the two towns, posting Rimington at Middelplaat, E. C. Knox at 
Uitzicht, his own column at Rietpan. The infantry and trans- 
port remained at Bethel, with orders to pursue the high road 
which led southward to the Vaal. On the 24th the line 
advanced to Uitgezocht (Rimington), Winkelhaak (Knox), 
Klipfontein (Plumer), and Witbank (transport), and next day 
to Drinkwater, Klipkraal and Bankhoek. Few Boers were en- 
countered, and those chiefly by Rimington, outside the left flank. 
To all appearances this country, so recently ravaged by French, 
contained little but a few deserted families on the farms, and 
some fields of crops which had been overlooked. But the 
enemy, practised in being hunted, was not necessarily absent 
because he was not in front of the chase. Nor was Viljoen a 
leader slow to profit by an opportunity because he was being 
pursued ; and an opportunity was soon given him. Plumer's 
transport, following the Standerton road, was marching outside 
the line of columns ; and the Boers, observing this, had dogged 
it closely, twice attacking the rearguard since leaving Bethel. 
The train consisted of 120 wagons, and a large herd of stock, 
escorted by 650 men of the 2nd Somersetshire Light Infantry 
and ist Royal Munster Fusiliers ; 120 mounted men, and two 
guns Q. battery R.H.A.. the whole under Lieut. -Colonel E. J. 
Gallwey (Somersetshire Light Infantry). At 6 a.m. on the 
morning of May 25th tliis column, as it left Witbank for Mooi- piumer's 
fontein, was waylaid by Viljoen, and attacked simultaneously a°,^c^ ^ay 
from front, right, and rear. 2Sih, 1901. 

The Boers fell on with spirit, rushing into close quarters 
time after time, in spite of the accurate practice of the artillery, 
and the firmness of the infantry, who beat back every attack. 
Soon the whole column was enveloped by flaming grass ignited 
by the enemy, who endeavoured to penetrate into the baggage 
and snatch the cattle under cover of the smoke. But every 
attempt was foiled by the steadfastness of the defence. A 
Vickers-Maxim with which the Boers belaboured the British 
guns and right flank was quickly silenced ; the wagons, stoutly 



152 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Plumer 
regains the 
railway. 



Allenby and 
Beatson. 



guarded, were gradually moved to a place safe both from the 
flames and the enemy, and after seven hours of close and 
anxious fighting Viljoen was beaten off with the loss of nearly 
forty men, that of Gallwey having been thirty-one. 

Immediately on hearing of this occurrence Plumer hurried 
westward towards the convoy, which he conducted as far as 
Verblyding (May 27th) whence it was passed into Standerton. 
The arrival of E. C. Knox north of Standerton and of Rimington 
at Platrand on the 28th concluded the operations, which had 
yielded thirty-seven prisoners and about 12,000 head of stock. 

Turning again to AUenby's column at Springs, May 24th saw 
it marching eastward towards Beatson. The last-named com- 
mander had known no rest since he dropped out of Sir B. Blood's 
ojjerations around Roos Senekal. Unceasingly he had scoured 
the country on both banks of the Wilge river, between its junction 
with the Oliphant and the railway— the escaping Viljoen barely 
avoiding him — finally concentrating at Brugspruit on May 23rd 
with 166 Boers, many wagons and much stock to the credit 
of his troops. He immediately received instructions for a foray 
southward about the jvmction of the Oliphant river and Steen- 
kool (or Steenbok) Spruit, where the fugitives from Bethel were 
reported to have collected ; Allenby was to co-operate from 
Springs. Accordingly, Beatson was at Klippan on the 25th, 
and next day at Van Dyksdrift, at the confluence, wliere he 
gained touch with Allenby, who had come by Witklip, Leeuw- 
fontein, and Hartebeestfontein, capturing on the way a small 
laager, eight prisoners and a Colt gun. Beatson now found 
himself in the midst of scattered bodies of the enemy, which 
during the next few days he engaged constantly and always with 
success, fighting at Koornfontein on the 27th, at Middelkraal 
on the 28th, at Rensburghoop on the 29th, and again near 
Koornfontein on June ist, with loss to his own troops of ten 
officers and men killed and wounded, and to the enemy of twelve 
killed and wounded, seven prisoners, the contents of fifty farms 
cleared or destroyed, and more than 100 wagons and 13,000 
head of stock captured. Meanwhile Allenby, working back, by 
arrangement with Beatson, towards the source of the Wilge, 



EVENTS IN EASTERN TRANSVAAL AND NATAL. 153 

came upon many untouched farms, and considerable bands of 
Boers subsisting upon them. By the last day of May he had 
thoroughly swept a line through Middeldrift, Rietvlei, Weltevre- 
den, Straffontein and Van Dyksput, having taken in all twelve 
prisoners and 21,000 head of stock before he returned to the 
railway at Wilge River station, en route for Pretoria. 

Of the lines of communication during April and May there The lines of 
was little to record. The universal stirring of columns over the tion'duriS 
open veld in April had the effect of casting many small bands of April. 
Boers, hke waves from a distant storm, up against the sur- 
rounding lines of communication. Posts on the Delagoa Bay 
line were frequently attacked to cover the passage of fugitives 
from one untenable district into the other. On the Standerton 
line the mounted reconnaissances from Heidelberg, and Colville — 
who captured a laager at Boschmanskop on the 29th — more 
than once met with the enemy in force, whilst, lower down, 
the blockhouses between Kromdraai and Volksrust dealt 
successfully with five different attempts to cross the railway. 

Natal, during this month, though continually threatened from 
Botha's Pass and the west, had chiefly to cop)e with an irruption 
by the enemy into the Nkandhla and Mahlabitini districts of 
Zululand. From the former a small column under Major A. J. 
Chapman (Royal Dublin Fusiliers) temporarily dislodged them 
by a sharp attack at Babanango on the 26th ; whilst the Boers, 
attacking in their turn the magistracy at Mahlabitini two days 
later, were repulsed with loss by the Natal Police, who, in the 
course of a stout resistance to ten times their numbers, lost 
seven out of the twenty men who formed the garrison. These 
successes, however, by no means freed the districts, which 
attracted the enemy by their fertility after the ruin and desola- 
tion of their own veld ; and Lieut. -General Hildyard was 
compelled later to adopt regular methods of clearance. 

In May, Spens and Park were active on the Delagoa Bay line, The lines of 
whilst the Standerton railway furnished several small offensive [^^'JJ'durit^ 
forces, notably one under Major J. M. Vallentin (Somersetshire May. 
Light Infantry) from Heidelberg on the 25th, which surprised 
a laager and took nine prisoners on the banks of the Vaal river. 



154 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

The two columns mentioned previously as issuing from Stander- 
ton and Platrand to co-operate with Bullock were under Brigadier- 
General E. O. F. Hamilton ; they returned on the yth with 
five prisoners, having suffered the same number of casualties. 
Another force, under Colonel F. J. Pink (Queen's regiment), 
in co-operation with Colville — who was in his turn a flanker 
of a sweep by Major-General E. L. Elliot in progress along 
the other side of the Klip river* — made a bonfire of the 
Verzamel Berg, a noted place of call for wandering commandos 
both from the Orange River Colony and the Southern Transvaal. 
A feat performed during the month by an officer stationed at 
Gras Kop, Captain H. R. Bottomley (Queen's regiment) by name, 
deserves mention if only to show that the Boers were not always 
the layers but sometimes the victims of ambuscades. Riding 
out by night, and concealing himself and a few companions in 
the town of Amersfoort before daylight on the 22nd, this officer 
killed, wounded, or captured, singly, several noted Boers of the 
district, including the commandant of the Wakkerstroom com- 
mando ; and when at last forced by the arrival of strong parties 
to gallop for the distant Gras Kop, took with him three 
prisoners whom he had snatched from the very midst of the 
Boer bands. 

Once more Hildyard, in Natal, had had to deal with the 
Nkandhla and Melmoth districts of Zululand, where the Boers, 
though quiet after their repulses in April, had quartered them- 
selves on the farms in such numbers that except for the few 
British posts they were practically in occupation of the country. 
Three small columns were accordingly despatched thither, 
under Colonel R. W. Evans (Natal Volunteers), Captain G. 
Capron (Vth division mounted infantry), and Major A. J. 
Chapmcin (Royal Dublin Fusiliers). A night march on May 19th 
by the last-named officer resulted in the capture of a complete 
laager in the Babanango range. Next morning Chapman was 
himself attacked by superior forces, and though compelled to 
retire into Nkandhla, extricated his party and inflicted more 

» See Chapter V. 



EVENTS IN EASTERN TRANSVAAL AND NATAL. 155 

losses than he received. Chapman was then reinforced from 
Dundee, and the establishment of entrenched posts at various 
spots soon safeguarded the districts from raids. 

There fell also upon Lieut. -General Hildyard at this time the 
preparation of columns and lines of entrenchment for stopping 
the western passes, to assist that operation of Major-General 
Elliot in the Orange River Colony to which allusion has already 
been made in connection with the forays of Colonels Colville and 
Pink on both sides of the Verzamel Berg. 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 



COLUMN. 



April — May, 1901. 

Lieut.-GeneraJ Sir B. Blood's 
Force. 

Col. C. W. Park 
Maj.-Gen. F. W. Kitchener 
Lt-Col. W. Douglas 

Lt.-Col. W. P. Pulteney . . 
Lt-Col. G. E. Benson 

Maj.-Gen. S. B. Beatson.. 
Brig.-Gen. G. M. Bullock . . 
Lt.-Col. M. F. Rimington . . 
Lt.-Col. A. E. W. Colville.. 
Brig.-Gen. H. C. O. Plumer 
Brig.-Gen. J. Spens 
Maj.-Gen. jf. M. Babington 
Col. E. C. Knox . . 
Lt.-Col. E. H. H. Allenby 



300 

SSO 
330 

750 
720 

600 
2,537 
1,450 

250 

1,428 

163 

1,004 

1,490 

762 



930 
2,290 
1,280 

800 
350 

1,020 
621 
278 
370 

570 

337 
464 

550 



CO 8 



3 
6 

3 

8 
8 

4 
14 

4 
6 
2 
8 
8 
7 



O 



s 



Maj.-Gen. F. W. 
Kitchener in com- 
mand. 

Maj.-Gen. R. S. R. 
Fetherstonhaugh in 
command. 



156 



CHAPTER IX. 

EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY* 

{Continued from Chapter V.), 

APRIL — JUNE, I9OI. 

Sir L. Of the larger units in the Orange River Colony, the Harrismith 

Sjeiations. Command must now be dealt with. Since early in February 
Sir L. Rundle had seen neither of his mobile columns, Harley's 
being in garrison at Ficksburg, that of B. Campbell in parts still 
more remote. Campbell, after evacuating Vrede of all but its 
garrison on February loth, had marched into Standerton to 
re-equip. The duty of forwarding supplies to French, who was 
then in the Eastern Transvaal,t detained him at Standerton, 
after which he paid a second visit to Vrede on March 4th. This 
town, which was held by the ist Leinster regiment under Lieut. - 
Colonel H. Martin, had been virtually invested during the past 
five months, the troops suffering greatly from disease. It was 
now completely cleared by Campbell, who for the eight days 
following found his return blocked by swollen rivers. So un- 
likely then seemed the prospects of his being able to regain 
Harrismith by his former route, that the column was en- 
trained for Ladysmith in Natal, thence to march on Harrismith 
by way of Van Reenen's Pass. In effecting this Campbell was 
still further delayed by an attack by a party of Boers on the 
line at Mount Prospect, near Laing's Nek, where a goods train 
was blown up in front of the troop trains. Not until April loth 
was Campbell back in Harrismith. Harley, locked up in Ficks- 

♦ See map No. 64. t See Chapter VI. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. i57 

burg, had been similarly alienated, performing, however, much 
useful work from that place both in co-operation with Pilcher 
about Ladybrand, Clocolan and Mequatlings Nek, with Lyttel- 
ton on his northerly drive from the Orange, and on his own 
account, for he had never ceased to radiate exp)editions into the 
disturbed area about him. 

Campbell's return enabled Sir L. Rundle to resume the 
offensive. He selected as his first objective the Brandwater 
basin, which Harley reported to be teeming with the enemy. 
So numerous were the bands, and so formidable their strongholds, 
especially the passes which led into the basin, that Rundle 
represented to the Commander-in-Chief the desirability of the 
co-operation of at least four columns in the work. Neither 
Elliot nor C. E. Knox, however, were at the moment available, 
and Lord Kitchener instructed Sir L, Rundle to conduct his 
expedition as a reconnaissance on the results of which future 
action would be decided. On April 20th Rundle took B. Camp- 
bell's reconstructed column, 2,200 strong with eight guns, out 
of Harrismith. Four days' incessant skirmishing, which cost 
eighteen casualties, brought the force to Bethlehem, where two 
days were spent in reorganising the garrison of Bethlehem and 
fitting it for the field. This set at liberty an additional batta- 
lion, the 2nd Manchester, under Lieut. -Colonel C. T. Reay, 
which, until April 28th, cleared the vicinity^ of Bethlehem in 
co-operation with Campbell's column. On the 29th the whole 
force plunged into the Brandwater basin by Retief's Nek, and 
on May 2nd entered Fouriesburg. For the next month Sir 
L. Rundle constituted this town as his base for raids in all 
directions. 

First, two srtiall columns under Lieut. -Colonels Reay and 
F. W. Romilly beat up the immediate neighbourhood of Fouries- 
burg, finding scattered all over the mountains patrols which, 
assembled, would have totalled some 800 men. These groups 
contented themselves, however, with long-range skirmishing 
from the mountain tops, and never seriously interfered with the 
extensive clearing operations in progress beneath them. From 
the 15th to the 29th Rundle had four columns out, under Lieut.- 



158 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Colonels J, L. Keir, Reay, Romilly and Colonel Harley, the 
latter having come from Ficksburg with a convoy of supplies. 
Ten days later Rundle, having destroyed everything within 
reach, evacuated Fouriesburg, and began a double movement 
upon the Roode Bergen to the east. Whilst he himself marched 
direct upon Naauwpoort Nek, Campbell took the road out of 
Retief s Nek. Campbell was escorting a convoy for Bethlehem, 
and he had orders to strike south-eastward when he should 
have delivered it, and attempt to rejoin the main body at Naauw- 
poort Nek. In spite of considerable opposition Campbell, who 
had to fight his way to Bethlehem, duly effected this on May 
31st. Making a forced march back, he appeared so suddenly at 
the north entry of Naauwpoort Nek that a small Boer convoy of 
nine wagons, which was making its escape from Rundle, fell into 
his hands, the skirmish costing him five wounded. Sir L. Rundle 
was at that moment on the other side of the Nek, above Mooi- 
hoek, and moving with Harley up the valley of the little Caledon, 
he ordered Campbell to move by Naauwpoort Nek and sweep 
eastward along the Roode Bergen on the opposite or northern 
side, thus completely enveloping the range. Throughout the 
first week of June the movement proceeded, the main difficulty 
being the roads, or the lack of them, for the troops had practically 
to cut their own track, and several wagons were lost over the 
precipices. On the 4th both columns issued from the mountains, 
Campbell by Witzies Hoek, Harley by Golden Gate, both con- 
verging towards Elands River Drift, where they united on the 
8th. Their joint captures amounted to 6,000 head of stock, 
forty-one vehicles, a quantity of Krupp shells and small-arm 
ammunition, and 350 tons of foodstuffs, about the same quantity 
having been destroyed for lack of means to remove it. The 
British casualties had numbered twelve killed and wounded, 
those of the enemy about double. Sir L. Rundle then marched 
for Harrismith, where he arrived on the 9th, and proceeded 
to refit. 
C. E. Knox's Turning now to the troops of the central district, C. E. Knox's 

operations. ^^q columus, namely, Pilcher's and Thorneycroft's, like those of 
Sir L. Rimdle, had been engaged in opposite directions in the 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 159 

early part of April, Pilcher, it will be remembered, had been 
sighted at Reitz by Broadwood, on the right flank of Elliot's 
easterly drive, on April 28th. Three weeks earUer Pilcher had 
been in touch with Harley at Ficksburg on MequatUngs Nek ; 
and when amongst the headstreams of the Vet river at New 
Holstein, orders had reached liim to convey the mass of booty 
which he had acquired into Winburg. Skilfully turning the 
formidable Koranna Berg on April 8th, Pilcher worked his way 
by easy stages, and incessantly engaiged, to Winburg, which 
he reached on April 22nd, Thence he was ordered to Senekal 
to resume co-operation with Thorneycroft. That officer had 
been as busy as Pilcher in another direction. A raid to the 
west of Brandfort in the first week of April had culminated in a 
successful night surprise of a laager at Mooiwater, where by 
admirable tactics Thorneycroft's seasoned regiment secured 
thirty-three prisoners. On April 5th Thorneycroft returned to 
Brandfort, to sally again two days later to the east of the rail- 
way. Another week's sweep by Landdrost Monde, and between 
the Vet river and Winburg, brought him into that town on the 
14th, thence by Tzamen, the Tabaksberg and \'erblijden on April 
20th to Brandfort again, where he handed over nearly 500 
refugees and 16,000 beasts. Thence by the same route Thorney- 
croft returned to Winburg on the 23rd, and on the next day 
C. E. Knox himself accompanied him towards Senekal with a 
view of co-operating with Elliot with both his columns. Arriving 
at Senekal on the afternoon of April 25th, Knox found Pilcher 
already in possession of the place, having surrounded it by a 
well-conducted night march from Doornfontein. Pilcher was 
then despatched towards Reitz, his task being to drive as many 
of the enemy as he could in front of ElUot, Knox returning 
to Winburg with Thorneycroft. Pilcher, as already recorded, 
duly reached Reitz by the difficult road on the 28th, and, having 
performed his part, returned almost immediately, being under 
orders to rejoin his Headquarters by May 2nd. On that date 
he reached Senekal, where he had expected to find C. E. Knox ; 
but that General had moved to Winburg, leaving orders for 
Pilcher to penetrate the Doornberg 'from the north, whilst 



i6o THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Thorneycroft entered from the opposite side. Accordingly 
Pilcher marched to Lehefontein, and thence to Spytfontein, 
skirmishing all the way with a strong body which was based on 
Schaapplaat. On May 8th, in co-operation with Thorneycroft 
from Helpmakaar, the Doomberg was thoroughly scoured, 
after which Pilcher put in to Ventersburg Road on May 9th, 
and Thorneycroft to Virginia Siding. 

At this time the railway both north and south of Kroonstad 
was infested by bands which it seemed impossible to prevent 
from crossing, and in many instances from damaging the line. 
They were especially numerous on the west, and Major J. E. 
Pine-Coffin's mounted infantry, which W. G. Knox, the com- 
mander of that section of the lines of communication, had 
des{>atched on May 6th to attempt to sweep the country towards 
Bothaville, had to return before superior numbers. C. E. Knox 
was therefore ordered to proceed with his two columns to this 
district, and on the night of May 13th he moved out with the 
general intention of clearing up the tract between the Vet and 
Valsch rivers. An attempt to compress a commando between 
Thorneycroft, supported by Pine-Coffin, at Kalkkuil — Kopje 
Alleen and Pilcher at Bloemhof — (ieluk failed, though some loss 
was occasioned to the enemy. Thorneycroft then remained 
stationary whilst Pilcher circled by Alettasdraai towards 
Bothaville. His movements had the effect of forcing the Boers 
south-westward towards the drifts of the Vaal north of Hoop- 
stad, which they endeavoured to gain. Pilcher was too quick 
for them, however, and seized both Commando and Hofman's 
Drifts, whilst Thorneycroft closed towards him to Boschrand 
on the 1 6th to cover the crossings of the Zand Spruit. Thus 
shut in, the enemy's bands broke up, and Pilcher was directed 
on Bothaville. An outpost which he had thrown across the 
river at Commando Drift was hotly attacked on the night of 
the 1 6th, losing fifteen horses. The detachment at Hofman's 
Drift was also attacked as it was withdrawing, all the captured 
stock being retaken by the enemy, who inflicted five casualties 
upon the troops. Next day this party was again attacked, 
the Boers coming in to close quarters. Eleven more casualties 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. i6i 

resulted, but the detachment was fortunate to rejoin Pilcher 
with so few, for the enemy fought with determination, and 
nothing but the coolness of the rearguard kept them at bay.* 
On the 19th Thomeycroft and Pilcher united close to Bothaville, 
to part again next day, each in chase of separate hostile bodies 
which were reported to be trekking southward. Little more 
fighting occurred. The Boers had made good their escape out 
of the area, and only some fifteen vehicles fell into Pilcher's hands 
at Roodepoort ; a patrol of Thomeycroft's, reconnoitring across 
the Valsch, found five more hidden in the bed of the Rhenoster 
river. On May 22nd Pilcher arrived at Virginia Siding and 
Thomeycroft at Kroonstad, their total capture amounting to 
twenty-three wagons and carts and 5,000 animals ; the casualties 
numbered eighteen, as against some score amongst the enemy. 
Seven mills, including an important one at Alettasdraai, and a 
vast amount of crops had also been destroyed ; but the area was 
too great and too well furnished to be completely cleared by the 
number of troops employed. At the close of May Pilcher was 
at Brandfort and Thomeycroft at Vet River station, whence 
they soon issued to co-operate with the columns of the southern 
section of the Orange River Colony, whose previous operations 
must now be described. 

At the end of March Lyttelton had under his command Bruce Lytteiton's 
Hamilton's three columns (Monro, VV. L. White, C. Maxwell), "P^"''^"'*- 
the three under Haig (Byng, W. H. Williams, Lowe) and Hick- 
man's. Of these, it will be remembered the first was at Spring- 
fontein, Bethanie and Edenburg ; Haig was on the Caledon 
river, Hickman at Edenburg, all preparing to intercept the 
expected return of the worsted invaders of Cape Colony.f 
This event, however, came to nothing ; Cape Colony was not 
relieved of a single Boer band, and Bruce Hamilton's troops 
were otherwise employed. News having come that a commando 

* Lieutenant and Adjutant G. H. B. Coulson (killed), King's Own Scottish 
Borderers (7th M.I.), was awarded the Victoria Cross (posthumous) for gallantry on this 
occasion. 

t See Chapter V. , page 97. 

VOL. IV. II 



i62 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

was in occupation of Dewetsdorp, on April 7th the three columns 
marched thither, and on the gth Monro, who was leading, sur- 
rounded the town, only to find that the enemy had been warned 
and had just made oif. The trail pointed south-eastward, and 
on the morning of tfie nth Monro fastened upon it, and for 
three hours galloped in pursuit with 150 men and a Vickers- 
Maxim. The tracks then disappeared, obbterated by the heavy 
rain, and Monro, caUing a halt, scouted widely. It was not long 
before the commando was discovered outspanned by a group 
of farms which, though protected in front by a deep donga, 
were surrounded by kopjes within rifle range. Instantly Monro's 
squadron leaders, scarcely waiting for orders, rushed for the 
points of vantage, and in a few moments every commanding 
knoll was in their possession. The Boers who filled the donga 
made a hot reply ; but a dash into the hollow from both flanks 
awed them so thoroughly that the fifty-three burghers therein 
soon succimibed to half their numbers, and the farm buildings 
behind lay uncovered. They were defended by some thirty 
riflemen whose rapid firing showed that they were by no means 
daunted by the capitulation which had occurred before their 
eyes. They seemed to be in expectation of assistance, and 
Monro, scanning the horizon, saw that he must make haste, for 
the distant hilltops were dotted with approaching horsemen. 
An immediate assault, however, was not easy, his force being 
now scattered too widely around the farms to be quickly 
assembled. He therefore determined to try negotiation, and 
called for a volunteer to approach the buildings under the white 
flag with a demand for surrender. Thereupon Lieutenant H. H. 
Shott, an officer of Bethune's mounted infantry, who had 
already greatly distinguished himself by his initiative in 
the attack on the donga, armed only with a handkerchief 
walked up to the farmhouses, in spite of the hot fire still 
pouring from them. After a parley, which was attended with 
extreme danger to himself, Shott succeeded in inducing the 
defenders to yield. Monro, who had lost but five men, then 
marched off with eighty-three prisoners, including two officers, 
and many wagons and animals, and arrived at Dewetsdorp at 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 163 

midnight, having covered forty miles since the morning. A 
similar expedition towards Ventershoek on the night of the 12th 
was less fortunate ; the party became entangled in difficult 
country, and owed its escape with but seven casualties largely 
to its being mistaken for friends by the Boers, who were met 
with in considerable strength. 

On April 13th Bruce Hamilton was ordered to take over Bruce Hamil- 

ton succeeds 

command of the southern area from Lyttelton, who had been Lytteiton. 
granted leave of absence. He accordingly returned to the rail- 
way, whither his columns, which were now to be commanded 
by Monro, also skirmished their way back on the i8th, bringing 
ninety-five prisoners and 46,000 head of stock. The main inci- 
dent of the return march occurred at the junction of the Hex and 
Riet rivers, where a troop of thirteen men of the 9th Lancers, of 
C. Maxwell's column, gallantly charging a kopje on foot, were 
overcome by a superior body entrenched on the top, and all but 
one killed or captured. A dash upon Reddersburg on April 21st, 
to Helvetia two days later, and into the Smithfteld district on 
the 25th, placed Monro favourably for a clearance of the trans- 
Caledon area, for which orders now came from the Commander- 
in-Chief. Such a movement was especially necessary, because 
at this moment Kritzinger was actually north of the Orange, Kritzinger 
having temporarily parted from his allies in the Barkly East orange'River 
district in the manner described elsewhere.* For this purpose Colony, 
was designated also W. H. Williams, who had taken over Haig's 
command when, on April 8th, that officer had been ordered 
across the Orange river to deal with the raiders in Cape Colony. 
Williams brought with him, in addition to Byng, the columns of 
Herbert and the Hon. A. Murray, lent by Hart from Aliwal North 
and Bethulie, and after clearing the Elands Berg, he was at 
Smithfteld and in touch with Monro on April 25th. A combined 
southerly raid on both sides of the Caledon was then arranged, 
Williams to move on the west of the river with W. L. White and 
C. Maxwell added to his own troops, whilst Monro was respon- 
sible for the country on the opposite bank. On the 28th, when 

• See Chapter X., page 176. 
VOL. IV. II* 



i64 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Bruce Hamilton repaired to Aliwal North, his columns were thus 
disposed from east to west : At Akel, on the Basuto border, 
were White and Maxwell ; at Naseby, Williams with Byng ; at 
Constantia, Herbert ; at Smithfield, Monro ; whilst Hickman, 
who had for the past week been watching the Orange about 
Krugers Drift to intercept an anticipated retreat by Hertzog, 
was nearing Bethulie for Karreepoort, where he was to com- 
mence the clearance of the fork between the Orange and 
Caledon. Murray was in Aliwal North, detailed to escort a 
convoy of suppUes for the columns. By the time the foraying 
columns had arrived about Rouxville, a reported concen- 
tration of the enemy along the frontier near Philippolis 
caused WilUams, with Byng and Lieut. -Colonel P. G. Wynd- 
ham (successor to Herbert), to be transported across the rail- 
way with orders to move along the right bank of the Orange 
towards Ramah, Bruce Hamilton taking a central position at 
Edenburg. Monro remained in the east, vainly endeavouring 
to close with Kritzinger, who was supposed to be travelling 
northward from the Orange. 

Starting from Springfontein on May loth, W. H. WilUams 
was at Goemans Berg on the 12th, and two days later had 
a sharp affair fifteen miles south-west of Fauresmith, where 
two squadrons of the South African light Horse killed and 
wounded three and captured fourteen burghers, including a 
noted Field-Comet, Van der Merwe. On May 15th WilUams 
was at Somersfontein, and on the 21st reached Ramah with 
his prisoners and tens of thousands of sheep and cattle, having 
foimd no hostile concentration, but instead an immense herd of 
stock which had been driven from the Fauresmith farmsteads. 
WilUams subsequently regained the railway at the end of the 
month at Priors Siding, marching by PhiUppolis. Meanwhile 
Monro could get Uttle more news of Kritzinger than a rumour, 
which proved true, that the Boer was on his way back to the 
frontier. He was in the midst of a cast around Rouxville on 
May 19th when he was ordered to take his column into Cape 
Colony, where he shortly embarked on that career of activity in 
the north-eastern counties which is fully narrated in subsequent 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 165 

chapters.* Kritzinger, doubling cleverly, had preceded Monro a Kritzinger 
week earlier, and his departure left that part of the south of oran^ d'ver 
the Orange River Colony east of the railway practically clear. 
But Kritzinger's re-entry into the British province, effected in 
spite of the bevy of columns around him as easily as his former 
passages in and out of it, added to the growing demands of the 
state of affairs south of the Orange. Haig had long ago gone 
thither ; A. Murray, replaced by Lieut. -Colonel L. E. du Moulin, 
had rejoined Hart at Ahwal North ; and now first Monro, then 
W, L. White, were ordered across the border, to be followed in 
course of time by others. The 9th and 17th Lancers were also en- 
trained for Cape Colony, taken from the column which was now 
commanded by Major S. W. Follett in place of C. Maxwell, who, 
on May 20th, had been thrown from his horse, sustaining injuries 
from which, to the regret of all, he died. Finally Hickman, on 
his return to the railway on May 30th, proceeded to Cape Colony, 
leaving his column at Edenburg. These changes afforded a 
favourable opportunity for a reorganisation of Bruce Hamil- 
ton's forces into less unwieldy units, a measure which the Com- 
mander-in-Chief had recently enjoined. After another short 
expedition by tluree of his commanders towards the Caledon, 
which produced some 97,000 livestock, Bruce Hamilton pre- 
pared to resume operations on a larger scale but with smaller 
columns. His three remaining forces he sub-divided into seven, Bruce 
each about 500 strong, and placed them under command of the "oJJanTses 
following officers, Colonel A. N. Rochfort, Lieut. -Colonel W. H. his columns 
Williams, Lieut, -Colonel the Hon, J. H. G. Byng, Majors F. L. 
Banon, H. E. Gogarty and O. Harris. With these, and certain 
reinforcements, Bruce Hamilton now undertook a scheme of 
considerable dimensions. 

For some time past all reports had tended to show that the 
tract between the Riet and Modder rivers provided a sanctuary 
for many of the fighting men and most of the stock of the Boers 
of the southern part of the Orange River Colony. Here, but 
for the hasty passages of Plumer and Bethune when in chase of 

• See Chapters X., XIII., XV. and XXVI. on operations in Gipe Colony. 



i66 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

De Wet, they had remained almost undisturbed. W. H. Williams 
had merely skirted the fringe of their preserve on his recent 
march to and from Ramah, but his gleanings, nearly 100,000 
head of stock and seventy prisoners, seemed to be good evidence 
of the value to be obtained from a clearance of the richer and 
more secluded country to the north. In the first week of June, 
therefore, Bruce Hamilton, in conjunction with C. E. Knox, 
arranged an extensive " drive '* from south to north through 
the district in question. Whilst Knox sent Pilcher from 
Brandfort and Thomeycroft from Vet River station to block 
the drifts of the Modder from Brand vallei to Kruger's Drift, 
Hamilton drew out his troops into a great semi-circle, facing 
and drives up northward from Kaffir River on the east, through Jagersfontein 
to the Modder Road, Philippohs and Luckhoff, up to the banks of the Riet 
river south of Jacobsdal. The western section of this disposi- 
tion was supplied by Major A. Paris' column from Kimberley, 
and by a new force under Colonel St. G. C. Henry which 
had just completed its organisation at Orange River station. 
By the night of June 5th all were in their places, and 
next morning the movement began. Its subsequent history 
was too uneventful to be followed in detail. For the next 
three days the wide arc of troops rolled towards Petrus- 
turg, its approach continually heralded by the agitated 
stirring of herds of stock, clusters of wagons laden with 
women and children and household goods, and small knots 
of armed Boers, who darted hither and thither about the 
front seeking to escape. The majority of these fell into 
the hands of one or other of the columns ; but with the 
formed fighting bodies, of which several were reported, 
Bruce Hamilton was less fortunate, for none were stopped 
either by the advancing troops or those watching the drifts 
in front. 

Altogether some 600 men escaped in this way ; but when 
Hamilton drew up on the Une Emmaus — Petrusburg on June 
8th, he had taken 243 prisoners and much material, including 
several sets of signalling apparatus belonging to Hertzog's com- 
mandos. The combination of columns was then broken up. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 167 

Sending W. H. Williams westward with his own and the two 
western columns to clear the country beyond Luckhoff up 
to the Kimberley railway, and Byng with two columns to 
do the same between Fauresmith and Philippolis, Bruce 
Hamilton himself returned to Edenburg with Rochfort and 
du MouUn and all the captures, which he increased by twenty- 
five prisoners taken on the way. For the rest of the month 
there was incessant but disconnected activity in every quarter 
of Bruce Hamilton's and Sir C. Knox's areas. Within the Various 
vast quadrilateral whose sides were the Kimberley and Bloem- wesrortlfe 
fontein railways, the Vaal and the Orange rivers, six columns Bioemfontein 

r&ilwAv 

fell to work. Henry forayed towards Boshof, where on the 
2ist he was joined by Paris, the two making Christiana by 
the 27th. Williams, having reached Witteputs station on 
June i8th, turned eastward again after refitting, and there- 
after was continually in touch with small commandos which 
revolved about Luckhoff, daily depriving them of men and 
stores, but having his account somewhat lowered by the 
loss of an officer and thirty-two men, captured from his rear- 
guard on tlie 20th. Byng performed similar services about 
PhiUppolis, both he and Williams gradually working towards 
Headquarters at Edenburg, which they reached on July 4th. 
Further north, but still within the figure described above. 
Sir C. Knox, withdrawing his troops from the Modder at the 
conclusion of Bruce Hamilton's " drive " to Petrusburg, em- 
ployed his troops in scouring the country between the line 
Paardeberg — Bultfontein — Smaldeel and the railway, that is, 
to the east of the operations of Henry and Paris. Pilcher, 
moving by Doornlaagte, Jagtpan and Kalkfontein, surrounded 
Bultfontein on the i8th and took three prisoners. Next day, 
when reconnoitring towards Hoopstad, he had himself to beat 
off a determined attack made under cover of a veld fire near the 
town, which he did with the loss of three to his own force and 
seven to the enemy's. Thence by easy stages he made his way 
into Brandfort on June 25th. Thorneycroft worked in com- 
bination with Pilcher by Nooitgedacht, Schiedam, Ganna- 
fontein, Cyfergat and Luxemburg, skirmishing with considerable 



i68 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Operations 
east of the 
Bloemfontein 
railway. 



Elliot 
"drives" 
eastward from 
Kroonstad. 



bodies aiid finding much to clear. He, too, entered Brandfort 
on the 25th, the joint captures of the two columns amounting 
to four prisoners, 181 vehicles and more than 20,000 Uvestock. 
The casualties had been an officer and two men killed and an 
officer and twelve men wounded, the Boers having lost some 
thirty-five men. 

Meanwhile — a sufficiency of troop)s thus traversing the 
districts on the west of the railway — Bruce Hamilton employed 
Rochfort and du Moulin upon a fresh expedition on the opposite 
side. By this time VV, L. White had re-entered the eastern area 
from Aliwal North, and moving northward by Commissie Drift, 
had reached Wepener on June 19th, reporting all local Boers 
to have gone to Dewetsdorp. Accordingly Bruce Hamilton 
directed his two units thither in co-operation with White. 
The columns found themselves at once amongst the enemy. 
On June 21st Rochfort fell in \^^th a Boer convoy on the Smith- 
field — Dewetsdorp road, capturing the whole, with seventeen 
prisoners, twenty-one vehicles and a herd of horses and stock. 
Another convoy on the Reddersburg — Dewetsdorp road evaded 
him two days later, after which the three columns combined 
against a commando discovered at Oorlogs Poort. This party 
scattered southward, and in the pursuit du Moulin captured a 
third small convoy of fifteen vehicles and five prisoners ten miles 
west of Helvetia. The chase was continued towards Redders- 
burg, near to which, on June 28th, du Moulin's force suffered 
five casualties from a counter-attack delivered by the hard- 
pressed enemy. At the end of the month these columns were 
still engaged between Reddersburg and Dewetsdorp, where for 
the present they must be left, to turn to operations of greater 
scope elsewhere. 

On June 22nd Elliot, having refitted his armament in 
Kroonstad, started out on another of those raids upon the 
enemy's scattered means of subsistence with which, in the 
absence of formed hostile bodies or definite lines of supply, 
the side on the offensive has to be content. Elliot now had 
four mounted brigades, and with Bethune on the left, Lowe 
at left centre, de Lisle at right centre and Broadwood on the 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 169 

right, he swept between Lindley and Senekal, making for 
Springfield Drift, where he was to re-ration. A night march 
by the right flank on Senekal on June 25th found the town 
empty, the Boers having had full warning of the advancing 
array. On the left Bethune's frequent night raids and forced 
marches proved equally fruitless, and for the whole of the east- 
ward march the enemy, whose tracks were numerous, had no 
difficulty in keeping well ahead of Elliot's van. On July 2nd 
the division drew up at the appointed spot with only 3,000 cap- 
tured horses and the same number of cattle in its train. This 
species of warfare, cheated of the armed opponent, its proper 
prey, falls the more terribly upon the innocent. No fewer 
than 12,000 sheep were slaughtered on the march, their 
numbers and slowness of foot rendering it impossible to drive 
them on. 

Meanwhile, before Elliot's departure from his base, Sir L. 
Rundle had been operating about the very tract over which 
the Kroonstad division was to pass, but from the opposite 
direction. A few days had sufficed to refit his colimins after Sir L. Rundie 
their exertions in the Brandwater basin, and on June 13th they JJ^jslEntot. 
were again in the field, hunting bands on either side of the Harri- 
smith — Bethlehem road. Working towards them was a small 
force despatched from Bethlehem. On June i6th both columns 
were across the Libenbergs Vlei, about Loskop and Spitzkrans, 
south-east of Bethlehem. Here Rundle received notice of 
Elliot's impending movement, which he was first to provide with 
fresh supplies at Springfield Drift, and thereafter to reinforce. 
On the 1 8th Rundle occupied both sides of the Bethlehem — 
Harrismith road by sending Harley to Leeuwpoort, north of the 
first-named town, and B. Campbell to Poortje to the south-east. 
During the next three days he refilled Bethlehem with two 
months' supplies and relieved the garrison, and on the 22nd 
fell back towards Harrismith to prepare the mass of provender 
which would be required by Elliot, Campbell marching by Jolly- 
kop, Harley by Tweefontein. The last days of June were spent 
in forwarding the material to Springfield Drift, where it was 
duly taken over by Elliot on his arrival. 



I70 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

This completed the more important affairs of June. The 
processions of troops which traversed the country on either 
side of the railway by no means rendered the guardians of the 
line either immune or immobile ; but there is no space to 
record the numberless encoimters which enlivened the Unes 
of conmiimication, whence Sir C. Tucker from Bloemfontein, 
Sir W. G. Knox from Kroonstad and Barker from Winburg 
had all frequently despatched small forces for special purposes 
in their neighbourhoods.* 

• For gallantry during a skirmish near Thabanchu on June 15th, Serjeant James 
Refers, South African Constabulary, was awarded the Victoria Cross. 

Note. — Lieut. -General C. Tucker, Major-Generals W. G. Knox and C. E. Knox 
were created Knights Commander of the Bath for services during 1899- 1900. — London 
Gazette, April 19th, 1901. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 171 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 





i 






i 

3 






e: 


b 


5. S 







COLUMN. 


1 


1 


■^1 


.s 








c 

»-4 


i-2 













s u 


IS, 




April— Junt, 1 901. 












Lieut. -Colonel C. P. Crewe 


640 


— 


4 


2 


1 Lieut. - General 


Major-General J. E. Boyes (later Harley) 


318 


1,361 




3 


Sir L. Rundle 


B. B. D. Campbell 


342 


1,858 


2 


in command. 


Lieut. -Colonel S C. H. Monro 


320 


480 


2 


— 




» ,, W. G. Massy 


Sio 


-- 


3 


I 


Lieut. - General 


» M E. C. Ingouville Williams 
(Uter W. G. B. Western) 


459 


62s 


4 





• Sir C. Tucker 
directing. 


Major J. E. Pine-Coffin 


447 




3 


I 


Major-General Bruce Hamilton's columns: 












Lieut. -Colonel S. C. H. Monro 


290 


— 


3 


— 


M .. C. Maxwell (later S. 

W. Follett) 

Lieut. -Colonel W. L. White 

Colonel D. Haig's columns : 


650 
617 


— 


6 
3 


— 


Lieut. - General 
the Hon. N. G. 
Lyt t e 1 ton 
directing. 


Lieut. -Colonel the Hon. J- H. G. Byng 
W. H. Williams 


654 


— 


4 


— 


35 « 





3 


3 




H. J. Scol^ell 


639 


II* 


3 






Lieut. -Colonel T. D. Filcher 


1,070 


82 


7 


2 


Major - General 
SirC. E.Knox 
in command. 


Colonel A. W. Thomeycroft 


500 


ISO 


5 


— 


M T. E. Hickman 


560 


— 


5 


— 




Lieut.-Colonel E. B. Herbert (later P. 












G. Wyndham) 

Lieut.-Colonel the Hon. A. Murray 


380 


— 


3 


I 




185 


— 


2 


I 




Brigadier-General R. G. Broadwood 
(later de Lisle) 

Colonel E. C. Bethune (later W. H. M. 
Lowe) 

Lieut.-Colonel H. de B. de Lisle (later 












2,023 
820 


— 


4 
5 


I 


Major - General 
• E. L. Elliot in 
command. 


R. Fanshawe) 


658 


22* 


3 


— 




Lieut.-Colonel C. T. Reay 

„ F. W. Romilly 

II II J. L. Keir... 
Colonel G. E. Harlev 

1, A. N. Rochfort 


150 
150 
'50 
332 


480 
850 
160 

',595 


2 
2 
I 
5 


3 


Lieut. - General 
Sir L. liundle 
in command. 


530 




3 






Lieut.-Colonel W. H. Williams 


500 


— 


2 


1 




the Hon. J. H. G. Byng 


709 


— 


2 


— 


Major - General 


Major F. L. Banon ... 


550 


— 


2 


2 


'^ Bruce Hamilton 


,, H. E. Gogarty 


640 


— 


I 


— 


in command. 


1, 0. Harris 


517 


— 


2 


— 




Lieut.-Colonel L. E. du Moulin 


184 


250 


3 


J 




II 1, St. G. C. Henry 


642 


— 


3 


I 




Major A. Paris 


325 


131 


2 


1 





Cyclists. 



172 



CHAPTER X. 

EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY.* 

{Continued from Chapter IV.). 

MARCH — APRIL, IQOI. 

Effect of De The expulsion of De Wet at the end of February left Cape Colony 
ets inroad. ^ ^ singular condition. The extinction of that chief firebrand 
removed all immediate danger of a general conflagration in the 
British province. Nevertheless, he had bequeathed a legacy 
of imrest which was not to be stamped out. Everywhere arose 
incendiaries who endeavoured to set a light to the combustible 
material which existed in every quarter of the colony. It became 
the fashion for any minor leader who possessed or could raise 
a following to take the field and try his skill at blowing about 
the sparks of rebellion. Although only the most trivial and 
sporadic outbreaks arose in response, yet the attempts them- 
selves were so persistent, so widespread, and so difficult to cope 
with from their very insignificance, that for the rest of the 
duration of the war they formed the history of Cape Colony 
and the sole occupation of nearly 50,000 British troops, regular 
and colonial. 

Foremost amongst these disturbers of the peace remained for 
a time Kritzinger, with his adherents Fouche and Scheepers, 
who have been traced into the Sneeuw Bergen, into which they 
had been chased when three of the four pursuing columns were 
withdrawn to join in the hue and cry after De Wet. The 
crumbling of the main Boer plan of campaign on the banks of 
the Orange, and the disappearance of De Wet and Hertzog, 
left Kritzinger alone in the heart of Cape Colony. 

* See map No. 63. 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 173 

Kritzinger had in full measure the unlimited self-reliance of Kritzinger's 
the Boer warrior. Deeply buried though he was in hostile ™°^«™ents. 
country, with greatly superior forces between himself and his 
native land, with the strategy of which he was only a factor 
ruined, and its mainstay falling back broken in the opposite 
direction, he yet showed no disposition to vanish after his re- 
ceding commander-in-chief. He had occupied the period o 
De Wet's disastrous campaign in the north by leading Gorringe 
and Herbert a tortuous chase from Dassiefontein to Twist Kraal, 
thence to Roode Hoogte, where he burned the station, to Spitz 
Kop, and back into the Sneeuw Bergen on February 25th. He 
then rode northward to Dwars Vlei Siding, where on the last 
day of the month he emulated De Wet, who was then plunging 
across the Orange, by escaping out of all touch with his pur- 
suers. During this adventure Kritzinger received some com- 
pensation for his desertion by De Wet and Hertzog by the arrival 
of Lieutenant W. Malan, an independent leader, who had con- 
trived, whilst all eyes were turned towards De Wet, to work his 
way deep into the colony with some 100 burghers. 

Meanwhile (February 6th to 28th), Scheepers had been 
similarly dragging Grenfell and Sir C. Parsons about the 
Klaarstroom district and up into Aberdeen. 

De Wet, flying routed into the Orange River Colony, trailed 
after him all but two of the fourteen columns which had hunted Troop* in 
him for the last seventeen days. Only those of Colonel E. M. S. ^^ ^°'°"'' 
Crabbe, now at Kraankuil, and Lieut.-Colonel the Hon. A. H. 
Henniker, about Petrusville, remained within the border, the 
latter scoring a success on March ist by securing with one of his 
patrols thirty-three stragglers from the departed commandos 
on the banks of the Orange above Sand Drift. Besides these 
there were now in Cape Colony columns under Lieut.-Colonel 
H. M. Grenfell (Colenbrander and Wilson) about Nels Poort 
station, Colonel Sir C. Parsons and Colonel H. J. Scobell at 
Aberdeen Road, Lieut.-Colonel R. F. Lindsell around Sutherland, 
Lieut.-Colonel G. F. Gorringe, soon to be joined by Lieut.-Colonel 
H. de B. de Lisle and fresh levies under Lieut.-Colonel E. B. 
Herbert and Colonel A. E. Codrington in the Cradock district ; 



174 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

all these under the general direction of Major-General Sir H. H. 
Settle, who resumed command on Lieut.-General the Hon. N. G. 
Lyttelton's departure. 

Now Cape Colony became the field of kaleidoscopic operations 
of which the space at command renders it impossible to attempt 
to arrest more than the main figures. On the one side were 
Kritzinger, Fouch6, Scheepers and Malan, and many lesser 
leaders, sometimes united in various combinations, sometimes 
separate, now joined by some fresh arrival of minor standing 
whom they absorbed, now by officers more noted than them- 
selves, who for the time dominated the scene ; on the other 
side were British columns, varying from fifteen to twenty in 
number, pressing now this, now that commando with such tire- 
less industry and infinite complexity of movement that the 
symmetrical vagaries of the kaleidoscope present actually the 
truest image of their activities. 
Pursuit of Early in March Gorringe, marching southward through the 

Kritringer. Cradock country, refound Kritzinger and 600 men at Pearston 
on the 5th, and drove him towards Somerset East. Here the 
Boer force was headed by de Lisle who had come by train to 
Cookhouse station, and turned southward down the Vogel river, 
Gorringe and de Lisle hurrying to Darlington to intercept it. 

On March 7th Kritzinger was located at Waterford ; thence 
he dashed due eastward to Sheldon station (March loth), and so 
northward into the Winter Berg, closely dogged by the columns, 
which reached Adelaide on the i6th. Kritzinger now doubled 
again, leading Gorringe to Elands Drift on the Tarka river, 
thence northward across the Bamboes mountains towards 
Steynsburg. On the 21st he crossed the railway at Henning, 
and threatened Burghersdorp. Now the hunt was swelled by 
Henniker, Codrington and Crabbe, but heavy rain covered 
Kritzinger's tracks and he was temporarily lost. Some reported 
him to have continued northward ; others that he had doubled 
back beyond Tarkastad ; nor did the discovery of a commando 
at Venterstad on the 26th clear up matters, for it was suspected 
that Kritzinger, like a stag too closely pressed, had roused a 
fresh quarry to exhaust the hounds whilst he himself drew breath* 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 



175 



Whether this was so or not, the new game showed that it was 
dangerous by destroying a British post at Van Tonder's Drift 
on the last day of March, moving afterwards on Knapdaar. 

Meanwhile, close to the west, on the other side of the Fish 
river, Sir C. Parsons, Scobell and Colenbrander had been in 
chase of Scheepers and Fouche through the districts of Aber- 
deen, Graaff Reinet, Jansenville and Somerset East. A sharp 
fight on March 6th, north of Aberdeen, which cost Parsons 
thirty casualties, drove the Boers in disorder into the Koudeveld 
Bergen, where on the 15th they were engaged by Scobell, who 
took six prisoners. Crossing the railway at Marais Siding on 
the 17th, and turning south-eastward, Scheepers and Fouch^ 
then menaced Jansenville ; but Scobell, by a march of forty-five 
miles, anticipated them there, and the Boer leaders halted un- 
decidedly at the junction of the Bull and Sunday's rivers. Here 
they were joined by Malan from Poortje, south of Aberdeen, 
whence he had been driven by Grenfell after events to be next 
described. A nearly successful attempt by Scobell to surround 
the trio on March 20th caused the complete disorganisation of 
the commandos, which lost about 150 horses and many men^ 
Scobell having only seven casualties. The combination was 
effectively broken up ; Scheepers and Malan crossed the line at 
Kendrew, making for the Camdeboo hills, Fouch6 running in the 
opposite direction for Pearston, whither Scobell, who was in 
Graaff Reinet on the 24th, despatched a detachment under 
Major K. E. Warden in pursuit. 

Malan's appearance was to be accounted for thus. Raiding 
alone at the head of the Kariega valley in the first week of March, 
he had been pushed in the rear and flank by Lieut.-Colonel A. E. 
Wilson from Biesjes Poort and Grenfell from Beaufort West. 
The former was first in touch, and Malan turned upon him at 
Stellenbosch Vallei before Grenfell, who was advancing to 
Juriesfontein, could make his movement felt. Wilson was 
temporarily checked ; but on Grenfell coming up next day Malan 
made down the Kariega valley, being so hard pressed at Harte- 
beest Kuil on the 12th that he abandoned his march on Willow- 
more and turned eastward. Wilson was then recalled to Graaff 



Pursuit of 
Scheepers and 
Fouche. 



Pursuit of 
Malan. 



176 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Reinet, leaving the chase to Grenfell, who from the 13th drove 
Malan beyond Poortje and into Scobell's sphere of operations. 

On April ist Sir H. Settle established his Headquarters at 
Graaff Reinet and assumed immediate command of the group 
of columns in the midland area. Both combatants adopted 
fresh combinations, Grenfell departing for the Northern Trans- 
vaal, Gorringe falUng out to refit, Codrington's column being 
broken up, whilst Crewe, Pilcher's former colleague under C. E. 
Knox, came into service in the northern area, and Henniker 
in the southern. On the Boer side the most notable variation 
was the junction of Fouch^ with Kritzinger to the south of 
Middleburg. Their union was brief, however. Pressed by 
Crewe from April nth, the two commandos sidled eastward, 
crossed the railway near Fish River station, and on the i8th 
passed to the south of Maraisburg and thence north into the Zuur 
Kriuii^er Berg. Here they separated, Kritzinger riding off to recruit in the 
Orange River Orange River Colony, whilst Fouch6, followed by Crewe, passed 
Colony. eastward into the Jamestown district to await his return. Mean- 

while, Scheepers and Malan, attended by Scobell and Henniker, 
revolved between Murraysburg, Aberdeen and Jansenville, being 
nearly caught at the last-named place by Scobell on April 13th. 
About this time occurred several changes amongst the British 
commanders in Cape Colony. In the field, Sir H. Settle pro- 
ceeded to De Aar, prior to his return to England a month later, 
when he handed over his office to Colonel Colin Mackenzie, Colonel 
D. Haig assuming direction of the operations in the midland 
area. On April 13th Major-General Sir H. MacDonald was 
ordered home, his command of the Highland brigade and the 
Aliwal North — Bethulie zone being added to that of Major- 
General A. FitzRoy Hart, who was already in charge of the 
lines of communication from the Orange river up to below 
Bloemfontein. At Cape Town Lieut. -General Sir F. Forestier- 
Walker embarked for England on April i8th, and handed over 
the command of Cape Colony to Major-General A. S. Wynne. 
Administra- Wynne Succeeded to an office daily becoming more difficult to 
cullies at administer. Upon him centred with full force all the anomalies 

Cape Town. Qf ^a.r in a friendly, yet infected country. Situated as he was in 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 177 

a city, which his Intelligence Department warned him was the 
headquarters of treason and rebeUion, he was yet unpossessed 
of the only weapon, martial law, with which such foes could 
be encountered. Newspapers of republican sympathies issued 
their inflammatory sheets untouched because out of his reach. 
His officers looked on powerless whilst munitions of war, or 
what were reported as such, and mail bags containing matter 
little less encouraging to the enemy, were landed at his dock- 
yards and delivered at their destinations. Suspected individuals 
bound to and from ports, the very names of which were certificates 
ol hostility, came and went by steamer with impunity, because 
too rapidly to be waylaid by the slow and cautious process 
of civil law. He was in daily and necessarily intimate contact 
with leading men, some of whom he distrusted and others had 
actively to oppose, so little secret was there of their sympathy 
with his country's enemies ; whilst even some of those with 
whom he had common cause were forced by the very duties 
of their offices to run counter to him on vital pKjints of ad- 
ministration. Martial law, which had been proclaimed in many 
districts of the colony, stopped short at the very boundaries 
within which it was most needed, those of the great seaports. 
Cape Town, receiving none of its advantages, was nevertheless 
the focus of all its woes and hardships, which poured into 
the city, there to be bandied between the Government officers, 
the natural protectors of the proclaimed districts, and Wynne, 
their official oppressor. This became more marked when troops 
took the field over whom Wynne had no control, though their 
every misdeed amongst the farmsteads came home to him un- 
failingly in a swarm of complaints which grew the more numerous 
and bitter as columns entered the colony fresh from the ravagings 
of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, and unable to 
appreciate immediately the niceties of dealing with country- 
sides which were at the same time friends to the British and 
magazines to the Boers. Wynne's jurisdiction was further 
complicated by its enormous extent, its lack of homogeneity, 
and the difficulty of reaching its units. Forty thousand men 
received his orders, but they were composed of many different 

VOL. IV. 12 



178 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

organisations — regulars, militia, colonials, town guards and 
fencibles — and were largely locked up in the multitude of town- 
ships of Cape Colony. His chief channels of administration 
were the commandants of districts, officers charged with the 
control of large areas infested often by open, always by secret, 
enemies, and these in their turn had to rely largely upon 
magistrates, whose natural antipathy to martial law was apt to 
find expression in direct communication not with the military 
but the civil powers in Cape Town. Such were some of the 
disabilities under which Wynne and the Cape Legislature were 
to labour alike in the capital until, six months later, the 
proclamation of martial law in that and all the other ports 
removed a source of serious weakness in the conduct of the 
campaign in Cape Colony. 
Pursuit of At the end of April Scobell and Henniker drove Scheepers 

MdM^" *"^ and Malan northward on the line Pearston — Z wagers Hoek, a 
wing of the Cape Mounted Riflemen, freshly arrived from the 
Orange River Colony under Lieut.-Colonel H. T. Lukin, assisting 
from the flank at Cradock ; but the Boers, breaking the cordon, 
doubled back by Garstlands Kloof and were next heard of across 
the railway at Daggaboers Nek. Chased thence by Henniker, 
Malan and Scheepers separated after recrossing the railway near 
Drennan, the former going northward past Cradock, the latter 
making back for his old haunts in Somerset. At Zwagers Hoek 
Scheepers was intercepted and severely punished by Henniker who 
came from Witmoss on the railway, finally escaping in a snow- 
storm on May 12th, much reduced in strength, by Kendrew to a 
stronghold at Camdeboo. Henniker, who put in to Graaff Reinet, 
kept touch with him during the rest of May by a detachment 
from his column under Colonel B. Doran. Meanwhile Scobell, 
finding Malan ten miles west of Cradock, handled him roughly 
there on May 2nd, drove him northward across the railway near 
Fish River, and closing upon him again on May 20th at Doom 
Nek sigUcdly worsted him. Once more Malan, who had now 
but a handful, turned for sanctuary to the nearest of his friends 
whom he could hear of. He found an ally both close at hand 
and of reassuring strength. 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 179 

A few days earlier Kritzinger had returned across the border Kritzingcr 
with fresh men and horses, rejoining Fouche, who had avoided oape'coi^ony. 
Gorringe and Crewe by breaking back across the railway at 
Rayner station into the Zuur Berg. The combined commandos 
now numbered 1,500 men, and Haig drew every available column 
towards the Zuur Berg. But the Boers, dashing past Steyns- 
burg and across the branch railway near Thebus, moved on 
Maraisburg, receiving the enfeebled Malan into their midst as 
they marched southward. By rapid marching Gorringe placed 
himself to the west of the enemy, Scobell and the others to the 
south, below Maraisburg, effectually turning Kritzinger, who 
flew off at a tangent into the Bamboes mountains. Here for 
the next week he was so ruthlessly harried that, leaving behind 
Malan and a commando of rebels under G. H. P. Van Reenan, 
he crossed the railway at Cypher Gat on May 29th and pressed 
on eastward. Still the British columns, finely handled by Haig, 
met him at every turn. The 9th Lancers, detraining at Dor- 
drecht from the Orange River Colony on June 2nd, were, with 
Lukin's Cape Mounted Riflemen, placed under Scobell, who took 
them at once to Toom Nek, south-east of Jamestown, to bar 
Kritzinger from the east. Gorringe, with whom was a column 
under Lieut. -Colonel the Hon. A. Murray, hurried north of 
Jamestown and, extending his wings, joined up with Scobell on 
the east, and on the west as far as Albert Junction with Crabbe, 
with Lieut. -Colonel W. P. Wyndham (the 17th Lancers), who had 
detrained at Burghersdorp and Colonel S. C. H. Monro's column 
freshly arrived from RouxviUe. Kritzinger, boldly charging the 
cordon, surprised the small and somnolent garrison of Jamestown 
on June 2nd, and being then turned by Gorringe, made north- 
eastward down the Holle Spruit, closely pursued by Scobell and 
Gorringe. Four days later Kritzinger was all but caught as he 
and his men lay asleep at Wildfontein Farm, north of the Kraai 
river, where Scobell, throwing Lukin's force upon him at 3 a.m., 
killed six and captured twenty-five burghers and seventy horses, 
Kritzinger himself escaping on foot into the mountains. Next 
day (June 7th) he was again set upon and mu h damaged, this 
time by Gorringe, aided by a force from Aliwal North under 

VOL. IV. 12* 



i8o 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Lieut. -Colonel W. L. White. These were but the chief of 
incessant attempts to bring the evasive Boer to book, en- 
deavours apparently profitless, but in sum so effectual that 
before the middle of June the constant friction had worn 
away two-thirds of Kritzinger's fighting strength. 

Nor had Malan and his companion, Van Reenan, been left in 
peace. An attempt to surprise the former in the Doom Berg on 
the night of June 7th miscarried, the commando getting warning 
and disappearing. But on the same night Van Reenan was com- 
pletely scattered close to Steynsburg by the 17th Lancers, under 
Wyndham, whose leading squadrons, led by Captain D'A. Legard, 
rushed up>on the farm buildings which sheltered the commando 
and cleared them, capturing twenty-three prisoners. Legard was 
seriously, and two men mortally, wounded in the affair. 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 



COLUMN. 



M 




MM 




H 


& 


a g 

is 





•2 


1 


0*7 




a 

1 


a 




1 


647 


200 


2 


^_ 


427 


179 


2 


2 


432 





s 


— 


830 





I 


— 


500 





I 


— 


Soo 





3 


3 


879 


"5 


5 


I 


— 


242 


2 


— 


530 


— 


3 


— 


461 


30* 


3 


— 


400 


122 


3 


I 


210 


55 


2 


— 


700 




3 


I 


690 


— 


3 


I 


185 


— 


2 


I 


820 


— 


3 


3 


648 


— 


3 


I 


426 


— 


3 





March — April, 1901. 

Lt.-Col. E. M. S. Crabbe 
Lt.-Col. the Hon. A. H. 

Henniker 
Lt.-Col. H. M. Grenfell 
Lt.-Col. J. W. Colenbrandcr 
Lt.-Col. A. E. Wilson 
Col. Sir C. Parsons . . 
Col. H. J. Scobell . . 
Lt.-Col. R. F. Lindsell 
Lt.-Col. G. F. Gorringe 
Lt.-Col. H. de B. de Lisle 
Lt.-Col. E. B. Herbert 
Col. A. E. Codrington 
Lt. Col. C. P. Crewe 
Lt.-Col. H. T. Lukin 
Lt.-Col. the Hon. A. Murray 
Col. S. C. H. Monro 
Lt.-Col. W. L. White 
Lt.-Col. W. P. Wyndham 



Major-General Sir H. 
Settle directing (later 
Colonel D. Haig as- 
sumed the direction 
of the columns in the 
midland area). 



* Cyclists. 
Note. — Major-Generals IL A. MacDonald and H. H. Settle were created Knights 
Commander of the Bath for services during 1899-1900. — Londott Gazette, 
April 19th, 1901. 



i8i 



CHAPTER XL 

EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL* 

{Continued from Chapter VII.). 

MAY — AUGUST, I9OI. 

On May ist Lord Methuen marched from Mafeking south- Operations in 
eastward in order to gain touch with Willson's columns for com- ^Jj-p district, 
bined operations in the Klerksdorp district. On the 3rd he 
passed through Lichtenburg, and two days later came near 
Brakpan, where he hoped to get sight of WiUson. As usual, 
the enemy, undeterred by their recent discomfitures on this very 
spot,t were in occupation of Brakpan, and a party nearly suc- 
ceeded in cutting off some of Lord Methuen's transport, which 
had been wrongly guided behind the column. Beaten off once 
they continued to follow, were reinforced a few miles further 
on, and were only deterred by the forming up of the whole of 
the rearguard behind the wagons. These manoeuvres were 
intended to distract Lord Methuen's attention from their 
own transport, which was making off across the British front, 
guarded by 500 burghers. The convoy was nevertheless espied, 
and the 5th and loth Imperial Yeomanry giving chase, returned 
with seven prisoners, one of the British field-pieces which had 
been lost at Zilikat's Nek, J and a few wagons. The c>!umn 
bivouacked at Brakpan. During the day Lord Methuen was 
in communication with Babington, who was waiting on the 
Taaibosch Spruit, and plans were instantly made for combina- 
tion. The object was the Hartebeestfontein hills, so long the 

* See map No. 59. t See Chapter VII. 

X See Volume III., page 240. 



i82 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

haunt of De la Key and his lieutenants, and the troops were 
already well placed for a converging descent upon the stronghold 
by Lord Methuen, Babington, Sir H. Rawlinson, and a column 
under Lieut. -Colonel E. C. Ingouville Williams, which Major- 
General M. Willson brought out from Klerksdorp. But the 
carefully-laid trap, working perfectly on the 6th, closed upon 
nothing, nor was there the slightest intimation as to the 
direction the game had taken. A series of confused and profit- 
less attempts to intercept first a possible northward, then a 
southward flight, concluded by Lord Methuen and Sir H. Raw- 
linson marching parallel, following a trail, towards the western 
line of railway, the former arriving at Mafeking, the latter, who 
took several small laagers on the way, at Maribogo on May 12th. 
Willson's other columns continued to operate in the Wolmaran- 
stad area, Dixon, from Tafel Kop, coming down towards them 
as far as Leeuwfontein. All had fighting, but with such scat- 
tered bands as to render still more uncertain the direction in 
which the main Boer force had vanished. On May 8th Babing- 
ton, scouting from Palmietfontein, intercepted a convoy travel- 
ling northward, and took twenty prisoners and forty- four wagons 
and carts. Two days later E. C, L Williams, whilst marching 
for Korannafontein, came upon a considerable commando east 
of that place and drove it off headlong. The success of the 
attack was marred by the misfortune of a troop of the New 
South Wales Mounted Rifles, who, mistaking a party of Boers 
for comrades, were cut off and lost two officers and eight men 
as they ran the gauntlet back to their own side. 

On May 14th Willson's columns were again near Klerksdorp, 
having secured between them seventy-six prisoners, more than 
100 vehicles and mj'riads of sheep and other stock. The general 
result of the combination had been thoroughly to smoke the 
hive at Hartebeestfontein ; but the swarm was still at large, 
and there is little doubt but that to scatter guerrillas of the type 
of the Boers is a military misfortune rather than a gain. 

On May 15th Babington departed to command a brigade of 
cavalr}^ handing over the leadership of his own column to 
Lieut.-Colonel W. B. Hickie, whilst Major-General R. S. R. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 183 

Fetherstonhaugh was kppointed to direct the group composed 
of the columns commanded by Hickie, E. C. I. Williams and 
Sir H. Rawlinson. The last-named was now on the march back 
from the western line, whence Lord Methuen was also returning. 
Nothing of importance occurred during the rest of May except 
an attack on a Potchefstroom — Ventersdorp convoy on the 
23rd. The attack, which was twice repeated, was of a deter- 
mined nature, and the convoy was surrounded and all but taken 
as it came within sight of Ventersdorp. The Boers were kept 
off, however, by the stubborn defence of the escort, under Major 
P. Palmes (Loyal North Lancashire) and Captain E. C. Purchas 
(South Wales Borderers), and by a gun which the Commandant 
at Ventersdorp, Major J. H. du B. Travers (South Wales Bor- 
derers), took out from the village with what men he had — some 
twenty in all — and the convoy barely escaped with the loss of 
six killed and thirty-one wounded amongst the escort. At the 
end of May Lord Methuen was at Lichtenburg with thirty-five 
prisoners and seventy-eight vehicles, captured in two raids 
between Mafeking and the Little Harts river ; Sir H. Rawlinson 
was back at Brakspruit ; Hickie and E. C. L Williams at Klerks- 
dorp, Fetherstonhaugh having received orders to concentrate 
his command consequent upon events now to be related. 

Since May 8th Dixon had been moving into the area from 
Tafel Kop, marching by way of Putfontein on the Lichtenburg 
— Ventersdorp road, where he surprised and captured twenty- 
five of a laager of 100 Boers. From Leeuwfontein (May loth — 
12th), he marched by the Schoon Spruit and Witpoortje to Wel- 
verdiend on the railway (May 17th). Hence he returned north 
by the direct route to Naauwpoort (May 24th), halted there one 
day, and on the 26th set out westward, with twelve days' sup- 
plies, to clear the Witwatersrand towards his former p)ost at Tafel 
Kop. That height had been by no means deserted during the 
fortnight of Dixon's absence. Like Hartebeestfontein near Boerstrong- 
Klerksdorp, hke Kromdraai at the head of the Wilge river, like ^°'^*- 
Blauw Kop on the Vaal, the Elands Berg in the Wakkerstroom 
district, and a number of other places of the kind, Tafel Kop pro- 
vided a secure and commanding camping ground, very valuable 



1 84 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

in a wide and inhospitable terrain such as South Africa. 
At such spots the enemy was always to be found, either concen- 
trating before an engagement, or taking rest or refuge after one. 
They became as well known to the troops as storm-centres to 
the meteorologist, and there were but few expeditions through- 
out the long campaign which had not one or the other of these 
places as their objects. So familiar were they, and as a matter 
of course so easily defensible — otherwise they would not have 
answered the enemy's purpose — that it may well be worth con- 
sideration whether such strongholds, which are the bases of all 
guerrilla warfare, should not be impregnably fortified and held 
at the very outset of campaigns like that in progress in South 
Africa in 1901 ; and for this but small garrisons would be neces- 
sary. In richer and more enclosed theatres of war such a mode 
of action would of course be impossible ; but fortunately guerrilla 
warfare does not commonly occur in such theatres ; if it did it 
would bid fair to be interminable. 

Thus it happened that no sooner had Dixon disappeared from 
Tafel Kop on May 8th when the place began to refill with Boers 
Kemp collects from all directions. General Kemp, one of De la Key's most 
a force. dashing subordinates, had been invested with almost supreme 

powers of commandeering in this district, and thoroughly he 
exercised them. From every side appeared bands which after 
the manner of their kind had been resting, idling, or wandering 
in the neighbouring valleys and ranges, until Kemp, finding him- 
self in command of nearly 3,000 men, began to look about for a 
task worthy of so imposing a force. 

Dixon's return at once gave him the opportunity he sought. 
The British column was alone and weak, weaker indeed than it 
ought to have been, for 200 of Dixon's mounted men had been de- 
tained on the Unes of communication, whilst some of his infantry 
were on convoy duty in Krugersdorp. Moving east as Dixon 
Dixon approached from Naauwpoort on May 28th, Kemp was in obser- 

marches from yatiou from Basfontein to Tafel Kop, his parties being sighted and 

Naauwpoort. .^. , ■, r . , . 

slightly engaged by Dixon as he made for a campmg ground at 
Vlakfontein. Not a whisper of the Boer concentration had 
reached the British commander. On the 29th he made a short 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 185 

march to search for some guns and ammunition reported to be 
buried on the farms at Vlakhoek and Waterval, close to the 
north-west. The approaches to them from Vlakfontein con- 
sisted of two parallel ridges with a valley between. Dixon, 
conforming his dispositions to the ground, marched in three divi- 
sions, sending Lieut. -Colonel C. E. Duff with 100 Scottish Horse, 
two companies King's Own Scottish Borderers, and two guns 
8th battery R.F.A. along the right-hand (northern) ridge ; Major 
H. Chance with 250 men Imperial Yeomanry, 100 men of the 
Derbyshire regiment, two guns 28th battery R.F.A. and a 
Vickers-Maxim along the left-hand ridge ; he himself followed 
the central depression with two companies King's Own Scottish 
Borderers, one company Derbyshire regiment, two guns 8th 
battery R.F.A. and a howitzer. 

Waterval, the first farm searched, proved empty, though a 
large hole in the ground showed where the guns had once lain 
buried. Dixon then faced about to investigate Vlakhoek, east of Dixon's 
Waterval. This wheel transferred his former left flank into a viaWonSn?^ 
rearguard, Chance being so instructed by a message sent from 
Waterval before the movement began. Finding nothing at 
Vlakhoek Dixon ordered a general retirement to camp, and soon 
he and Duff were on the march towards Vlakfontein, expecting 
Chance, from whose direction some unimportant firing had been 
heard, to follow. But Chance did not appear, and there was 
no intimation of events on his f)osition until Dixon, nearing 
camp, became aware to his amazement that shrapnel from that 
very ridge, and from Chance's own guns, was bursting amongst 
the tents. 

With an enemy in the neighbourhood Chance's position had 
from the first been peculiarly dangerous, for the nature of the 
ground rendered it well-nigh impossible to guard against sur- 
prise. Running east and west, the ridge at its western ex- His 
tremity fell steeply to a deep donga, beyond which a rocky and vukfoStJL 
bush-covered kopje rose again athwart the general Ime of the 
ridge like the cross-piece of the letter " T." To the south 
another ridge ran parallel to and of equal height with that 
occupied by Chance, who could see little of either of these 



i86 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

neighbouring heights owing to the convex nature of the contours 
of his own hill, on the bare summit of which his men had little 
or no cover. The position, in short, resembled closely that at 
Nicholson's Nek in Natal, where Sir G. White's detachment 
had met with so serious a reverse in the earliest days of the 
campaign.* 

Chance, having previously reconnoitred the ground, had 
better acquaintance with its dangers than means to obviate 
them. The wooded kopje on the west was too distant to hold, 
and the donga beneath it consequently untenable. He could, 
therefore, do no more in this direction than throw out upon his 
own side of the hollow a screen of mounted men, whom he strictly 
ordered to halt a thousand yards short of and overlooking the 
donga. Behind these he placed a party in support, and in rear 
of these again his two guns and infantry, the left of the whole 
being guarded by a troop (twenty-five men) of Imperial Yeo- 
manry, which he sent under an officer on to the parallel ridge 
to the south. From the very moment when Dixon's retrograde 
movement from Waterval on Vlakhoek and the camp con- 
verted Chance's party from flankguard to rearguard, this troop 
of Yeomanry, which was composed of men totally fresh to cam- 
paigning, became the most important unit in the field, for they 
Kemp attacks Were then rearmost of all and nearest to the enemy. Kemp, 
VkWontein ^^^ ^^^ ^* °^^^ marked Chance's ridge as the vulnerable point 
May 29th, of Dixon's whole disposition, was equally quick to discern the 
*^^' joint in the harness. Despatching part of his force to the south- 

ward towards the Yeomanry on the ridge, he attracted attention 
in the other direction by delivering a frontal attack from the 
woody cross-kopje across the donga up the western spur of 
Chance's ridge, that is, full against the screen and supports 
which lay in front of the guns. As they advanced the Boers 
lighted the dry veld grass, and coming on behind the smoke and 
flame, were soon upon the summit. Their attack here, which 
they had taken little pains to conceal, had been visible from 
the first, and Chance's artillery had no difficulty in bringing it to 
a check. It was plain, however, that in view of Dixon's retire- 

• See Volume I., Chapter X. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 187 

ment, which was then in progress, the rearguard was now too 
far westward ; and, amidst considerable firing. Chance withdrew 
his screen, guns and infantry about a mile along the ridge, 
towards the camp. As he did so the detached troop on his left, 
which was also being smothered by the smoke of an advancing 
fire, retired likewise ; but instead of reporting their action to 
Chance, they fell back directly eastward, unknown to the rest, so 
that Chance knew nothing of the exposure of his flank. Kemp, 
on the other hand, who had been keenly watching this very 
spot, was instantly aware of his advantage. Rushing on at great 
speed behind the racing fire, the burghers swept unseen across 
the depression between the two ridges, and in a moment ap- 
peared in the very midst of the guns, shooting down the gunners 
and teams, and playing havoc with the escort. There was a 
brief, but for one combatant hopeless, miUe, in which many 
gallant acts were performed by men of both sides. The few 
gunners who were not laid low by the first volley attempted to 
fire with case ; but their own magazine was ablaze and no 
other shells could be reached. Then the drivers, riding into the 
midst of the press, strove to extricate the guns : every horse and 
most of the riders were shot at once. In a few moments the hill 
was covered with dead ; and when all resistance was crushed the 
Boers, who had brought artillerymen with them, seized the guns 
and turned them towards the camp which Dixon, as related, was 
in the act of entering with the rest of his forces. 

At about that moment a messenger whom Chance had con- 
trived to despatch before the end of the struggle around the 
guns reached Dixon with news which confirmed the need for 
instant help on the ridge. Dixon immediately launched a Dixon's 
counter-attack as daring as it was rapid. Some time earher, auack^"^ 
just before falling back on camp, he had posted on a knoll at the 
western end of Vlakfontein two guns of the 28th battery R.F.A , 
the howitzer, a Vickers-Maxim, with a company of the Derbyshire 
regiment to act as a covering force to his own and Chance's 
retirement. Sending these to the front, and Duff with his sec- 
tion of artillery back to his former ridge, he ordered a general 
advance. The Boers at once turned the fire of the captured 



i88 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

guns from the camp to the troops, shelling especially the guns of 
the 8th battery with Duff. But once more a victorious com- 
mando had spent its strength and spirit upon its first success. 
Dixon's troops, attacking by rushes which were not to be stopped 
by any fire, came to within 600 yards of the sc^ne of disaster, 
and were about to hurl themselves over the ridge when the 
burghers' hearts failed. Mounting hastily they galloped away, 
leaving all their trophies on the field. Thus for only the second 
time in the campaign — the first had been at Wagon Hill — a reso- 
lute counter-stroke had retrieved the apparently hopeless fortunes 
of the day. Moreover, it had cost the enemy more than his so 
nearly won triumph. Forty-one burghers bit the dust on the 
spot ; many more fell out of sight or were removed. The heavy 
losses on the British side — 186 officers and men* — were chiefly 
amongst Chance's detachment, and the value of the lesson taught 
by Dixon lay in the small expense with which he had re-taken 
both the guns and the ground of a wing which had been 
annihilated. 

In spite of his hard-won success Dixon could not disguise 
from himself that his column was not only useless, but in extreme 
danger in the presence of the greatly superior forces of Kemp. 
At any moment the tables might be turned on him as quickly as 
he had turned them on his adversary. After burying his dead, 
and allowing Kemp, who asked permission under a flag of truce, 
to do the same, Dixon, instead of persisting to Tafel Kop, fell back 
on Naauwpoort, whilst every available column moved to rein- 
force him. Fetherstonhaugh's already mentioned concentra- 
tion at Klerksdorp was consequent on receipt of the news of 
Concentration Vlakfouteiu. From the west came Lord Methuen with orders 
^"ins" K?mp. to b^ ^t ^oo^^ ^op, next to Tafel Kop, on June 8th ; from the 
east Brigadier-General G. Hamilton, now in command of a 
brigade of cavalry at Heidelberg ; whilst in Pretoria Colonel 
E. H. H. Allenby was held in readiness to co-operate when 
the projected sweep should have arrived within reach. 

Fetherstonhaugh moved from Klerksdorp with his three 

* Casualties — Killed and died of wounds, six officers, fifty-one men ; wounded, six 
officers, 115 men ; missing, one officer, seven men. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 189 

columns (Sir H. Rawlinson, E. C. I. Williams and Hickie) 
on June ist ; was at Ventersdorp on the 3rd, at Klipkrans next 
day, and on the 7th upon the scene of Dixon's engagement. 
With support thus at hand Dixon himself quitted Naauwpoort 
on the same day, and leaving to Fetherstonhaugh the area to 
the west of the Magaliesberg, followed the north-eastern slopes 
to Boschhoek, whilst Fetherstonhaugh moved on through the 
broken country to Kosterfontein, turning thence towards Rus- 
tenburg to Roodewal, where he captured seventeen prisoners 
and thirty-three carts and wagons. He then lined up his columns 
along the Rustenburg — Zeerust road, intending to drive the 
country up to the Elands river in conjunction with Lord Methuen, 
who had arrived at Brakfontein on the 9th. Lord Methuen, 
however, came no further, and Fetherstonhaugh, who was so 
little in need of more troops that he had dispensed with the 
assistance of G. Hamilton, whom he sent into Krugersdorp, 
proceeded to the banks of the Elands river at Bestershoek. 
Still no considerable body of the enemy was to be found ; indeed, Kemp 
scarcely a Boer was seen until Fetherstonhaugh, returning south- '^PP^""^- 
wards, came upon a moderate gathering on the old ground at 
Vlakhoek. His attempt to enclose it on June 13th was foiled by 
the dispersion of the enemy, and after a raid up the valley of the 
Selous river, which produced six prisoners, he returned with 
Hickie and Sir H. Rawlinson to Ventersdorp, leaving Dixon at 
Selouskraal, G. Hamilton close to Tafel Kop, E. C. L Williams 
at Krugersdorp, and Allenby at Doom Kop. 

The last-named had been out since the loth in the Hekpoort 
valley, where he had been joined by G. Hamilton from Krugers- 
dorp on the 12th. As usual he had found the useful passage at 
Breedts Nek strongly held. A brisk skirmish on June 14th had 
temporarily cleared the pass ; but Allenby, moving on westward, 
once more left it to the enemy, who thus still retained both a 
gate of escape and a sallyport for attack through the mountains. 
For a week after these indecisive operations there was a pause, 
the only movement being that of Sir H. Rawlinson and Hickie 
into Klerksdorp, consequent on an unfounded alarm that the 
town was in danger. This part of the Western Transvaal indeed 



190 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



The problem 
of the Western 
Transvaal. 



The country 
driven 
towards 
Zeerust, 



had become a rock in the path which was beginning to be recog- 
nised as being only soluble by the vinegar of time. All that 
could be done had been done ; in every direction columns and 
groups of columns had swept until their tracks crossed and re- 
crossed each other almost beyond the power to trace them. 
Still the enemy remained at about his original strength, losing 
it is true a few here and there, but making good his losses from 
the recruiting grounds provided by the lonely farms and valleys, 
where hundreds of recreant burghers only awaited the advent of 
a capable leader to take the field again for some bold enterprise. 
Yet scarcely a rifleman was to be found when sought for. The 
columns with Fetherstonhaugh might have been wandering in 
a wilderness haunted by a few bandits, so little had they seen 
of armed strength worthy to have called so elaborate a concen- 
tration from its base. WTiat had become of Kemp and his 
three thousand, of Badenhorst, of De la Key himself ? Since 
they were neither in the north, east nor south, the western 
watershed remained the only undrawn covert, and on June 26th 
orders were issued for a general drive in the direction of Zeerust 
by way of the Magahesberg valley and the Zwart Ruggens moun- 
tains. Accordingly on June 29th, E. C. I. WiUiams, arriving at 
Vlakfontein, was in touch with Sir H. Rawlinson and Hickie at 
Khpkrans, the three columns manoeuvring next day to get into 
line from Roodewal through Basfontein to Rietfontein. Kemp 
was reported to be at Koperfontein ; but only a small band 
was unearthed about Basfontein, which, after an attempt to 
capture WiUiams' baggage, was driven off with loss, Williams' 
casualties being three. Kemp himself, however, was close by, 
as was proved by the receipt of a flag of truce seeking permission 
to bury the dead. Meanwhile Dixon, who was also to take part 
in the expedition, had moved up to Bashoek at the western 
extremity of the Magaliesberg. 

On July ist the westward march began. It would serve no 
purpose to follow its various stages, so destitute were they of any 
marked features. The columns were opposed throughout, or 
rather harassed than opposed, and on July loth entered Zeerust 
with a few prisoners. Four days before this Lord Methuen had 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 191 

been in the town, coming from Mafeking on his way into the 
Enzelberg to the north. He was back at Zeerust on the day of 
its evacuation by Fetherstonhaugh, and in Mafeking again on 
the i6th. After taking in ten days' suppUes Fetherstonhaugh 's 
columns set out on the 12th for the return march to Klerksdorp, 
which was reached on the 28th. This stage was sUghtly more 
eventful than the former. On the 17th Hickie's camp at Doom- 
bult was attacked with some determination by 200 Boers, to 
drive off whom some close fighting was necessary. Next day 
the same band endeavoured to cut off Hickie's rearguard, only 
to be again chased from the field with loss. Throughout these 
operations Dixon had been somewhat detached from che rest^ 
though he entered Zeerust on the same day from the line of the 
Elands river. At the close he went to Welverdiend, and thence 
by the direct route northward to Naauwpoort and OUfants Nek, 
which he reached on July 31st, handing over command of his 
column shortly afterwards to Colonel R. G. Kekewich. 

Whilst Dixon was thus occupied Hickie and E. C. I. and from 
Williams, leaving Sir H. Rawlinson in Klerksdorp, again took the to Taungs!' 
field, heading this time due westward through Hartebeestfontein 
towards the Little Harts river, which Lord Methuen was also 
approaching from Lichtenburg. Hartebeestfontein was for once 
clear, but a short distance beyond it the enemy had laid an 
ambush which E. C. L Williams detected in time to turn the 
tables by attacking the flanks of the would-be surprisers and 
scattering them over the veld. Four casualties resulted on 
Wilhams' side and six on the other, no fewer than thirty- two 
horses being shot in the affray. Thereafter both columns 
made straight across country, and striking the Harts river at 
Kopjesvlei, marched down it past Schweizer Reneke to Taungs, 
which was entered on August 8th with fifty-nine prisoners, and 
nearly 100 captured vehicles. The return journey to Klerksdorp 
was commenced the next day, the columns marching with their 
right on the right bank of the Vaal, which Hickie touched at 
Bloemhof on August 15th. Next day E. C. L Williams came 
in touch with a Boer convoy travelling eastward. A three 
days' chase through Leeuwboschen and Brandewynskuil, with 



192 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Lord Methuen 
drives from 
Taungs to 
Klerksdorp. 



Operations of 
G. Hamilton, 
Allenby and 
Kekewich. 



a halt at Wolmaranstad, resulted in the capture of nine 
wagons ; but these were known to be only a fragment of the 
fugitive train, which was now reported to have doubled westward. 
E. C. I. Williams hurried to intercept it at Katdoomplaat. In 
this he was successful. Group by group the wagons were over- 
hauled and taken, the resistance of the escorts being summarily 
swept aside by the New South Wales Mounted Rifles, and on the 
evening of the i8th E. C. I. Williams halted at Spruitplaats 
with eighteen prisoners and more than lOO wagons and carts. 
On August 23rd both columns were back at Klerksdorp. 

In this operation Lord Methuen had co-operated from Lich- 
tenburg, and a small column under Lieut. -Colonel A. B. Scott 
from Vryburg. Lord Methuen had quitted Taungs in company 
with Fetherstonhaugh, and getting upon his left flank, swept 
eastward in line with him across to Klerksdorp. Approaching 
Wolmaranstad on August 15th, he intercepted and captured a 
convoy which was making off from Fetherstonhaugh's south- 
easterly advance, taking twelve prisoners, sixty-two vehicles, 
and large herds of stock. Three days later, when passing to the 
north of Wolmaranstad at Korannafontein, he in his turn suffered 
some loss by a patrol of Yeomanry falling into an ambush which 
deprived them of twenty-four officers and men, of whom fourteen 
were made prisoners. On August 22nd Lord Methuen arrived 
in Klerksdorp, where he stayed until the 27th. 

Turning back to the other columns : during July G. Hamil- 
ton had never ceased to move about Klerksdorp, Potchefstroom, 
Ventersdorp and Wolmaranstad, putting in at the first-named 
place on the last day of the month. He had had constant 
skirmishing, and one brisk and successful affair on the 26th at 
Bhnkklip, where, deceiving Potgieter by a ruse, with four 
casualties he captured his entire laager of thirty vehicles, with 
ten of the escort, the like number escaping wounded. Early in 
the month G. Hamilton was temporarily strengthened by 
Western's column from the Orange River Colony. Allenby, 
too, had a few days' co-operation with Hamilton, and was then 
ordered north into the Magaliesberg. Approaching BreedtsNek 
he came upon a force guarding the southern entrance, which 



Breedts Nek. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 193 

he promptly attacked on July loth, and deprived of thirteen 
prisoners and their belongings. Two days later, at Nooitgedacht, 
the scene of Clements' engagement in the previous December, 
he found another laager of thirteen wagons, all of which were 
burnt by the flames from a dynamite wagon which had been 
exploded by a shell from Allenby's 5-in. howitzer. On the 31st 
his camp was at Boschfontein, whence he issued to assist through 
Olifants Nek a convoy which Kekewich was taking from 
Naauwpoort to Rustenburg. 

Kekewich, after delivering his convoy, came back through 
Olifants Nek, and instead of returning to Naauwpoort .turned 
eastward and co-operated with Allenby in an attack on Breedts 
Nek. The enemy abandoned it at once, and on August 7th the Occupation of 
pass which had assisted to more than one British reverse was at 
last crowned with a defensive p)ost. 

Whilst Allenby remained about Breedts Nek with parties out 
in all directions, Kekewich moved eastward along the Magalies- 
berg to Boschfontein and Elandskraal. Allenby, keeping touch 
with him, reinforced him with mounted men through the rift 
at Damhoek, eight miles north-east of Hekpoort, which was 
held by Barton's infantry. The enemy was unexpectedly 
numerous in these often-scoured ravines. At Elandskraal on 
August loth forty-one prisoners fell to Kekewich's search parties 
after scarcely a shot had been fired, and cattle were to be taken 
at every step. After halting a while at Commando Nek, and re- 
filling with supplies at Rietfontein, Kekewich turned north to 
clear the Hekpoort and Sterkstroom valleys, then south (August 
24th) to Wolhuter's Kop across the Rustenburg road. There he 
remained until fresh orders came at the end of the month 
relative to a projected operation against Kemp, causing him 
to move to Broadwood's old camping ground at Oorzaak on 
the 31st. On August 19th Allenby also refitted at Rietfontein, 
and after accompanying Kekewich northward, returned on the 
29th to Rustenburg, whence he too moved in accordance with the 
same instructions as had reached Kekewich, the effect of which 
will be described in a subsequent chapter.* 

» See Chapter XVI. 
VOL. IV. 13 



194 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

About the middle of August AUenby had had another brief 
co-operation with G. Hamilton. That officer had marched 
from Klerksdorp on the 5th ; and raiding northward through 
Geduld and across the Taaibosch Spruit, in pursuit of a com- 
mando under Liebenberg which no effort could bring to a stand, 
was in Ventersdorp on the 12th. Hence he moved vi<f Klipkrans 
into the Witwatersrand at Basfontein, where he came into touch 
with Allenby. An attack on Basfontein made jointly with the 
6th Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers) from Allenby's force on 
August 14th resulted in the capture of a laager of thirty-eight 
carts and wagons, three Boers being killed, ten captured, Allenby 
losing an officer and six men killed and wounded. G. Hamilton, 
followed by skirmishers, of whom he captured three, then 
reconnoitred Tafel Kop, returning to Ventersdorp on August 
i8th. On the 21st he came near the railway at Kaalfontein to 
take charge of a convoy for Rustenburg, coming from Krugers- 
dorp. After this had been carried out without incident, G. 
Hamilton was detailed to join Allenby and Kekewich in the 
above referred to scheme, which was also about to absorb the 
attention of Lord Methuen, and the three columns under 
Fetherstonhaugh. 
Minor Two frcsh bodics of troops working in the neighbourhood 

at this time must be referred to, namely, that of Major-General 
Barton who was covering the establishment of a line of block- 
houses for occupation by the South African Constabulary in the 
Hekpoort valley, and another, under Colonel Lord Basing (Royal 
Dragoons), which was affording similar cover to a blockhouse 
line building from Breed ts Nek to Frederikstad, the other end 
of which was watched by a force under Lieut. -Colonel W. 
Fry (West Yorkshire). Both Barton and Lord Basing had 
come out from Pretoria, the former on June 24th, the latter on 
July i6th. 

On August 5th Lord Basing was detached in pursuit of a 
party of Boers under P. De la Key, which had broken south 
from Barton's stopping line along the Hekpoort valley. After 
a circuitous chase by Vlakplaats, Kaalfontein and Steenkoppies, 
the Boers dodging amongst the rapidly growing blockhouses, 



columns. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 195 

Lord Basing was stopped near Olifants Nek, having fairly broken 
up P. De la Rey's band by incessant hunting, and picked up 
thirteen of his men who had fallen behind. On August 15th 
Lord Basing repaired to Krugersdorp, where he was entrained 
for Springfontein, to assist in the turning of Smuts from 
Cape Colony.* 

Other troops new to the area were those of Lieut. -Colonel Operations of 
F. S. Garratt, who, starting from Springs on July gth, had come *^™"* 
past Vereeniging to the Los Berg. Before him fled a Boer 
convoy which was come up with just as it had crossed the Vaal 
at Lindequee on the 21st. Garratt, sending 100 men across the 
drift in pursuit, had surrounded the whole with Uttle fighting 
when General Smuts, appearing from the west, hastened to the 
rescue with a strong commando. Twenty-six prisoners and 
fourteen wagons were nevertheless secured and brought across 
the river, and next day Garratt pushed out to come to terms 
with Smuts. That leader, however, after several rearguard 
actions, established himself too strongly at Buffelshoek to be 
disturbed, and Garratt returned to Lindequee, whilst Sir H. 
Rawlinson took his men out from Klerksdorp and moved vid 
Potchefstroom to his assistance. On July 27th the two were 
in touch with each other, and also with a small column come 
out from Vereeniging under Brigadier-General G. G. Cunningham. 

On the 28th, whilst Garratt moved down the right bank of 
the Vaal, Sir H. Rawlinson and the Vereeniging column fell in 
concert upon a commando which was laagered near the junction 
of the Krommellboog Spruit with the Vaal. The Boers fled 
before a determined attack by Sir H. Rawhnson's mounted 
infantry, making off so fast south-west through Vredefort that, 
gallop as he would, Rawlinson could not catch them. The whole 
of the convoy fell into his hands, however, with some score of 
prisoners and twenty-five wagons. On the next day Sir H. 
Rawlinson was called away for operations elsewhere, and Garratt, 
continuing alone, had just regained touch with the enemy at 
Schoeman's Drift when he received orders to join in the same 
movement which had drawn Sir H. Rawlinson away from him. 

* See Chapter XIV. 
VOL. IV. 13* 



196 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

This was the passage of the three columns of Major-General 
Elliot E. L. Elliot's division on their way southward to cany out the 

appearance in great Sweep south of the Vaal and west of the main railway 
Tra^^^™ down to the Modder river, the initiation of which is described 
elsewhere.* On July 23rd Elhot's Headquarters were at Klerks- 
dorp, where he absorbed two other minor columns, those of 
Colonels Henry and Western, the former of whom had been 
working in the Hoopstad district, the latter about Bothaville 
and Coal Mines. Elliot made but a brief pause within the Western 
Transvaal. On July 28th he marched out with all his seven 
columns due southward to Yzerspruit and Koedoesdraai, passing 
at once beyond the limits of this chapter.* 

In three weeks' time Garratt re-appeared in the Western 
Transvaal. Having acted in second line during the greater 
part of Elliot's advance, on August 21st he turned northward 
again, and recrossing the river at Wonderwater, made for Los 
Berg, where he expected to find parties which had broken aside 
from the front of Elliot's sweep. Nor was he mistaken. A 
laager discovered on the 23rd in the recesses of the Los Berg 
was easily captured, and was being removed when 300 Boers, 
coming south from the Gatsrand, attempted to rescue their 
wagons. For a time they pressed hard, but Garratt pushed them 
as strongly back, and after a spirited encounter drove them 
northward, losing four officers and men himself, and capturing 
eight and killing three of the enemy. Until the end of the month 
he remained in this neighbourhood, actively covering the con- 
struction of a line of blockhouses which was to deny this favourite 
haunt to the enemy. Constantly patrolling amongst the hills, 
he had another successful affair on August 28th, taking nine and 
killing one of a party of twenty-five Boers who were laagered 
at Enzelpoort. These were stragglers from a larger convoy 
which had gone on to Weltevreden, where Garratt engaged 
them the same evening, securing three more prisoners. 

• See Chapter XI\'. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 197 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 



COLUMN. 


a 


1- 
1 

c 




a 
1 












s 




May — August, 190 1. 












Lt.-Gen. Lord P. Methuen 


1,163 


150 


10 


2 




Brig. -Gen. H. G. Dixon , . 


1,050 


1,216 


8 


2 


) 


Maj.-Gen. J. M. Babington 


860 


580 


9 


— 




Col. Sir H. Rawlinson (late 










( Maj. • Gen. Mildmay 


Shekleton's) 


1,250 





2 





f Willson in command. 


Lt.-Col. E. C. Ingouville 












Williams . . 


S69 


169 


3 


-^ 




Lt.-Col. W. B. Hickie (late 












Babington's) 


849 


Soo 


8 


— 


Maj.-Gen. R. S. R. 


Lt.-Col. E. C. Ingouville 










> Fetherstonhaugh in 


Williams . . 


996 


168 


4 


— 


command. 


Col. Sir H. Rawlinson 


».279 


— 


8 







Brig.-Gen. H. G. Dixon 


760 


555 


8 


I 




Brig.-Gen. G. Hamilton . . 


1,060 


356 


3 


3 




Col. E. H. H. Allenby 


740 


729 


7 


I 




Col. R. G. Kekewich 


576 


83s 


4 


2 




Lt.-Col. F, S. Garratt 


870 


296 


5 


I 




Col. St. G. C. Henrv 


66^1 


265 


3 


I 


1 


Col. W. G. B. We.st'em 


670 


118 


3 


I 


/ 


Brig.-Gen. R. G. Broad- 










I Maj.-Gen. E. L. Elliot 


wood . . ... 


2,032 


— 


5 


3 


in command. 


Col. E. C. Bethune.. 


991 


— 


5 


I 


Lt.-Col. H. de B. de Lisle 


967 


— 


5 


2 


Col. Lord Basing . . 


442 


- 


3 


I 




Lt.-Col. F. Hacket-Thomp- 


1 








Maj.-Gen. G. Barton 


son 


269 


671 


5 


I 


in command. 


Lt.-Col. W. Fry .. 


40 


792 


2 


— 





198 



CHAPTER XII. 

EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL* 

{Continued from Chapter VIII.). 

JUNE — SEPTEMBER, I9OI. 

To arrest the broken bubbles of mercury were a similar task to 
that which at this time confronted Lord Kitchener's troops. 
In all parts of South Africa they were called upon daily to get 
sight of the invisible, to crush the impalpable, and to surround — 
Difficulties of nothing. The Commander-in-Chief clearly realised the nature 
the campaign. q£ ^-^q problem before him.f His heaviest blows, though they 
never failed to break up the enemy, did so into fragments so 
numerous and full of vitality that there was not a soldier in 
the British forces but wished that they might re-unite into a 
body worth finding, worth striking, or capable of being found 
and struck. Few such gatherings were in the field ; a dozen 
Boers had become a notable prize for a strong colimin ; a lield- 
cometcy for a whole complicated operation ; neither were often 
to be secured at all, and never without labour and wastage out 
of all proportion to the reward. Such is the triimiph — prolonged 
perhaps, though inevitably doomed to extinction — of guerrilla 
warfare, and, of the belligerents concerned, only soldiers of 
experience and keen sight can avoid being impatient on the 
one side or contemptuous on the other. Not only the Boers at 
this juncture had doubts whether the British forces had not 
become but " an army of cow-catchers, "J when chiefly droves 
of stock, every thousand head of which would have been willingly 

* See map No. 56. t Despatches, July 8th, 1901. 

X Diary of a Burgher. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 199 

exchanged by the captors for but a single rifleman, poured into 
the camps, or perished in heaps upon the veld, the useless 
trophies of exhausting campaigns. 

Yet even the Boer supphes seemed inexhaustible. Expedi- 
tions which brought in thousands of beasts had only to sally 
out again to find thousands more ; conflagrations which illu- 
minated the whole horizon seemed impotent to bum the crops ; 
broad belts of ransacked farms ran only Uke lanes of ruin through 
districts which still afforded not only shelter but subsistence. 
In short, in spite of the enormous efforts of the British columns, 
the Republican forces were being but slowly whittled. 

Even in the much scoured region of the High Veld there still 
roved at least 6,000 men, and only so much territory as lay 
within the British outposts was conquered. Thus there was no 
rest for the various coliunns dealt with in Chapter VHI. The 
early days of June saw each and all of them once more in motion, 
until the Eastern Transvaal was again alive with bodies of troops 
from the Mauch Berg down to the borders of Natal. First, 
Plumer, E. C. Knox and Rimington, within three days of their 
conclusion of one set of operations, set out to undertake another 
— this time to the south of the Vaal river, where the country 
between Amersfoort and Piet Retief was reported to be as rife 
with the enemy as though French and his array of columns had 
never been. Next, Beatson, revisiting the district at the junc- 
tion of the Steenkool (or Steenbok) Spruit and Oliphant river, 
found the enemy not only present but so aggressive that Sir 
B. Blood, whose forces were still busied between Carolina and 
Amsterdam, had to move westward with four colimins to his 
assistance. Spens, Park, Benson and Douglas returned from 
a raid northward of the Delagoa Bay railway line, with 
captures sufficient to show how much they had met and 
left behind. Nor did Bullock brush fruitlessly the right 
bank of the Vaal eastward up to its junction with the Mabusa 
Spruit, and Colville the same bank westward towards Villiers- 
dorp, nor Grey twice visit the districts of Bethel and Ermelo 
in vain. These were the doings in June, each of which must 
now be described shortly. 



200 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Operations in On Junc ist PluiTier placed his three columns in line for an 
the south east, advance on Piet Retief— E. C. Knox on the left at Uitkyk, 
north of the Vaal, his own column at Springbokspruit, that of 
Rimington starting one day later from Platrand. Zevenfontein 
— Hartebeestfontein — Strydkraal was the line on the 2nd, Trans- 
valia — Rietspniit — Amersfoort on the 3rd, when Bullock was 
sighted on his way back from Ermelo to Standerton. On June 
4th E. C. Knox touched the Vaal at Welgelegen, Plumer reached 
Familiehoek, and Rimington Kromhoek on the spurs of the 
Elands Berg, the last-named column becoming more closely 
engaged as it neared that constant haunt of the enemy. Turn- 
ing the mountain range by Kalkoenskranz next day, Rimington 
drove aside a commando which opposed him, and reached Bal- 
moral, whilst Plumer made Welgevonden on the Mabusa, and 
E. C. Knox crossed the Vaal at the well-used drift at Witpunt. 
On the 6th Knox drew towards the Compies river to Alkmaar, 
thence eastward to Zoar and Watervaldrift on the Shela, Plumer 
marching on his right by Rotterdam and Brereton to Breda, 
whilst Rimington, still in touch with the enemy, came up on 
Plumer's right to Driefontein. During the night of June 8th, 
Plumer enclosed Piet Retief on north, west and south. The 
Boers hurriedly evacuated the town, which was found deserted 
when E. C. Knox entered it at dawn ; but a number who had 
delayed their departure until too late were cut off by Rimington, 
who was blocking the drifts on either side of Swartwater, and 
thirty prisoners and twelve wagons, with horses, cattle and sheep 
were taken. 

Plumer now turned quickly against the Slangapies Berg, both 
because that range was reported to harbour several Boer laagers, 
and because it stood in the way of a convoy which was expected 
from Wakkerstroom for his own supply. Accordingly on June 
I2th he was at St. Helena, advancing next day to Zuikerhoek 
where he safely received the convoy. For the next few days 
his three columns searched the Slangapies Berg and the Pongola 
Bosch, hunting with fair success the ravines and thickets of 
that almost inaccessible region, in which armies might have 
lain hidden for weeks, and single men for ever. Only twice 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 201 

diu this furtive enemy take the offensive, once in a manner 
more worthy of brigands than of soldiers in the field. On June 
1 6th a train of empty wagons, which was making its way into 
Utrecht to refill, was attacked in the Elands Berg, Rimington 
going to its assistance next day. On the same occasion a 
mounted patrol, in the course of searching amongst the gorges 
of the Slangapies Berg, came upon a laager deep down in a 
wooded crevice of the mountain, and noticing that a white flag 
hung from a wagon, assumed that surrender was intended, and 
trotted forward to accept it. Instantly a murderous fire broke 
out from the bush on either side ; six horses fell at once, the 
patrol was all but hemmed in, and before it had galloped into 
safety, had lost an officer and ten men by bullet and capture. 
Plumer hurried next day to avenge the losses ; but though he 
seized and burnt the laager, the Boers crawled scathless through 
the impenetrable scrub, and only three of their number were 
accounted for. 

Between June i8th and 20th P. P. Burg was surrounded as 
Piet Retief had been, with the same result, Rimington again 
securing the only seven Boers captured as he intervened between 
the emptying township and the Pivaan river. Plumer then 
cast back to the Elands Berg, which he thoroughly cleared, con- 
centrating around Utrecht on the 23rd. Since leaving the 
Standerton railway he had accounted for six Boers killed, 
seventy-nine prisoners, 125 wagons and carts, and a quantity 
of cattle. At Utrecht the columns parted company, Plumer 
with E. C. Knox setting out northward on June 28th for the 
Delagoa Bay railway, whilst Rimington remained behind to 
continue the clearance of the mountains between Utrecht and 
Wakkerstroom. Plumer marched by Pivaanspoort and Liine- 
berg, capturing a small laager on Jime 30th south of that town ; 
thence over the eastern end of the Slangapies Berg, across the 
Assegai, Shela and Compies rivers, taking another laager between 
the last-named streams on July 4th, to pursue his way by Onver- 
wacht to Driefontein, where another laager fell into his hands 
on July 6th. On the 7th Plumer was at Bothwell, on the 9th at 
Carolina, whence he made his way into Wonderfontein with 



202 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

captured wagons and stock and thirteen prisoners. Soon after 
he was railed to Bloemfontein to take part in a vast combination 
which was about to sweep across the Orange River Colony.* 
It must here be stated that in this, as in many other instances, 
considerations of space alone compel arduous marches and 
carefully laid plans such as those narrated above to be thus 
dismissed in a mere itinerary. A history such as this must 
largely confine itself to results ; and they are frequently the 
feeblest colouring of a campaign. The thousand problems and 
trials of soldiers on the march form no part of the writer's task, 
nor could he, however profuse, adequately paint such detail 
upon a canvas so enormous as the theatre of war in South Africa. 
It is fitting to mention this here, because many an operation 
which in less crowded times would have provided material for 
a volume in itself, has been and will be referred to with a brevity 
all unworthy of the immense toil, thought, and self-sacrifice 
expended on its execution. Let it then be alwa)^ under- 
stood that credit for such expenditure is not omitted because it 
was not earned, but because it is too great for inclusion. 

Rimington went into Platrand on July 7th after a series of 
forays amongst the Elands Berg, Pongola Bosch, Slangapies Berg 
and Rand Berg which had effectually cleared those fastnesses of 
all that was visible. In conjunction with parties from Utrecht 
he had harried the enemy on July 2nd at Schuilhoek, and again 
on the 3rd and 4th, pressing him sometimes so closely that the 
burghers threw away their rifles and bolted for safety into the 
dark recesses of the surrounding bush, where only a pack of 
bloodhounds could have tracked them. 

Meanwhile Bullock's column, which left Standerton on Jime 
loth, was operating in the same neighbourhood as Plumer's, but 
neither in connection nor communication with it. Bullock 
had marched by nearly the same route as E. C. Knox had 
done; camping at Uitkyk on the nth, Morgenzon 12th, Dorps- 
plaats 14th and Beginderlyn, where the Vaal was crossed, on 
June 1 6th. Thence, hke Knox, he turned southward into the 

• See Chapter XIV. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 203 

Elands Berg, aiming at Langberg on the 19th, proceeding then 
to clear the eastern slopes of the range as far as Roodepoort. 
Cattle and farms alone rewarded his efforts, both in surprising 
quantities in a district which had never known respite from the 
forays of both armies. On June 27th Bullock was recalled to 
Standerton, which he reached on July 4th by way of Bergvliet, 
Wolvespruit and Platrand, having taken live prisoners, 3,700 
head of stock and fifty-nine wagons. 

Turning now to the north — On June 5th Beatson, at Brug- Operations in 
spruit, received orders to go down to Bethel in order to co- '''e north-east, 
operate with the columns of Sir B. Blood, which were about 
to move southward from the neighbourhood of Carolina. Beat- 
son marched next day, making once more for the junction of 
the Oliphant river and Steenkool (or Steenbok) Spruit, where 
the enemy was reported. Having cleared his way to Van Dyks- 
drift, he halted for several days, using this spot as a base for 
the despatch of reconnaissances and raiding parties in every 
direction. Upon one of these fell disaster. Hearing of the 
presence of a small commando at Boschmansfontein, on the 
Middelburg — Ermelo road, Beatson sent in that direction on 
June loth a force consisting of 350 men of the 5th Victorian 
Mounted Rifles, with two Vickers-Maxim guns. Soon after their 
departure, he himself discovered the enemy nearer and more to 
the south, at Elands fontein. He thereupon signalled to the 
detachment, which had found Boschmansfontein empty, to 
concentrate on Elandsfontein, where he intended to move next 
morning. Returning to carry this out, the Victorians halted Affair at 
for the night of Jtme 12th at Wilmansrust. Here they were J^n^fj"^"''*' 
marked down by General Muller, who was in command of a 1901. 
portion of General B. Viljoen's force, that leader himself, with 
the remainder, being away on duty with the Transvaal Govern- 
ment, which he was about to escort westward to another meeting 
with the Executive of the sister State. Muller had been left 
with orders to attack any detaclunent which ventured far from 
its main body, and he recognised his opportimity. Surround- 
ing the spot as darkness fell, his men approached within 
twenty yards before they were discovered. After a tremendous 



204 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

discharge of ten minutes' duration which did heavy execution, 
they rushed in, and in a moment the whole camp was theirs. 
Of the Australians fifteen had been killed, forty-two wounded ; 
few of those unhurt escaped capture and as many as lOO 
horses were shot. Muller then disarmed and released his 
prisoners, looted the camp, and made off with the two guns, 
several wagons and about lOO horses, having inflicted a blow 
as humiliating to the worsted as it was admirable for its light- 
ning-like rapidity and the numerical inferiority of the force 
with which it was dealt. 

At 1.30 a.m. on the 13th Beatson received intelligence of 
this disaster and at once hurried to the scene, arriving there 
before daylight. As his baggage left Van Dyksdrift it was 
dogged by a commando, and it was evident that the coliunn 
was in the midst of the enemy, who was still reported in force 
at Elandsfontein. But Beatson, moving south, passed by that 
place unmolested on the 15th, when he halted ten miles north of 
Bethel. He then turned towards Ermelo, in order to draw nearer 
to Sir B. Blood, who had been ordered to his assistance. Sir 
B. Blood was at this time in general command of operations 
which stretched from the Mauch Berg down to Amsterdam, 
his eight columns being actively employed in every direction. 
Four of them, namely, Spens', Benson's, Douglas' and Park's, 
were engaged to the north of the Delagoa Bay railway line on a 
scheme which will be subsequently described. The remainder 
were still east and south of Carolina. They had consisted, it 
will be remembered, of F. W. Kitchener's and Pulteney's columns 
and Babington's cavalry brigade, and Sir B. Blood had now 
increased his mobile strength by the creation of another column 
out of part of the troops holding his lines of communication under 
Colonel W. P. Campbell (King's Royal Rifle Corps). This force 
had already operated independently and successfully around 
Carolina from June 7th — 12th, clearing forty-four farms. The 
remainder of the lines of communication troops were placed 
under Colonel J. W. Hughes-Hallett, and watched the Komati 
valley about Goodehoop, so that Sir B. Blood now controlled 
nine units. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 205 

On receipt of Lord Kitchener's orders to repair to the district 
which Beatson had found so full of the enemy, Sir B. Blood 
made arrangements to draw out his four southern columns 
towards the west. They were widely separated ; F. W. Kit- 
chener and Pulteney being north and south of Amsterdam, W. P. 
Campbell and Babington about Carolina. Sending orders to the 
two former commanders to follow as soon as possible. Sir B. 
Blood, on June i6th, took the others to Vaalbank, and thence 
towards Ermelo to Sterkfontein, where on the i8th he was in 
signal communication both with Beatson on the west and F. W. 
Kitchener on the east. On the next day junction was effected 
with Beatson, the three columns camping together at Hartebeest- 
spruit. On the 20th Sir B. Blood received intelligence that 
Commandant-General Botha and the members of the Transvaal 
Government were close to the westward. He immediately 
despatched a flying column under Babington towards Kaffir- 
stad, and on receipt of news from that officer on the 21st that 
the enemy was moving up the Oliphant river, expected notable 
results. But the information, though well founded, was late. 
Botha and the Government with Viljoen's escort had indeed 
passed that way two days before. At the very time of Babing- 
ton's message they were bidding farewell to ex-President Steyp» 
Generals De Wet and De la Rey, and the members of the Orange 
Free State Executive, on the farm Witbank, twenty-six miles 
east of Heidelberg, after a conference which had been begun the 
day before at Branddrift, on the Waterval river. Not without 
adventures had either party reached the place of meeting. 
Acting-President Burger, Botha and the Transvaalers had 
escaped with such difficulty from the Amsterdam district that 
they had had to abandon every vehicle ; and carrying alike 
their personal effects and the insignia of Government upon 
their saddles, had wormed their way, conducted by Viljoen, 
through the very midst of the surrounding British columns. 
Steyn and his companions had only escaped destruction by a 
hair's breadth on their ride from Vrede. Striking the railway 
south of Platrand on the night of June 14th, an alert block- 
house had first to be dealt with, and its attention having^been 



2o6 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

distracted by an attack, the whole party rushed across the line. 
No sooner had they crossed when a dynamite mine exploded 
a few yards behind them. Next morning the men of the block- 
house found two slain horses, a rifle, and some burnt clothing on 
the spot, proof that the travellers had not escaped scathless. 
Steyn and De Wet then made for Blauw Kop on the Vaal, and 
after awaiting there for three days the arrival of the Transvaalers 
— whilst Bullock, all unconscious of their presence, passed them 
by one day's march to the east — repaired to Waterval, where 
the meeting took place on June 20th. On that night the Boer 
leaders, fearful of discovery, transferred their laagers to Brand- 
drift ; nor were their fears groundless, for the British Intelligence 
Department had full warning of their assembly. In mid-veld. 
The Boers watchcd OH cvcry sidc by vedettes, the Council of War took 
of*'wa?""*^'' place. There were present the following officers and officials : 
June 20th. Acting- President Schalk Burger, ex- President Steyn, State 
^'' Secretary Reitz, Conunandant-General Botha, Chief Com- 

mandant De Wet, Generals Hertzog, Viljoen, Spruyt, De la 
Rey, Smuts, MuUer, Lucas Meyer and several commandants 
and officers of inferior rank. 

Of the results of the discussion the most important was the 
decision arrived at " That no peace shall be made, and no peace 
proposals entertained which do not ensure our independence, 
and our existence as a nation, or which do not satisfactorily 
provide for the case of our Colonial brethren," etc.* Beyond 
this the conference was chiefly confined to speeches of a general 
nature, in which dissatisfaction with Kruger, with his silence and 
the unprofitable results of his European mission, was openly 
expressed. The appearance at the meeting of a silken banner 
worked by the hands of the Boer ladies in Pretoria, was evidence 
alike of the spirit of the women and of the ease with which 
communication could still be had with sympathisers who were 
immured deeply within the lines of the British forces. 

At noon on Jime 21st the assembly broke up, the Trans- 
vaalers retiuning eastward, whilst Ste5m , De Wet and De la Rey, 

* Report of a Boer who was present. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 207 

recrossing the line near Vlaklaagte without incident, moved 
down the Waterval through a district which Colville had only 
just quitted. Arrived on the banks of the Vaal the party 
separated, De la Key proceeding down stream to cross the rail- 
way between Vereeniging and Meyerton, whilst the ex-President 
and his Chief Commandant entered the Orange River Colony at 
Villiersdorp. 

In accordance with an arrangement arrived at at the Council 
of War, B. Viljoen, having rejoined his commando, now moved 
up the Oliphant river, intending to make war once more in 
the Lydenburg district from which he had so narrowly escaped. 
His adventures on the way will be related later. His were 
the commandos reported on Jime 21st and following days by 
Babington, who, to Sir B. Blood's disappointment, did nothing 
to intercept them, but remained at Kaffirstad imtil joined on 
the 24th by W. P. Campbell. By this time (June 22nd) F. W. 
Kitchener had come up to Tweefontein, and Sir B. Blood ordered 
a general concentration at Middelkraal, to be carried out whilst 
he himself with Beatson's column went into Middelburg to 
bring out supplies. Kitchener moved by Vaalbank and Bank- 
pan — a mounted infantry patrol being cut off with the loss of 
an officer and two men during a reconnaissance to the south 
on the 22nd — and after further operations was with Campbell 
at Middelkraal on the 29th, where Babington, who had had 
skirmishing and affairs of outposts at Uitgedacht and Legdaar, 
arrived on the same date. Meanwhile Pulteney had gone into 
Carolina on the 21st, and raiding far around that place, failed 
to receive Sir B. Blood's orders to meet him and the convoy, 
and conduct them to the place of concentration. He eventually 
(July 3rd) made his way into Middelburg to refit. Here 
for the moment Sir B. Blood's southern columns must be 
left, whilst those to the north of the Delagoa Bay railway 
are followed. 

Spens and Park at Nelspruit, Benson and Douglas at Macha- Operations in 
dodorp were ready on June 8th, and next day began an opera- 
tion which had for its object the clearance of the country 
in the triangle Machadodorp — Lydenburg — Nelspruit. Spens, 



the north-east 



2o8 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. ' 

who was in charge of the scheme, divided the sphere of opera- 
tions into two zones, namely, the country north and south of 
the Crocodile river respectively, basing Douglas and Benson 
on the Machadodorp — Lydenburg road, his own and Park's 
columns on Nelspruit and Alkmaar. By June i8th the northern 
section had been cleared, and the four columns having been 
refitted, turned to the southern section, which was thoroughly 
scoured by the 2Qth. The enemy's tactics consisted mainly 
in hiding, and the chief work of the troops lay in ferreting 
amongst the deep and thicketed ravines which seamed this, 
one of the most difficult terrains in South Africa. Twenty days' 
exhausting labour resulted in the accounting for sixty-five Boers, 
about 15,000 stock, and 266 carts and wagons, besides a quan- 
tity of rifles and ammunition, and a number of mills which were 
destroyed. Spens then returned to Alkmaar, Benson and 
Douglas to Machadodorp, whilst Park went into Lydenburg. 
A small column under McCracken of the 2nd Royal Berkshire 
regiment, which had co-operated with Spens' quartet during 
the last week of their operations, returned to Godwaan on 
June 28th. 
viijoen Two days earlier Viljoen, having evaded Babington and all 

nortKeast.^ ^ ^^^ ^ Blood's southem columns, had made his dash across the 
Delagoa Bay railway. He had received with misgivings his 
orders at the Council of War of June 20th ; the Botha's Berg 
district held no good luck for him, and none but the best of 
fortune would enable him to escape for the second time from 
an area so beset bj' cohunns. Merely to re-enter that area was 
difficult enough, and nearly proved disastrous to Viljoen and 
his commandos. On the night of June 26th he attacked two 
blockhouses one and a half miles apart between Balmoral and 
Brugspruit, and attempted to pass his baggage and guns across 
between th^m. But the little forts, held by a few men of the 
2nd Buffs (East Kent regiment), resisted furiously ; many 
burghers were laid low around them, and all would have gone 
well had not the garrison, seven in number, of one of the block- 
houses, in their eagerness to get a better field of fire, rashly left 
the shelter inside the walls for the trench without, where they 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 209 

were soon overwhelmed by numbers and captured. The 
burghers then hurriedly filled up a roadway across the ditches 
of the permanent way, and Viljoen with some of the men and 
carts passed over. But suddenly the armoured train from Brug- 
spruit dashed into the very midst of the procession, and illu- 
minating the scene with its searchlight, quickly cleared the 
vicinity with discharges from rifles and Maxim guns. Viljoen's 
force was thus cut in two ; the party attacking the western 
blockhouse was beaten back with loss ; some of the carts were 
wrecked, including that containing Viljoen's papers and personal 
effects, and the whole commando was in confusion. The Boers 
on the south of the line then drew off ; not until two nights later 
did they manage to cross with Viljoen's assistance close to the 
south-west of Middelburg, and then not without adventure. 
Once more an armoured train, this time from Pan, descended 
upon them, and though a dynamite charge brought it to a stop 
short of the scene, its fire and that of the railway guards did 
much damage, and several wagons and rifles were picked up by 
the soldiers in the morning. 

In the Standerton section, now commanded by Clements, the Raids from 
columns of Grey and Colville had little rest during June. Grey, \\ne. 
leaving Standerton on the 6th with special instructions to search 
for guns reported to be with the commandos in the Ermelo 
district, surprised a laager at Rietvlei on the nth, killing and 
capturing eleven Boers. Thereafter he was in constant touch 
with the enemy, having several brisk affairs which incurred 
eleven casualties before he regained Standerton on the 17th with 
twelve prisoners, seventeen other Boers having been accounted 
for in action. Colville moved in the opposite direction, and drove 
Buys from Villiersdorp on the 5th and 6th. He then traversed 
the country on the left bank of the Vaal, the Boers cUnging 
closely to the column. On one occasion (June 8th) a determined 
rush against the rearguard was finely met by a counter-charge. 
On the 2ist Colville was at Val station, where he received orders 
to co-operate with Grey in a sweep through the Bethel district 
towards the columns of Sir B. Blood which were then converging 
on Middelkraal. Colville, camping on the Klip Spruit, was 

VOL. IV. 14 



2IO THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

attacked at dawn on the 24th by a party under Commandant 
Alberts, the attempt being repulsed with the loss of three men 
to each side. Neither column succeeded in gaining touch with 
Sir B. Blood, and towards the end of the month both were back 
in the neighbourhood of Greylingstad, where Grey handed over 
command of his force to Colonel F. S. Garratt {6th Dragoon 
Guards, Carabiniers). On July ist Colville and Garratt re- 
ceived fresh orders to co-operate with Sir B. Blood. On the 
next day they again marched northward, and on July 3rd Col- 
ville gained touch with F. W. Kitchener near the source of the 
Steenkool (or Steenbok) Spruit. Sir B. Blood was now nearing 
the close of his operation, only the angle between the Heidelberg 
— Pretoria and Pretoria — Middelburg railways remaining un- 
traversed. Between July the 7th and loth his troops gathered 
along the line Springs — Elandsriver station ; Headquarters 
with F. W. Kitchener and Babington were at the former place, 
W. P. Campbell on the right was at the latter. All then, after 
sundry minor expeditions, converged on Middelburg, where 
Babington's column was broken up (July i8th). Colville and 
Garratt, who had been in touch with the left, were then detached 
from Sir B. Blood's sphere, Colville returning to the Greyling- 
stad district, whilst Garratt was called away into the Orange 
River Colony.* On the way thither he had a smart engage- 
ment with Colville's late opponent. Buys, on the banks of the 
Vaal midway between Vereeniging and Villiersdorp, the Boer 
commander being surprised in his laager and severely punished. 
Operations Meanwhile north of the Delagoa Bay railway Spens had 

^jSninthe employed Park's and Benson's columns in the pursuit of B. 
north-east. Viljoen, and his own in carrying supplies to these from Middel- 
burg. Benson pointed on Dullstroom, marching early (July 
3rd) from Machadodorp in order to surprise a laager midway 
between the two towns. But the enemy had warning, and after 
a pretence at flight, turned hotly upon the Scottish Horse who 
led the column. In the close combat which followed the Scottish 
Horse patrols lost eleven out of twenty-six men engaged, the 

* See Chapter XIV. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 211 

Boers one more.* Benson reached Dullstroom on the 7th, 
whence he pushed Viljoen westward towards Blink water. On 
the 8th he gained touch with Park from Lydenburg, whom he 
asked to watch his right flank about KUpbankspruit whilst he 
advanced against Roos Senekal, whither Viljoen appeared to 
be heading, A bustUng chase on the gth and loth brought 
Benson to Roos Senekal, Viljoen's men scattering over the Steel- 
poort river with the loss of many wagons and a few prisoners. 
The column accounted for over thirty fighting men in the course 
of the raid. On the 13th Park returned to Lydenburg to refit, 
whilst Benson, whose wagons had been refilled by Spens, con- 
tinued the pursuit of Viljoen to the banks of the Oliphant at 
Laatstedrift, where a sharp fight cost him ten casualties, but the 
Boers many more. Next day, as Viljoen still fled westward, 
Benson crossed the Oliphant river and pressed towards the Moos 
river. But the wary Boer was not to be hustled further, and 
turning northward, doubled across the OHphant at Kalkfontein 
back into the Roos Senekal territory from which he had been 
so often driven. Benson who was running short of supplies 
had then to return to the line to replenish. On the 21st he 
reached Groote OHphant River station, passing on the way a small 
column which Beatson had taken out for the second time during 
the month from Middelburg on the 12th. Beatson's previous 
excursion (July 7th — nth) had resulted in the surprise and 
capture of a small laager which had been discovered twenty-five 
miles north of Middelburg. His second foray closed on the 
24th, when he returned to Bronkhorstspruit station. The total 
increment of the work of Sir B. Blood's nine columns between 
July ist and 24th had been the capture of fifty-four prisoners, 
twenty-five surrenders, 289 wagons and carts, over 16,000 sheep, 
1,600 oxen, besides rifles, ammunition and farm produce. 

Brigadier-General Spens was now called away to take charge 
of a force for the Orange River Colony. f His column was 

• For gallantry on this occasion Lieutenant W. J. English, 2nd Scottish Horse, was 
awarded the Victoria Cross. On the following day (July 4th) Private H. G. Crandon, 
i8th Hussars, performed an act of gallantry for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross 

t See Chapter XIV. 

VOL. IV 14* 



212 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

therefore broken up, and on July 24th Sir B. Blood reconstituted 
his forces into five mobile columns under F. W. Kitchener, Park, 
Benson, W. P. Campbell and Beatson, and a covering body under 
Hughes-Hallett. 

On the lines of communication in the Eastern Transvaal 
little of note occurred except in the southern section, where a 
brilliant little affair brightened the tedium of the passive but 
Affair near laboHous duty of the troops. The IntelUgence Officer at Platrand 
jufy'joth. having notified the presence of a laager at a farm behind the 
1901. Verzamel Berg, Brigadier-General E. O. F. Hamilton, who com- 

manded that sub-section, despatched seventy-six men of an 
irregular corps called Menne's Scouts, under Captain F. C. C. 
Barker, to attempt to surprise it on the night of July 30th. 
The enterprise was perfectly successful. The Boers were sur- 
rounded asleep, and the Scouts utterly routed them, killing 
and wounding over thirty men, and securing nine prisoners, 
nearly all the horses, cattle, and camp stuff. They might have 
taken the whole had not a detachment sent from Zandspruit 
to hold a pass over the mountain been checked by a superior 
Boer piquet, which caused Barker to fear for his line of 
retreat. As it was he completely demolished the site of the 
laager, after which he made his way safely back to camp with 
his booty. 

In the Boer camps some stir was caused at the end of July 
by a deed of Assistant-General T. Smuts. Despatched to clear 
the Swazi border, that officer, having accomplished his mission, 
burned to the ground the township of Bremersdorp, which he 
declared had formed a focus of robbery and freebooting in this 
remote district. Such an act, performed at a time when bitter 
recriminations as to needless violence were rife between the 
British and Boer authorities, drew upon Smuts the anger of the 
Commandant-General, who promptly dismissed his subordinate 
from his command, and turned a deaf ear to all arguments for 
his reinstatement. The correspondence which ensued between 
the two commanders, on the one side indignant and protesting, 
on the other dignified and implacable, is too long for insertion ; 
but Botha's choler at an event which leaders of far more 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 213 

punctilious societies than his have regarded as a justifiable 
act of war, exemplifies one of the most curious traits of the 
Boer military character, namely its humanity and regularity 
of conduct, unusual products of soil so rough as that from 
which had risen the warriors of the Republican States in 
South Africa. 

On July 25th F. W. Kitchener's four columns were again on Operations 
the march with orders for a fresh search for Viljoen, the needle y^-^^ 
in the bottle of hay of the tangled Roos Senekal area. Pointing resumed, 
north-east from Middelburg, Kitchener and Campbell cast across 
the eastern arm of the Botha's Berg and reconnoitred towards 
Witpoort, where Viljoen was said to be. He was not there, 
however, and the majority of the reports pointed to his presence 
in the opposite direction, on the Bloed river, a tributary of the 
Oliphant river. On the 29th, therefore, F. W. Kitchener took 
a flying column* from his and W. P. Campbell's camps in the 
Botha's Berg, and had n6t gone far when he discovered Viljoen's 
convoy moving towards the Bloed river about Blaauwbank. A 
hot chase, consummated by a bayonet charge by the men of the 
19th Hussars, resulted in the capture of a Vickers-Maxim gun 
and a number of wagons. Until far into the night the pursuit 
went on, and dawn of the 30th saw the troops again on the 
heels of the Boer train. But MuUer now came across to the 
rescue of his chief from the banks of the Oliphant river, with 
some hundreds of men and another automatic gun, and a stiff 
skirmish ensued, both sides taking and losing prisoners as they 
fought at close quarters in the dense bush. After some hours 
of exciting combat the Boers withdrew, leaving six wagons in 
the hands of F. W. Kitchener, who next day established his men 
in a central camp at Diepkloof, whence he raided the surround- 
ing country. Up to this date his gain had been fifty-seven 
Boers killed, wounded and taken prisoners, the Vickers-Maxim 
gun, forty-four wagons, and a number of animals and camp 
equipment. On the morning of August 4th he added to these 

• 18th and 19th Hussars, West Australians, two guns 8ist battery R.F.A., two guns 
83rd battery R.F.A., one Vickers-Maxim, one company ist Devonshire regiment in 
wagons. 



214 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

by the surprise of a laager beneath Olifants Kop, fourteen more 
burghers falling into his hands. Meanwhile Park, who had 
started from Dullstroom, had come across the Steelpoort river. 
Beatson, who had set out under F. W. Kitchener's orders, was 
supposed to be west of the junction of the Wilge and Oliphant 
rivers ; but Kitchener, sending the i8th Hussars on August loth 
to join him on the banks of the Ohphant, heard to his surprise 
that Beatson was not to be found. Beatson, in fact, had been 
recalled to the railway by the Commander-in-Chief on the 6th, 
preparatory to the breaking up of his column. 

F. W. Kitchener thereupon decided to cross the Oliphant 
river himself, for Viljoen was now reported to be between the 
Moos and Elands rivers to the west. On the nth his mounted 
troops were at Uyskraal, near the confluence of the Elands and 
Oliphant rivers, the drift over the latter being held by the infantry 
and mounted infantry, behind whom again was W. P. Campbell 
in an entrenched camp on the Bloed river. Viljoen was now 
chased first down stream towards Commissie Drift, then up 
stream past Slagboom, beyond which, on August i6th, he nearly 
entrapped the 19th Hussars who were scouting ahead of the 
column. The Hussars lost six killed and wounded, and twenty- 
six by capture, the prisoners, however, being released the same 
day. The i8th Hussars who came to the rescue lost three. 
F. W. Kitchener then returned to his base camp, having accounted 
in all for eighty Boers by battle and surrender, sixty-one wagons 
and carts, and the usual sundries in cattle and stuffs. On August 
24th he moved into Pan. 
Operations South of the railway Sir B. Blood had accompanied Benson 

DdagoaBry il^^Y 26th) on a foray up the Oliphant river, returning himself 
railway. to Middelburg on August 7th, whilst Benson pursued his way 

by Ermelo (August loth) to CaroHna (14th). When on the 
Komati river, west of Carolina, on July 29th news had been 
received that the wandering Transvaal Government had paused 
near the head of the Vaalwater, and Sir B. Blood had at once 
despatched Benson in pursuit. At dawn on the 30th the site 
of the laager was successfully surrounded, and though the 
Government officials had vanished, twenty-four Boers were 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 215 

taken. So close was Benson to the more important object, 
that the Scottish Horse surprised and captured five of Botha's 
despatch riders who were resting in a kraal two miles from the 
scene. Up to his arrival in CaroUna Benson had accounted for 
seventy of the enemy's men from all causes. Immediately on 
his return he received intimation of a laager to the east, at 
Warmbath, south-west of Hlomohlom, and at once set out 
again. Marching all night, the column arrived on the scene, 
thirty-four miles distant, before dawn on the i6th, and surprised 
a cluster of small encampments, capturing thirty-two Boers. 
Benson returned to Carolina on the 20th. Next day he received 
urgent orders to hurry westward to deal with Prinsloo who was 
reported with a following of 600 on the Bronkhorst Spruit. 
Accordingly Benson left Carolina on the 22nd, and after a fruitless 
search towards the Upper Oliphant, was at the head of the Steen- 
kool (or Steenbok) Spruit on the last day of August. He had 
killed or taken over 100 of the enemy during the month. In 
the first week in September he moved towards the Delagoa Bay 
railway, reaching Middelburg on the 7th. During the latter part 
of August Benson had been in touch with a column from Springs, 
under Lieut. -Colonel R. C. A. B. Bewicke-Copley (King's Royal 
Rifle Corps), which had been operating between the Bronkhorst 
Spruit and Springs from August 17th to September 4th. 
Bewicke-Copley had been in touch also with Colville's column 
which, reinforced by the Johannesburg Mounted Rifles, had 
marched north from Greylingstad on August ist on a rumour 
that the Transvaal Government had been marked down at 
Watervalshoek, twenty-six miles north of Greylingstad. Colville 
found the enemy west of Bethel on the 4th, and on the 5th, after 
a chase of seven miles, killed and captured twenty-one Boers 
and took forty carts and wagons and a quantity of stock from a 
convoy which, however, was unaccompanied by the sought-for 
Government. Colville then made for Standerton, whence on 
August 15th he marched by Miillers Pass down to Newcastle. 
The Johannesburg Mounted Rifles had already gone by train 
to Dundee with orders to co-operate with a column under 
Pulteney which was forming at Utrecht. 



2i6 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

This concentration of troops on the border of Natal, of which 
Lieut. -Colonel C. J. Blomfield, the commandant at Dundee, 
assumed command, was in consequence of warnings that Botha 
was about to re-enter the colony. As the invader failed to 
appear, the columns were employed in raids through the Vryheid 
district, and on September 8th both were back at Dundee, 
Colville having returned to Standerton two days earlier. The 
rumours, to both sides the most stirring that could blow about 
the theatre of war, continued however, and they were not without 
Botha plans foundation. Botha was indeed meditating a descent, pluming 
NauK*^'°"° himself on the " commotion "* it would cause in the British 
councils. On September 2nd he was at Piet Retief, sending the 
fiery cross amongst the dispirited burghers of Vryheid and 
Utrecht. To Viljoen, whom he severely upbraided for some un- 
authorised parleying with Sir B. Blood at Lydenburg on August 
25th, the Commandant-General wrote that he expected to be 
near Glencoe at the middle of the month. But rain, the arbiter 
of military plans in all South Africa, and especially in this part 
of it, fell heavily, and Botha had to postpone the movement. 
Meanwhile more troops converged towards Natal, for the British 
intelligence Department was closely watching the barometer 
as it fell before the approaching storm. On September 4th Lieut. - 
General the Hon. N. G. Lyttelton assumed command of all the 
forces in Natal. On the 6th Garratt's column, summoned from 
the Orange River Colony, detrained at Paardekop, and promptly 
reconnoitred across the Elands Berg towards Wakkerstroom 
(September 9th — 17th), whilst Colville, from Standerton, felt 
towards Amsterdam. Colville gained touch with F. W. 
Kitchener, who at Lyttelton's request was hurrying south- 
ward in company with W. P. Campbell to deal with the 
impending invasion, of which Garratt had now got almost certain 
information from a prisoner taken in the Elands Berg. On the 
13th, too. Major H. de la P. Gough's mounted infantry arrived 
at Dundee from the Orange River Colony ; soon after Allenby 
from Pretoria, G. Hamilton from Klerksdorp, Spens from!Kroon- 

* Letter to General B. Viljoen, September I2th, 1901. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 217 

stad, and Clements from Standerton were ordered to Natal, 
whilst Sir L. Rundle from Harrismith made arrangements to 
close the Drakensberg Passes, sending Sir J. Dartnell,* who 
now again took the field, across the mountains to co-operate 
actively in Natal. Finally Elliot's cavalry division was held in 
readiness to reinforce on the edge of the Orange River Colony. 
Such was the " commotion " which, as Botha had anticipated, 
was caused in the British camps at the whisper of a 
menace to Natal. 

On September i6th the Commandant-General issued his 
orders, which were almost duplicates of those which had carried 
Joubert's commandos down to Glencoe at the dawn of the war, 
an occasion to which the Commandant-General significantly 
referred. Next day fortune rather than foresight enabled him 
to strike his first blow, and it was ominously heavy. On the 
15th Gough had taken his mounted infantry, together with 
Lieut. -Colonel H. K. Stewart's Johannesburg Mounted Rifles, 
out from Dundee, bent on a reconnaissance to ascertain the 
true situation in the east. Having crossed the Buffalo river Affair at 
by De Jager's Drift, the parties pushed eastward, and were ^^ejf*^" 
approaching the Blood river on the 17th when Gough, who Sept'. 17th, 
was an hour's ride in front of Stewart, espied a band of 300 '^'' 
Boers who came from Scheepers Nek, a height which from a 
distance of seven miles overlooks the town of Vryheid, and 
apparently off -saddled at a farm. Gough determined to attack 
them at once. He had all available information of the strong 
hostile gathering in this quarter ; but the long campaign against 
an almost invisible enemy had lulled him into disbelief of the 
existence of powerful Boer forces. The commando now in sight 
delighted him by its unusual incautiousness, and at last there 
seemed a prospect of a combat on equal terms. Having made 
a detour to isolate the unwary commando, he sent a messenger 
back to inform Stewart of his plans, and gave the word to close. 
His men had scarcely got within range of the enemy when they 
were fallen upon by two bodies, each of five hundred Boers, one 

* Created a Knight Commander of the Bath for services during the Natal campaign. 



2i8 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

of which swooped down upon the right flank, overriding it 
completely and sweeping round to the rear, where they galloped 
amongst the guns, whilst the other bore down upon the front. 
After a miUe of twenty minutes' duration Gough and the whole 
of his force were surrounded and captured. One officer and 
nineteen men were killed, five officers and nineteen men wounded, 
six officers and 235. men taken prisoners. Only Gough himself 
and a few more contrived to slip away when darkness and the 
careless guardianship of the elated burghers made escape possible. 
Meanwhile Stewart, who had early information of the disaster, 
was confronted with a difficult problem. To go to Gough's 
assistance would be to involve his own small force with its gims 
and baggage with unknown but certainly strong numbers of the 
enemy, and moreover would lay bare the road to De Jager's 
Drift and Dundee. He therefore wisely feU back on the drift, 
where he was joined next morning by Gough, who, after many 
adventures, had made his way on foot from the scene of his 
discomfiture.* 

This reverse, if it taught once more the difficulty of dealing 
with an enemy against whom daring seemed as dangerous as 
caution was unprofitable, at least thoroughly cleared up the 
Botha on the situation. Botha was on the borders of Natal with a muster 
borders of powerful cuough temporarily to destroy Natal as a line of com- 
munication even if the colony itself were in no danger of being 
reconquered. But the betrayal of his presence was the signal 
for an answering concentration, the celerity of which might 
well have made the Boer commander envious. He who by 
exhortation, by endless labour and by the most difficult corre- 
spondence with distant subordinates had been barely able to 
muster a few thousand fighting men, now saw arrayed against 
him at a few days' notice nine columns of all arms, standing 
across the path to Natal. At Utrecht was F. W. Kitchener, in 
command of his own, of W. P. Campbell's and Garratt's columns ; 
Clements lay at De Jager's Drift, with Stewart, Pulteney and G. 



* For gallantry on this occasion Lieutenant L. A. E. Price-Davies, King's Royal 
Rifle Corps, was awarded the Victoria Cross. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 219 

Hamilton ; at Vant's Drift was Bruce Hamilton, in charge 
of the forces of Spens and Allenby. The Drakensberg mountains 
were full of Sir L. Rundle's men ; Sir J. Dartnell was on the 
march from Harrismith. The " invasion " was checkmated ere 
scarce begun. Shouldered away from the Buffalo border by the 
imposing forces there in waiting, Botha, still seeking to achieve 
his purpose, edged away southward down the long tongue of the 
Vryheid district which penetrates Zululand between the Nqutu, 
Nkandhla, Entonyaneni and Ndwandwe districts, its termination 
pointing close to Melmoth. Near that place and to the north- 
west of it two small posts guarded the British frontier, namely. 
Fort Prospect and Itala. The former was held by thirty-five 
men of the Vth division M.I., and fifty-one men of the 2nd 
Dorsetshire regiment under Captain C. A. Rowley ; the latter 
by 300 men of the Vth division M.I., and two guns 69th battery 
R.F.A., commanded by Major A. J. Chapman of the Royal 
Dublin Fusiliers. Towards these trifling obstacles Botha's 
commandos converged with the intention of sweeping them 
both aside. 

Itala had been well fortified, but it possessed a weak spot in 
the point of the mountain which stood up a mile distant from 
the entrenchments, and could not be included in them. On 
receipt of warning of the Boer advance on September 25th Chap- 
man manned this pinnacle with eighty mounted infantrymen 
under Lieutenants B. P. Lefroy (ist Royal Dublin Fusiliers), and Attacks on 
H. R. Kane (ist South Lancashire regiment). At midnight the prosp^t, 
sound of an outburst of firing from this advanced post reached Sept. 26th, 
the main position ; it ceased for a few moments, again broke out, 
and finally died away altogether. Shortly after. Chapman heard 
that the outpost had fallen to vastly superior numbers, and he 
took care that his own men were prepared for a conflict. About 
2 a.m. he found himself surrounded by 1,500 Boers. Preceded 
by a whirlwind of bullets the enemy stormed close up to the 
stones of the sangars, only to be beaten back by the troops 
who stood immovably and fenced their stronghold with a ring 
of fire. At 4 a.m. the Boers, their first momentum spent, fell 
silent, and Chapman, thinking they had given back, sent out his 



1901. 



220 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

scouts to reconnoitre, and also a medical officer to tend the 
wounded on Itala point. But suddenly a fusilade even fiercer 
than the first broke upon every side of the camp. It seemed 
as though the defence must be shortly blown to pieces, so heavy 
was the storm of lead which, coming from all sides, appeared to 
revolve Uke a tropical typhoon around the restricted area of the 
fort. For twelve hours the Mausers poured out an almost un- 
broken volley, which was answered by Chapman's men as rapidly 
as the diminishing store of ammunition allowed. Their cover 
was good ; but nothing could have withstood such battering, 
and men fell regularly. The gunners, who had at first sent shell 
with great effect, were ordered by Chapman to leave their pieces 
and take shelter when their officer and four men had fallen.* 
As the day wore on the position became almost untenable ; 
but to retire from it was impossible, for L. Botha, who directed 
the attack by signal from a neighbouring height, had drawn an 
outer ring of investment. One commando lay across the southern 
roads ; General D. Opperman with 500 burghers stood between 
Itala and Melmoth and also between that place and Fort Prospect, 
fifteen miles to the east ; General C. Botha with 800 barred the 
west, and 600 riflemen under Commandant H. J. Potgieter held 
the front (north). There was, then, no way out ; but Chapman 
had determined already to fight to a finish where he stood, for he 
knew every moment's resistance was invaluable to Natal behind 
him. As evening descended over the long day's combat, his firm- 
ness began to draw towards its reward. The enemy, disheartened 
by their losses, which numbered over 300, and astounded at the 
failure of their apparently irresistible attack, fired more and more 
feebly. The encircling rifles, ceasing one by one, and group 
by group, gave the sign, more significant to a veteran soldier 
than a sudden cessation, of an onslaught which had spent its 
force. At 7.30 p.m. the musketry had died away, and Chapman, 
having waited an hour in silence, once more felt all around him 
with scouts. He soon learned that the enemy was retiring in 
every direction. Then only, his task being accomplished, did he 

* For gallantry on this occasion Driver F. G. Bradley, 6gth battery R.F.A., wa 
awarded the Victoria Cross. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 221 

think of retreat. His casualties* numbered over eighty, the 
survivors were exhausted, their ammunition was well-nigh 
expended. Loading every wagon with stores he marched away 
at midnight and at 4 a.m. on the 27th reached Nkandhla, 
deriving the best assurance of his victory from the fact that the 
slow progress of his weak and weary force had been unmolested 
by the enemy. 

Meanwhile it had gone hard also with Fort Prospect, sur- 
rounded and isolated fifteen miles to the east. There for each 
soldier inside the fort were seven Boer riflemen who strove 
for the mastery from 4.30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Two separate assaults 
were repelled at the very wires surrounding the sangars, and 
thereafter the enemy attempted, like their comrades at Itala, to 
batter the place to pieces with lead alone. With unwavering 
resolution the defence maintained itself, the Durham company 
of militia artillery, under Lieutenant R. C. M. Johnson, especially 
distinguishing itself at the north-west angle. During the fore- 
noon the garrison was moved to admiration by the appearance 
of a posse of Zululand Native Police, led by Sergeant Gumbi, 
who, hearing the firing from their post four miles distant, had 
galloped to the scene, and broken through the surrounding 
Boers to the aid of their comrades. By 6 p.m. the garrison 
of the fort had gained the upper hand with the loss of but 
nine men, and Commandant Grobelaar led his dumbfounded 
burghers off the field. 

The irresolution of the enemy — for half his numbers might 
have poured irresistibly over both Itala and Fort Prospect — 
was largely to be accounted for by the very cause which made 
it fatal to his plans, namely, the movement of the numerous 
British columns on his flank and rear. F. W. Kitchener was now 
near Vryheid, Clements across Vant's Drift, Bruce Hamilton 

* British casualties — Killed, one officer and twenty-one men ; wounded, five officers 
and fifty-four men. Boer casualties — Reliable eye-witnesses staled, killed, 128; 
wounded, 270 (about). Amongst their killed were Commandants Scholtz and H. J. 
Potgieter. 

Ammunition expended by the force — Guns, sixty-three shrapnel ; Lee-Metford, 
70,040 rounds. 



222 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

approaching Melmoth, each with the group of columns enumerated 
above. Sir J. Dartnell was making for Eshowe. Bullock at 
Wakkerstroom was busy throwing a line of blockhouses across 
to the Swazi border ; Colville covered his working parties, ex- 
pecting momentarily the return of Plumer from the Orange River 
Colony. From the midst of Natal itself a mounted column, 1,450 
strong, under Lieut. -Colonel G. A. Mills (Royal Dublin Fusiliers), 
was mobilising at Greytown. 

Botha, excusing his failure to his Government on the score 
of false information and the unfavourable weather,* ordered a 
general retirement, and fell back with a small following. He 
narrowly avoided being cut off by F. W. Kitchener and Colville, 
and was heard of at Amsterdam on October 8th. Thence he 
was hunted by columns under Colonel Sir H. Rawlinson, recently 
come, like Plumer, from the Orange River Colony, and Colonel 
M. F. Rimington from Standerton, who nearly succeeded in 
surrounding the Boer Headquarters, actually capturing some of 
Botha's personal property and papers, from which useful informa- 
tion was obtained. Sir H. Rawlinson went into Volksrust on 
October 30th and Rimington to Zandspruit. Meanwhile the 
main columns to the south completed the repulse of Botha's levy 
by a thorough scouring of the Vryheid and Utrecht districts, 
and on October 21st Lord Kitchener, considering their task 
accomplished, dispersed them in other directions. G. Hamilton, 
W. P. Campbell, and Allenby went to Standerton, vid Dundee; 
Spens to Newcastle ; F. W. Kitchener's columns, except Garratt's 
and Pulteney's, to Volksrust ; Sir J. Dartnell returned to Harri- 
smith ; Plumer swept to and fro between Wakkerstroom and 
the Swazi border. As for Natal, the " commotion " over, it 
returned to its normal role of sleepless guardian of the line 
of communications. 

* Letter to State Secretary, September 28th, 1901. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 223 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 





& 




S B 


S 




, 


5 




TJ-g 


9 




COLUMN. 


a 


1 

a 


^■1 



« 

a 

1 






1 






S 




June — September, 1901. 
Lt.-Col. H. 13. Jeflfrey 












553 


— 


6 


— 


1 Brig.- Gen. H. C 0. 
Plumer in command. 


Lt.-Col. F. F. Colvin 


496 


264 


— 


— 


Col. E. C. Knox . . 


1.393 


45» 


8 


3 




Lt.-Col. M. F. Rimington. . 


IA70 


278 


— 






Maj.-Gen. S. B. Beatson . . 


800 


347 


4 


— 




BriR.-Gen. G. M. Bullock.. 


1.705 


545 


la 


4 




Lt.-Col. A. E. W. Colville 


418 


347 


5 


I 




Lt.-Col. R. Grey .. 


879 


357 


5 


I 




Brig.-Gen. J. Spens 


120 


51a 


4 


3 


- 


Col. G. E. Benson . . 


1.398 


808 


8 






Col. W. Douglas . . 


340 


709 


5 


I 




Col. C. W. Park . . 


130 


636 


4 


I 


Major-Gen. Sir Bindon 


Maj.-Gen. F. W. Kitchener 


800 


839 


7 


2 


Blood in command. 


Col. W. P. Pulteney 


850 


861 


7 


4 




Maj.-Gen. J. M. Babington 


400 


— 


J 


a 




Col. W. P. Campbell 


530 


460 


I 


— 




Col. J. W. Hughes-Hallett 


300 


648 


a 


a 


Lines of Communication. 


Lt.-Col. R. C. A. B. Be- 












wicke-Copley 


328 


859 


2 


I 




Lt.-Col. H. K. Stewart . . 


800 




3 


3 




Col. E. H. H. Allenby 


750 


— 


5 


4 




Maj. H. De la P. Gough . . 


600 


— 




a 




Brig.-Gen. G. Hamilton . . 


820 


345 


5 


3 




Brig.-Gen. J. Spens 


1,200 




8 






Brig.-Gen. Sir J. G. Dartnell 


I. TOO 


— 


3 


"7 




Col. Sir H. Rawlinson 


1,200 


18s 


6 


— 




Lt.-Col. F. S. Garratt 


950 


348 


5 


I 

1 





224 



CHAPTER XIII. 

EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY* 

(Continued from Chapter X.). 

JUNE — SEPTEMBER, I9OI. 

French takes On June 9th Lieut. -General Sir J. Frenchf arrived at Middleburg, 
C^pTcoiom-, ^"^ assumed command of all the mobile columns in Cape Colony. 
June 9th, Wynne, however, still retained the administration of the pro- 
' vince, and jurisdiction over all garrisons, a dual control which 

was to result in considerable inconvenience. The operations had 
now reached a scale which necessitated an army in the field. 
Indeed a fresh source of trouble had recently arisen in the shape 
of a renewed ebullition of the old fountain of rebellion in the 
Prieska, Kenhardt, Calvinia and Namaqualand districts, where 
a certain commandant, S. G. Maritz, one of Scheepers' officers 
and a man of strong character, had been sent to consolidate the 
incoherent rebel bands which had sprung into activity at the 
advent of Hertzog and De Wet. Nevertheless, Sir J. French took 
over from Haig a not unfavourable situation, both tactical and 
administrative. Supply, transport, intelligence, remounting, 
communication, had all been elaborated to an admirable degree, 
and were fully adequate to the extraordinary demands of a 
campaign which consisted of nothing but the incessant gyrations 
of many small bodies of both belligerents. 

Tactically, the outlook was more hopeful than at any time 
during the operations. The north-western counties, at no time 
disturbed by more than a few hundreds of timid and half-hearted 

• See map No. 63. 

•f Created a Knight Commander of the Bath for services during 1899 — 1900. — 
London Gazelle, April 19th, 1901. 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 225 

rebels, were adequately patrolled by a small mounted column, 
some 500 strong, with two guns, which Sir H. Settle had fitted 
out at De Aar at the end of April, under Major H. S. Jeudwine, 
R.A.,* and which was now about Katkop. In the central area, 
although no Boer leader had been captured, all had been weak- 
ened, and transformed from raiders into fugitives. The chief 
of these, Kritzinger, together with his Ueutenants, Fouche, Pursuit of 
Myburg, Erasmus, Lategan and the rebel Lotter, had been ^"^'"e^'- 
manoeuvred into an impasse, and was at this moment enclosed 
within the triangle Burghersdorp — Dordrecht — Barkly East by 
Scobell, Gorringe, Murray, White and Monro, of whom Haig 
retained the direction. Wyndham with the 17th Lancers near 
Molteno, and Crabbe towards Knapdaar, lay in wait to inter- 
cept a break-out either southward or northward. But this 
promising aspect of affairs was quickly dispelled. On June 
14th the Boers, breaking up into small groups, filtered south- 
ward through the cordon and gained the Bamboes mountains, 
west of Sterkstroom. Monro from Stormberg and Crabbe 
from Steynsburg promptly advanced against the mountains, 
whereupon Myburg and Erasmus fled eastward along the ranges 
and across the railway, where Wyndham came in touch with 
them. Kritzinger and the others, including Van Reenan, who 
had left Malan and rejoined his chief, continued southward, 
followed by Monro and Crabbe, and made towards Tarkastad. 
On the 17th, when still north of that place, Kritzinger was over- 
taken and sharply engaged, losing forty-four burghers, of whom 
eight were taken prisoners, and seventy-five horses, before he 
made good his escape past Cradock — where Van Reenan parted 
company — into the Tandjes Berg. There the remarkable fatality 
which throughout the campaign had so often promptly consoled 
the Boer arms for reverses enabled Kritzinger to avenge his 
recent mischance by capturing on June 20th a patrol of sixty 
men, which, coming out from Cradock, was reconnoitring about 
Water Kloof, north of Petersburg. Now French attempted to 
shut Kritzinger into the Tandjes Berg by drawing a line, 

* For a brief account of this and other isolated bodies of troops in the north-west, 
see Chapter XX. 

VOL. IV. 15 



226 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

composed of B. Doran's column (from Aberdeen, in Henniker's 
command) and local defence troops, from Kendrew through 
Pearston to Somerset East, whilst Scobell, from Graaff Reinet, 
occupied Petersburg on July ist, and Crewe was ordered to 
come down by Spitz Kop to Zuurfontein, where he would close 
the only road leading northward from the Tandjes Berg. But 
instead of this Crewe directed his march upon Bethesda Road ; 
Kritzinger at once darted out by the opened door ; the combina- 
tion became useless, and Scobell returned to Graaff Reinet. 
Meanwhile Van Reenan, after leaving Kritzinger, had pursued 
his way due southward, hunted by Crabbe alone, Monro having 
returned to Molteno. A fast and ringing chase, during which 
Van Reenan was continually turned by the local defence troops, 
first from Somerset East eastward along the northern boun- 
daries of Bedford and Fort Beaufort counties into the Winter 
Berg, thence northward through Tarka, sent the pursued once 
more into the Bamboes mountains by the end of June, and 
Crabbe into Tarkastad, where he refitted. On July 5th Crabbe 
was at Cradock, with orders to resume the pursuit of Kritzinger 
and leave V^an Reenan to Haig. 
Pursuit of Malan, more to the west, had been pursuing an adventurous 

course since his evasion of Crabbe in the Doom Berg on June 
7th. Winding amongst the subsidiary ranges which branch 
northward from the Sneeuw Bergen, he was followed by Crewe, 
from Conway, who turned him out of one haunt after another. 
On June 23rd Malan was met in the Rhenoster Berg by a rein- 
forcement of 120 men, whereupon he assumed the offensive, 
not against his pursuer, but in exactly the opposite direction. 
Hurrying to Richmond, he invested and fiercely attacked that 
place on the morning of June 25th. The garrison, who were 
disposed in small forts around the town, defended themselves 
gallantly, but seven out of the twelve posts fell with the loss 
of thirty-five men in a day and night of fighting, and it might 
have gone hard with the rest had not a small column under 
Captain F. T. Lund (9th Lancers), which French had fitted out 
at Middleburg two days before, arrived on the scene at 7 a.m. 
on the 26th. Malan was driven off and fell back northward, 



Malan. 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 227 

and at Vogelfontein, close to Hanover, was forced by Lund's 
close pursuit to turn and give battle. Though strongly posted 
he was completely outmanoeuvred and his band cut into two 
parts which fled east and west, Malan himself accompanying 
the latter, and a certain Breedt the other portion. Malan's 
losses here and at Richmond numbered some forty men out of 
220 engaged. Richmond was then regarrisoned and provi- 
sioned, and the safety of the district further assured by the 
arrival in the first week of July of the i6th Lancers with two 
guns and a squadron of Imperial Yeomanry under Lieut. -Colonel 
W. P. Wyndham, who had handed over command of the 17th 
Lancers to Colonel D. Haig. As for Scheepers, throughout the Pursuit of 
month of June, as in May, he continued to rove the Graaff *^ nepers. 
Reinet district from his haunt in the Koudeveld Bergen, watched 
only by the weak column of Lieut. -Colonel B. Doran. His 
most noteworthy feat during this time was a partially successful 
attack on the outposts at Willowmore on June ist. On the 23rd 
Sir J. French himself visited Graaff Reinet, and for two days 
reconnoitred Scheepers' rugged stronghold, the most inaccessible 
in all Cape Colony. The intricacy of the country well nigh 
forbade the use of artillery, and the General returned to Middle- 
burg convinced that nothing less than three or four columns 
would avail. B. Doran's column was therefore merely strength- 
ened and rendered more mobile by the addition of some newly 
arrived Yeomanry, and Scheepers was left to himself for the 
present. The Boer's confidence was supreme, and whilst mar- 
velUng at his attitude, it is necessary also to understand it, for 
it was that of every guerrilla leader who was at this moment 
in a like extraordinary military position within the border of 
Cape Colony.* In a long communication to De Wet, written 
on July 3rd, Scheepers announced his intention of wintering in 
the Camdeboo district, where " everything was in excellent con- 
dition, bandoliers always full," and of sallying towards Cape 
Town as soon as the rains should have fallen. Five-sixths of 
his commando, he boasted, were rebels ; fresh men were daily 

• See remarks upon Kritzinger, Chapter X., pages 172-3. 
VOL. IV. IS* 



surrounded. 



228 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

joining him. He was in communication both with Kritzinger 
and with Maritz in the north-west. French, he was aware, was 
busy concentrating an overpowering force of 15,000 men around 
him, but he " awaited their arrival." This from a leader of less 
than 300 men, lurking in a mountain range nearly 200 miles 
from his own frontier, unsupported, un victualled, and unsuccess- 
ful in all but evasion, may, by throwing hght on the almost 
insensate valour and self-rehance of one such a man, afford a 
hint of the difficulty of deaUng with many like him in a 
vast country bristling with strongholds and populated by 
their friends. 
Scheepers is Sir J. French now determined on a special effort to rouse 

this close-lying band. Early in July he began to draw around 
the Camdeboo area the cordon of which Scheepers had already 
had an inkling. His plan was, after shutting up the mountainous 
region from all sides, to send a column in from the north to 
attack the laagers. Accordingly Wyndham, from Rosmead, 
was ordered to Murraysburg, Crewe and B. Doran from Graaff 
Reinet to Sneeuw and Uitkomst respectively, whilst infantry 
and Yeomanry from Graaff Reinet formed a line facing westward. 
The exten.sion of all these by the morning of July 13th would 
close every exit of the mountains, when Scobell, passing through 
Zuurpoort, would descend upon the Koudeveld from the north 
and attack the laagers which were known to be about Ossen- 
berg. Whilst the columns moved to their appointed positions 
on the 1 2th, each side struck a blow. That of the enemy was 
in a direction very unexpected. At 3 a.m. a party of thirty of 
Scheepers' men coming from Aberdeen attacked the railway 
station at Aberdeen Road, burnt the buildings and stores, 
destroyed the telegraph material, and looted the mail bags, 
making off unscathed on the approach of an armoured train. 
A little later Scobell more than levelled the score in the moun- 
tains to the north. Leaving Zuurpoort at i a.m. he marched by 
Quaggas Drift and up the Toverwater river, skirmishing with 
the Boer outposts which covered Camdeboo. Contact with 
laagers of any importance was not to be obtained, but Scobell, 
hearing of a detached band outside his right flank, moved south 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 229 

and by hard galloping over difficult ground succeeded in sur- 
rounding and capturing in a kloof two officers and twenty-seven 
burghers. At the same time B. Doran, opposite Graaff Reinet, 
made prisoner a patrol of seven Boers on the Zwart river, after 
which he moved forward to Zeekoe Gat to tighten the hold 
on the Camdeboo area. On the 13th, whilst all the columns 
closed inwards, Scobell pressed Scheepers back to Plat Rust, 
where the commando came under artillery fire also from Crewe, 
who had moved up to the north-west of Camdeboo. All looked 
promising for the next day's operations, when Wjmdham's troops, 
guarding the south-west, were moved into Aberdeen for sup- 
plies, leaving a gap on that side by which Scheepers instantly Scheepers 
dashed for the outlet at Oorlogs Poort. Wyndham, supported ^**^P"- 
by B. Doran, at once turned in pursuit, and at Been Kraal 
overtook the enemy's rearguard. But no mere stem-chasing 
could catch a Boer commando in retreat. On the 15th Scheepers 
hurried through the Poort, where he was joined by Malan with 
such remnants of his band as had survived the reverses at Rich- 
mond and Hanover. The pair were closely tracked by Wjmd- 
ham, who again engaged the rearguard at Alexanders Kraal on 
the i8th, and kept the retreat in the desired northerly direction. 
But the enclosure of the Camdeboo mountains had failed, and 
French, who had witnessed the three days' operation from 
Spandouws Kop, seven miles west of Graaff Reinet, had already 
returned to Middleburg. 

On July 1 6th he was visited there by the Commander-in- Lord 
Chief. Lord Kitchener's appearance in this remote quarter of villts*^"^' 
his command signalised the extraordinary success of the insignifi- Cape Colony, 
cant marauders who had so long kept the colony in a broil, 
and defied the strength of an army corps to extirpate them. 
Their agitations had now rendered affairs in Cape Colony the 
most serious item of the whole British campaign and one which 
seemed about to become still more grave, for there were reliable 
reports of the approach of fresh and more powerful invaders. 
The continued occupation of territory of the Crown by defiant 
hostile bands could not fail to be universally regarded as a stigma 
on the British arms. So long as matters stood thus the enemy, 



230 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

however worsted elsewhere, need never acknowledge defeat ; 
moreover, it was not to be forgotten that the Boers, with some 
show of reason, based their fondest hopes of European sympathy 
upon their success within British frontiers. The strangely 
incurable disorder which they had succeeded in fomenting in 
Cape Colony imposed a particularly heavy burden upon Army 
Headquarters at this moment. Probably at no time during the 
war had the Commander-in-Chief been, or was he to be, more 
preoccupied by every branch of his vast jurisdiction, military, 
political and administrative, than in this month of July, 1901, 
and many of his cares were such as cannot without injury dis- 
turb a General deeply occupied in the field. These, as regards 
Cape Colony, had mainly to do with the administration of 
martial law and the terms to rebels, subjects on which Lord 
Kitchener and the Cape Government, and indeed the Govern- 
ment at home, were by no means in thorough agreement.* More- 
over, the members of the Cape Legislature had not hesitated to 
give expression to their natural uneasiness at the, to them, inex- 
plicable continuance of the insecurity within their borders, sup- 
porting their views with a request, impossible to comply with, 
for the restoration to their own control of the local forces then 
engaged in the field, f Their complaints drew from Lord 
Kitchener a categorical opinion as to several matters in which 
the Government at Cape Town might do more to hasten the 
desired end. The incidence of the expense of maintaining the 
Colonial Defence forces, too, was a further question between 
Army Headquarters and Cape Town, no less than two-thirds of 
the entire cost of such troops in South Africa being incurred in 
Cape Colony. Finally, the apparent ill success of the columns 
in the field was a disquieting factor. They seemed quite unable 
to do more than push the commandos from one part of the 
colony to another, an endless process against an enemy who 
was only to be suppressed by extinction. Lord Kitchener's 

* Correspondence between Lord Kitchener, the Secretaries of State for War and 
Colonies, and the Governor, Cape Colony, April 17th to July i8th, 1901. 

I The Governor, Cape Colony, to Lord Kitchener, July 8th and 17th, 1901. 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 231 

wonder at a demand for more troops in a certain locality when 
there were already " five thousand mounted men to catch as 
many hundred " expressed a feeling not confined to Army 
Headquarters, and the reply that " quality rather than quan- 
tity " was required was little reassuring, for it undoubtedly 
embodied the truth about the raw irregulars of whom the pur- 
suing columns were largely composed. In short, affairs in the 
colony were running as little smoothly in council as in the field, 
and just at this moment the rumours of renewed invasion 
sharpened the thorn in the side. Against such an eventuality 
the colony, full as it was of troops, was totally unprepared. 
Every considerable column was already fully occupied in the 
midland districts, leaving almost unprotected the counties of 
the western seaboard, by which hostile reinforcements would 
find a practically open road down to Ceres and the capital. On Warnings of 
July 19th the Intelligence Department issued warning that a fn"j!^7on 
double inroad by Smuts from the Transvaal and De Wet from 
the Orange River Colony was to be expected. 

It became absolutely necessary to draw the bulk of the 
troops towards the crossings of the Orange river, and French 
decided to utiUse the northerly trend of Wyndham in his pur- 
suit of Scheepers by carrying out a general sweep towards the 
frontier between the midland and western lines of railway, 
using three of the four columns which the recent manoeuvre in 
the Camdeboo district had brought together, joined by that of 
Lund, who was refitting at Nels Poort station, after his success- 
ful expedition against Malan. Crewe would remain in the 
Camdeboo district to frustrate any attempt by Scheepers to 
return to his favourite haunt. On July i8th then, Lund on 
the left was at Nels Poort ; Wyndham, in close pursuit of 
Scheepers, was near Poort je ; B. Doran was coming up on 
Wyndham's right, south of Murraysburg, whilst Scobell com- 
pleted the line of troops between the railways at Graaff Reinet, 
where he remained until the 20th. The first important inci- 
dents of the advance occurred on the left flank, and amongst 
them was one which showed once more the amazing promptitude 
of the Boers to profit by the most momentary lapse on the part 



232 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

of their opponents. On the i8th Lund, leaving Nels Poort, 
moved north-eastward somewhat in advance of Wjnidham's left 
towards Karree Bosch, where next day he encountered and drove 
Operations back with loss a roving band vmder a certain Smit. On that day, 
Sdi'eepers and ^^^ 19th, Wyndham was close behind Scheepers and Malan at 
Maian. Poortje, SO that the Boers, with Lund before them and Wynd- 

ham behind, were in a dangerous predicament. On the 20th, 
however, Wyndham, unable to cling to his quarry, fell back to 
his wagons, which he had far outstripped, at Stellenbosch Vallei, 
and in a moment Scheepers was not only free but again on the 
offensive. Dashing westward for the railway, which was now 
uncovered by Lund's departure, he attacked and burnt a troop 
train a few miles north of Nels Poort on the night of the 20th, 
inflicting a loss of five men killed and two officers and 
twenty-one men wounded. He then gained an opening to the 
westward and disappeared. Wyndham then marched into Rich- 
mond. Meanwhile, on the other flank, Scobell, quitting Graaff 
Reinet on the 20th, reached Smithvale next day. He had seen 
little of the enemy, but hearing of a commando, 120 strong, 
under Lategan, at Tweefontein, twenty-five miles to the east, 
at the junction of the Sneeuw and Voor Sneeuw Berg mountains, 
he detached the Cape Mounted Riflemen, only ninety in num- 
ber, under Lukin, to attempt to surprise them by night. In 
spite of the length of the march Lukin's men brilliantly carried 
Defeat of out their task. Lategan's band was completely scattered ; 
^^"' many of the Boers fell ; eleven, including a Field-Cornet, with 
105 horses, were captured. Scobell was then directed to Middle - 
burg to work with Haig, his place in the combination being taken 
by a column under Lieut. -Colonel A, G. Hunter-Weston, R.E., 
who will be remembered as having performed much valuable 
scouting in front of Lord Roberts's advance upon Pretoria in 
the early months of the previous year. On July 26th French's 
four columns were thus placed — in front were B. Doran and 
Lund on the railway at Hanover Road and Rietfontein, with 
Hunter-Weston at Wildfontein, and Wyndham in rear at 
Richmond. The arrival of reinforcements, consisting of five 
mounted corps {5th and 12th Lancers, loth Hussars, each with 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY'. 233 

two guns R.H.A., Prince of Wales' Light Horse, Nesbitt's 
Horse) and the ist Royal Berkshire regiment/ materially 
strengthened Cape Colony. Now also the policy of Ulockhouse 
building along the Orange river, the railways and impfprtant 
routes, and around infested areas, was being actively pur^^ued, 
the covering of the construction being entrusted to Inigo Jor/;es. 

East of the Graaff Reinet railway Kritzinger had been aj»s Operations 
active as his fellow commandant to the west of that line. He 'iP.'"?^ 

Kntzinger. 

had made but a short flight after his escape from the net around 
the Tandjes Berg at the end of June, hovering about Garstlands , 
Kloof, a few miles north of his former haunt. Here, after "•^^ 

sundry false casts in the first fortnight of July, he was dis- \ 

covered by Crabbe, who had come across on the 6th from 
Tarkastad, where, it will be remembered, he had put in after 
his fruitless chase of Van Reenan. An attack on the kloof on 
July 17th drove Kritzinger southward into the hills west of 
Witmoss station, and Crabbe, anxious to turn him in the oppo- 
site direction, manoeuvred to get to the southward of him on 
the 20th. So doing, he was ambushed near Zwagers Hoek by 
the watchful commandant. On the morning of the 21st a sudden Crabbe is 
fire from all sides stampeded 200 of Crabbe's horses, which fell ^'"^"shed. 
into the hands of the enemy. Thereupon the Boers pressed 
hard on the column, which they twice summoned to surrender. 
But Crabbe, keeping them off all day, fell back safely under 
cover of darkness to Mortimer station, leaving Kritzinger to 
himself. The Boer leader's ascendancy in the Cradock district 
was shortly afterwards still further promoted by the arrival of 
Commandant Theron and 100 burghers who had crossed the Arrival of 
Orange river on the i6th. On his way southward from the 'theron. 
frontier Theron had temporarily joined Van Reenan, who was 
then running from kloof to kloof in the Bamboes mountains 
before Gorringe and the 17th Lancers, whom Haig had sent 
into the mountains at the end of June. The commandos soon 
separated, Van Reenan, with great loss of horses, escaping 
northward, whilst Theron pursued his way in the opposite 
direction to join Kritzinger. Meanwhile Myburg and Erasmus, 
Kritzinger's recent allies in the Bamboes mountains, easily 



234 



THE:. WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Operations 

against 

Fouch^. 



/ 



Engagement 
at Zuur 
Vlakte, 
July 14th, 
1901. 



avoiding Wyn^Iham in the Molteno district, had attached them- 
selves to FoTach6, whom they found between Barkly East and 
Jamestowp.. Since the middle of Jime Fouch^ had been resting 
and recruiting in the Transkei, a territory which, since the local 
Govep^hment had undertaken to defend it, Sir J. French had not 
incljaded in his scheme of operations. Fouch6, however, was 
leJLt imdisturbed, and occupied his time mainly in collecting 
firesh horses. On July 4th he moved to Rhodes, and three days 
later was joined by the two above-mentioned officers. Major- 
General Hart at this moment had two mobile forces available, 
one under Colonel S. C. H. Monro, based on Dordrecht, the 
other, a partly mounted battalion of the Connaught Rangers, 
commanded by Lieut. -Colonel M. G. Moore, who drew his 
supplies from Jamestown. These columns had taken the field 
immediately on the approach of the three Boer bands, Monro 
following Myburg and Erasmus northward, Moore, starting 
from Aliwal North, coming from the opposite direction to inter- 
cept Fouch^. On July 12th Monro was north of Jamestown, 
his left flank extending to midway to Burghersdorp ; Moore was 
at Plat Kop Drift, on the Kraai river, with a party of Lovat's 
Scouts, imder Lieut. -Colonel the Hon. A. Murray, to the east 
of him at Drizzly Hill. The effect of these converging move- 
ments was to compress Fouche and his associates into the hills 
which close the southern angle of the AUwal North county. 
On the 13th Moore moved into Zuiu: Vlakte in close touch with 
the enemy, whereupon Fouch6, with good soldiership, seeing 
one of his opponents unsupported within striking distance, 
determined to strike first. On the morning of the 14th he lay 
in wait on a semi-circle of hills west of Zuur Vlakte. Moore, 
who had moved from bivouac in a south-westerly direction at 
8 a.m., came in touch with Fouch6's advance parties about 
10 a.m. and drove them back ; then, finding his march disputed, 
immediately parked his wagons and assumed the offensive. 
But he had to deal with superior numbers posted on command- 
ing ground ; a ring of fire began to encircle his men as they 
advanced over the level veld which footed the heights, and 
when the enemy began to ride boldly down the slope towards 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLi^ny. 235 

the column Moore saw that further progress ^^^ impossible. 

So also, whilst daylight lasted, was retreat, so Exposed and so 

closely committed were the troops. From noon ^ntil dusk 

therefore, the Connaught Rangers, ably handled .^,y Moore, 

lay on the defensive with every disadvantage of posiM-JQu and 

with no more cover than that afforded by the infreque^^^. ^nt. 

hills, their heavy and well-directed shooting and that of a IVj^axim 

gim keeping the enemy at arm's length. Only on the i-ight 

(west), where a section of a company watched the hills whiv-h 

curved around that flank, did the Boers succeed in closing, ana^ 

that only because, unknown to the rest, a sentry on the exposed 

flank had been silenced. All this party, including the officer JSA 

in command, were killed or woimded. As twiUght fell, Moore -'"" 

began to withdraw his men, and though a heavy fusilade 

greeted the retirement of each unit, he soon, and with small ^ 

loss, had them posted on a strong line of rocks in rear. Many 

of the enemy followed up the retreat, and these now found 

themselves upon the same open ground as the troops had lain 

upon all day, with the difference that now their opponents \ 

instead of themselves commanded it from cover. They began 

to lose considerably, and Moore was in a fair way to compensate 

for his day's losses, which numbered thirty-one,* when it became 

too dark for aimed firing. After nightfall, Moore, who had 

shown the greatest resource throughout a very critical action, 

scored the last point by recovering all his wounded by a ruse 

almost from the very midst of the Boer outposts. 

At 5 p.m., before he began his retirement, Moore had sent 
off a despatch acquainting Hart with his situation. The message 
was received twelve hours later, and Hart at once led out a 
party of 230 Lovat's Scouts, arriving at the scene at 3.30 p.m. 
on July 15th. The Boers had disappeared westward, and touch 
with them was lost until on the 19th Monro discovered them 
attempting to break southward. They were already on the 
Molteno border at Roode Kloof, but Monro successfully drove 
them back north-east in spite of a determined attack on his 

• Casualties — Killed, seven men ; wounded, three officers, seventeen men ; missing, 
four men. 



236 



THE ^AR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



/ 



ftiver. 



baggage. Fonr^^^ then hurried past Zuur Vlakte, skirmishing 

again on the 7***^ with Moo^e, who was still there, and made 

towards the- Kraai river. Moore followed for some miles 

and pitchr-^ ^ ^^^ camp near Vlaktefontein. Thereupon the 

Boers dr^^^^^^ ^^<^^ undetected to the Aliwal — Jamestown 

road, a'^^ °" *^^ morning of the 26th fell upon a convoy pro- 

ceedip^S to the latter place below Limoen Kloof. The escort, 

whic^ consisted of only thirty men, succeeded in holding their 

Qy,/i\ until Moore, hearing the firing, galloped to the spot and 

cleared the ground. Proceeding to escort the wagons towards 

Jamestown he found the enemy so numerous and strongly posted 

across the narrow road that he thought it prudent to await the 

arrival of Monro, who had gone into Burghersdorp. On the 

' 28th the two columns, directed by Hart in person, combined 

Foup«^^ crosses against the heights ; but Fouch^ had vanished. On the pre- 

tb^e Orange yious evening he had re-appeared outside Ahwal North, where* 

at 8 p.m. he deUvered a vindictive attack on the refugee camp 

which sheltered his own compatriots of both sexes. Next day 

he was over the Orange river. 

On July 29th Myburg and Erasmus, who remained behind, 
were joined by a fresh commando of Free Staters about Toom 
Nek, north of Dordrecht. Here they were severely dealt with 
on July 30th by Gorringe, who had come eastward after his 
chase of Van Reenan in the Biamboes mountains. The three 
commandos then fled south-westward through Oorlogs Poort, 
ten miles north-west of Dordrecht, and across the railway about 
Rayner, closely pursued by Gorringe, who for some days was 
never far from their rearguard. In the first week of August he 
came up with them in the Keesen Berg, north-east of Steyns- 
burg. Gorringe successfully surrounded that stronghold, and 
although the Boers broke through his cordon at night, it was 
not without severe loss both in men and horses. 

At the end of July, Lieut. -General Sir J. French initiated a 
change of tactics. The Boer commandos in the midland districts 
were at this moment all to be found within controllable Umits, 
and the unceasing harrying to which they had been subjected 
made it probable that they would not be able to withstand a 



French 
"drives" t 
the Orange 
river. 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 237 

strong impetus in any given direction. French, therefore, deter- 
mined to attempt to push them bodily across the Orange river 
by a combined drive by all the available columns. For this 
purpose it was necessary first to place the troops to the south- 
ward of the enemy without arousing suspicions, and this French 
accomplished in the following ingenious manner. Disposing 
first, on July 30th, eight columns on a line Victoria West — Rich- 
mond — Middleburg — Schombie — Sterkstroom, he ordered them 
to march southward towards the enemy, not closed up, but 
maintaining wide intervals between the flanks of columns, so 
that the Boers, espying the gaps, as they surely would, might 
take advantage of them to break through in the direction most 
desired by French, that is, to the north of his line of columns. 
This plan proved very profitable. On August 3rd when the 
columns, after two successful skirmishes by B. Doran and 
Hunter- Weston on the 2nd, faced about for the return drive on 
the line Beaufort West — Aberdeen — Witmoss — Seymour, all 
the commandos but one were between them and the Orange 
river. The exception was Scheepers, who, recoiling southwards 
from Oorlogs Poort, west of Aberdeen, at the first advance of 
the columns, was already below Willowmore when they halted, 
nor could Lieut. -Colonel H. Alexander, whom French detached 
by train with the loth Hussars and two guns, head him back 
into the net. Sending the 12th Lancers and two guns, under 
Lieut.-Colonel T. J. Atherton, to assist Alexander, French 
ordered his line to move northward on August 6th. In front 
of him were now seven commandos, those of Kritzinger, Malan, 
Lategan, Theron, Smit, Lotter and C. J. Botha. All but two, 
Theron's and Smit's, had moved east of the Graaff Reinet rail- 
way, and for the next three days they made desperate attempts 
to break through the advancing lines. On the gth Scobell had 
a sharp affair at Spitz Kop with Lotter and Botha, whom he 
drove north-westward. Kritzinger, who attempted to support 
them, was intercepted by Crabbe and Lieut.-Colonel C. T. McM. 
Kavanagh from Maraisburg, who hustled the interloper north- 
ward nearly to Thebus. Kritzinger then made a determined 
effort to shake himself free. Braving the blockhouses and 



238 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Kritzinger 
driven across 
the Orange 
river. 



Escape of 
Letter and 
C. J. Botha. 



armoured trains which guarded the line, he threw his men across 
in small parties on the nights of August 9th and loth, and on 
the nth gained the Zuur Berg, where he found Van Reenan 
and Wessels, whom Gorringe had driven thither from the Keesen 
Berg. Thereupon Gorringe, from Stormfontein, joined Crabbe 
in the pursuit and pressed the three commandos northward past 
Venterstad, clear over the Orange river, on August 15th, Gor- 
ringe inflicting severe loss on Kritzinger on the 13th.* Once 
across the river the commandos separated. Kritzinger remained 
in the Orange River Colony, but Van Reenan, swinging down 
stream, recrossed the frontier between Hopetown and Colesberg 
Bridge, and once more entered British territory. On the 19th 
he broke across the De Aar — Orange River railway, and dis- 
appeared westward. Meanwhile the columns of B. Doran and 
Wyndham had been marching upon either side of New Bethesda, 
connected by Captain Lord W. A. Cavendish-Bentinck's squad- 
ron of the loth Hussars from Alexander's command. Theron 
and Smit were before them ; the former, after being engaged by 
each in turn, made his escape southward, to be no more seen. 
At The Willows, Smit was joined by Lotter and C. J. Botha as 
they fled from the advance of Scobell and Hunter-Weston 
between the Sneeuw Bergen and the railway. An attack by 
B. Doran had the effect of driving them northward to Leeuw 
Hoek, where they separated, Smit moving westward, the other 
two to Roode Berg and Gryze Kop in the opposite direction. 
The Boers had now before them the heavily defended railway, 
and French promptly made dispositions to bear them against it. 
On the night of August i6th Doran was to the north of the 
enemy at Winterhoek, Hunter-Weston behind them at Paarde 
Vallei, Scobell south of them at Vinkfontein, and Kavanagh, 
who had been withdrawn from the chase of Kritzinger, at 
McKinnon's Post, whence he was linked by local troops from 
Middleburg to the railway, which was patrolled by two armoured 
trains. The escape of Lotter and Botha seemed impossible. 
On the night of the i6th they hotly attacked the blockhouses, 

• Sergeant-Major A. Young, Cape Police, was awarded the Victoria Cross for 
gallantry on this date. 



EVENTS. IN CAPE COLONY. 239 

but were repulsed at every point. Before dawn next day the 
columns began to converge on the imprisoned commandos. 
With the courage of despair the Boers rode to meet them. 
Between Scobell and Kavanagh there was a gap, narrow, but 
large enough to be discovered and used by men who never lost 
their heads or their way. Rushing through this at full speed in 
the darkness they broke free, and by the afternoon were safely 
back in the Rhenoster Berg, leaving only a trail of dead horses 
and a few prisoners behind them. Sir J. French sent Kavanagh 
and Scobell in pursuit at once, but the Boers, passing over the 
Rhenoster Berg, and thence imder the mountains to Spitz Kop, 
made no halt until they had gained the Tandjes Berg. There, 
at Water Kloof, north of Petersburg, they were engaged by 
Scobell and Kavanagh, who drove them through Garstlands 
Kloof, whence they doubled back to Spitz Kop. Here B. Doran, 
whom French had posted at Lang Kloof, intercepted them, 
and they separated, Botha, pursued by Doran, going eastward 
across the railway, Lotter once more seeking the Tandjes Berg 
at Water Kloof. At this moment Theron was rediscovered, 
and was reported to be making his way towards the southern 
counties. As this was at all costs to be avoided, French with- 
drew Kavanagh to oppose him, leaving Lotter alone for the 
moment, whilst Scobell and Doran devoted themselves to Botha. 
Driving that leader about east of Cradock they had so worn 
him out before the end of the month that less than thirty men 
remained with him, and French diverted the two columns to deal 
with Lotter instead. On August 30th Scobell and B. Doran put 
into Cradock to re-equip. 

Meanwhile Smit, after parting with Lotter and Botha near 
Middleburg, had been shouldered north-westward by Wyndham 
from Richmond, and Bentinck and Lund from Hanover, the 
last-named coming once to close terms with him. Smit was 
moving on Britstown on August i8th when French was com- 
pelled by news of the concentration of a fresh body of invaders 
near the frontier to withdraw Lund and Bentinck to join the 
columns of observation which it was necessary to post along the 
Orange river. Wyndham, therefore, continued the pursuit of 



240 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Pursuit of 
Letter. 



Capture of 
Lotter, 
Sept. 5 th, 
1901. 



Smit alone, and during the first week of September he chased 
him, inflicting daily losses, into the hills south of Sutherland. 
Simultaneously the other columns drove Lategan out of the 
country. 

Lotter, at Water Kloof, thus remained the chief figure, with 
Scobell, B. Doran and a column of local forces under Lieut.- 
Colonel J. R. MacAndrew devoted to his destruction. On 
September ist these three officers opened a scheme to enclose 
him in the Tandjes Berg. Scobell, who feigned to be marching 
on Bethesda, moved to Koude Heuvel, MacAndrew to close to 
the south of Water Kloof, whilst Doran blocked all the exits on 
the eastern side. On the next night (September 2nd) Scobell, 
fetching a compass completely around the Berg, placed himself 
secretly upon the south-west of the Boer laager. Thereupon 
Lotter abandoned his position, and endeavoured to break out in 
two opposite directions at once. Both attempts were repulsed 
with loss, but soon after, the commando, reuniting, fought a 
clever rearguard action which enabled it to escape into the 
intricate country east of Petersburg. Scobell lay on the night 
of September 3rd at Middle Water. He fully reaUsed that 
in order to come to close quarters with Lotter he must dis- 
regard direct pursuit in favour of surprise from an unlooked- 
for direction. His own men and horses, as well as supplies, 
were nearly exhausted, but he determined on one last effort 
to accomplish his task. Served as well by his InteUigence 
Staff as by his troops, he was at once informed of Lotter's 
line of march, which led back in the direction of Petersburg. 
Throughout September 4th, by dint of incredible exertions 
amongst the precipitous Tandjes Berg, the column actually 
succeeded in outpacing the rapidly moving commando. In 
the evening Scobell bivouacked near the village of Petersburg, 
having marched completely around Lotter, who, all unconscious 
of his pursuer's volte face, had taken refuge in a secluded farm 
near Groen Kloof. Here he was soon " harboured," and Scobell, 
after issuing an inspiriting order to his men, at i a.m. on Sep- 
tember 5th led them out in cold and wet for a last round with 
the elusive rebel. Steered by first-rate guides the expedition 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 241 

found itself at dawn within striking distance of the laager. 
This lay close behind an isolated hill which was easily ap- 
proached from the side to which the force had been conducted, 
but on the other, whence alone the Boers expected attack, 
was protected by tier upon tier of ridges. Upon the kopje 
overhanging the camp there was not even a piquet, though it 
commanded at short range two open kraals and the small farm- 
house which formed the sleeping places of the burghers. Scobell, 
accurately informed of the nature of the ground by his invalu- 
able scouts, quickly delivered his attack. Directly against the 
intervening hill went the Cape Mounted Riflemen led by Lukin 
and Captains J. F. Purcell and C. L. Goldsworthy. Two 
squadrons (" A." and " D.") of the gth Lancers under Captains 
Lord D. Compton and E. Gordon respectively passed around 
either flank to envelop the laager behind. The Boers were 
thought to be in the farmhouse ; but as the flankers of "A." 
squadron rode by the intervening kraals a shout went up from 
the interior, followed by a hot fire which at the closest range did 
execution amongst the Lancers. Lord D. Compton, never- 
theless, led a party of his men at the gallop through the fire zone 
to his appointed place in rear of the enemy ; the rest flung them- 
selves under the very walls of the kraals, and fought it out 
muzzle to muzzle. Purcell's squadron of the Cape Mounted 
Riflemen rushed for the crest of the unguarded hiU and began 
to shoot down into the kraals, and soon, " D." squadron of the 
9th Lancers having swung completely around the farm from 
the side opposite to "A." squadron, the whole laager was in- 
vested by a circle of musketry. In the farmhouse itself were 
only five burghers, all of whom were shot as they dashed for 
the open. Eight more were killed in the kraals, from the 
walls of one of which, after half an hour's fighting, a white flag 
went up, signifying that Lotter and all his commando, to the 
number of 120 men, of whom forty-six were wounded, surrendered 
as prisoners of war. Two hundred ponies and some 30,000 
rounds of ammunition which also fell into Scobell's hands tes- 
tified to the excellence of the equipment of the bands which 
troubled Cape Colony. Scobell himself lost nine men kiUed 

VOL. IV. 16 



242 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

and an officer and eight men wounded, eighteen in all, and 
twelve of these casualties (seven killed, five wounded) occurred 
in Lord D. Compton's squadron outside the kraals. To that 
officer, Scobell, in a congratulatory order, especially conveyed 
his thanks, for had he allowed himself to be checked by the 
point-blank fire the Boers would undoubtedly have made off 
over the hills in rear, where the column, which was destitute of 
every means of subsistence, was incapable of pursuing. But 
to Scobell himself, and to every officer and man in his force, 
was due much honour for this, the first real success in Cape 
Colony. Not the small numbers engaged or who fell or were 
taken in action were the measure of the brilliance of this feat 
of arms ; rather the enormous exertions and privations which 
preceded, and the skill and resolution which consummated it. 
Yet it is not to be forgotten that there were at this moment 
in Cape Colony, and indeed in all South Africa, a multitude of 
columns whose equal endurance and devotion had not procured 
a like result. Seldom in the history of war have soldiers been 
so willing as the British troops in South Africa in the last phase 
of the campaign against the Boers to expend their utmost 
strength upon objects apparently so insignificant, yet so diffi- 
cult to attain. There was at this period no more striking 
example of this ill-rewarded energy than in the south, where 
Operations Scheepers, repeating the earliest triumphs of the invasion, was 
Sheepers. scouring the southem counties from the Port Elizabeth to the 
Cape Town railways, bidding defiance to the utmost efforts 
of Alexander and Atherton to catch him. On August 15th Major- 
General S. B. Beatson arrived at Willowmore to take charge of 
the operations, and at once made plans to enclose Scheepers, 
who was then between Uniondale and Avontuur. But Scheepers, 
taking the offensive, drove back not only the squadron which 
had been posted at Avontuur to stop him, but also Alexander 
himself who moved to its support out of Uniondale on the 19th, 
the loth Hussars losing sixteen casualties, including two officers, 
in the encounters. Atherton's 12th Lancers were then sent to 
Uniondale to reinforce the loth Hussars, and both together 
pressed after Scheepers, who was travelling westward through 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 243 

George county into Oudtshoom, making for Ladismith. Before 
making his point Scheepers' rearguard was twice caught up 
by the cavalry, first at Moeras River on the 23rd and again 
near CaHtzdorp ; but he gained the town, and passing through 
it, turned as if for Montagu or Swellendam, Both the Cape 
Town and Worcester — Swellendam railways were thus endan- 
gered and at points of the greatest importance. At Swellen- 
dam, the then easterly terminus of the branch hne, there were 
large accumulations of stores, which Wynne hastened to safe- 
guard by despatching a company from Worcester to hold the 
pass of the Lange Bergen, which commanded both Swellendam 
and Montagu. Worcester itself contained some thousands of 
remounts, and in addition to men whom Wynne borrowed from 
a recently arrived troopship to fill the place of those sent to 
Swellendam, the ist Royal Berkshire regiment was ordered 
from De Aar to Worcester. Beatson, who found his opponent 
running out of his reach, now changed his Headquarters to 
Matjesfontein. But before he left Willowmore the situation Disturijed 
had been complicated by the approach of Theron, who was twrhern 
coming down through Prince Albert with a band of eighty counties. 
men. To deal with him Kavanagh was ordered from Graaff 
Reinet to Willowmore, where he arrived on September 2nd, 
marching next day against Theron, who was then nearing 
Oudtshoom. 

Thus the early days of September, 1901, saw a recrudescence 
of trouble in a part which it had been hoped had been delivered. 
Once more Cape Town and the sea-board communities became 
uneasy, wondering impatiently at the apparent impossibihty of 
stopping the leaks by which the small, but dangerous, Boer 
bands trickled down upon them. The renewed disturbance in 
this quarter was doubly unfortunate and difficult to deal with 
at this moment because in the north a fresh cloud had arisen, 
more portentous than any which had threatened Cape Colony 
since the incursion of De Wet. 



VOL. IV. 1 6* 



244 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 





CO 




BCcri 






COLUMN. 


H 

S 

a 


a 


"O-r 




4) 






a 


si 

u 


a 

IS 











o> 


S 




June — September, 1901. 












Lt.-Col. E. M. S. Crabbe . . 


816 


96 


2 


— 




Lt-Col. the Hon. A. H. 












Henniker ... 


686 


179* 


2 


1 




Col. H. J. Scobell . . 


1,091 


I2t 


3 


— 




Lt.-Col. G. F. Gorringe .. 


530 





3 


— 




Lt.-Col. C. P. Crewe 


500 





3 


2 




Lt.-Col. H. T. Lukin 


690 




3 


I 




Lt.-Col. the Hon. A.Murray 


2,2 


84 


2 


I 




Col. S. C. H. Monro 


820 




3 


4 




Lt.-Col. W. L. White 


500 





3 


I 




Lt.-Col. W. P. Wyndham . . 


426 





3 


— 




Maj. H. S. Jeudwine 


370 


50 


2 


— 




Lt.-Col. B. Doran . . 


668 


sot 


2 


— 




Capt. F. T. Lund . . 


594 




I 


I 




Lt.-Col. A. G. Hunter- 












Weston 


468 


I4t 


3 


I 




Lt.-Col. M. G. Moore 


250 


250 




— 




Lt.-Col. H. Alexander 


604 


— 


2 


I 




Lt.-Col. T. J. Atherton . . 


633 


— 


2 


I 




Lt.-Col. C. T. McM. Kava- 












nagh 


480 


— 


I 


I 




Lt.-Col. J. R. MacAndrew . . 


380 


7+ 


— 


""" 





Note.— Lieut. -General Sir J. D, P. French assumed command of all columns in 
Cape Colony on June 9th, 1901. 



Thirty-three Cyclists. 



t Cyclists. 



245 



CHAPTER XIV. 

EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY* 

{Continued from Chapter IX.). 

JULY — AUGUST, IQOI. 

At the beginning of July, to sum up the situation all over the 
Orange River Colony, six columns had come in to the railways, 
namely, W. H. Williams' and Byng's, of Bruce Hamilton's 
command at Edenburg ; Pilcher's and Thomeycroft's, of Sir C. 
Knox's sphere at Brandfort ; Henry's and Paris', of the western 
area, at Christiana. In mid-veld Bruce Hamilton had Rochfort, 
du Moulin and W. L. White about Oorlogs Poort ; Elliot and Sir 
L. Rundle were at Springfield Drift. The enemy was nowhere 
absent, yet nowhere in strength sufficient even seriously to 
dispute the wholesale destruction of his flocks, herds, mills 
and magazines, which had become the common task of columns 
on the march. De Wet himself was as ubiquitous as his 
purposely dispersed burghers. All fears of the desertion of 
his country by the allied State had been removed by the con- 
ference on the Water val,t and he rode from one group of his 
adherents to another, exhorting them to avoid fighting and to 
direct their efforts mainly against the lines of communication, 
which in consequence had suffered continual annoyance and 
damage throughout June. De Wet was at this time un- 
accompanied by Steyn, who, parting from him after their return 
together from the Transvaal, had repaired to the district about 

* See map No. 64. 

t See Chapter XII., page 206. 



246 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Reitz with his political staff. Here the ex-President was within 
Elliot's zone of operations, and, as will be seen, went very near 
to being added to his booty. 
Elliot and Elliot made but a brief halt at Springfield Drift. On 

Sir L. Rundie jyjy ^th he was again on the march, this time in a northerly 
direction ; his brigades, de Lisle on left, Bethune in centre, 
Broadwood on right, filling the space between the Libenbergs 
Vlei river and th*e left bank of the Wilge, on the opposite side 
of which Sir L. Rundie, with B. Campbell (i6th brigade), and 
Harley (17th brigade), prolonged the front as far as the eastern 
of the two roads from Harrismith to Vrede. Rundie had now 
organised his division into three columns under Reay, Harley 
and B. Campbell, which marched in that order from left to right, 
Reay thus linking with Broadwood across the Wilge. The 
whole front covered some fifty miles of country. On the 5th 
Elliot threw his left flank forward by advancing de Lisle to 
Driehoek, south of Reitz ; Bethune, with whom were Elliot and 
his Headquarters, moving to Rust, whilst on the right Broad- 
wood remained at Springfield Drift, the whole of this part of 
the array thus facing diagonally north-eastward. Sir L. Rundie 
pushed on nearly to the Mill river from Constantia to Astan 
Drift. Next day de Lisle passed through Reitz — Steyn and 
his entourage evacuating in good time — to Wolfnest ; Bethune 
moved to Vaalbank ; Broadwood, after detaching Lowe to 
Morgenzon on the Leeuw Spruit, up to Klip Drift on the Wilge 
river ; Sir L. Rundie made the Une of the Cornells river. On 
July 7th Elliot's front from left to right was Rustfontein — 
Vlakfontein — Mooigelegen (Lowe) — Rondedraai. Sir L. Rundie 
continued to conform until the loth, when he halted on the line 
Leeuw Kop — Botha's Berg. Meanwhile Elliot, still keeping his 
left forward, had passed through : — 

July 8th, Roodekopjes — Zorgvleit — Leeuwspruit. 

July 9th, Paardenkraal — Leeuwkuil — Aasvogels Krans — 
Strijdpoort. 

July loth, Groenvlei Drift — Boschmansfontein — Vogel- 
draai — Rietgat. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 247 

With the exception of small rearguard actions by de Lisle 
and Bethune on the 8th there was no fighting, and the chief 
occupation of the troops consisted in gathering in the wandering 
wagons, flocks and herds, and the isolated rovers who flitted 
across the front. In the midst of this monotony, however, 
suddenly occurred an incident which, like a stroke of Ughtning, 
might have struck off one of the sturdiest limbs of the Orange 
Free State. 

The persistence of the enemy upon his left -rear had caused 
Elliot to realise that he had brushed aside bands sufficiently 
numerous to be worth a diversion from his main line of advance. 
On July 9th, therefore, he had sent orders to Broad wood to carry 
out a night raid upon Reitz, whence the annoyance probably 
emanated. The message had arrived too late to be acted upon 
on that night, so Broadwood deferred action until the next, 
when, having diverted suspicion by sharing in the general 
advance as far as Rietgat, he suddenly wheeled 400 mounted men 
under cover of darkness, passed behind the brigades of the 
centre, and made for Reitz, calculating to surround it exactly 
by dawn on the nth. Delayed, however, by the straying of 
one of his connecting files, he lost so much time that when day 
broke he was still three miles from Reitz. He therefore ordered 
his men to gallop, and as the sun rose bore rapidly down upon 
the sleeping township. Such an approach could scarcely escape 
detection, but its very speed all but gave it its reward. Not 
until the troopers thundered into the outskirts did any stir arise Surprise of 
amongst the buildings, and then it seemed all too late to save j^^y^'ith 
the Republics from the most crushing blow they had yet suffered. 1901- 
In Reitz lay Steyn and all his military and jwUtical staff. He 
had re-entered the village close behind de Lisle four days before, 
and tracking the columns northward by means of the scouts 
which had attracted Elliot's attention, felt all secure from any 
return of the receding waves of the British advance. In this way 
Broadwood, bursting into Reitz with no greater hope than that 
of surprising a small commando, found himself in the midst of 
the headsprings of the resistance of the Orange Free State. 
There was little or no opposition. Generals A. P. Cronje and 



248 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

J. B. Wessels, Commandant O. Davel, Field-Comet Steyn (the 
brother of the ex-President), T. Brain, his private secretary, 
and twenty-four other officials were quickly made prisoners. 
Steyn himself was not to be foimd. None thought of associating 
the deposed leader with a soUtary mounted figure which was 
seen galloping, coatless and unbooted, away from the opposite 
^dge of the town and out across the veld. Two horsemen, an 
officer and a sergeant, were in hot pursuit, and gained rapidly 
on the fugitive. They drew within point-blank range, and were 
on the verge of overhauling the flying Boer, of whose personality 
they knew nothing, when their horses, which had already been 
ridden thirty miles, stopped beaten. Leaping to the ground 
the sergeant levelled his rifle at the burly form now only eighty 
yards distant. But the oil on the sliding bolt and striker-spring 
had become frozen and clogged in the long night ride, disabhng 
the weapon. Thrice the man pulled trigger harmlessly, the 
Narrow escape quarry Sped on, and when shooting and further pursuit alike 
of Steyn. became hopeless the pair turned towards Reitz, regretting not 
overmuch the loss of a single ordinary burgher. Thus Steyn 
made his escape by a miracle which was not undeserved. If he 
had led his coimtrymen into war, there was not one amongst 
them who fought with higher motives than he, or displayed greater 
fortitude and love of country. His hopes crushed, his nation 
sacrificed by allegiance to an ally who, once so domineering, 
was now to be kept in heart mainly by his own indomitable 
spirit ; ailing, especially in his eyes, nowhere so vitally a man's 
outposts as in time of war and upon the veld, there was no hard- 
ship or danger which he had not shared ; nor was there any 
despair, and this affliction Steyn, who knew better than any 
the hopeless state of his people, added in double mccisure to 
his trials by steadfastly concealing it. In a war not poor in 
striking figures Ste}^ will ever stand out as the man whose 
obduracy most nearly approached heroism. 

The ex-President lost everything but his liberty. Besides 
his staff, all his papers and his treasury, containing ;£ii,ooo, fell 
into the hands of Broadwood, who immediately set out to rejoin 
Elliot. He had to skirmish all his way back, and when he 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 249 

reached Grootklip on the Harrismith — Frankfort road he had 
covered more than sixty miles. Meanwhile, the general line 
had gone forward, swinging on the nth through Groenvlei 
and Klipoog towards Heilbron, which was entered on the 13th, 
Broadwood appearing there on the next day. The whole force 
was back upon the railway at Vredefort Road on July i6th, 
bringing with it sixty-one prisoners, 54,000 sheep, 4,000 ponies, 
3,600 cattle and seventy-five carts and wagons, the casualties 
having been only three men slightly wounded. 

Sir L. Rundle had also advanced, his front on the 12th 
stretching from the Wilge river through Tafel Kop nearly to 
Vrede, south of which a commando some 800 strong was sighted 
but could not be brought to action. On the 13th a patrol of 
Imperial Yeomanry from Harley's brigade had to be rescued 
from superior numbers after an engagement in which the patrol 
had lost six wounded, but the Boer commandant, C. Botha, 
had been killed. Rundle then pointed on Standerton, whence 
columns under Colonel F. S. Garratt, Brigadier-General G. M. 
Bullock and Lieut. -Colonel M. F. Rimington were on the march 
in his direction across the drifts of the Vaal river. With little 
further incident Sir L. Rundle's columns entered the dep6t 
town on the 17th, having had sixteen casualties, and taken or 
destroyed 46,000 sheep, 10,000 ponies, 6,000 cattle and eighty- 
nine vehicles, besides a mass of wheat, fodder and farming 
implements. 

Of the three Standerton columns touched by Sir L. Rimdle 
during the above march, Bullock soon returned to the railway. 
Garratt, who, with Colville, had recently been in combination 
with Sir B. Blood south of Middelburg,* skirmished his way 
along the Vaal by Vereeniging and Parys to Reitzburg, where 
he will be met with again in connection with events shortly to 
be recorded. t Rimington must have somewhat fuller mention. 
He had come from the Wakkerstroom district of the Transvaal, 
where in company with Plumer he had been engaged in the 
operations described in an earlier chapter. J Plumer and 

* See Chapter XII., page 210. f See post, page 254. 

I See Chapter XII., pages 199 — 202. 



250 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Rimingtpn entered the Orange River Colony at about the same 
time, and for similar duties, but by widely different routes. 
Plumer, as will be seen, made for the Modder river by way 
of Bloemfontein. Rimington, crossing the Klip river by Steele's 
Drift, pointed on Vrede, coming immediately in touch both 
with Sir L. Rundle's columns and with the Boers. At Gems- 
bokhoek Berg on July 13th ten prisoners and forty-four wagons 
were smartly captured. Constantly engaged, Rimington reached 
Heilbron on the 21st, and on the night of the 23rd moved his 
columns first parallel to the Frankfort— Lindley road, then in- 
wards and back towards Heilbron, a ride of sixty miles which 
resulted in the capture of twenty-two prisoners. Based on Heil- 
bron, Rimington scoured the country on all sides, working in 
co-operation with Spens, who arrived from Heidelberg on 
August 5th, fresh from the arduous operations in the Lydenburg 
district.* Together the two commanders cleared the neigh- 
bourhood, and the end of August found both in Kroonstad 
with some thirty prisoners and the produce ravished from many 
square miles of country. 
Elliot Three days' pause on the railway re-rationed Elliot's troops 

marches west. ^^^ another effort. This time the goal was to be Klerksdorp, 
the march upon this base of the British operations in the never 
quiet Western Transvaal having a twofold object. At this 
time Fetherstonhaugh was on his way back to Klerksdorp from 
that expedition to Zeerust which has been referred to.f Elliot 
hoped to intercept any commandos which might seek to avoid 
Fetherstonhaugh's returning columns by crossing to the left 
bank of the Vaal. This, however, was but a subsidiary aim. 
His main intention was to dispose his own columns, and 
certain fresh ones which he was to acquire, for a great sweep 
from the Vaal to the Modder, over the rich tracts which Pilcher 
and Thomeycroft had recently found it beyond their powers 
to clear effectually. On July 19th Broadwood, on the right 
flank, was on the Vaal near Parys, de Lisle to the south-east 
of Reitzburg, and Lowe (who had now succeeded Bethune) at 

* See Chapter XII., page 211. f See Chapter XL, page 190. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 251 

Wilgeboschdrift on the Rhenoster. Broadwood then got astride 
the Vaal, and the columns, searching every cranny as they 
marched, moved on down the Vaal towards the rendezvous, 
entering Klerksdorp on July 23rd and 24th with fifteen prisoners, 
16,000 stock and fifty-two vehicles, the losses having been but 
two. In four days all was ready for the development of the 
main scheme, but before narrating Elliot's subsequent movements 
it is necessary to turn back to the doings of the commanders 
of other areas of the Orange River Colony. 

Sir L. Rundle regained his own district by way of the Botha's Sir L. Rundie 
Berg, Verkykers Kop and Maaritsdrift, Harley and Reay being H^smlth. 
detached towards the Witkoppies. Constant opposition of a 
trifling sort was met with, and on August 3rd Rundle was back 
at his base. He was met by news of a minor disaster which 
had occurred in his absence. On July 27th, a Boer laager 
having been reported inconveniently close to Harrismith, the 
town Commandant had promptly despatched all his available 
mounted men to attempt a surprise. But the party, finding 
the encampment to be much more distant than had been sup- 
posed, had pushed on too far, and coming upon the enemy 
in a strong position, had lost an entire patrol, falling back with 
the loss of an officer killed, six men wounded, and an officer and 
twenty-four men taken prisoners. 

More to the south Bruce Hamilton for the first half of July Bruce 
resumed his double operations on both sides of Edenburg. JJj«Hoii' 
Rochfort and du Moulin circled about Dewetsdorp chasing 
scattered bands first northward towards Wepener, then in the 
opposite direction on Helvetia. On the west of the railway 
W. H. Williams and Byng combined in a more detailed scheme 
from July 5th, sweeping defined areas, the former north and 
the latter south of the line Edenburg — Fauresmith — Luckhoff — 
Belmont, intending subsequently to cross the Riet river and 
beat back to Petrusburg. These affairs were in progress when 
on July i6th Bruce Hamilton received notice from the Com- 
mander-in-Chief that, in view of Elliot's approaching sweep 
towards the Modder, a general hostile movement might be 
expected from the Vaal southwards, and that the troops of the 



252 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

southern command were to be at once disposed so as to secure 
the Bloemfontein — Jacobsdal blockhouse line and to deny 
approach to the Orange. Breaking off his own operations, 
Hamilton called Rochfort and du Moulin to Edenburg, formed 
a new column imder Major J. H. Damant for the protection 
of the railway, and issued orders in accordance with which W. H. 
Williams hastened with his three columns (his own and two 
others, commanded by Majors S. Bogle Smith and G. N. Going) 
to Jacobsdal, whence he reached out eastward through Kalk- 
laagte to Emmaus. Beyond this Rochfort extended past 
Petrusburg to within touch of Bloemfontein, a strong line being 
thus formed behind the Modder. More to the south Byng 
went on to Ramah, du Moulin marched on Philippolis, whilst 
Damant took up his station at Jagersfontein Road. These 
movements were completed by July 2ist when Bruce Hamilton 
proceeded to Bloemfontein and thence traversed his whole 
front along the Modder, being at Petrusburg on the 25th, Poplar 
Grove and Brandvallei on the succeeding two days, and on 
the 29th at Kimberley, whence the train conveyed him back 
into his own area at Springfontein on the last day of the month. 
Several minor successes had been achieved by his various detach- 
ments. On July 20th Damant, sallying eastward, attacked 
a band who had occupied some kopjes twelve miles from Jagers- 
fontein Road, and after an hour's fighting captured the Com- 
mandant and twelve of his men. A few days later Rochfort, 
having got news that Commandant Myburgh was laagered on 
the Riet river, west of Jagersfontein Drift, on his way to invade 
Cape Colony, made a night march of twenty miles from Zwart- 
koppies in conjunction with a detachment from Tafelkop, under 
Colonel A. W. G. Lowry-Cole. Favoured by a thick mist the 
two parties effected a complete surprise on the morning of the 
28th. Myburgh, mortally wounded, was secured with seven of 
his men by Lowry-Cole, Rochfort taking sixteen prisoners in 
addition, and killing another commandant, Erasmus. Finally, 
on the last day of July, Damant, making a sudden raid on 
Fauresmith, made prisoners of three Field-Comets and ten 
burghers who were sheltering in the place. Soon after his 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 253 

return, Bruce Hamilton received orders to co-operate \vith Sir 
C. Knox, whose previous operations must here be described. 

From the ist to the 13th of July Sir C. Knox employed his sir C. Knox's 
troops in raiding the mountainous country between Brandfort, op^'^^"°'^- 
Thabanchu, Ladybrand, Senekal and Winburg, i.e., the area 
to the north of that which was being simultaneously cleared by 
Rochfort and du Moulin. What little fighting occurred fell 
mainly to Thomeycroft about Mequatlings Nek, and on the 13th 
and 14th Thomeycroft put into Ladybrand and Pilcher into 
Thabanchu with 16,000 stock and seventy-three vehicles, their 
joint casualties amounting to but six killed and wounded. 
Finding all Bruce Hamilton's units then withdrawing across 
the railway in accordance with the orders detailed above, Knox 
then decided to remain on the east of the line and embark 
upon a systematic clearance of the country as far as the Basuto 
border. This was carried out by five parties, made up from 
the two normal columns, and placed under Lieut. -Colonels 
H. d'A. P. Taylor and C. F. Minchin and Majors K. E. Lean, 
F. C. Lloyd and H. C. Copeman. Pilcher's detachments were 
reassembled at Bethulie on July 26th, Thomeycroft's at Aliwal 
North two days later, the casualties being nil, and the booty 
five prisoners, 126 carts and wagons, and nearly 70,000 stock, 
some of which were brought in but more destroyed. Some 350 
ovens, threshing machines and other baking and agricultural 
appliances had also been wrecked. 

From the western boimdary of the Orange River Colony Entry of fresh 
three columns had been active during July, namely, those of columns 
Western, Henry and Paris. The first named, returning on the 
8th from his temporary alliance with G. Hamilton west of 
Klerksdorp,* subsequently swept both banks of the Vaal easp- 
ward, basing himself on Coal Drift, and clearing in the course 
of his operations Venterskroon and Bothaville. He returned 
to Coal Drift on July 23rd with 5,000 head of stock and sixteen 
carts, and was then ordered to fall in with Elliot's drive to the 
south. From July ist to 12th Henry and Paris from Christiana 

* See Chapter XL, page 192. 



254 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

combined to sweep up both banks of the Vaal through Bloemhof 
to Hoopstad. Whilst Paris then went into Warrenton for 
supplies, the expected southerly Boer movement took Henry 
eastward to Aaronslaagte from July i8th to 24th to watch the 
roads leading from the drifts of the Vaal. He was there rejoined 
by Paris, who, on his march from Warrenton, had had a sharp 
little affair at Palmietpan on the 23rd. The two columns then 
raided the district in company, another brisk skirmish at 
Wolvepan on the 26th resulting in Paris completely routing 
his opponents, who left eight dead, and their Field-Comet 
wounded on the field. Orders now came for these forces, too, 
to fall in with Elliot's great manoeuvre, and Paris moved into 
Windsorton on July 31st to obtain supplies for Henry, whilst 
the latter marched on Hoopstad. 

Drawn into these parts by the same cause now came also 
Garratt, as previously mentioned, and Sir H. Rawhnson from 
Klerksdorp,* and on July 27th, the tale of his columns being 
complete, Elliot gave the order to march. 

The general scope of the plan on which he was about to 
embark had now assumed colossal proportions. In addition 
to the nimierous columns already enumerated as coming within 
his jurisdiction, not only had several minor bodies, such as 
Pine-Coffin's from Kroonstad and Barker's from Vet River 
station, been ordered to strike out in co-operation with him 
from the Unes of communication, but Plumer had now appeared 
from distant CaroUnaf to take a part, with the columns 
of Colonel Sir J. Jervis-White-Jervis, R.A,, and Lieut.-Colonel 
F. F. Colvin. Railed from Wonderfontein, these fresh contin- 
gents had arrived at Bloemfontein on July 17th, and had 
thence made a preliminary excursion down both sides of 
the Modder river by Palmietfontein, Poplar Grove, Kameel- 
fontein and Pandamsfontein, that is, directly across Elliot's 
projected front. Only the flanking parties were engaged, but 
much country was cleared, and on July 31st Plumer marched to 
Modder River station with eleven prisoners, having taken or 

* See Chapter XI., page 195. | See Chapter XII., page 202. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 255 

destroyed some 10,000 stock and twenty vehicles. He was now 
in position to fulfil his role in Elliot's scheme, and he awaited 
the moment to begin it. 

The great quadrilateral whose sides were the Kimberley and Elliot's plans. 
Bloemfontein railways, and the V^aal and Modder rivers which 
intersected them, was now completely enclosed by troops. 
Across the north stood Elliot, holding in line from Klerksdorp 
to Vredefort the columns of de Lisle, Broadwood, Lowe, Western 
and Sir H. Rawlinson in this order from west to east, besides a 
seventh, under Lieut. -Colonel H. M. Owen, which he had recently 
organised and attached to Broadwood. Western and Garratt 
were at Coal and Schoeman's Drifts on either side of Klerksdorp ; 
Paris and Henry lay lower down the river opposite Hoopstad. 
On the west was Plumer ready to extend in any direction. The 
east was doubly guarded by the heavily defended railway and 
the two light columns of Barker and Pine-Coffin. Finally the 
fourth side, the line of the Modder on the south, was trebly 
barred, first by a connected series of defensible posts which had 
been recently completed and manned by the South African 
Constabulary, secondly by the columns of SirC. Knox which were 
to watch the fine of the right bank of the Riet river, thirdly 
by Bruce Hamilton's troops, in the country on the left bank of 
the Riet, still further to the south. The whole area, in short, 
resembled one of those vast bag-nets into the mouths of which 
the fishermen of Sicily and Sardinia, pushing in with a line of 
boats, herd the swarming tunny of the Mediterranean. 

On July 28th Elliot set his flotilla in motion.* Advancing Elliot 
his Headquarters first to Koedoesdraai, and then to Wal kraal, U^ModdCT, 
he sent Broadwood forward by a night march upon Botha ville, July 28th, 
whilst de Lisle, crossing the Vaal below that town, blocked * 
all the drifts of the Valsch behind it. Bothaville was found 
deserted, but a party of 300 Australians under Major J. S. Shea 
whom de Lisle had sent along the left bank of the Valsch, 
detected the lights of a Boer laager on the opposite bank before 
dawn on July 30th, and Shea immediately laid plans to take it. 



• See Chapter XL, page 196. 



256 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Discovering a convenient drift, he held it with fifty of his men, 
and with the rest galloped across the stream, past the encamp- 
ment, and on to some high ground beyond, thus cleveriy shutting 
in his quarry. Some of the Boers rushed for the drift, there to 
be captured by the detached party, and after a brief inter- 
change of shots the whole laager was taken without a single 
casualty to the Australians. Shea rejoined de Lisle with twenty 
prisoners, twelve vehicles and a herd of ponies and stock. Next 
day, July 31st, when EUiot crossed the Vaal to Witkrans, Lowe 
scouting further up the Valsch towards Rhenoster Kop, surprised 
by night-marching two more small laagers, and halted with 
eleven prisoners and ten captured wagons at Besterskraal. Here 
he was joined by Western, on whose left rear Sir H. Rawlinson 
advanced from Vredefort to Van Stades Drift on the Honing 
Spruit. Only Garratt remained behind near Reitzburg with 
orders to bring up the rear. On the last day of July, then, all 
Elhot's forces were within the Orange River Colony, his general 
front from right to left curving from Witkrans (Headquarters and 
de Lisle), through Bothaville (Broadwood), Besterskraal (Lowe 
and Western) back to Van Stades Drift (Rawlinson). 

On August ist de Lisle followed the Vaal down to Leeuw- 
krantz, Broadwood (with Owen) crossed the Zand Spruit to 
Kruidfontein, Lowe and Western the Otter Spruit to De Rust 
and Leeuwpan, Sir H. Rawlinson the Honing Spruit to 
Rhenoster Kop, Garratt following to Witkop, west of Van 
Stades Drift. Henry, coming from the opposite direction, 
entered Hoopstad, capturing a few wagons, and driving more 
towards the advancing line. Next day, when the array pushed on 
towards the Vet river, the screens of both the right-hand columns 
gained touch with the wandering population whom the wide 
movement had set astir. At Graspan, close to Wonderfontein, 
which was to be Broadwood's bivouac for the night, two squadrons 
of Owen's King's Dragoon Guards, under Captain F. C. Quicke, 
captured a laager of sixty-five wagons and 4,000 cattle with 
Uttle trouble. The South Australians from de Lisle's column 
which was nearing the Vet had even better fortune. Led as 
before by Shea, they crossed the river by night above Grootvallei, 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 257 

and swinging down stream for Rooiwal discovered a commando 
in laager at Grootvallei. After a stealthy and undetected 
reconnaissance Shea galloped in from three sides, and his men 
were about to ride over the camp when they were checked by 
a barbed wire fencing. This accident aroused the Boers and 
gave them time to scatter into the bush, and the Australians, 
charging home on foot with the bayonet, were too late for their 
full reward. Some score of burghers were killed and wounded, 
however, and eleven, including two officers, captured ; Shea's 
losses being two troopers wounded, and one killed, this last 
his orderly, a sowar of the 15th Bengal Lancers, who, rather 
than forego the adventures of a campaign in which his colour 
forbade him to draw sabre, had voluntarily ridden unarmed 
behind his officer. 

On the evening of August 2nd de Lisle was at Grootvallei, 
Broad wood at Wonder fontein, Lowe at Zoete Inval, Sir H. 
Rawlinson at Valsch River Drift. Garratt took the road 
towards Kroonstad, where he was to obtain supplies, thus 
dropping out of the general movement for a few days. On 
the 3rd Henry joined in the advance by moving out of Hoop- 
stad down to Langkuil, in line with de Lisle as he crossed the 
Vet river. Broadwood remained about Wonderfontein, his 
patrols capturing a further seven wagons and 2,000 stock. Lowe, 
pushing past liis left, marched at i a.m. for .Rietpan. Dawn 
brought him upon a large laager, which he attacked and cap- 
tured entire, bringing in thirteen prisoners, eighty-six vehicles 
and 2,000 horses and cattle. On his left again came Western 
to Leeuwpan, beyond which Sir H. Rawlinson lined up at Kopje 
AUeen, whence he in his turn gained touch with Pine-Coffin's 
railroad column stretching a hand from Kroonstad, as Barker 
was preparing to do from Vet River station. On August 4th 
Henry on the right was thrown forward to Scheerpan, dis- 
covering a hidden magazine containing 12,000 rounds of 
ammunition and a quantity of dynamite at Aaronslaagte on his 
way. The rest of the army took up the line of the Vet river, 
prolonged by that of its northern fork, the Zand river. It 
was now time for Plumer to play his part. Leaving Modder 

VOL*. IV 17 



258 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

River station, he struck north-eastward to Kraal Kop, to be 
in readiness to close the angle between the Kimberley railway 
and the Modder river on the west, as Barker, again, was to 
do from the Bloemfontein line on the east. Paris, too, moved 
out into the arena with his convoy from Windsorton, awaiting 
the approach of Henry, to whom he was to hand over his 
supplies. On the 5th Henry halted at Scheerpan, feeling for 
de Lisle, with whom he had lost touch. Broad wood and all to 
his left Ukewise remained on the Vet at Bultfontein Drift and 
beyond, whilst the captures of the past few days were escorted 
in to the railway. Of the fighting front only de Lisle made a 
move forward, carrying out an advance to Karreepan, in the 
course of which he successfully entrapped a laager of fifty wagons 
and 1,500 stock. The chief activity on this day was on the 
part of the outlying " stops." In advance of the right front 
Plumer, still moving north-eastward, disposed Colvin and Sir 
J. Jervis in line from Biesjesbult, on the right, to Katdoombult 
on the left. At the opposite angle of the enclosure Barker 
patrolled between Vet River station and Eensgevonden, beating 
back several attempted crossings by parties of Boers who were 
in full flight from Elhot's slowly encircling net. Finally, on the 
left rear, Garratt now came out of Kroonstad and followed the 
army as far as Gohaths kraal. 

On the 6th, whilst Garratt pushed on to Kaalvley, and 
Plimier edged his left up to Koppiesfontein, the whole Une 
advanced, Henry to Boschput, de Lisle to Inktpan, Broad- 
wood to Biessiepan, Lowe to Zandheuvel, Western and Sir H. 
Rawhnson keeping in close touch on the left along the Vet 
river. On the 7th Henry, taking nine wagons whilst seeking 
for Paris and his convoy, went forward to Elandsfontein, 
Plumer approaching liim to Trekpoort and Kanonfontein. 
The rest of the force closed in somewhat towards its right, 
Broadwood and Lowe, with Western and Sir H. Rawlinson 
conforming, inclining to Holfontein, Harmsfontein and Water- 
bron towards de Lisle, who made a short march to Boschrands- 
pan. After coming into bivouac de Lisle received intelligence 
that a Boer laager lay ten miles to the south-east. At 11 p.m. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 259 

he took out 300 mounted men, and at dawn on the 8th found 
himself in the midst of a bevy of small Boer convoys moving 
about in all directions. At the sight of him some 200 horse- 
men, who formed the various escorts, abandoned their charges 
and fled, and when de Lisle drew up at Paknietfontein in the 
evening he had taken forty prisoners, and drove into camp 
102 carts and wagons and over 3,000 horses and cattle. 

The enemy was now darting at the meshes on all sides, and 
in such small bodies that it was impossible to stop them all. 
There was scarcely a blockhouse from Winburg southward 
but had to repel parties which suddenly appeared upon the 
railway. At 1.30 a.m. on this day, the 8th, one such band, 
escorting ten wagons, courageously opened a way by hurling 
themselves against a blockhouse between Eensgevonden, where 
Pine-Cofiin was, and Brandfort, compelling a surrender by 
bursting open the door and overpowering the inmates ; and 
in several other parts there were partially successful attempts 
at breaking out. August 8th was a profitable day for nearly all 
the columns. Henry, mid-way on his march to join hands with 
Plumer at Quaggapan, captured twenty-five prisoners, thirty- 
eight vehicles, and 1,800 horses and stock ; Broadwood took 
eight wagons about Sterkfontein ; Lowe, marching for Zamer- 
fontein before light, surprised and secured a laager of sixty-six 
carts and wagons, with twenty-seven prisoners. With less 
fortune Western advanced to Karoolaagte. Throughout the 
march he had seen but few of the enemy, and on his arrival in 
camp a patrol of twenty mounted infantry went forward con- 
fidently towards some Boer wagons which had been sighted 
three miles to the south-west. These proved to belong to a 
small laager, guarded apparently by some thirty men. The 
patrol instantly charged, captured the nearest wagons, and 
was making for the rest, when suddenly a body of more than 
200 Boers appeared over a rise within twenty yards. The tables 
were at once turned. The patrol was forced to retreat, and lost 
nine men taken prisoners ; but a more serious sequel to the 
affair was that the commando, which numbered in all some 400 
men, all finely mounted and with many led horses, pushed on 

VOL. IV. 17* 



26o 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Elliot at the 
Modder, 
Aug. loth, 
1901. 



Results of 

Elliot's 

inarch. 



northward, broke through the line between Western's and Lowe's 
columns, and was soon at large behind them. On this day Sir 
H. Rawlinson, on the left of Western, reached Kaalpan, still 
touching Pine-Coffin, who moved to Brandfort, Barker going 
down beyond AUeman's Dam. On the left rear Garratt had 
moved by Du Preez Lager Drift, the scene of French's cavcdry 
action of May 9th, 1900,* to Kalkfontein. On the evening of 
the next day, August 9th, the line was : — Henry and Plumer at 
Poplar Grove ; Broadwood at Kopjes Kraal ; Lowe, who 
captured a further twenty-one prisoners, twenty vehicles and 
1,700 stock, at Twyfelkopspan. Western, on Lowe's left, all 
but touched the Modder at Kruitfontein after taking in the day's 
march nine prisoners, tifty-two carts and wagons, and a small 
herd of cattle ; Sir H. Rawlinson was close on his outer flank at 
Zoutspruit. On August loth every column was upon the banks 
of the Modder, and the operation was concluded. 

Thus, in summary fashion, has been described a manoeuvre 
the scope of which can only be realised by a reference to the 
map and to the scale upon it. From the Vaal to the Modder, 
and from Kimberley to Kroonstad, a tract of some 120 miles 
in length by 100 in breadth, no comer had been left imsearched. 
In some respects the elaborate scheme had failed of its pur- 
pose. The area had divulged far fewer lighting men than it 
actually contained. Elliot reported that he had seen only 
some 500 in all, and that those he had been unable to capture 
need not be reckoned with for the future, so little spirit remained 
in them.f It will appear later how greatly he undervalued, not 
only the numbers, but the quality of the game which had 
escaped him. He had, it is true, taken a large number of pri- 
soners, 259 in all ; but they produced between them but eighty- 
seven rifles, and though threats induced many to reveal where 
their weapons had been hidden on the veld, a large proportion 
of these men were undoubtedly non-combatants. Such, indeed, 
was invariably the case with " drives " of this cumbersome 



* See Volume III., page 52. 

f Report by Lieut. -General E. L. Elliot, dated from Glen, August, 1901. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 261 

nature, manoeuvres prone to entrap those who from age or 
youth were slower of foot and less resourceful than the full- 
fledged fighting burgher. But if the operation had not seriously 
reduced the enemy's strength in the field it had dealt a heavy 
blow to a pastoral people whose wealth and munitions went 
largely on wheels and hoof. Elliot, whose own casualties had 
been but eleven (two killed, nine wounded), sent into the line, 
or left destroyed upon the veld, 748 wagons and carts, 202,500 
cattle and sheep. He also brought in 14,450 rounds of rifle 
ammunition, and 640 families, who, no longer able to exist in 
a province rendered uninhabitable, had now to be supported, 
like many thousand similar unfortunates, by the commissariat 
of their conquerors. At this time vast and growing niunbers of 
surrendered Boers with their families were being cared for, fed, 
attended and even entertained in protected encampments at 
the expense of the British Government. There was scarcely a 
base town, or even any considerable post on the lines of com- 
munication which had not in close and often dangerous 
proximity to its defences a camp of refugees living under the 
protection of British rifles and upon British rations. That nation 
is fortunate which, doomed to defeat, suffers it at the hands of 
an opponent who has wealth proportionate to his humanity, and 
looking beyond the military needs of the moment, deliberately 
adopts means which are dissonant with every principle of 
warfare in order to preserve his victims. 

Its task completed, the great combination disp)erscd at once. Dispersal of 
On August 13th Elliot himself took de Lisle, Broadwood and columns. 
Lowe of his own division, together with Sir H. Rawlinson, to 
(ilen. He immediately made ready for a fresh excursion, this 
time to the eastward, in which direction Barker and Pine- 
Cofiin had already hurried from Karee Siding (nth) in pursuit 
of the Boer bands which had broken across the railway on the 
8th. Garratt, turning northward past Kroonstad, made for the 
Transvaal again. Paris departed into Griqualand. Western, 
entraining at Bloemfqntein, was conveyed to Aliwal North to 
strengthen the line of the Orange river against sundry pressing 
eventualities which will be shortly referred to. Plumer received 



262 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

orders to clear the country between the Modder and Orange 
rivers in conjunction with the troops of Bruce Hamilton, and 
with Henry. Most of these must now be followed separately. 

Garratt may be briefly dismissed, for he was soon out of 
the arena. He scored a point before quitting it, however, 
which must be recorded. When on the march for Wonderwater 
Drift, on the Vaal, he was informed of a commando laagered 
at the junction of the Rhenoster river and Honing Spruit and 
on August 17th he detached Lieut. -Colonel the Hon. H. F. 
White with 300 men of the 7th New Zealand regiment and New 
South Wales Bushmen to attempt a capture. On the i8th 
White attacked successfully, killed two of the band, and re- 
joined Garratt with twenty-five prisoners. Garratt then pursued 
his way to the Vaal, which he crossed at Wonderwater Drift 
on the 2ist, his object being a second visit to the Los Berg, 
where he had encountered Smuts exactly a month before. How 
he fared there has been described.* 

Dealing still with the western side of the Bloemfontem rail- 
way, Plumer, having concentrated at Modder River station 
marched on August 15th for Jacobsdal. Hence, Colvin on nght 
flank and Sir J. Jervis on left, he moved by Doomhoek-Koffy- 
fontein (x7thHRoodepan-Vaalpan (19th) to St^nhoud^^^ 
Kraal on the 20th, seeing no enemy and very little stock 
Various Plumer was then ordered to sweep eastward upon thc/ailway 

o;e'Sns. ^t^,en Springfontein and Norval's Pont. On the 25th, when 
eight miles west of Luckhoff, he fell in with Henry, who, sent 
to work in the same area, had come ^^^'\'^y ^^^^l^'""^^^^^^ 
and Koffyfontein to Luckhoff on the 23rd. On the 26th and 
27th Plumer marched to Berg river and Karreepoort, getting 
touch with three of Bruce Hamilton's <^«1""^"% "^^^^ "'^'^ 
found at Platberg, Somersfontem and Karreepoort. At Groen 
Kloof four prisoners were taken by Colvin as he ^^^^ to K^"^ 
Waaihoek on the 28th, when Jervis passed through Philip- 
poUs Next day a report was received that a Bntish post had 
been driven in on the left bank of the grange, fifteen miles 

* See Chapter XI., p^e 196. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 263 

west of Colesberg, and Plumer, who had already sent a party 
to Colesberg Bridge, joined with du Moulin from Philippolis 
and Crabbe from Colesberg in an attempt to round up the 
raiders. The combination was brought to nothing, however, 
by the band boldly plimging towards and past it in the night, 
and on the last day of August Plumer, leaving Henry about 
Luckhoff , went in to the line at Priors Siding with eight prisoners, 
ten vehicles and a small quantity of stock. Throughout this 
march nothing had been seen of Sir C. Knox, most of that com- 
mander's troops having been withdrawn from the line of the 
Riet river to act east of the railway on the same day as Plumer 
had left Modder River station. 

Bruce Hamilton, as has been seen, remained to work with 
Plumer's column. A week before its appearance he had par- 
celled out the district amongst his columns, which he had now 
sub-divided into eight, namely, those of W. H. Williams, Roch- 
fort, du Moulin, Byng, Damant, Dawkins, Lowry-Cole and S. B. 
Smith. All these had been busily engaged in raiding since early 
in August, co-operating first with Sir C. Knox's columns in the 
Jagersfontein hills, and when Plumer entered the area, con- 
fining themselves to that part east of the line Paardeberg — 
Koffyfontein — Luckhoff, beyond which the country was left to 
Plimier and Henry. Constantly employed, their joint captures 
amounted to some 135 prisoners by the end of August, when 
they were still out in their various allotments. Only Damant 
had been withdrawn from the group for a special object, the 
same that had drawn Sir C. Knox eastward from the Riet and 
Western down to the drifts of the Orange. This purpose, as it 
had become the central point of all the tactics in the Orange 
River Colony, must now be made clear. 

It has been stated that when Elliot reported the presence 
of but few fighting Boers within the great net which he had 
cast over the western half of the Orange River Colony he was 
unaware that the real object of this and all other warfare, the 
enemy's main force, had slipped from his grasp. The best of the 
fighting men had escaped, some backward through the narrow 
gaps in the way, some through all the obstacles on the railway 



264 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

and the Modder. Amongst them was one who for the rest oi 
the campaign was to cause well-nigh the keenest anxiety that 
could beset the British Headquarters. Rumours of this man's 
presence had indeed reached ElUot's ears from the outset. 
Smuts' evasion Certain of the prisoners taken by de Lisle in his brilliant little 
affair at Grootvallei on the night of August 2nd, had let slip 
the intelligence that they formed part of a force of some 450 
men whom Assistant-Commandant-General J. C. Smuts, the 
State Attorney of the Transvaal, was leading through the 
Orange River Colony to the invasion of Cape Colony. Later, 
however, ElUot received information that this body had turned 
back into the Transvaal,* and he dismissed it from his mind. 
At that time Smuts, though he had already shown something 
of his quality, had little more reputation than that of being the 
most eloquent of the Boer patriots. Elliot's information con- 
cerning him was only partially correct. Smuts himself, with 
about one-fourth of his followers, had indeed retraced his steps, 
only, however, for the purpose of getting behind instead of in 
front of Elliot, the direction of whose " drive " was evident. 
The other three divisions of his force had already gone forward 
under Commandants Van der Venter, Bouwers, names to be 
heard of again, and Kirsten, all of whom contrived to land 
their commands, considerably damaged, on the safe side of 
the Bloemfontein railway between August 8th and 12th, for 
the most part between Brandfort and Eensgevonden. On the 
15th Smuts himself arrived at the Modder river, to find that 
Elliot had withdrawn to one side, leaving only the Constabulary 
blockhouses to oppose him. Making the passage near Abrahams 
Kraal, he inclined south-eastward up the Kaal Spruit, over the 
Riet, which Sir C. Knox had by this time almost relinquished, 
and skirted the railway seeking for a crossing place. This he 
found near Jagersfontein Road about August i8th, where- 
upon he set his face for Smithfield and Zastron. Meanwhile 
his detachments, having broken through the Bloemfontein — 
Thabanchu line of blockhouses at Ramahutshe on the night 

* Report of Lieut. -General E. L. Elliot. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 265 

of the 12th, were making all haste southward towards the 
appointed rendezvous near Zastron. Smuts, hurrying thither Smuts and 
to join them, found unexpected company in the shape of Krit- meet^o^the 
zinger, breathless from the " desperate close " of French's Orange, 
columns in Cape Colony, which he had just, when near the last 
gasp, thrown off.* Suddenly, therefore, the country east of 
the railway between Bloemfontein and Norval's Pont, lately 
the least troublesome area of the Orange River Colony, became 
the focus of the enemy, and all the British strategy had to 
conform. 

This was an example of the salient disability of a regular army 
in contest with a horde of guerrillas manoeuvring about their 
own country. Seldom in the course of the whole campaign in 
South Africa was it possible for the British Commander-in- 
Chief, or any of his lieutenants, to select their own sites for battle 
or ground for manoeuvre. Well-nigh invariably these spots 
were dictated by the enemy, insignificant numbers of whom led 
great armies whither they would, so essential was it to keep in 
toucli with them, so impossible to confine them. One result is 
that the larger force, even when most successful, always labours 
under an appearance of humiliation as it is thus bandied about 
at the will of handfuls of evasive freebooters. It is not easy for 
the troops to bear in mind that it is only an appearance of 
inferiority, that no seeds of victory lie in soil which is ever in 
motion, and that the more rapid the enemy's evolutions, the 
more desperate is in reality his case, the fate of one who can 
survive only so long as he can gallop being certain. 

Now, therefore, every column received an impetus in a fresh I'lans to 
direction. Elliot's division was to strike across the path of ^ '^ °^ 
Smuts' descending detachments for the Brandwater basin, where 
B. Campbell, from Sir L. Rundle's command, was at this moment 
in command of the district. Sir H. Rawlinson, who had parted 
from EUiot at Glen, was directed on Dewetsdorp ; Thomeycroft 
was sent to Pompey Siding ; Pilcher a week later to Bethulie ; 
Lord Basing was railed from the Western Transvaal to 

* See Chapter XIII., page 238. 



266 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Springfontein ;* Damant was withdrawn from Bruce Hamil- 
ton's Philippolis and Fauresmith operations, and Hart's troops 
co-operated from both sides of Aliwal North whither Western 
had already come by train. All these combined to deal with 
Smuts and Kritzinger, and especially to forestall the former at 
the drifts of the Orange. There was every prospect of success, 
and the preliminary movements of the various columns were 
well designed to convert the enemy's rendezvous into a veritable 
cul de sac. By August 25th Western and Pilcher, the latter 
with two colimins under Lieut. -Colonel H. d'A. P. Taylor and 
Major K. E. Lean, covered the Orange river from Bethulie to 
Aliwal North, Hart carrying on the line eastward. Thomey- 
croft was at Commissie Bridge with orders to cross the Caledon 
and sweep up the left bank towards Runnymede, and towards 
Sir H. Rawlinsoi\, who had taken over the chase from Barker 
and Pine-Cofiin, and was to come from Dewetsdorp by Jammers- 
berg Drift down the same side of the stream. Damant and 
Lord Basing were about Boesmans Kop and Carmel, north-west 
and south-west of Smithfield. 

The whole success of the manoeuvre depended upon the 
eastern columns keeping out towards the Basuto border so as 
to be always outside the commandos, which were known to be 
concentrating about Zastron. These tactics the Commander- 
in-Chief, with a clearer eye for the situation than his subordin- 
ates on the spot, repeatedly enjoined from Pretoria. But the 
natural difficulty of organising quickly combined action for a 
special purpose amongst a number of separated units, always 
one of the nicest problems of the military art, was here doubled 
first by the neglect to appoint a single and supreme commander 
on the scene of action, next by the clouds of vagrant Boers 
who floated around Smuts' place of concentration and utterly 
obscured the main issue. Meeting the enemy everywhere, unable 
either to count them or discover any general aim to their move- 
ments, and lacking central control themselves, the column 
commanders could never be certain whether they had Smuts, 

* See Chapter XI., page 195. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 267 

Kritzinger, or a mere field-cometcy in front of them. That the 
Boer leaders had been marked down in a certain spot on a cer- 
tain day was of very little assistance ; for this was warfare in 
which a report only a night old might be nearly a hundred miles 
wide of its reckoning. As a consequence, most of the columns 
so exhausted themselves with skirmishing that at a critical 
moment they had to put in to the railway to refit, Sir H. Raw- 
linson to Edenburg, Thomeycroft to Aliwal North, Damant 
and Lord Basing to Springfontein, leaving Kritzinger to recruit 
and Smuts to collect his men and reconnoitre the Orange for a 
crossing place in peace. Still there was time to effect the pur- 
j)ose. Smuts, misliking the preparedness of the troops along 
the Orange, made no movement. On September 2nd he was still 
north of the river, with Sir H. Rawlinson coming down upon 
him by Sweetwater, and Thomeycroft well placed to cut him 
off at Willemsfontein, south-east of Rouxville, where he had 
been since the day before, with Lord Basing on liis left at Jurys 
Baken. But Thomeycroft came no further, and Smuts saw that 
he must seize his opportunity. Bidding adieu to Kritzinger, 
who promised to follow him as soon as possible, he crept towards Smuts crosses 
the river, and on the night of September 3rd crossed with nearly rivcr,™"^^ 
500 men at a weak spot which he had discovered, namely, Kiba •'^P'' 3fd. 
Drift, hard by the Basuto border. In timing his crossing his skill 
or fortune attained its cUmax. At that moment Hart, in 
accordance with instructions received on September ist to keep 
the enemy well to the north of the Orange, was loosening his 
watch over the river in order to throw troops across in the direc- 
tion of Zastron.* Most of his mobile units, namely. Western, 
Lieut. -Colonels the Hon. A. Murray (Lord Lovat's Scouts), and 
M. G. Moore (Connaught Rangers M.L) were no further east- 
ward than the drift at Driefontein, on the northern side of which 
they were deploying prior to an advance, and to cover the tardy 
passage of their transport over the bad drifts behind. This 

* For further reference to Major-General Hart's part in these events, see also 
Chapter XV., page 287. As has Iwen the case with other portions of this work, the 
affairs there described so closely overlap those under review in the present chapter 
that some repetition is unavoidable. 



268 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

was nearly completed when a second order was sent to Hart 
(September 3rd) forbidding him to leave the river ; but it was 
then too late. His right flank was already turned, and Smuts, 
appearing from a country which Thomeycroft had on that very 
day reconnoitred and found clear as far as Elandskloof, i.e., 
twenty miles east of Rouxville, was over the river before Hart 
could recall and once more extend his troops. Now the invader 
had burned his boats. Leaving the bevy of columns at a loss 
Smuts invades behind him, he penetrated into Cape Colony, braving one peril 
Cape Colony, ^^^^j. another, and for mimy months after provided for the British 
province that most unhappy chapter in its history which has 
been written in another place.* 

Thus vanished an opportunity as fair as had ever been offered 
of demolishing one of the main props of the Boer campaign. 
The British combination had signally, almost unaccountably 
failed. Allowing for all the difficulties of intelligence, com- 
munication, imd for the bewilderment of Boer diversions, the 
task had been far more simple than many which had been 
carried to success by these very columns. Throughout his 
subsequent long career of adventure Smuts was never to be in 
more danger than he had been at its outset, and his cautious 
tactics of the next few days showed how thoroughly he was 
impressed by the narrowness of his escape. Yet it was not 
to be called escape. If the Boer leader had shown his heels, 
it was not to avoid a superior opponent, but rather to invade 
his enemy's own territory. Throughout the campaign in South 
Africa there was scarcely a more striking feat of perseverance, 
daring and good fortune than Smuts' ride of 300 miles, through 
one British army after another from the Gatsrand up to and 
over the banks of the Orange. 

* See Chapter XV., and subsequent chapters on Cape Colony. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 269 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 





8 




ri 


S 








^'S 


3 








&• 


3 S 







COLUMN. 


-0 


1 


— g 


c 






c 

s 


s 


il 













3.y 


S 




July— August, 1901. 












Ll-CoI. W. H. Williams 
Lt.-Col. the Hon. J. H. G. B>tib 


449 
1,014 


— 


2 
3 


I 


1 Part of Major - General 
Bruce Hamilton's com 
j mand. 


U.-Col. T. D. Pilcher 


1,182 


— 


5 


1 


1 Maior-General Sir C. E. 
f Knox in command. 


Col. A. W. Thorneycroft 


>.345 


— 


5 


2 


Lt.-Col. C. St. G. Henry 


542 


260 


3 


I 




Major A. Pari.s 


273 


94 


3 


I 




Col. A. N. Rochfort 

Lt.-Col. L. E. du Moulin 
Lt-Col. W. L. White 


441 
500 


600 


3 
3 

2 


— 


Part of Major - General 
Bruce Hamilton's com- 
mand. 


Lt.-Col. J. W. G. Dawkins ... 


659 


— 


3 


— 


Brig. -Gen. K. G. Broadwood ... 


81s 


— 


5 


3 


• 


Col. E. C. Bethune (later Col. 










Lieut. - General E. L. 


Lowe) 


1.618 


— 


5 


2 


Elliot in command. 


Lt.-Col. H. de B. de Lisle ... 


1,005 


— 


3 


2 




Maj.-Gen. B. B. R. Campbell ... 

Col. G. E. Harley 

Lt.-Col. C. T. Reay 


357 
275 
254 


1,204 
610 
60s 


5 
3 
3 


2 
2 
2 


Lieut. • General Sir L. 
Rundle in command. 


Col. F. S. Garratt 


900 


269 


5 


1 




Brig.-Gen. G. M. Bullock 




1,200 


2 


2 




Lt.Col. M. F. Rimington 


>.53o 


262 


5 


— 




Major J. H. Dainant 

Major S. B. Smith 


57 « 


99 


3 


I 




478 




2 


2 


Lieut -Colonel W. H. 
Williams in command. 


Major G. N. Going 


500 


— 


2 


— 


Col. A. W. G. LowryCole ... 
Lt.-Col. H. d'A. V. Taylor ... 


505 


— 


2 


— 




726 


— 


2 


I 




Lt.-Col. F. C. Minchin 


695 


— 


3 


2 




Major K. E. Lean 


477 


— 


3 


1 




Ma^or F. C. Lloyd 

Major H. C. Copeman 

Lt-Col. W. G. B. Western ... 


210 


— 




— 




457 


— 


2 


— 




641 


211 


3 


— 




Col. Sir H. Rawlinson 


1.09s 


i8s 


4 


— 




Major J. E. Pine-Coffin (later 












Holmes) 


834 


50 


3 


I 




Lt.-Col. J. S. S. Barker 


500 




3 


— 




Col. Sir J. Jervis- White- Jer\Ls 

Major F. C. Lloyd 

Lt-Col. F. F. Colvin 


360 
210 
410 


— 


5 


— 


Brig. -General 11. C. O. 
Plumer in command. 


Lt-Col. H. M. Owen 


350 


— 


2 


1 




Lt.-Col. Lord Basing 


500 


— 


3 


I 




Lt.-Col. the Hon. A. Murray ... 


250 


— 


2 


I 


Maior-General A. FitzR. 
Hart in command. 


Lt-Col. M. G. Moore 


250 


2SO 


— 


I 



270 



CHAPTER XV. 

EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY* 

{Continued from Chapter XIII.). 

SEPTEMBER — OCTOBER, I9OI. 

Smuts in Cape That Smuts had been so long redeeming the pledges given to 
Co ony. y)q y^^^ .j^ Januaryt and February bore witness to the extreme 

difficulty under which the Boers were now waging war, for there 
was not to be found amongst the commandos a leader more 
sanguine and ardent than he. His promise of co-operation 
had been ratified four months later at the historic meeting on 
the Waterval.J Of the several plans of campaign born of that 
conference the participation of the Transvaalers in the invasion 
of Cape Colony was one of the most definite. De la Rey, the 
upholder of the cause in the Western Transvaal, was originally 
charged with the mission, and he left the council revolving 
schemes of shepherding the manifold but scattered sympathies 
of the British colony. Smuts was only to precede him with 
a small force for reconnoitring purposes, and to discover the 
hiding-places of disloyalty. But De la Rey found elsewhere 
full scope for liis tremendous activity, and in the multitude of 
adventures in his own districts had neither need nor time to 
seek others beyond the frontier. To Smuts alone of the Trans- 
vaal Generals fell the duty of keeping compact with the Free 
Staters across the Orange, and, as has been seen, they waited 
long for his appearance. 

* See map No. 63. f See Chapter IV., page 75. 

X See Chapter XII., page 206. 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 271 

Unlike De Wet, six months earlier, he had kept the secret of 
his plan of campaign. His start from the Gatsrand and his 
difficult passage through the Orange River Colony* had not 
attracted undue interest, at any rate from his opponents, for 
neither his plans nor his striking personaUty were as yet 
revealed. Yet both were dangerous. With many of his fellows Character of 
Smuts shared the patriotism, the keen observation, the tactical """ ^' 
opportunism, the mingled daring and caution which kept the 
cause of the Republics alive long after the States themselves 
were dead. But his observation was enlarged by a certain 
statesmanship and prescience which marked him out from 
those whose vision was bounded by the line of kopjes 
within artillery range. His patriotism was remarkable chiefly 
for the tinge of romance and enthusiasm which made it glow 
amidst the somewhat sombre prepossession of the majority 
of his fellow-countrymen. Sharing to the full their in- 
extinguishable hope and bitterness, his hope rose to a higher 
and brighter flame, and his animosity against his country's 
enemies was ennobled by a species of soldiership or chivalry 
to which all but a few of his compatriots were contemp- 
tuous, or strangers. Such was the man who, already much 
exhausted, arrived on the left bank of the Orange river at 
dawn on September 4th, 1901. With him returned Fouch^ 
with a band of about 100 men ; another party of the same 
strength had preceded them two days earlier and joined Myburg, 
who was facing Monro, east of Rhodes. Kritzinger, left at 
Zastron, was to follow shortly. 

Smuts found affairs in Cape Colony in the position described situation in 
in Chapter XIII. In the south, Scheepers and Theron main- ^'«l^ Colony, 
tained the cause almost within sight of the sea, and with good 
hopes of success, for they were ransacking the most fruitful 
fields of disloyalty in all the colony. The north-west was still 
harried by roving bands, to whom Maritz had not yet succeeded 
in giving a definite aim. Elsewhere, the capture of Lotter and 
the northward retreat of most of the other commandos had 

• See Chapter XIV. 



hesitates. 



272 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

practically demolished the Boer campaign. Of the difficulties 
which had arisen between the British Commander-in-Chief and 
the Cape Government, Smuts may have had no knowledge. The 
question was, as before, on the subject of martial law, especially 
at the ports, and it is sufficient to say that whilst doubling Lord 
Kitchener's difficulties in dealing with his anomalous and com- 
plicated campaign in Cape Colony, it exasperated those who 
might have done much to remove them. The Commander-in- 
Chief, with his thousand pre-occupations at Headquarters, 
French with all his energy in the field, and at the capital the 
Governor, Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson, striving with tact and 
industry to keep the equipoise between the insistent demands of 
the military and the dread of suspended animation on the part 
of the Legislature, all these thus found themselves confused and 
weakened at a moment when in the absence of such obstacles 
Cape Colony might have been swept clear. 
Smuts Smuts plunged at once into difficulties. Though his designs 

on the colony had not long been known , the warning was 
enough. The three days following on his passage of the 
river, days which he spent in unnecessarily cautious fencing 
with the few local troops who stood in his way, saw the 
convergence of six bodies of troops towards his line of 
march. On September 6th Sir J. French ordered the column 
of Lieut. -Colonel B. Doran from Cradock and the 17th 
Lancers from Steynsburg both to Molteno, Gorringe from 
Venterstad to Storm berg. Pilcher's column, composed of two 
forces imder Lieut. -Colonel H. d'A. P. Taylor and Major K. E., 
Lean, which had followed Smuts from the Orange River Colony, 
was detrained at Burghersdorp on the 7th. Monro, who was at 
Dordrecht, hurried out to cover Barkly East. Whilst these 
movements took place Smuts, leaving Fouch6 and Myburg 
behind in the Rhodes district, came southward, still skirmishing 
with levies of which he greatly exaggerated the strength and 
importance. On the 8th he was east of Dordrecht, and here, 
rather than attempt the Storm Bergen, which he imagined to 
be full of troops, he decided to break westward across the 
railway into the interior of the colony. 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 273 

Up to this point Smuts had evinced nothing either of his 
wonted fire or tactical ability. Ill-informed, and not yet 
acquainted with the country, chastened by his experiences in 
the Orange River Colony, and over-heedful, perhaps, of tales of 
hair-breadth escapes told by the recent invaders whom he had 
met rejoicing at their safety on the right bank of the Orange, 
he saw British troops everywhere, and confessed himself to be 
" completely hemmed in " and " practically hopeless "* of a situ- 
ation which would have daunted not at all one of the seasoned 
marauders of the colony. Although he was in reality by no 
means surrounded, the place and moment adopted by Smuts 
for his turn westward might well have carried him straight into 
a cluster of columns. At AUemans Poort was Gorringe, with 
Taylor in line with him at Stryd Poort, on one side, and Monro 
at Vogel Vlei on the other, whilst Pilcher at Burghersdorp and 
B. Doran at Molteno formed a strong second line. Nevertheless, 
on September loth Smuts made an attempt on the very centre 
of this combination, was repulsed by Gorringe and Taylor, and 
next day was caught in retreat by Monro, who attacked him 
with five squadrons and a gun. This force the Boers were able 
to hold in check until dark, when they retired northward, leaving 
Monro, who had lost ten killed and wounded, to bivouac on the 
Holle Spruit. Now Smuts exhibited one of those sudden 
miracles of judgment and endurance which had so often set at 
nought the closest meshes woven by surrounding columns. 
Monro in the course of his pursuit had opened a narrow interval 
between his left flank and the railway, to fill which B. Doran 
was marching eastward from Molteno. In a few hours the 
Sterkstroom — Dordrecht railway would be barred ; but before 
the gap closed Smuts, though he had already fought continually 
for twelve hours, led his force at full speed between Monro and 
Doran, crossed the branch railway near Halseston, then rushing Smuts dashes 
south-westward through a storm of rain, broke over the main 
line at Putters Kraal station and did not draw rein until, at 
daylight on September nth, he stood on the heights of the 

* Report to the Boer Headquarters by Assistant-Commandant-General J. C. Smuts. 
VOL. IV. 18 



southward. 



274 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Wildschuts Berg, more than forty miles from his starting-point. 
A party of twelve of his burghers who lost their way during the 
march were no more seen ; but like those fragments which are 
cast off by certain organisms, they began a separate existence, 
and even gathered around themselves a small fresh commando. 
Their loss was more than counter-balanced by the arrival in 
Smuts' laager of a band of local rebels, and these men, with their 
intimate knowledge of the country, made possible the certainty 
and celerity of movement to which Smuts was shortly to owe 
his safety. 

Lieut. -General Sir J. French, who had been at Dordrecht, re- 
turned to Stormberg on finding his net empty, and made fresh 
dispositions. He had now to deal with a double problem. In 
the north Fouch^ and Myburg were too dangerous a threat to 
the river guards to be ignored, and French ordered both Monro 
and Pilcher with his twin command to operate against them 
from Dordrecht. The pursuit of Smuts was committed to 
Haig, who was given the columns of Gorringe and B. Doran, 
and the 17th Lancers, which had been railed to Tarkastad, 
Scobell also being ordered from Graaff Reinet to Cradock to 
block the west. 
Puisuitof On September 15th Smuts made a short westerly movement 

Smuts. ^Q jj neighbouring height, Bamboes Hoek. There he was engaged 

on the 1 6th by Gorringe, who with B. Doran had hurried after 
him from Putters Kraal. Smuts fell back slightly southward, 
intending to make for Maraisburg. The 17th Lancers, relieved 
by Doran at Tarkastad, had been posted in squadrons along 
the Elands river, less with the object of denying the drifts which 
were now unfordable from the incessant rain, than of blocking 
the southern exits of the mountains at Elands Poort and the 
adjacent passes. But Smuts was determined to gain his free- 
dom. The numerical weakness of each particular detachment 
on the Elands river practically assured him of victory in an 
attack on any one of them, and when on the morning of the 
17th he heard that the stream had fallen shghtly, he sent his 
men forward against the nearest post. This was at Modder- 
fontein, where " C." ' squadron 17th Lancers, under Captain 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 275 

V. S. Sandeman, 130 strong, with a g-pr. gun and a Maxim, was 
disposed on a long double-topped kopje which lay in the angle 
formed by the left bank of the Elands and a small tributary 
spruit which joined it from the east. The kopje faced north- 
ward, looking across a gentle slope to where, about 2,000 yards Attack on 
distant, the river made a short bend eastward parallel to the fontei" 
face of the position. Another thousand yards across this bend, Sept. 17th, 
that is, about 3,000 from his position, Sandeman had placed a 
post in observation of the mouth of Elands Poort. In rear of 
the kopje he had pitched his camp, behind which again, almost 
on the margin of the tributary streamlet, stood Modderfontein 
farmhouse. Four miles to the southward was the camp of 
another squadron, "A.," of the 17th Lancers. The chief defect 
of Sandeman's position consisted in the proximity to its left 
flank of a commanding hill, which rose some 800 yards distant 
on the other side of the river. Until mid-day on the morning of 
the 17th a fog obscured the encircling hills, and taking advan- 
tage of this, Smuts first surrounded Modderfontein at a distance 
too great for discovery by the cavalry patrols, who at noon 
reported " all clear." The earliest warning of the enemy's 
approach came from the observation post on the right bank of 
the river about 12.30 p.m., and Sandeman at once sent forward 
a troop to reconnoitre. The patrol duly gained touch with a 
mounted band to the northward, but the strange horsemen were 
seen to be wearing khaki clothing, and were accepted at once 
as the forerunners of Gorringe's cohuiin, which was known to 
be marching from that direction. A volley from the saddle 
which killed two troopers and a few horses revealed the truth, 
and both the patrol and the observation post were quickly borne 
back into camp. The Boers then crowded along the bank of 
the Elands river, where, as described, it curved to face Sande- 
man's position, and opening a hot fire from the bushes, extended 
southwards, and occupied also the above-mentioned hill on the 
right bank, thus gaining a dominating fire position within medium 
range of the kopje. The cavalry rephed with vigour, and though 
the Maxim soon jammed and the fire was too severe for the 
service of the 9-pr., the Boers were effectually held, not only in 

VOL. IV. 1 8* 



2;6 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICx^. 

front, but on the right flank, where the narrow eastern end of 
the kopje fell directly to the bush-covered plain. All seemed 
to be going well \vith the squadron when a misfortune occurred 
against which no care or courage could have guarded. 

About I p.m., when the action in front was at its height, a 
party of horsemen were seen approaching the farm on the 
southern foot of the kopje. These, like the surprisers of the 
patrol an hour before, wore timics and breeches of khaki, and 
as they were riding straight from the direction of the camp of 
'* A." squadron so near to the southward, there was no man on 
the position but imagined them to be comrades who had been 
brought to the scene by the soimd of the firing. They were, 
in fact, a strong body whom Smuts had sent roimd under cover 
of his diversions on the opposite side, and their unimpeded 
approach sealed the fate of the already fully occupied squadron 
on the hill. Gaining the cover of the farm enclosures the 
burghers first poured an annihilating fire into the backs of the 
defence, then rushed in to close quarters. A handful of men 
whom Sandeman led in person to check the attack were all shot 
down, the officer himself being wounded. The rest fixed 
bayonets and defended themselves stubbornly until overcome 
by the superior numbers which fell upon them from all sides. 
When the kopje passed into the enemy's hands four officers and 
twenty-eight men had been killed and two officers and fifty-one 
men wounded, or three-quarters of the nimiber actually on the 
position, for some of the patrols sent out in the early morning 
had not returned. The Boers, who had lost about thirty killed 
and wounded, then proceeded to destroy the camp and wagons. 
At that moment '* A." squadron, whose commander. Captain 
N. T. Nickalls, had only been informed about i p.m. of Sande- 
man's situation, came in sight moving at full speed from the 
south. Making straight for the key of the position, Nickalls 
crossed the river, which was now just passable, and attacked 
and took the hill on the right bank. The effect was immediate. 
The Boers hurriedly made off towards Elands Poort, leaving 
the guns untouched, but driving before them three wagons con- 
taining dead and wounded, and all the surviving horses of the 



Smuts. 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 277 

squadron, of which half had been already killed before the enemy 
closed upon the kopje. 

Thus turned back, and finding himself still more effectually Pursuit of 
barred from the south by a westerly extension by B. Doran from 
Tarkastad, Smuts, with Gorringe in pursuit, strove to gain 
Maraisburg. But the local fencibles from that town denied all 
approach to the Bamboes mountains, and when on September 
i8th Doran closed up to Vlakpoort, the 17th Lancers to Kriegars 
Kraal, and Gorringe from Wildschuts Berg up to the head of 
the Elands river. Smuts appeared to be in a quandary. But by 
a manoeuvre as bold and prompt as his recent feat at Dordrecht 
he quickly led his commando into the open. Espying the nar- 
rowing gaps between the columns, he wriggled between Gorringe 
and Doran on the night of the 19th, and raced southward with- 
out a halt for the Winter Berg, which he attempted to traverse 
on the 2 1 St. But again the local forces turned him back, this 
time with loss, and doubling westward Smuts retired into the 
hills about Elands Drift on the Cradock — Tarkastad road. 
Scobell immediately sallied out from Cradock against him, the 
pursuing columns approached, and once more Smuts saw liimself 
being surrounded. Once more, however, he achieved salvation 
by his resolution and the skill of his guides. On the night of 
September 23rd, when all but hemmed in, his rebel allies led 
him over the Winter Berg by an almost unknown bridle-path 
east of Quaggas Nek. A hundred horses succumbed by the 
way, but the commando, which had amply horsed itself by the 
success at Modderfontein, moved at incredible speed upK)n Ade- 
laide. Then was resumed a chase such as had seldom awakened 
even the scoured counties of Cape Colony. Beaten back by 
the skilfully disposed local forces, first from Adelaide, next from 
Seymour, then from Carlisle Bridge on the (ireat Fish river, 
Smuts ran fast up the left bank of that stream and burst across 
the railway at Sheldon. Gorringe, now with both his own 
colimin and the 17th Lancers, foUowed hard, and on the last 
day of September came up with the band, which had swung 
southward, at Driefontein in the Zuurberg. A sharp skirmish 
resulted in Smuts again disappearing southward into the 



27% THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Uitenhage district, Gorringe following on October ist. Mean- 
while B. Doran and Scobell, entrained by French's orders at Shel- 
don and Cookhouse respectively, steamed past the Zuurberg for 
Mount Stewart and Klipplaat on the Graaff Reinet line, in 
order to throw themselves between Smuts and the west, a notafcle 
use of the railway. Smuts, however, clung to the Zuurberg, 
liis movements being for some hours crippled from a curious 
circumstance. Some wild trees, bearing attractive but deadly 
fruit, lured him and his men to eat, whereupon Smuts and half 
his commando were attacked by illness, from which they had 
barely recovered when Gorringe's appearance necessitated a 
hasty move. With some of his suffering burghers tied to their 
horses. Smuts then fled northward, to be overtaken and driven 
on with loss on the morning of October 3rd at Brakfontein, 
where a dismoimted rush by the 17th Lancers destroyed one of 
his piquets. Next day Gorringe moved into Darlington, whence, 
in conjunction with the other columns, he so harassed the 
commando that on the 6th Smuts, who endeavoured for reasons 
which will appear later to gain an opening towards Port Eliza- 
Smuts divides beth, divided his force, sending half under Commandant Van der 
his orces. Venter towards Somerset East, whilst he himself with Command- 
ant Bouwers and the rest made for the (iraaff Reinet railway, 
which he reached and crossed near Marais Siding on October 8th. 
Scobell, who had been detached in pursuit of Smuts with the 
17th Lancers from Barroe on the 6th, passed through Marais a 
few hours behind him, hearing that the quarry had run by the 
north of Aberdeen. On the loth and nth Smuts was traced 
through Zeekoe Gat and Camdeboo to Sneeuw ; but Scobell, 
though he travelled ahnost without a rest by day or night, was 
still behind the Boer, who was now reported to be on the 
Murraysburg border to the north-west. Another night march 
on the 1 2th, the third in four days, brought the column upon a 
deserted laager. Smuts had now turned southward, and was 
flying down the Kariega River valley. For four days the hunt 
drove on, a munber of foundered horses and a few stragglers 
falling into Scobell's hands. On October i6th Smuts doubled 
westward near the junction of the Kariega and Salt rivers, and 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 279 

striking across towards Prince Albert, fell in with a certain Com- Smuts joined 
mandant S. Pypers, who was at the head of the force lately ^ Pypers. 
commanded by Scheepers, that leader having vanished from the 
scene in a manner soon to be described. Pypers was at this 
moment occupied in evading Crabbe, who was seeking him from 
Beaufort West, and as Scobell was now compelled to put into 
Prince Albert (October 20th) for supplies, Crabbe undertook 
the pursuit of the combined commandos of Smuts and Pypers, 
following them down the Kouka river, then through Kandos 
Poort and over the Groote Zwarte Bergen into the valley of the 
Olifants. The Boers then turned westward, and Crabbe, moving 
on Oudtshoom, combined with Kavanagh from Ladismith and 
the local troops extended from Willowmore to Prince Albert 
in an attempt to surround them. Incessant exertions along 
the Groote and Olifants rivers during the last week of October 
were brought to nothing by the commandos breaking out west- 
ward. On October 31st Smuts, with Pypers, after being chased Smuts enters 
up to Constable by Kavanagh, crossed the Cape railway at that cape Colony, 
place, and striking northward made for Sutherland and Calvinia. 
There he became absorbed in a fresh scheme of aggression 
which, slowly maturing under a strong and able leader, had 
influenced for weeks past the movements of every Boer leader 
in the midlands and south. But before describing the resulting 
events, it is necessary to pick up several threads which, having 
their origin in other parts, will be found to form part of the fabric 
of the new campaign in the west. 

First, then, to trace Van der Venter after his parting with Pursuit of 
Smuts on October 8th. To all appearances this commandant ^aJg^' 
had been abandoned to a certain fate. The terrible marching 
had all but exhausted his horses, and for the first four days of 
his isolation he circled desperately about Jansenville, pursued 
by B. Doran and by Lukin of the Cape Mounted Riflemen, who 
had succeeded Gorringe on the transference of the latter to a 
command in Egypt. MacAndrew, with a body of Cape Colonists, 
lay at Pearston, ready to turn the commando back into the 
arms of the columns ; and when on the loth the local force from 
Somerset East joined hands with MacAndrew by extending upon 



28o THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

strong positions along the mountains between Pearston and 
their own town, Van der Venter's fate looked to be sealed. 
But the Boer, bearing with the unerring tactical instinct of his 
race upon the line of least resistance, staggered up the valley 
of the Vogel river, and on the I2th suddenly presented himself 
before the Somerset East contingent, who with scarcely a show 
of resistance surrendered not only the passes in their charge, but 
their persons, horses, arms and equipment to the delighted 
commandant. Replenishing bandohers, and mounted on fresh 
hgrses, the commando sped on across the mountains, and on 
the 15th reached Garstlands Kloof, west of Cradock, whilst 
behind it MacAndrew, his rSle reversed, faced about ; Lukin 
was hurried ahead by train to Letskraal Siding between Graatt 
Reinet and Middleburg, and B. Doran on the other flank pursued 
directly by way of Cradock. But Van der Venter had no inten- 
tion of losing his so unexpectedly bestowed freedom. Drawing 
Lukin farther northward by advuncmg through Var Kens Kop 
and Spitz Kop to a position threatening the railway at Roode 
Hoogte, he suddenly (October i8th) doubled back and dashed 
westward across the hne at the very spot just quitted by Lukin. 
Doran was then ordered to stand on guard at Letskraal Siding, 
and Lukin, pressing on in pursuit, overtook the enemy, and by 
a night march on the 20th surprised him in laager seven miles 
south-west of New Bethesda. The commando barely escaped 
destruction, and flying in confusion, left fourteen prisoners and 
many horses in the hands of Lukin. Continuing the chase, Lukin 
came in sight of Van der Venter again on October 24th at 
Elands Poort, south-west of Richmond. Three days before 
this, it will be remembered, Scobell had come in from his 
hunting of Smuts to Prince Albert, whence on October 21st he 
was pushed up to Beaufort West by Sir J. French, who fore- 
saw Van der Venter's probable course. On receiving Lukin's 
report, French ordered Scobell still farther north to Victoria 
West Road, where he concentrated on the 25th facing Van der 
Venter, who was now moving cautiously upon the railway. 
During the day Scobell was informed that the Boers were making 
for Biesjes Poort. A night march to that place brought him to 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 2gi 

close quarters at 5 a.m. on the 26th, when an attack, somewhat 
prematurely delivered, turned Van der Venter back to the south- 
east. False information now misled Scobell, who took a line of 
pursuit too much to the west, whereupon Van der Venter, clinging Van der 
obstifiately to his determination to cross the line, dashed north- j^jq j^^ ^yg^t 
ward again and made for Victoria West. Lukin had meanwhile 
marched into Biesjes Poort, his horses and supplies alike ex- 
hausted. Not until the 29th could he recover mobility enough 
to follow with 350 men ; then Van der Venter, easily avoiding 
him, made good his point and his crossing at Victoria West, 
and like Smuts steered his course with fresh hopes towards 
the bestirring west. 

As he struck the line a small band under Commandant Malan Pursuit of 
and Judge Hugo, which had joined him during the flight from ' **"' 
New Bethesda, parted company again and made for Willow- 
more. This party had been led by Hugo into the colony on 
September nth and, after being reinforced by Malan with the 
remnants of his veterans left from the adventures of the four 
previous months, had fought and stalked its way southward, 
surviving a host of narrow escapes at the hands of the cavalry 
from De Aar, the troops of Lund's column, and the garrisons 
of the blockhouses upon the railways. At one time not a 
burgher of the party remained horsed ; at another all were in 
hiding in kloofs and caves ; indeed, did space permit, how 
much might be written of the romantic adventures and the 
extraordinary tenacity of the score or so of weather-beaten rille- 
men who greeted Van der Venter's worn band, to vanish as 
suddenly as they had appeared. Nor is such an account willingly 
foregone, for it would depict in unmistakable colours the charac- 
ter of a race of lighting men of whom it is safe to say that their 
primitive peculiarities will soon be forgotten. Not alone of the 
soldier peoples of the world will the Boers, absorbed in the deep, 
calm waters of the pax britannica, invoke memory alone for the 
violent currents which gave to them character, and to their 
opponents a task of such enormous difficulty that rival nations, 
which began by gibing at a bungled task, ended by thanking 
fortune that it was not theirs to accomplish. The amazing 



282 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

commingling of qualities which marked the burgher on commando, 
all guided by eyes keen as those of eagles to discern everything 
but foredoomed failure, nowhere is this more to be kept in mind 
than in studying the necessarily inanimate category of operations 
which must serve to compose the history of the campaign in 
Cape Colony, for only thus is the magnitude of the task, and 
the devotion of those who laboured at it, to be grasped. 
Malan's There were few Boer leaders whose liberty might become 

characteristics, j^^j.^ dangerous than Malan. Possessing an intimate knowledge 
of the coimtry, a knowledge gained in innumerable adventures, 
not one-half of which can be referred to, in well-nigh every 
county of Cape Colony, Malan had in addition the peculiar 
faculty of appearing after every disaster with a fresh following 
many leagues distant from where he had seemed to have been 
crushed out of existence. He was besides a notorious wrecker 
of trains, little less dreaded than Hindon in the Northern 
Transvaal. French accordingly determined not to lose sight of 
him, and observing him separate from Van der Venter at the 
railway, ordered B. Doran from Willowmore to keep touch 
with the band, which numbered no more than twenty-five men. 
At dawn on November 6th Doran closed with it, forty miles to 
the west of Willowmore. Malan had now been strengthened 
by a junction with Lategan, another wandering marauder of 
the same type as himself, and the forces of both were securely 
ensconced in the bed of a spruit. They soon made off, how- 
ever, though not before B. Doran, who rode at the head of his 
men, had been woimded by their first volley, his horse being 
killed. Lieut. -Colonel W. Doran, the President of the Military 
Court at Graaff Reinet, was then summoned to replace his 
namesake in command of the column, which pressed after Malan, 
Malan breaks Hugo and Lategan in a north-westerly direction. Like the rest 
ewes. ^£ ^j^^^j. comrades, these parties now hastened their steps 
towards the west. Passing through Prince Albert, W. 
Doran vainly pursuing, on November 13th they crossed the 
Cape Town railway above Fraserburg Road station, and ten 
days later were deep in Sutherland, where for the moment 
they must be left. 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 283 

To retrace Scheepers and Theron, the harriers of the south, 
it is necessary to revert to the early days of September, when 
the Ladismith and Gudtshoom districts were crossed and 
recrossed by their tracks and those of Beatson's leash of columns 
in pursuit. 

Theron may be briefly accounted for. It will be remembered Pursuit of 
how, on September 2nd, his descent upon Gudtshoom had ^*^^'^""- 
brought Kavanagh to Willowmore whilst the rest of Beat- 
son's columns devoted themselves to Scheepers. On the 4th 
Kavanagh moved upon Gudtshoom, whereupon Theron, forcing 
the passage of the Attaquas mountains by Robinson Pass, 
drew on towards Mossel Bay. But he was not destined to 
appear in a British port, though the report that he had achieved 
this crowning feat delighted for a moment the Boer Head- 
quarters. Caught by Kavanagh at Brandwacht on the 9th, 
Theron was driven westward over the Gouritz river at Otters 
Hoek, running in such haste that he dropped fifty-two horses 
and much of his equipment on the road, besides losing several 
killed and wounded. On the 12th Kavanagh struck him again, 
and Theron sped on through Riversdale. On the night of the 
i2th a despatch for Kavanagh from Lieut. -Colonel Burke, the 
officer in command of the local troops in this district, fell into 
the hands of Theron, who gleaned from it that Heidelberg, which 
stood in his way, was but weakly held. Accordingly on the 
evening of September 13th he delivered a sharp attack on the 
township, which was defended by only twenty-eight men of the 
4th West Yorkshire regiment, under Major Sir W. H. Mahon. 
Burke himself, who had already shown much promptitude and 
resource in the handling of his troops against Scheepers, was also 
present, and stoutly supported by his men, kept off Theron, 
and held his own until, on Kavanagh coming up from the east, 
the commando beat a hasty retreat, leaving several dead and 
wounded. Kavanagh pursued through Barrydale until the 17th, 
when he was forced to go into Swellendam to replenish supplies 
exhausted by a fortnight's incessant marching. Alexander 
from Laingsburg took up the chase, but was unable to head 
Theron. Wyndham, too, at Prince Albert, received orders 



284 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

to follow Theron ; but his participation was prevented by an 
incident which illustrates the difficulties of campaigning in these 
regions. It was necessary to traverse a ravine eleven miles 
long, through which ran a road and a river, the former crossing 
the stream no fewer than twenty-three times within the defile. 
Soon after the column had entered, heavy rain fell, causing 
the water to rise so quickly that for twenty-four hours the troops 
were not only imprisoned but in considerable danger. On 
Theron breaks September 22nd Theron, drawn by the magnet in the west, 
into the west, crossed the Cape Town railway near Touws River, and disappeared 

into Sutherland. 
Pursuit of On September 9th Scheei)ers, headed from the Cape Town 

Scheepers. railway, turned inwards to the Klein Zwart Berg, and there 
showed the Boer's certain signal of distress by dividing his 
forces. He himself, followed by Atherton, moved with 150 
men towards Swellendam ; his detachment, 120 strong under 
Van der Merwe, went northward and was promptly encountered 
by Crabbe from Laingsburg, who on the loth fell upon the 
commando at Seven Weeks Foort, east of the Buffels river, 
and destroyed it. Van der Merwe himself and two others were 
killed and thirty-seven burghers captured at a loss to Crabbe of 
two officers and three men killed and wounded. 

On September 12th Crabbe was at Ladismith, whenc* he 
joined in the pursuit of Scheepers down the Groote river and 
across the Gouritz (i8th), whilst Atherton marched around by 
Oudtshoom to bar the hne of flight. In the entangled country 
lying on both sides of the Olifants river Scheepers turned and 
doubled for days. Theron, flying in the opposite direction, at 
this moment intensified Scheepers' predicament by his successful 
evasion of Alexander, who, with Kavanagh, was thus set free 
to turn upon Scheepers. It should be mentioned that the five 
columns in this area, namely, those of Crabbe, Alexander, 
Atherton, Wyndham and Kavanagh, now came under the 
single control of Major-General T. E. Stephenson, who had 
arrived at Matjesfontein on October ist. Scheepers strove like 
an imprisoned panther to break through the cage of troops and 
precipices which held him in. Displaying infinite skill he 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 285 

succeeded in avoiding contact with the columns until October 
5th, when Atherton, who was little less exhausted than his 
opponent, drove him between Barrydale and the Touws river 
into the arms of Kavanagh. With the loss of sixteen men and 
forty horses Scheepers ran for the Witte Berg, south of Matjes- 
fontein, dropping stragglers and 150 more horses in his flight. 
On the 8th he lost a further sixty horses to Kavanagh, who 
allowed him not a moment's respite. By the time he gained 
the mountains the commando was on the verge of collapse. 
Most of the burghers had been dismounted on the way and had 
disappeared into hiding. Only some fifty or sixty remained 
horsed, and rallying these, Scheepers, rather than remain in the 
dangerous vicinity of Matjesfontein, struggled across the Buffels 
river, hoping to get clear into Prince Albert. His prospects were 
not entirely desf>erate. Of the pursuing columns three, those 
of Wyndham, Kavanagh and Atherton, had now to refit, the 
two first at Touws River, the last-named at Montagu, preparatory 
to taking the field in the rapidly embroiling west. Only Alex- 
ander and Crabbe remained, and whilst the former followed 
behind Scheepers, Crabbe took train to Beaufort West, intending 
to come down upon him from the north. But now fortune dealt 
to Scheepers a blow more unkind than any to be feared from 
his foes. On the banks of the Dwyka river he fell ill with fever, 
and unable to ride further, was laid in Wolve Hoek farm, whilst 
the conmiando, led by P5rpers, went on towards the (iamka river. 
On October nth the loth Hussars, coming up to Wolve Hoek, Capture of 
found the long-sought guerrilla leader delivered into their hands Scheepers. 
by a common enemy. How great a disaster to his side was 
this sudden termination to Scheepers' career was confessed by 
President Stejm when he pronounced over the Commandant's 
departed leadership the following epitaph : — " From my heart I 
hope that it is not true, because he is nearly indispensable to 
our cause. If true, we will always with gratitude think of the 
good and inestimable service that he has done us, and honour 
his name."* 

* President Steyn to Commandant Hugo, October 27th, 1901. 



286 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Pursuit of 
Pypers. 



Operations in 
the north-east 
against 
Myburg and 
Fouche. 



Meanwhile Pypers fled on, and was soon free of all his 
pursuers but Crabbe, for Alexander was withdrawn into Prince 
Albert to refit, and being granted leave of absence, was replaced 
in conunand by Kavanagh, who in his turn handed over his 
o\\Ti column to Lieut. -Colonel C. E. Callwell, R.A. At the same 
time Atherton was relieved in command of his column, prior to 
its being broken up, by Major the Hon. H. G. Heneage (12th 
Lancers). Eventually, in the manner already related, Pypers 
attached himself to Smuts, and with him penetrated into the 
north-west, when Callwell took up the pursuit of both commandos 
in the Sutherland district. 

There remain unrecorded only the operations in the north- 
east of Cape Colony, where Hart from Aliwal North watched 
the Orange river, and Pilcher, recently arrived with his two 
columns from the Orange River Colony, and Monro dealt with 
Myburg and Fouch^ after the departure of Smuts for the south. 

On September 14th Pilcher reached Dordrecht, and was 
immediately strengthened by the arrival of another force, Lieut. - 
Colonel W. G. B. Western's, from the Orange River Colony. The 
commandos were still to the east of Jamestown, and Sir J. 
French desired that they should be pushed north-eastward, and 
prevented from moving across the Drakensberg into the interior 
of the colony. On the 17th Myburg of his own accord forwarded 
this plan by moving towards Barkly East and Rhodes. Pilcher 
then drew a line of guards over the passes from Rhodes down 
to Dordrecht ; but before this was complete Fouch6 placed him- 
self outside the barrier by crossing the mountciins into Elliot 
coimty, passing within artillery range across the front of Monro, 
who was marching on Barkly East. On September 23rd Monro 
heard that Myburg had destroyed a post of local troops, killing 
and wounding six and taking twenty-one prisoners at Lauriston. 
He accordingly moved thither, and in a runnmg fight inflicted 
nine casualties on Myburg, drove him east of Rhodes, and 
occupied that place himself on September 27th. Two days later 
Pilcher was recalled to the Orange River Colony. Monro, thus 
left alone, was ordered to draw in his detachments, in order to 
cover the completion of the line of blockhouses from Stormberg 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 287 

to Queenstown. Leaving 250 local troops facing the frontier 
at Barkly East, Monro fell back on Dordrecht on October 4th. 

Meanwhile Major-General Hart had received (September ist) Han's opera, 
from Lord Kitchener orders to fend off from the north (right) orange river, 
bank of the Orange river the bands which roved about the Orange 
River Colony watching for an opportunity to cross and add to 
the turmoil within Cape Colony. A modification of these in- 
structions, sent on the 3rd, did not reach Hart in time to be 
acted upon. Accordingly on September 3rd and 4th Hart 
threw across the stream troops drawn from Western's column, - 
Moore's mounted Connaught Rangers and a detachment of 
Lord Lovat's Scouts under Lieut. -Colonel the Hon. A. Murray, 
which he disposed at Beestkraal, Willemsfontein, Zandfontein 
and Quaggafontein in a series of mobile and extended drift- 
heads from Aliwal North round to the north of Herschel. With 
these he patrolled constantly towards the north, co-operating 
with the columns of Sir H. Rawlinson, Plumer and Thomey- 
croft, which were engaged in that part of the Orange River 
Colony. He was just too late, it will be seen, to prevent Smuts' 
the crossing both of Smuts, who, as related, contrived to ol^e.° 
pass around his right flank between Herschel and the 
Basuto border on the 3rd and 4th, and of smaller bodies 
who circumvented the opposite flank and entered Cape 
Colony between Aliwal North and Bethulie. Smuts, indeed, 
either by skill or fortune, made his dash at the precise 
moment when Hart, in the act of passing his troops and 
transport across the difficult drifts, was powerless to turn upon 
him.* In front of Hart there remained Kritzinger, who was 
about Zastron, awaiting a chance to follow Smuts, with whom 
he had recently arranged a plan of campaign. Hart had by 
this time left no passage unguarded, and Kritzinger saw that if 
he were to keep his pledge to Smuts he would have to force an 
entrance. Accordingly he reconnoitred the river line on Kritzinger 
September 19th from Vecht Kop, a height north-east of Zastron, [he^Orang" 
approaching within sight of the outposts of Lovat's Scouts, wlio 

• See also Chapter XIV., and footnote on page 267. 



288 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

held the drift -head opposite Quaggafontein. Murray, whose 
strength had been in any case insutficient for the proper 
guardianship of his allotted length of river, which included 
several drifts, happened at this time to be weaker than usual 
owing to the absence of one of his two squadrons, with a gun, 
which had been despatched under Major Lord Lovat to the relief 
of Lady Grey, that place being reported to be in danger from 
Smuts' descending conmiando. Lord Lovat had departed on 
the nth, and should have rejoined about the i6th ; but the 
rising of the river enforced a long detour to regain Quagga- 
fontein, and on the evening of the 19th he was still on the left 
bank near Elands Kloof Drift, with a difficult crossing before him 
and his draught animals exhausted by four days' hard marching. 
Arranging with Lord Lovat to join forces next morning, Murray, 
who had visited the detachment and inspected the drift in person, 
returned to his camp across the river at 8 p.m., hearing from his 
outposts that the Boer patrols seen during the day had returned 
to Vecht Kop. 

Murray's force on the right bank of the Orange river now 
consisted of one gun and 106 men. Of these more than one- 
third were on night duty, a party of sixteen being on guard at a 
drift three miles from his camp, twenty-one more on piquet 
and horse-guard at the camp. Ordering reveille to be sounded 
at 3 a.m., Murray retired to rest with small anticipation of being 
attacked, for the moon would shine brightly until midnight, 
and the Boers, having retired to their distant haunt at Vecht 
Kop, had very few hours of darkness in which to be dangerous. 
Kritzinger But immediately night had fallen Kritzinger led out his burghers 
^os^at^ ^^^ ^^ attack the enfeebled post at Quaggafontein. Marching by the 
Quagga- rays of the moon he was within striking distance just as the light 

^p\!"i'9th— failed ; he then ordered his men to dismount and advance in a 
20th, 1901. crescent on foot. Murray's outposts were completely surprised. 
Not until the Boers had penetrated to the horse-lines was a shot 
fired, and then a semi-circle of musketry from 400 rifles at short 
range called the sleepers in camp to arms and many of them 
to instant death. Murray and Captain the Hon. J. Forbes-Sempill 
(The Black Watch) did their utmost to retrieve the already 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 289 

complete disaster. The colonel rallied a few men around the 
machine gun, which maintained a hot discharge until a bullet, 
striking the muzzle, rendered it useless. The enemy then closed 
upon it, and Murray, refusing to surrender, was shot by a rifle 
held close to his breast. Forbes-Sempill, who was severely 
wounded, called some rifles together under cover of the wagons, 
and offered a stout resistance until, seeing the whole camp in the 
enemy's hands, he withdrew his party and led them in safety 
back to Lord Lovat's camp. The Boers then took entire Seizes the 
possession of the camp. Their stay was brief, and they made ^^ 
no attempt to push on across the Orange river, the main object 
of the expedition. About 1.30 a.m. they hastily abandoned their 
capture and retired towards Rouxville with many of Murray's 
horses and the gun, which was retaken by Thorneycroft next 
day.* 

Kritzinger's unaccoimtable hesitation removed all danger of 
his co-operation with Smuts, and it was followed by months of 
inactivity which drew bitter complaints from his exasperated 
superior. When at last he made a brief and fateful reappear- 
ance he found himself alone in the scenes of his old adventures, 
for the campaign in Cape Colony had completely shifted its axis 
in a manner soon to be described. 

• See Chapter XVIII., page 318. 



VOL. IV 19 



290 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 





i 




.si 


en 
§ 

.9 




COLUMN. 


1 

a 
9 


i 








1 




o> 


a 




September — October, 1901. 












Lt.-Col. G. F. Gorringe . . 


5 SO 


— 


3 


— 


\ 


OflScer Commanding 17 th 












Lancers . . 


440 


— 


— 


3 




Lt.-Col. S. C. H. Monro . . 


600 


— 


3 


2 




Lt.-Col. E. M. S. Crabbe . . 


445 


68 


2 


— 




Lt.-Col. H. J. Scobell 


652 


— 


3 


I 




Lt.-Col. B. Doran (later W. 












Doran) . . 


443 


— 


2 


— 




Lt.-Col. P. G. Wyndham . . 
Capt. F. T. Lund . . . . 


400 


— 


— 


— 




580 


— 


2 


— 




Lt.-Col. C. P. Crewe 


350 


— 


2 


2 




Lt.-Col. J. R. MacAndrew 


495 





— 


— 


Lieut. - Gen. Sir J. 


Officer Commanding at 










French in command. 


Conway . . 


150 


— 


I 


— 




Lt.-Col. A. G. Hunter- 












Weston 


700 


— 


4 


6 




Lt.-Col. C. T. McM. Kava- 












nagh (later C. E. Callwell, 












R.A.) 


400 


— 


I 


— 




Lt.-Col. H. Alexander 


400 


— 


I 


— 




Lt.-Col. T. J. Atherton 












(later the Hon. H. G. 












Heneage) . . 


500 


— 


2 




/ 


Lt.-CoJ. H. T. Lukin 


690 


— 


3 


I / 


Lt.-Col. the Hon. A.Murray 


250 


— 


2 




Major-Gen. A. FitzR. 
Hart directing. 


Lt.-Col. M. G. Moore 


250 


250 


— 


I 


Lt.-Col. H. d'A. P. Taylor . . 


538 


— 


2 




Col. T. D. PUcher in 
command. 


Maj. K. E. Lean . . 


505 


— 


3 




Lt.-Col. W. G. B. Western 


506 


89 


3 


^"- 





Note. — The columns of Lieut. -Colonels Crabbe, Alexander, Atherton, Wyndham 
and Kavanagh were controlled by Major-General T. E. Stephenson from October ist. 



291 



CHAPTER XVI. 

EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL* 

{Continued from Chapter XL). 

SEPTEMBER — NOVEMBER, I9OI. 

September, 1901, opened with the manoeuvre for which most of operations to 
the columns referred to in Chapter XI. had suspended all other enclose Kemp, 
operations. This was a comprehensive attempt to surround 
Kemp, who since his eruption at Vlakfontein had remained 
quiescent in the eastern arm of the Zwart Ruggens mountains, 
a threat alike to the communications of Rustenburg, Klerks- 
dorp, Ventersdorp, and all the western posts. By September 
1st a cordon was drawn partially around him through south 
and east by seven columns which were posted as follows from 
left to right : — Lord Methuen at Brakfontein, Hickie at Bank- 
drift, Fetherstonhaugh at Leeuwfontein, E. C. Ingouville Williams 
at Rietfontein, G. Hamilton at Zandfontein, Kekewich at Magato 
Nek, Allenby at Boschhoek, all facing inwards towards a central 
point about Blokkloof. But the enclosure, close as it was around 
two sides, was open on the others, and an attempt by Lord 
Methuen to prolong his watch to the unguarded western exits • 
resulted in the uncovering of those nearer at hand. Kemp was 
quick to utilise his chance. Seeing Lord Methuen's troops 
extending thinly northward, he dashed into the interval opening 
between them and Hickie's column, and made good his escape Kemp escapes, 
across the Elands river and out to the west. Lord Methuen's 
movement, however, which had been made in consequence of a 
report that the enemy was breaking out by Lindleys Poort, was 

• See map No, 59. 
VOL. IV. 19* 



292 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

not unproductive. An evading party was duly discovered and 
brought to book, being turned back with the loss of several 
killed and wounded and twenty-two prisoners. Kemp had left 
many more such bands behind him whilst he escaped. Three 
days' search by the columns produced more than 150 prisoners 
and a large amount of transport and supplies with which the 
Boer General had been imwilling to hamper himself. Neverthe- 
less, the main object of the manoeuvre had failed, and on Sep- 
The columns tcmber 4th the columns dispersed, Lord Methuen making for 
disperse. Zeerust, Allenby for Conmiando Nek, G. Hamilton for Olifants 
Nek; a few days later Fetherstonhaugh with Hickie and 
E. C. I. Williams marched for Ventersdorp, and Kekewich for 
Naauwpoort. Not without fighting did some of the columns 
make good their points. On September 5th Lord Methuen, 
skirting the Schurve Bergen near Wonderfontein, was waylaid 
by a commando in a most difficult valley, from which a long 
day's close fighting extricated him with the loss of eleven killed 
and twenty-six wounded, the enemy losing somewhat more in 
killed and wounded, and eleven prisoners besides. On the 9th 
Lord Methuen was in Zeerust, with twenty-three prisoners and 
some eighty wagons captured by himself and by von Donop, 
who had marched slightly detached to the southward, his own 
casualties during that time having been one officer and twelve 
men killed, two officers and twenty-eight men wounded. He 
then marched to Mafeking (September nth) where he refitted, 
and was for some time thereafter busied in filling Zeerust and 
Lichtenburg with supphes. Of the other column commanders 
, Allenby, when on his way to Commando Nek, received informa- 
tion of a laager situated at Schaapkraal, on the Sterkstroom 
river. On September 7th he surrounded it at dawn with 400 
cavalry and two guns, and though the bulk of the commando 
had already escajjed the net, twenty- two prisoners and all the 
camp equipment fell into his hands. On the nth Allenby 
reached Pretoria, whence he was moved into the Eastern Trans- 
vaal. G. Hamilton, after a brief stay at Olifants Nek, went to 
Ventersdorp on the 9th and Klerksdorp a week later, taking 
twenty-nine prisoners on the way ; soon after he was entrained 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 293 . 

for Natal. Fetherstonhaugh's columns, after having thoroughly 
searched the Zwart Ruggens, went into Ventersdorp on Sep- 
tember 13th with more than 100 prisoners captured during and 
since the movement against Kemp. At Ventersdorp Fetherston- 
haugh remained until the 21st, when he again set out northward 
in search of Kemp, who was reported about Tafel Kop. The 
height, however, was found unoccupied on September 22nd, 
though touch was made with a party of some 300 Boers next 
day beyond the Elands river, and again on the 25th at Winkel- 
haak, north of the Zeerust road, sharp fighting resulting at both 
places. Until the end of September Fetherstonhaugh continued 
to raid in this neighbourhood. On the last day of the month 
he received orders to reinforce Kekewich, who had had a 
critical adventure close to the north-east. 

After dropping out of the combination in the Zwart Ruggens 
Kekewich had remained a week at Naauwpoort, when orders to 
clear the northern slopes of the MagaUesberg about the Sterk- 
stroom river sent him again into the field. Marching through 
Olifants Nek, he had gone some way on the other side of the 
mountains when fresh orders were received (September 17th) to 
desist from his north-easterly movement, and to remain instead 
within touch of Olifants Nek, so as to be at hand to co-operate with 
Fetherstonhaugh against the hostile bodies whom that General 
had found to the west of Naauwpoort. Accordingly Kekewich 
remained some days at Rhenosterfontein, moved into Rusten- 
burg on the 22nd, and thence through Magato Nek to Moedwil 
on the Selous river, to the west of which his cavalry surprised 
and captured a laager of thirty-five Boers on the 24th. Kekewich 
then made a circuit northward along the Elands river to Lindleys 
Poort, and finding little to do, returned on September 29th to 
Moedwil, not a Boer being sighted on the march, which con- Kekewich at 
eluded at noon. On the evening of arrival Kekewich despatched ^*^^^"'- 
his supply column by Magato Nek and Rustenburg towards 
Naauwpoort where it was to refill. With the wagons as escort 
went one and a half companies of the ist Derbyshire regiment, 
and one and a half squadrons of the Scottish Horse. There 
remained with Kekewichjat Moedwil four companies of the ist 



294 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Derbyshire regiment, four and a half squadrons of the Scottish 
Horse, and two companies of Imperial Yeomanry, some 800 
men in aU, with three guns of the 28th battery R.F.A., and a 
Vickers-Maxim. These were in a camp about 600 yards from 
the east (right) bank of the Selous river. The operations of the 
past week had apparently fixed the enemy in the neighbour- 
hood at such insignificant strength that Kekewich, feeling safe 
Positionof his from molestatiou, had chosen his camp with more regard to 
*^'"'** convenience than to tactical efficiency. It was pitched on the 

sky-line of a rise and faced west, towards the Selous river which 
boimded the entire front, the Zeerust — Magato Nek road roughly 
marking the left (southern) flank. The drift which carried the 
track across the river was thus at the left (south-west) comer of 
the front of the encampment ; it was held by one and a half 
companies of the ist Derbyshire regiment, the remainder of 
whom were distributed in piquets over the road along the left 
flank and around to the left rear, where the line of outposts was 
taken up by the mounted troops through right rear and right 
to front again, the circle being completed by their junc- 
tion with the infantry at the drift. Although he had little 
expectation of being attacked, Kekewich had faced his men 
in the direction from which attack was most likely, namely, the 
west. Here the Selous river, as is common with such obstacles, 
provided a problem not easily to be decided. Beyond it lay 
broken and scrub-grown ground which required watching, though 
to do so properly would have demanded the assumption of the 
left (western) bank as a Une of observation, and possibly of 
resistance. With so few troops at his disposal Kekewich con- 
sidered this inadvisable. With the exception of a single in- 
fantry piquet posted in some native huts about 500 yards across 
the drift, he confined himself to his own bank of the river, 
which — though it lay dangerously near the camp, that is to 
say, both camp and outposts might be surprised together — was 
so steep and high that it seemed adapted to defence to the last 
against attack from across the river, and absolutely to forbid 
any lodgment by the enemy in the river bed itself. It appeared, 
in short, to do away with the necessity for surveillance of the 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 295 

cover on the opposite side of the stream, other than such as 
could be carried on by small patrols, which Kekewich ordered 
to go out from every piquet an hour before dawn, and by two 
stronger mounted reconnoitring parties which were to start to 
search north-west and south-west at 4.30 a.m. The repeated 
failure of precautions of this particular nature during the cam- 
paign may well throw doubt on their utility. Should the enemy 
be gathering for an assault, he will usually do so earlier in the 
night than the hour of starting of such patrols, which, neces- 
sarily slow of movement and restricted in observation, are 
likely to precipitate rather than anticipate the onslaught, 
and that close to the outposts from which they issue. Further, 
in such an event the patrols themselves, moving in the open, 
must almost certainly be lost, and had far better be within 
the outposts, which they can usually in any case do Uttle to warn. 
Thus it happened that about 4.30 a.m. on September 30th a De u Rey 
patrol of the Imperial Yeomanry, going out from the north- KScewich, 
westerly piquet of the mounted troops on the western front, Sept. 30th, 
ran into a strong body of Boers, who swept them aside at once, 
and in a few seconds were upon the piquet behind, which they 
destroyed to the last man. As little virtue remains in a broken 
outpost line as in a ruptured dam. Rapidly the breach widens 
on either side as the neighbouring piquets are rolled away by 
the outflanking fire from the place of the lost link. Both up and 
down the river the enemy pushed his men, covering them with a 
fusilade which annihilated first the Yeomanry piquet next to 
the northward, then the infantry guard at the drift in the oppo- 
site direction, both detachments withstanding resolutely to the 
last. By a curious chance the piquet across the drift passed 
unnoticed, and thus escaped destruction. In a brief space the 
line of the river bed, the sole defence of the camp, was lost, just 
as Clements' front on the Magaliesberg heights had been lost at 
Nooitgedacht. The Boers then poured so dense a fire upon the 
tents that it seemed as though the camp must fall within a few 
moments without an answering shot. Amongst the lines inevit- 
able confusion arose. It was still half dark. As usual the 
tethered horses, the largest and most helpless targets, added to 



1 901. 



296 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

the riot by their wild stampeding, very many being killed, and 
scarcely one escaping unstnick as they blundered about the lines. 
The soldiers, roused by the rush of lead through their canvas 
walls, hurried into the open, fixing their bayonets as they ran, 
and seeking the orders which at such a time it is the hardest task 
to issue. But soon from the chaos was evolved a steady drift 
of men, and it was all toward the front. In a few moments the 
open space between the river and the boundary of the camp 
was barred by a mixed but solid firing line, which replied vigo- 
rously to the fire pouring from the river bed. As the light 
grew, and with it the certainty of the Boer positions, Kekewich's 
guns opened one by one, and the shooting of the troops became 
more and more powerful and accurate, until it equalled that of 
the enemy, who attempted in vain to push in to close quarters 
and overwhelm the camp. Advance after advance was shat- 
tered ere well begun, and the effect of the resistance was shown 
by the galloping off of small parties of daunted burghers. The 
majority remained, however, and whilst this fierce fire-fight 
was waged along the western front, a nmiour arose that a strong 
body of Boers was riding roimd to surround the camp by the 
east or rear. At this moment Kekewich, having just been 
disabled by a wound, the second he had received, was in the act 
of delegating command to the Colonel of the Derbyshire regiment, 
H. C. Wylly. This officer immediately ordered Major C. N. 
Watts, of his own regiment, and Major R. A. Browne, of the 
Border regiment, to collect all the men they could and move 
in that direction, for had the report been true there was little 
hope of safety for the camp. But the east was found to be 
clear, and Watts, with a rapid grasp of the situation, at once 
swung his men northward, and sent them with fixed bayonets 
straight at the enemy in the bushes upon the river bank to the 
north-west of the camp. As the infantry charged they were 
joined by many of the Scottish Horse and Imperial Yeomanry, 
imtil a strong and resolute body bore down upon the flank of 
the enemy's position in the river bed. The effect was instan- 
Defeat of taneous. The Boers directly in the face of the onset broke and 
^^' fled ; those higher up the river bed, seeing themselves outflanked, 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 297 

and already much disheartened by the inflexibility of the defence, 
began to disappear group by group. By 6.15 a.m. the whole 
were in full flight, the cup dashed from their lips, as that at 
Vlakfontein had been, by the effect of a counter-attack upon a 
soldiery unequal to a prolonged or redoubled effort to complete 
what they had brilliantly begun. Such indeed seemed the dis- 
tinguishing trait of the commandos under De la Key and Kemp, 
for they it was who, concentrating with extraordinary secrecy, 
had fallen upon Kekewich and so nearly ruined him. They 
could scarcely have failed to do so had their plan been carried 
out as designed. De la Key had with him some 1,500 men, 
nearly all the local commandos in his jurisdiction. The report 
which had first misled and then guided Watts into the move- Miscarriage of 
ment which decided victory for the British contained the essence '* '''*"''■ 
of his scheme of attack. The camp was indeed to have been 
surrounded, by Kemp and Van Heerden from the east, by Steen- 
kamp and Oosthuizen from the north, by De la Key himself 
from west and south with the 900 men he kept imder his hand 
along the Selous river. But every attack except his own mis- 
carried ; only a few burghers found their way to the British 
flanks and rear, where they acted too feebly to be worth repelling. 
The frontal attack alone was made in full power, and how nearly 
it came to success gave no uncertain hint of the fate of the camp 
had the plan been carried out in its entirety. Kekewich's losses 
were heavy ; in an hour the fight had cost him about twenty-five 
per cent, of his force,* and so many of his horses that his order 
to pursue, which he gave immediately the enemy loosened, could 
not be obeyed. He himself had been twice wounded during the 
affray, towards the success of which his fine and cool leadership 
had greatly contributed, f De la Key admitted forty-eight 
casualties ; but that brilliant commander was prone to make as 
little of his defeats as of his successes in his reports to the Boer 
Headquarters, and the accuracy of his casualty list may be 

• Gisualties — Killed, officers five, men fifty-six ; wounded, officers twenty-one, men 
no; total, 192. No fewer than 512 animals, horses and mules, were killed 

t For gallantry in this action Private W. Bees, ist Derbyshire regiment, was awarded 
the Victoria Cross. 



298 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Fetherston- 
haueh 
reiiuorces 
Kekewich. 



estimated from the fact that even a month later he included 
Kekewich amongst the British dead at Moedwil.* 

On the day after the action Fetherstonhaugh was on the spot 
with two of his columns, those of Hickie and E. C. I. Williams. 
Williams, bivouacking at Kosterfontein on the previous evening 
after a successful raid (sixteen prisoners), had actually been in sig- 
nalling communication with Kekewich towards the close of the 
fight at Moedwil, learning that his assistance was not required. 
For a week Fetherstonhaugh searched in vain for Kekewich's 
aggressors, and on October gth turned southward toward 
Ventersdorp, coming in to the line at Klerksdorp to refit on the 
1 6th. Fetherstonhaugh was then removed from the district to 
take conunand of the Eastern (Delagoa Bay) line of communi- 
cations, leaving his columns, of which that of E. C. I. Williams 
was entrained for Pretoria, whilst Hickie's was retained to cover 
the construction of a line of blockhouses to be built along the 
Schoon Spruit from Ventersdorp to the Vaal river. The neces- 
sity for protection here had been shown by an attack on the 
8th, when Wolmarans, with a section of the Potchefstroom 
commando, killed and captured twenty-two men who had been 
engaged in fuel cutting on the proposed line, taking also a dozen 
wagons. Meanwhile Kekewich's column, temporarily commanded 
by Lieut. -Colonel H. C. Wylly, was refitting at Magato Nek, 
320 horses and 200 mules for its use being ready within twenty- 
four hours of the engagement at Moedwil. The majority of the 
troops who had fought in that exhausting affair were now re- 
lieved by fresh units, the 2nd Norfolk regiment replacing the 
1st Derbyshire. On October 13th Kekewich, sufficiently re- 
covered from his wounds to resume command, took his column 
to Bashoek, where for a week he awaited the approach of Lord 
Methuen, who was coming from Mafeking to co-operate in a 
further search for De la Rey's vanished combination. Lord 
Lord Methuen Methuen had left Mafeking on October 2nd, and after a leisurely 
M^rfrom march, chiefly employed in the destruction of crops and stock, 
Mafeking. reached Zeerust on the 14th, and a week later Lindleys Poort, 



general De la Key to Commandant-General Botha, October 28th, 1901. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 299 

where Kekewich, who had moved up to Rietfontein, gained 
touch with him. But the conjunction was brief and quite un- 
profitable. Lord Methuen, who had seen nothing of De la Rey, 
turned again almost immediately westward, and Kekewich in 
the opposite direction, the latter being back at Bashoek on the 
25th. Lord Methuen's two columns, retracing the route to 
Zeerust, marched, according to their usual custom, by parallel 
but separate routes. Some miles from Lord Methuen's own left His detach- 
flank was Lieut. -Colonel S. B. von Donop's force, consisting of ^n"i>,no" 
the 5th Imperial Yeomanry (680 men), ist Northumberland 
Fusiliers (140 men), ist Loyal North Lancashire regiment (190 
men), four guns 4th battery R.F.A., a 5-in. howitzer of the 37th 
battery R.F.A., and two Vickers-Maxims. One himdred and 
two ox and mule wagons accompanied the detachment. It fell 
to von Donop to discover at last the whereabouts of De la Rey 
and his contingent, and in a manner as surprising as it was 
costly. At 7.30 a.m. on October 24th he was between Wilge- 
boomsspruit and Kleinfontein, south of the Zeerust road, Lord 
Methuen being at that moment about Rickertsdam, some twelve 
miles to the north-east. Von Donop was in the act of turning 
northward to reduce the distance between himself and his chief, 
whom he had arranged to meet next day, when some firing from 
a group of kopjes in front caused him to pause and open with 
his artillery in reply. The hostile demonstration was weak, and 
not at all unexpected, for these kopjes had been invariably occu- 
pied by Boer piquets and patrols. On this occasion, however, 
they formed part of a carefully laid trap to enclose Lord Methuen's 
detached column. Concealed by a belt of timber which ran 
parallel to von Donop's left flank, De la Rey with Kemp and 
Steenkamp lay in hiding with 600 men. Immediately the sound De la Rey 
of the guns gave the signal that the British were engaged in ton^Etonop, 
front, De la Rey's force emerged from the recesses of the wood Oct. 24th, 
in three divisions, each two or three lines deep, and rode like a '^'" 
regiment of European cavalry straight for the centre of the 
convoy. The flanking parties with which von Donop had sur- 
rounded himself were obliterated almost in silence, and the train, 
laid open to the impact, was in a moment broken in three places. 



300 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

One body of the enemy, cutting the mule convoy in two, sepa- 
rated both it and the rearguard from the rest ; another dashed 
straight for Lieutenant H. N. Hill's section of gims at the rear 
of the convoy ; the third, galloping clean through the line of 
march, wheeled on the other side, and enveloped the same two 
guns from the north. Hill swung his pieces facing rearwards and 
came into action with case shot, but he had only time to tire 
three roimds before he and all but two of his gimners fell. But 
the escort, F. company of the Northumberland Fusiliers under 
Captain A. C. Girdwood, fought so valiantly, losing half its per- 
sonnel, that though the Boers were amongst and on every 
side of the guns they never succeeded in capturing them, though 
a burgher, or, as some say, a man of the defence, tired one of 
the limbers. Lieutenant R. F. A. Hobbs (Royal Engineers), 
proceeding to the spot to ascertain what had occurred, found 
the pieces surrounded by disabled artillerymen, and with the aid 
of the only two unwoimded men actually fired some rounds of 
shrapnel, and remained in possession, hoping for rescue. Owing 
to the thickness of the bush on either side of the colimin it was 
as difficult for von Donop to obtain information as to give orders. 
The Boers were in every part of the convoy. Many of the 
wagons of the rear of the convoy were being driven off ; twelve 
had already disappeared ; twenty more had been upset ; nearly 
all the native drivers of the rest were shot, many incurring 
death by their devotion in refusing to drive away the booty for 
the enemies of their employers. Fearing from the silence of the 
field pieces with the rearguard that both were lost, von Donop 
sent a party of moimted troops to attempt to withdraw them. He 
next set himself to saving the bulk of his wagons, which he 
effected by collecting all the available mounted men and posting 
the other pair of gims and the howitzer in a commanding posi- 
tion. He then heard that his guns had not yet passed into 
the enemy's hands, and he immediately sent another mounted 
party and a Vickers-Maxim to extricate them. In all this he was 
successful. Once more the heat of De la Key's attack cooled 
suddenly at the first show of resolute and organised opposition. 
It seemed as though his burghers were incapable of success unless 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 301 

they achieved it at the first onset. At the very moment of De la Rey 
victory they drew off ; the fire of the artillery, now swelled by ^^ "^^ 
that of the two rescued guns — even of that which had been set 
on lire, so quickly had it been supplied with fresh fittings — sent 
them still further, and in half an hour the column was clear on 
every side and free to re-establish its broken array. The casualties 
amongst the troops numbered ninety ;* forty-nine natives were 
killed, wounded or missing ; twelve wagons had vanished alto- 
gether, many others were damaged or deprived of their teams. 
But the enemy's failure had cost him dear. Some fifty burghers 
were found dead on or near the field ; many wounded had been 
carried away. Nevertheless, von Donop had had a narrow 
escape, and his experience cast doubts on the wisdom of allow- 
ing a detached force, heavily burdened with transport, to march 
alone so far from its parent column through " the worst portion 
of a most difficult route."t On October 28th both portions of 
Lord Methuen's command reached Zeerust, with nine prisoners 
and forty-eight wagons and carts, leaving behind them a broad 
belt of ravished country which accounted for some three-quarters 
of the entire harvest of the fertile Marico district, the enemy's 
most trusted granary. 

Turning back now to Kekewich, that officer, last seen at Kekewich 
Bashoek, was soon in possession of information which caused w^/dfrom 
him to set his column again in motion. Within the confluences Bashoek. 
of the Hex, Elands and Crocodile rivers to the east considerable 
hostile assemblages were reported, and on October 28th Keke- 
wich sallied out to come to terms with them. Marching by 
night and with great secrecy he reached Hartebeestspruit before 
dawn. Here his excellent Intelligence Service gave him notice 
of several bodies of Boers in the neighbourhood. He became 
aware, too, that his movements were being keenly watched by 
the enemy, and increased caution became necessary if good 
results were to accrue. At Beestekraal, twenty-five miles due 

* Casualties — Killed, two officers, twenty-eight men ; wounded, five officers, forty- 
nine men ; missing, six men. 

t Lord Methuen's report to the Adjutant -General. 



302 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



A success at 
Beestekraal, 
Oct. 30th. 
1901. 



Kekewich at 
Rustenburg, 
Nov. 2nd, 
1901. 



eastward, lay the largest of the reported laagers. At 8 p.m. on 
the 29th Kekewich despatched Lieut. -Colonel C. E. Duff with all 
his mounted men with orders to surprise Beestekraal at dawn, 
he himself following shortly after with the infantry and baggage. 
Duff was at first delayed by missing the road in the darkness, but 
thereafter he marched rapidly, and daylight of the 30th found 
him across the Hex river, and within sight of Beestekraal, which 
was seen to be occupied. Duff was himself almost immediately 
discovered by the enemy, who began to fire from an outpost on 
a kopje opposite his left. Sending a squadron against these. 
Duff at once dashed for the drifts over the Crocodile, of which he 
captured two, one above, the other below the laager, which 
lay on the right bank of the Crocodile. Having thus gained an 
ingress, his men poured in from both sides and won the farm- 
stead with little opposition. Meanwhile his squadron on the 
left had surrounded the kopje, where a commando of seventy 
men, in spite of the vigilance of its piquet, was completely sur- 
prised in the act of cooking breakfast, and captured. Altogether 
Duff took seventy-eight prisoners, with the loss of only two of 
his own men wounded, burned the farms and their contents, 
and on that afternoon was again in touch with Kekewich who 
had come on to Klipplaat, on the Elands river. The rain, which 
had fallen heavily throughout these operations, then brought 
the rivers down in flood, and after halting, Kekewich on the 
Elands river and Duf! on the Hex, both returned to Rustenburg 
on November 2nd, thus concluding an expedition in which 
the value of good information and of decision in following it 
up had been well exemplified. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 303 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 





09 




MS 










0. 




6 


1 








8 




=3-8 










£• 


|l 









COLUMN. 


a 

a 

1 


1 




.s 






September — November, 1901. 














Lt.-Gen. Lord Methuen . . 


1.325 


600 


13 


2 






Lt.-Col. S. B. von Donop . . 


680 


330 


7 


— 






Lt.-Col. W. B. Hickie 


673 


193 


6 


I 


f Maj.-Gen. R. S. 


R. 


Lt.-Col. E. C. Ingouvjlle 










V Fetherstonhaugh 


in 


Williams . . 


78s 


198 


5 


— 


) command. 




Brig.-Gen. G< Hamilton . . 


823 


345 


5 


3 






Col. R. G. Kekewich 


853 


i.oao 


5 


3 






Col. E. H. H. Allenby 


1,104 


""" 


5 


4 







304 



CHAPTER XVII. 

EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL* 

{Coniinued from Chapter XII.). 

THE ACTION AT BAKENLAAGTE.f OCTOBER 3OTH, I9OI. 

The dangerous, but, as it proved, abortive attempt against Natal, 
had by no means put a stop to the offensive in the northern 
sections of the Eastern Transvaal. Sir B. Blood, though deprived 
of most of his strength by the urgent needs of the threatened 
colony, had nevertheless kept his remaining columns in full 
Benson's activity. Ou September loth Lieut. -Colonel G. E. Benson, 

Sept "1901." raiding from Carolina towards Middelburg, surprised numerous 
bodies of the enemy, from whom he took nearly fifty prisoners 
and a quantity of stock, marching on one occasion fifty-two miles 
in twenty-four hom^s to effect his purpose. On the 22nd he was 
back at Carolina, set out afresh on the 26th, and after activities 
too various to be related, by the end of the month had accounted 
for 117 Boers. Park during the same period had been circu- 
lating about Lydenburg, where he was on September 30th, whilst 
Bewicke-Copley from Springs covered the construction of a series 
of blockhouses from that place towards the Delagoa Bay railway. 
This Une was intended for occupation by the men of the South 
African Constabulary, a corps recently formed, somewhat on 
the lines of the Cape Mounted Riflemen, by Major-General R. S. S. 
Baden Powell and Colonel J. S. Nicholson at Johannesbiurg. 
In this task a small colunm under Lieut. -Colonel F. Hacket- 
Thompson (Cameron Highlanders) also co-operated from 



* See map No 9S. f See map No. 57. 



EVENTS IN* THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 305 

Bronkhorstspruit station, command of this unit being eventually 
transferred to Lieut.-Colonel the Hon. C. G. Fortescue (Rifle 
Brigade). 

In October Benson continued the harrjdng tactics which had Benson's 
made his a name of terror to every body of Boers compelled oa'*wT " 
to laager in his vicinity. From the ist to the 13th he ranged 
the district between the Oliphant and Komati rivers, without 
great profit it is true, for his very reputation now scattered his 
quarry in every direction before he had time to close ; but when 
he marched into Middelburg to refit, his train was swelled by 
many captives, wagons and cattle. After a week's rest Benson 
set out again, struck rapidly south-west across the Oliphant, 
and on the third day out surrounded and captured a laager 
midway between the Wilge and Oliphant rivers, and eighteen 
miles south of Brugspruit, taking thirty-seven prisoners, in 
spite of a hot attack upon his rear by a strong outlying com- 
mando. On October 25th he was close to Bethel, sparring 
with a force which, warned of his approach, was under arms 
when he appeared. Benson's losses here were seventeen officers 
and men, those of the Boers about the same, besides three 
burghers taken prisoners by the column. The resistance en- 
countered by Benson in this affair and that of the 22nd was not 
without omen. These were no local bands, concerned more 
with escape than fighting. It was plain that the small column 
was in the way of the commandos retiring in angry mood from 
the borders of Natal, their exasperation heightening as the tale 
of damage reached their ears at every six)t where Benson's 
lightning strokes had fallen. 

Commandant -General Botha, pausing gloomily at Ermelo with Botha orders 
the officials of the Transvaal Government whom he did not dare to t" ^^^^^ °" 

Benson. 

move, sent peremptory orders to General D. Opperman to keep 
his commandos together and " attack with all their force when- 
ever possible."* The veld must be rid of Benson's " restless 
colimin "* which was rapidly demoraUsing the very centre of 
resistance. Benson himself, admirably informed as he had been 

* Letter from Commandant-General L. Botha to General C. Bolh.-i, October 23rd, 
1901. 

VOL. IV. 20 



3o6 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

throughout by his Intelligence Officer, Colonel A. Wools-Sampson, 
was fully aware both of the increasing numbers and the changing 
temper of the enemy in his vicinity. His column was absolutely 
alone in the district. It was composed of unseasoned soldiers ; 
for during the rest at Middelburg Benson had unwillingly seen 
many of his well-tried horse and foot exchanged for infantry 
which had been for a year and a half immured in blockhouses, 
and moimted infantry which for many months had ridden no 
further than around the outskirts of Middelburg.* On October 
Benson at 29th he informed Headquarters from Syferfontein, north-west of 
o?t!l^?h!'"' Bethel, that he was about to make for Brugspruit down the line 
i9o»' of the Steenkool (or Steenbok) Spruit. He reported that he was 

being closely watched by strong hostile patrols, coming chiefly 
from the south and east. His convoy and forty-two prisoners 
might be expected at Brugspruit on November 2nd. 
The events of At 5 a.m. on October 30th the column left its camp on 
Oct^3oth, Sj^erfontein and began its north-westerly march, pointing on 
Bakenlaagte, where Benson intended to make a halt. The 
previous evening Wools-Sampson's scouts and spies had reported 
the presence of about 500 enemy in the immediate neighbour- 
hood. Under cover of mist and storms of rain these Boers 
attacked early in the day, but not seriously enough to check 
the march. They were, in fact, less bent on fighting than on 
outstripping the colunm, and when after sundry delays, caused 
by the wagons at the drifts over the branching headstreams of 
the Steenkool (or Steenbok) Spruit, Benson's advance-guard 
approached the farm of Bakenlaagte about 9 a.m., it found 
the enemy already there. But to the surprise of all the Boers 
vanished at once, and seemed to be returning the way they had 
come outside the flanks of the column. Wools-Sampson, who was 
guiding the van, was now thoroughly suspicious. For days 
past he had viewed with apprehension the gathering numbers 
and mysterious tactics of an enemy whom none in South Africa 

* Gjmposition of Benson's column, October 30th, 1901 — 3rd mounted infantry 
(501), 2Sth mounted infantry (462), 2nd Scottish Horse (434), 84th battery R.F.A. 
(eighty-two), (four guns), CC and R sections of Vickers- Maxims (thirty-six), 1st Field 
troop R.E. (fourteen), 2nd battalion The BuflTs (650). 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 307 

knew better than he. Personally acquainted with numbers of 
his adversaries, knowing many more by sight and name, he 
had in addition that natural but rare instinct for feeling the piilse 
of his opponents which stamps the bom intelligence officer, 
an agent whose guesses must be little less valuable than his 
actual information if he is to be of signal service to his side. 
He now scented grave danger, and urging Benson to look 
immediately to his rear, he himself led the convoy forward to 
the so strangely evacuated farmstead. But Benson had little 
need of warning. The failure of L. Botha's invasion of Natal, 
followed by the mustering of the commandos in the neighbour- 
hood of his lonely column, had hinted plainly in whose path 
he stood, and much he regretted that owing to his weakness he 
had to move northward to avoid the stroke of Botha's forces 
instead of southward to challenge it. On this particular day the 
very quickness of eye which had so often delivered his enemy 
into his hand showed him his own danger. His troops had 
entered the very t5rpe of country where they were least effective. 
The veld, rolling in great but gentle curves, offered nowhere 
shelter or positions of defence, but ever5rwhere covered approaches 
and hiding places for the gathering of an assault. In such 
ground a small force, especially if encumbered with wagons, is 
at the mercy of a swifter enemy ; it can neither scout with safety 
on front or flanks, nor effectually guard its rear, for detached 
parties become immediately invisible to the rest, and may be 
lost without a sign ; nor, when they quit the top of one broad 
saddle and descend the slope to make for the next, are they 
unlikely to be annihilated in the low ground between by opponents 
who have come up unseen from the other side. Thus, in whatever 
formation, a weak column is in momentary peril in the presence 
of the enemy ; marching united, one valley may be the grave 
of all, or if in detachments, it may easily perish in detail. All 
this Benson, looking over the grassy ground-swell, knew well, 
and in a few moments the Boers were to show him that 
they too were not neglectful of the aid of their hereditary 
ally, the veld. 

It happened that at about 1.45 p.m. one of the rearmost 

VOL. IV. 20* 



3o8 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

wagons, lagging behind the rest, had become embedded in the 
mud of a drift. The rearguard consisted of two companies 
3rd M.I., one company The Buffs (East Kent regiment), with 
a Vickers-Maxim gun. Brevet Major F. G. Anley (Essex regi- 
ment), who commanded these units, made every effort to extricate 
the wagon and bring it on. But the Boers, with whom he had 
been closely engaged since leaving camp, were increasing 
momentarily, and they pressed so hard that Anley, fearing to be 
cut off, ordered the wagon to be abandoned, and fell back 
towards Bakenlaagte. At this moment the order of march of 
the whole column was as follows : — Nearing the proposed camp 
at Bakenlaagte Farm was the supply column, guarded by the 
advance-guard of two companies of The Buffs, two guns 84th 
battery R.F.A., and two companies of the 25th (King's Royal 
Rifles) M.I., all under Major C. L. E. Eustace, the commanding 
officer of the 25th M.I. These troops were both escort to the 
convoy and formed the advance-guard, and had left camp an 
hour before the main body. The delays at the drifts, however, 
had brought the two portions of the column together, and close 
upon the van were now two more companies of the 25th M.I., 
three of The Buffs, a Vickers-Maxim gun, the remaining two 
guns of the 84th battery R.F.A., and the Scottish Horse. The 
six companies of The Buffs (the seventh being with Anley and 
the rearguard) closely surrounded the wagons, having two 
companies in front, and two on either flank, the exposed side of 
the latter being watched by a half company of Anley's 3rd M.I. 
Benson, who had just posted the gims of the advance-guard 
on a ridge one and a half miles behind the reversed rearguard, 
letting the other two go on into camp, strongly disapproved 
of Anley's action, for he had never lost a wagon to the enemy, 
and as yet he knew nothing of the real straits of the out- 
numbered rearguard. Two companies of The Buffs, which the 
firing in rear had caused to linger behind some time earlier, had 
been ordered by Benson to march on to the camping ground, 
which they had now nearly reached. Sending word to these to 
come back to reinforce, and to Anley to hold on imtil they 
arrived, Benson himself took two squadrons (seventy-five men) 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 309 

of the Scottish Horse, and hastened to the rear to help reclaim 
the derelict wagon. But Anley had been already forced back, 
and Benson, expecting the two companies of The Buffs to be up 
shortly, and fearing for the flanks of his distant convoy, ordered 
Anley to move to a position covering the north-east of the camp 
whilst the whole rearguard fell back. Anley's orders were 
clear, and he left at once, too promptly in truth for the 
safety of the rest. 

Commandant-General Botha, pressing keenly, his force well in 
hand, espied the opening as soon as it was given. Instantly he 
launched upon the retiring troops a double crescent of twelve 
hundred horsemen. The few remaining mounted men of the 
rearguard had to gallop for it, and dashed through the extended 
company of The Buffs which, much disarrayed by this rush of 
their own friends, was in a few seconds over-ridden and dashed 
to pieces by the pursuing horde. Brandishing their rifles and 
flring from the saddle as they stormed yelUng over the veld, the 
burghers, in their eagerness to catch the Scottish Horse, scarce 
noticed the scattered groups of foot soldiers who staggered 
amongst them like men overtaken by a flood. A little further 
on half of another company of the same regiment was similarly 
obliterated. This party had been acting as escort to the two 
guns posted by Benson, and when on the approach of danger 
these pieces had been removed at the trot to the next ridge, 
the infantrymen were left behind. As they toiled after they 
too were overtaken by the charging commandos. Seldom have 
troops found themselves in a more hopeless predicament than 
this group. The first press of Boers, hot on the track of higher 
game, having caught up the half-company, passed over it as if 
it had no existence, and surged on before without firing a shot, 
so that The Buffs looked into the backs of their receding 
adversaries as a swimmer in deep water sees a billow roll from 
him towards the shore. Behind these another rank of burghers 
came on fast ; but they, more careful of the Uttle band, instead 
of charging, dismoimted and began to shoot them down, the 
noise of their firing calling many of those who had ridden on back 
upon the melting handful, which lost eighteen of its thirty-three 



3IO THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

men before it disappeared. Meanwhile Benson and most of 
the Scottish Horse had gained the second gun position, and 
turned to face the onset. On the ridge were the two guns of the 
84th battery R.F.A., with Major E. Guinness in command; a 
section (twenty men) 25th (King's Royal Rifles) M.I., under 
Sergeant W. Ashfield ; the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry 
company of the 3rd M.I., under Captain F. T. Thorold and 
Second Lieutenant L. H. Marten ; a section (twenty men) of the 
2nd Scottish Horse under Lieutenant J. B. Kelly, in addition 
to the seventy men or so of the same regiment from the rear- 
guard who were commanded by Major F. D. Murray, with 
Captains M. W, Lindsay and S. W, Inglis and Lieutenants E. O. 
Straker and C. Woodman, names then not famous, but now 
not to be left unrecorded by any historian howsoever pledged to 
brevity. A mile to the west, where the same great roll of the 
veld rose to a cup-topped knob overlooking a farm, were two 
sections of the King's Royal Rifles mounted infantry, under 
Captain F. M. Cnun and Lieutenant R. H. Seymour. Another 
half -company of the King's Royal Rifles M.I., under Lieutenants 
W. P. Lynes and H. H. R. White, with a few of the Royal 
Dublin Fusihers M.I., were on a detached rise 2,000 yards north- 
west of Crum, and here Eustace had posted a third gun of the 
84th battery, having sent the fourth back into camp at Baken- 
laagte. On came the federal regiments, their outriders swarming 
about the heels of the hindmost men of the Scottish Horse. As 
they galloped their nimibers swelled. From every dip appeared 
mounted men ; from behind the farm below Crum's post a 
strong body, emerging suddenly at full speed, joined in the 
charge, whilst others, scattering to the flanks, hotly engaged 
with fire both Crmn's and Lynes' detached parties on the west 
and Anley's on the east. Two thousand horsemen raced down 
upon Benson and the men with him around the guns. So grand 
and terrible a spectacle had not been seen nor had the earth so 
shaken on ajiy battlefield in South Africa. But the ancient 
splendour of the scene was not all with the furious squadrons of 
the Boers. Alone on the gigantic bosom of the veld the little 
knot with Benson calmly faced the approaching catastrophe. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 311 

Flight was still possible ; the horses were at hand, and the 
undulations between the ridge and the camp offered good and 
sheltered galloping ground. But no man stirred from his place. 
Two lessons the band had vowed to teach, one to the enemy 
that not for him was the crowning glory of a charge home into 
British troops and guns ; the other the last and greatest lesson 
of soldiers to all the soldiers in the world. So fast and steadily 
shot the men that the Boers, recalling the instinct which their 
rage had momentarily banished, winced, and drawing rein, 
flimg themselves from the saddle into a dip some two hundred 
yards from the ridge. From its invisible recesses arose a chorus 
of the voices of leaders, threatening and exhorting. For a few 
moments the fortunes of the attack trembled in the balance, for 
a charge is a flame easily quenched, auid then difficult indeed to 
relight. But here were fighting men who, in throwing themselves 
from the saddle to the ground, did but exchange one long-practised 
art for another. Extending rapidly they began to close on foot, 
each man knowing perfectly where his quarry lay and how best 
to approach it, each bent on shooting and on not being shot, 
none thinking of deeds of daring but all that victory must be 
won — troops more formidable than these marksmen who could 
crawl like Highland stalkers after a two-mile gallop have seldom 
made war. In a few moments a tempest of lead burst at point- 
blank range upon Benson's soldiers. Nothing now could avert 
their doom or diminish their glory. The two companies of 
infantry sunmioned by Benson, the last hope of saving the ridge, 
had not appeared, nor were they to be seen upon the hill and dale 
towards the camp. The foremost Boers gained ground rapidly, 
covered by a fire which laid low all the British gimners and 
mowed half the defenders from the ridge. Guinness still lived, 
and when after two last shots of case the guns were silent, he 
ordered up the horses to attempt to drag the pieces away. The 
teams were shattered as soon as they appeared on the rise, and 
not one of their riders rose from the heap. Soon after a third 
team arrived, sent to the rescue by Lieutenant N. H. C. Sher- 
brooke from his gun at Lynes' post on the west ; it dropped 
beside the others, and Guinness himself, his duty ended, fell 



312 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

dead amidst his men and horses. The Boers, a line of riflemen 
1,200 yards wide, now fastened upon the scene of ruin. Many 
\\ere within twenty yards of the gims, using their Mausers like 
pistols but still crouching before the rifles and revolvers of the 
survivors on the ridge, who lay as immovable as their dead, 
only stirring to throw ammunition one to the other. Still no 
help came from camp. Yet if valour alone be reinforcement the 
defence grew stronger as it died. A few men of the King's Own 
Yorkshire Light Infantry, who had escorted the Vickers-Maxim 
into safety, were led back at full speed into the fight by Lieutenant 
R. E. Shepherd, who perished at their head. Out from camp, 
too, galloped Captain T. H. E. Lloyd (Coldstream Guards), 
Benson's Assistant Staff Officer. As he arrived on the siunmit 
his horse, and the man to whom he had thrown the reins to 
hold it, fell dead beside him. He walked towards the front. 
The Boers were in the act of closing upon the few remaining 
troops ; the gims stood deserted but for the dead who covered 
their trails and blocked the wheels ; on all sides were slain and 
wounded, foremost amongst the latter Benson himself, grievously 
injured. A whirlwind of bullets tore across the bloody grass, 
one of which struck Lloyd on the wrist and broke it. The officer 
saw that he had but one brief part to play in the tragedy so 
nearly ended. Thrusting his bleeding wrist into his coat, he 
sauntered, upright and smiling, through the dead and dying 
towards his commander, in full view of a thousand enemies not 
twenty paces away, and many who perished next moment 
rejoiced that they had seen his act before they died. In a few 
seconds he too was down. Space forbids the due relation of 
every deed like this, though to soldiers they represent military 
history as much as the movements of a brigade, aye, and may 
mean as much to the fortunes of a fight. What should be said 
of Murray of the Scottish Horse, who cis he fought at close 
quarters with his pistol, never ceased to shout encouragement to 
all around him until his voice was silenced ; of Squadron- 
Quartermaster-Sergeant Wamock, of the same regiment, an old 
grey-headed soldier, who, though his proper place was in camp 
and safety, dragged boxes of ammunition into the very front, 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 313 

together with two comrades, Trooper A. Cunningham and 
Corporal J. M'Carthy, and when his companions fell, went on 
himself and plied his rifle right and left in the very thick of 
the Boer lines, until three bullets threw him down amidst his 
admiring foes ; of Trooper N. H. Grierson (Scottish Horse), 
who, hearing his wounded commander call for a messenger, leapt 
to his feet to obey, and was struck by the very shot which gave 
to Benson his second and mortal hurt ; of Lance-Corporal J. 
Bell (Scottish Horse), who, when he, the only unwounded man 
by the guns, was summoned to surrender by the crowd of Boers 
upon him, answered only with his rifle and died for his reply ; 
of Captain C. W. Collins (Cheshire regiment), who, until he was 
wounded near the guns, signalled continually for assistance ; of 
Lieutenant T. D. Jackson (King's Own Royal Lancaster), who 
brought out ammunition from camp and distributed it to the 
vanishing firing line ; of every officer and man of the King's 
Own Yorkshire Light Infantry mounted infantry, who were 
killed where they lay, each in his proper place in the firing line ? 
Such soldiers have earned more than a hne, unless, indeed, it be 
one as immortal as that brief ancient legend graven over the 
bones of men of like valour with them — " Stranger, go tell the 
Lacedcemonians thai we died in obedience to their laws.''* 

The final scene came soon. When silence told the Boers that 
resistance was extinguished they rose, and in five dense rows 
of foot poured over the ridge and swarmed about their handi- 
work, some still firing furiously, some stripping the corpses, 
some, with unusual ferocity, robbing and even shooting the 
wounded ;t others hurrying forward to the reverse slope to seize 
the led horses, which, stampeding madly, added the thunder of 
their hoofs to the uproar. At that moment Benson, nearing 

• Epitaph of the Spartans at Thermopylae. 

♦ The evidence of seventy-five officers, non-commissioned officers and men who 
suffered and witnessed ill-treatment on this occasion renders too certain outrages on the 
part of a usually chivalrous enemy mention of which would otherwise be omitted. 
In the words of the officer ordered to inquire into the case: "There seems no doubt 
that though the Boer Commandants have the will they no longer have the power to 
repress outrage and murder on the part of their subordinates." 



314 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

death as he was, showed himself the bravest of all the brave 
who lay around him. Beckoning a soldier to him, a man stripped 
to his shirt by the looters, he bade him speed into camp, and 
order the guns to shell the ridge and clear it of the enemy, 
Rome boasted of such orders, and few legions but hers have 
heard them. The messenger, contriving to escape notice, per- 
formed his mission, and soon both shrapnel and Vickers-Maxim 
shells burst fiercely over the spot, sent from guns pushed out of 
camp by Major A. Young, R.H.A., Benson's Staff Officer, who 
had gone on earlier in the day to mark out the site of the in- 
tended camp. Benson and his woimded comrades, welcoming 
this final peril, exulted as they saw the Boers give back before 
the projectiles until the hill was nearly clear. But ambulances 
coming out of camp in spite of all efforts to detain them, masked 
the fire, and when it stopped about 5.30 p.m. the enemy crowded 
once more on to the ridge and dragged away the gims, to keep 
their hands from which had been Benson's last wish. Prisoners 
there were few to take. Of the approximately 280 officers and 
men on the ridge, sixty-six lay dead and 165 wounded. 

In other parts of the field it had gone less badly, yet hardly 
enough, and more than once the little detachments seemed as 
likely as they were prepared to share the fate of the lost company 
on the gun ridge. Especially was Crum's party sore put to 
it to maintain itself in the elevated depression to the west of 
the gims. All day strong bodies, detached from the main Boer 
assault, hemmed in the group with fire, and though eight of the 
thirteen officers and men were hit, the rest, burrowing for cover 
with their bayonets and using several rifles apiece, were not to 
be shaken from their post, which they only quitted by order at 
the fall of evening. North and east of Crum, Lynes and Anley 
were heavily engaged until dusk in keeping the enemy from the 
camp, around which Wools-Sampson had disposed the infantry 
for a last defence. After their success on the gim ridge, however, 
the Boers came no further ; they were both satisfied and ex- 
hausted by their triiunph, to attain which many of them had 
ridden sixty miles in the preceding twenty-four hours. Thus 
the camp, which was almost at their mercy, was unmolested, and 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 315 

next morning the British scouts could find no trace of the horde 
which had wrought such mischief. 

Within two hours of receipt of orders at Standerton, G. 
Hamilton was on the march to the rescue with his own, Allenby's 
and de Lisle's columns, A small column imder Lieut. -Colonel 
C. St. L. Barter (successor to Bewicke-Copley), from the direction 
of Springs, set out with the same intent, and covering thirty 
miles between dusk and dawn, was the first to reach Bakenlaagte. 
A resolute march of fifty-two miles in sixteen and a half hours 
brought G. Hamilton with the rest of the reUevers to the spot 
early on November ist, whereupon Wools-Sampson, having sent 
his wounded into Springs, marched northward along the block- 
housed (South African Constabulary) banks of the Wilge river, 
and regained the Delagoa Bay railway line at Brugspruit. 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 





S 




booi 






COLUMN. 


0. 


1 


.SE 

IS 


M 

a 


it 
a 






*J 


a 


2 






i 

s 


1^ 


§ 
o> 


^ 
S 




October, 1 90 1. 












Lt.-Col. F. Hacket-Thomp- 
son (later the Hon. C. G. 






















Fortescue) 


538 


126 


3 


4 




Lt.-Col. G. E. Benson, R.A. 


1.529 


650 


6 


— 




Brig. -Gen. G. Hamilton . . 


897 


272 


S 


3 




Col. E. H. H. Allenby 


1,288 


— 


s 


4 




Lt.-Col. H. de B. de Lisle . . 


1,001 


— 


5 


a 




Lt.-Col. C. St. L. Barter . . 


551 


784 


5 


3 





3i6 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY* 

{Continue from Chapter XIV.). 

AUGUST — NOVEMBER. IQOI. 

After Smuts' THOUGH the coIumns devoted to the pursuit of Smuts had let 
ance''^' slip the main prize, their work of the past fortnight had not 
been entirely fruitless. All had made captures, Damant being 
especially successful in this respect. On August i6th, when 
on the march from the railway to Smithfield, Damant had 
turned aside to clear the Klein Marsfontein hills, to the north 
of the road. A converging movement on the group of kopjes 
by four detachments resulted in the capture of nine Boers, and, 
scouting forward, Damant was soon on the trail of a convoy 
which was trekking between him and Boesmans Kop. This was 
well enveloped by his squadrons, which took eighty-seven 
prisoners and twenty-two carts. 

Smuts was barely through the closing door before it was shut 
and bolted behind him. On September 4th Thomey croft was 
sent to Zonneschyn with orders to block the river as far east 
as Inhoek, Murray and Moore prolonging his left to Willems- 
fontein. The day before both Plumer and PUcher had moved 
to contract the circle. The former, marching from Priors 
Siding on a broad front from Helvetia down to Smithfield, was 
drawing near to close the line of the Caledon. Pilcher filled 
the gap on Plimier's right by striking up the Caledon towards 
Smithfield ; Sir H. RawUnson was fast coming down the Basuto 

* See map No. 64. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 317 

border by Runnymede and Oudenaarde. In short, the enclosure 
was now so complete, yet by a narrow margin of time so in- 
effectual, that both sides may well have learned anew the old 
military lesson of the value of hours. When it was seen that 
the main object of the concentration had fallen through, Damant 
was withdrawn to rejoin Bruce Hamilton at Fauresmith, whilst 
Pilcher, entraining for Burghersdorp, took up with Lieut. - 
General Sir J. French and the troops in Cap>e Colony the pursuit 
of the commandos which had so effectually outwitted the 
columns on the other side of the Orange. 

There yet remained a chance of partially redeeming the 
failure. Kritzinger was still within the fence, and in his broken 
state was likely to prove an easier prey than his departed col- 
league. On September 8th Thomeycroft and Sir H. Rawhnson 
were in touch along the Orange river. The latter, however, 
was soon called away by more pressing needs elsewhere. At this 
time Commandant-General Botha was in the act of launching 
his commandos upon the frontier of Natal, drawing after him 
British columns from every quarter. Entraining at Burghers- sir H. Kaw- 
dorp Sir H. Rawhnson was at Heidelberg on September 26th. jj,"^" '^si'Jfrn 
arriving there in time to take an active part in the pursuit of the Transvaal, 
discomfited Boer Headquarters in the Eastern Transvaal,* 
whither Bruce Hamilton had preceded him a fortnight before. 

Kritzinger seemed strangely difficult to find. Sir H. Raw- Search for 
hnson had arrived at Aliwal North, reporting all the country to '^"^""8^'^- 
the east of the Caledon to be absolutely clear, whilst between 
the 15th and 20th Thomeycroft retraversed the same route up 
to Wiesbaden without coming across anything more than 
patrols. With similar lack of success Plumer, crossing the 
Caledon at Arcadia and Commissie Bridge, swept up to Wepener 
and beyond, then south again to Rouxville, which he entered on 
September 22nd. The only sign of Kritzinger's presence was 
revealed by the Boer himself, when in an attempt to keep his 
pledge to Smuts on the night of September igth, he delivered 
that fierce and successful attack on one of Hart's main camps 

* See Chapter XII. 



3i8 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Defeat of 
Kritzinger. 



Affair near 
Sannah's Post, 
Sept. 19th, 
1901. 



at Quaggafontein which has been narrated in a former chapter.* 
Declining the advantage of his victory, he remained in the 
Rouxville area, electing rather to endure in his own district the 
unknown, and so far not too pressing, ills which might beset 
him, than to brave those of which he had had full experience in 
Cape Colony. Immediately after his encounter on the Orange 
Kritzinger found himself at the same moment unexpectedly 
assisted in one quarter and all but annihilated in another. As 
he rode with his captured gun and horses back from the river, 
re-seeking his hitherto undetected sanctuary north of Vecht 
Kop, he was discovered on the evening of the 20th by Thomey- 
croft, who all unknown had come down from Lincelles to 
Bismarck. Thomeycroft immediately attacked with vigour 
and suddenness, and the commando was broken up, part flying 
back towards Vecht Kop, part towards Zastron. The latter 
party was hotly pursued, and though many got away in the 
gathering darkness, one band of forty were so hard pressed that, 
abandoning the gim by the wayside, they turned to bay in a 
donga at Florence. A determined charge by two companies 
of Thomeycroft's M.I., led by Captains R. Barrett and T. 
Thompson, promptly cleared out the shelter, Barrett and a 
sergeant being killed, and three others wounded in the attack. 
Thirteen Boers were taken here, eight in other parts ; the gun 
was recovered, and the rest of Kritzinger's men, scattered all 
over the countryside, seemed likely to fare badly between 
Thomeycroft on one side and on the other Plumer, who was 
nearing Rouxville from Commissie Bridge. But at this moment 
Plumer was unfortunately called from the scene by an event 
which had recently occurred in another place. 

It had happened that on September i8th a Boer laager had 
been discovered at Vlakfontein, south of Sannah's Post. On 
the next day two detachments of mounted infantry, some 
160 in all, taken from the Sannah's Post — Thabanchu line, 
moved out to raid the camp, taking with them two guns of 
U. battery R.H.A., which had recently reinforced the line of 



* See Chapter XV. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 319 

defences. The expedition, of which those in authority knew 
nothing, was incautious in the extreme ; the country was full of 
Boers who were watching for an opportunity to escape from the 
uneasy districts to the south, and the result showed the dangers 
of pla5^ng even one false card against opponents so alert. The 
paltry British force was itself quickly surrounded by superior 
numbers, and though it fought creditably for four hours, had to 
capitulate with the loss of both guns, an officer and five men 
killed, seventeen men wounded, and six officers and ninety-four 
men taken prisoners. At this stage of the campaign the loss of 
artillery was a moral gain to the enemy out of all prop)ortion to 
the actual value of the capture, and the Commander-in-Chief 
urged every effort to retake the pieces. Plumer was ordered to 
hurry northward just as he was on the point of regaining contact 
with Kritzinger's broken commando ; from the western side of 
the railway Rochfort, who had succeeded Bruce Hamilton on the 
latter's departure for the Eastern Transvaal, transferred towards 
the scene of the disaster six columns under W. H. Williams, 
Damant, Lowry-Cole, Bogle Smith, A. C. Hamilton and du 
Moulin. On September 26th Plumer at Wepener got in touch 
with du Moulin at Droogfontein and Lowry-Cole at Jammersberg 
Drift, learning that the Boers were hastening southward in front 
of Damant and W, H. Williams, who were chasing them down 
from Vlakfontein. Damant was at that moment actually south 
of Plumer at Vaalspruit, watching the area between Helvetia 
and the Caledon ; W. H. Williams was at Buls Kop, in line with 
du Moulin ; Lowry-Cole held the Caledon drifts from Jammers- 
berg down to Deep Dene. A. C. Hamilton and Bogle Smith 
were attending to the supplies from Springfontein and Eden- 
burg. None had encountered the Vlakfontein commandos, 
though on the 24th du Moulin, passing the scene of the disaster, 
had recovered fifty-seven rifles and a quantity of the equipment 
which had been lost by the mounted infantry. 

Falling in with the scheme of pursuit, and satisfied that no 
formed body remained north of Rochfort's columns, on Sep)- 
tember 27th Plumer turned southward again to sweep down 
the Caledon on the left bank in conjunction with du Moulin on 



320 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

the other. At Mokari Drift Plumcr had a sharp skirmish 
with a commando on a strong position on the opposite side of 
the river, his advance-guard boldly crossing the stream to 
attack whilst Plumer signalled to du Moulin to co-operate. But 
du Moulin had wandered westward to Vermaakfontein, looking 
out for a convoy from Springfontein, and an opportunity for a 
combined attack was lost. With the loss of eighteen casualties, 
including two officers killed, Plumer's men cleared the kopjes, 
the enemy scattering westward ; then, hearing nothing of du 
Moulin, Plumer crossed the river in chase to Lichtenstein on 
the 28th. Du MouHn had then joined W. H. Williams, and the 
two, taking up the tracks of Plumer's quarry, followed them, du 
Moulin towards Boesmans Kop, Williams down to Commissie 
Bridge, where Lord Basing was found on the 29th. Plumer, 
passing Commissie Bridge on the same day, reached Rouxville 
Plumer leaves on October ist, and Springfontein soon after. Thence, Plumer's 
Trans^vaaL*^"' ^o^ce was couveycd by train to Volksrust, soon to find itself once 
more in its old hunting ground, the wooded gorges of the Pongola 
bush, sweeping up the fragments of Botha's dismembered 
" invasion." * 

Meanwhile one Boer band under Commandant Dreyer, 
circling northward again, had once more gained the hilly 
country between Wepener and Dewetsdorp. Lowry-Cole got 
information of this at Jammersberg, and pushing out along 
the Dewetsdorp road, attacked at dawn with much success, 
capturing both Dreyer and his Field-Comet, and inflicting ten 
other casualties. 

The situation in the south-eastern comer of the Orange River 
Colony at the end of September, 1901, was, then, as follows : 
The double failure of the combination against Smuts and Krit- 
zinger had left all the columns in the district busily and not 
fruitlessly engaged, it is true, but without any real object. It 
was not long before the operations here took a fresh shape, 
consideration of which must be deferred until the work of the 
forces in other parts has been traced up to the same point. 

* See Chapter XII. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 321 

On August i8th Elliot, having dispersed the units of his Elliot's 
great combination north of the Modder, marched eastward from °P^'^^'^*°"5- 
Glen with his own division, to take up a Une through Sannah's 
Post to Ladybrand, Barker and Pine-Coffin Unking him to the 
railway. Hi's intention was to sweep north-eastward, in the 
hope of driving the enemy into an enclosure which had been 
already partially formed by troops from other commands. In 
the Brandwater basin was B. Campbell, whom Sir L. Rundle 
had recently placed in command there, with orders to fortify 
himself and deny the whole of this magazine and stronghold to 
the Boers. Campbell was now the weaker by a battalion, the 
2nd Scots Guards, which had been removed to Natal a fortnight 
earlier. Rimington and Spens, reinforced by Kitchener's Fight- 
ing Scouts under Lieut. -Colonel A. E. Wilson, were between 
Kroonstad and Lindley, raiding with so much success and over 
so wide a stretch of country that it seemed improbable that 
any considerable bodies would slip past them to the north. 
With Bethune, de Lisle, Lowe and Broadwood in line in this 
order from left to right, Elliot moved northward, pausing from 
August 22nd — 26th to clear the Koranna Berg, and to take in 
supplies which were provided on the left by Winburg, on the 
right by Warringham. Though much was heard of the enemy 
— a commando 1,000 strong being reported near Wonderkop — 
nothing was seen of any formed body. The only affair of note 
was to the credit of the Boers themselves, who on August 22nd 
surprised and captured at Evening Star a party of sixty-five 
mounted infantry, detached from the garrison of Ladybrand, 
which incautiously went into the open hoping to drive some of 
the enemy's patrols into Elliot's arms. Broadwood rode hard 
to the rescue, but was too late. Then, whilst Barker and Pine- 
Coffin held Retief's and S'abberts Neks, Elliot continued his 
march eastward to the A^itte Bergen, Bethune moving by 
Leyden, Braamboschfontein and Kaffirkraal to Rietvlei ; de 
Lisle by Governors Kop and Groenfontein ; Lowe and Broad- 
wood through Ficksburg. The results were small, and com- 
munication with the outside columns so defective that a message 
sent to B. Campbell on the 31st requesting him to co-operate did 

VOL. IV. 21 



322 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA, 

not reach him untU late on September ist, whilst to the north 
Rimington, Spens and Wilson were at this momen busy upon 
a separate scheme which had no bearing on EU>ofs opera Uon 
For three days Elliot remained near the Brandwater basm, clear- 
ing as much stock and produce as the difficulty of the country 
permitted, but unable to come to close quarters with the human 
population, who could be seen "climbing up the slopes of the 
mountains on their hands and feet to get away. * 

The division then marched back to Wmburg, mto which on 
September 6th were taken nine prisoners, 100,000 stock and 140 
vehicles, 850 tons of wheat having been destroyed on the way 
TUrwa^ so Uttle profit from the richest and least harned distnct 
of the Orange River Colony that ElUot was almost immediately 
ordered to repeat his raid. On the mght of September 8th he 
again marched eastward, practically by his former rou e and to 
his former stations, but with better results. First on the nth. 
de Lisle came in sight of a Boer convoy on the move near 
Governors Kop. A gallop of twelve miles dehvered the whole 
into his hands, the capture consisting of seventeen prisoners, 
sixty-nine vehicles, a wheeled flour mill and some stock. On 
the I2th and 13th Bethune had smaU successes at Wond^°p 
and Rietvlei. The clearance of the western slopes of the W,t e 
Bergen during the next five days not only yielded considerable 
booty, but had the effect of driving parties of Boers across to 
B. CampbeU, who was still in his original position about Bnndis. 
Drift in co-operation with Brigadier-General Sir J. G. Uartnell 
who had recently brought the Imperial Light Horse bngade (ist 
Tnd and regiments) from Harrismith to Bethlehem and thence 
to Relief s and Slabberts Neks. On September 17th B. Camp- 
beU took seventeen prisoners near Steynsberg : his and Dart- 
neU's captures of stock had already been immense and the 
general clearance bade fair to become thorough when affairs 
flsewhere somewhat interrupted it. Botha's threat at Natal was 
»."..» . at this time fast developing, and the Commander-m-Chief was 
rhe°S?r,'" manceuvering all available troops withm hail. Sir L. Rundle 



Effect of 
Botha's 



Transvaal 



Report by Lieut- General E. L. Elliot, September 8th, 1901. 



I 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 323 

had already been ordered to block every pass of the Drakens- 
berg between Van Reenen's Pass and Witzies Hoek. On Sep- 
tember 19 th Elliot received orders to march on Bethlehem for 
Harrismith. On the same date Spens, from the northern trio 
of columns, and a few days later Dartnell with one of his regi- 
ments, were withdrawn for entrainment to Natal. His other 
unit Dartnell left in Bethlehem under Lieut.-Colonel C. J. Briggs, 
who displayed the greatest activity, capturing twenty prisoners 
before the end of the month. Elliot, his line of march harassed 
by sharpshooters throughout, reached Bethlehem on the 22nd, 
and Harrismith four days later, his total gains since September 
loth having been thirty-six prisoners, 60,000 head of stock, 
228 wagons and carts, and a mass of agricultural stuff. On 
September 30th Bethune followed Sir J. Dartnell to Natal. 

Meanwhile Rimington, Spens and Wilson had made sundry Rimington's, 
successful raids from Kroonstad in combination. On September v^ison't" 
2nd Wilson accounted for ten Boers near Zuurfontein, south- operations, 
east of Kroonstad. On the next day Rimington ran down a 
Boer convoy at the head of the Bloem Spruit, taking twenty 
prisoners and seventy-four vehicles, Rimington then received 
information that De Wet and Steyn were between Heilbron and 
Frankfort. He accordingly moved thither, and although the 
Free State leaders remained invisible, long and rapid marches 
were rewarded by continual small captures. On September 
23rd Rimington scoured the space between the Wilge and 
KHp rivers,* and after a ride of forty-eight miles brought into 
camp thirty prisoners and thirty-six vehicles. There was still 
news of De Wet, the most definite being a circumstantial report 
that the prize of the campaign was lying ill at a farm near 
Uitenhage, south-east of Serfontein station. On the evening 
of the 24th Rimington took 300 men, and riding all night a dis- 
tance of fifty-seven miles, surrounded the building at dawn. 
But the information, as indeed all that had concerned De Wet, 
was false. Five Boers found asleep in the garden were the only 

* The stream between Heilbron and Frankfort ; not to be confused with that which 
joins the Vaal on the west of Standerton. 

VOL. IV. 21* 



324 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

reward. Rimington then returned to Heilbron after a suc- 
cession of forays such as the Boers themselves could scarcely 
have equalled in speed and distance, and, above all, in pre- 
servation of horseflesh ; for it was no uncommon thing for the 
troopers to be called upon for a bout of the severest galloping 
as the termination of a march which would itself have brought 
in less skilfully managed men and horses exhausted and only 
fit for camp. 
Byng'sand There Only remained to be accounted for in September two 

!^~V;!!* columns from Bruce Hamilton's late command. When that 

operations. 

General's forces were dissevered early in September Byng and 
Dawkins, instead of following the rest across the railway, were 
detached on a special mission. At this time there was in process 
of construction a line of blockhouses from Potchefstroom through 
Scandinavia to Kopjes station, the work being carried out 
simultaneously by the 2nd Scots Guards from the western end 
and the Oxfordshire Light Infantry (recently come from Heil- 
bron) from the eastern. The presence of some 600 Boers in 
the vicinity seemed hkely to interfere, and Byng and Dawkins 
were ordered northward to drive them clear by working from 
east to west. On September loth both columns reached Vrede- 
fort Road by train, and on the next day marched upon the Vaal. 
Brigadier-General G. G. Cunningham had previously occupied 
Lindequee, and beyond him Lieut. -Colonel A. H. M. Edwards, 
with 800 South African Constabulary, held the Los Berg ; the 
Scots Guards were at Scandinavia Drift. On the night of Sep- 
tember 12th Byng raided Parys and Vredefort, securing thirteen 
prisoners. Holding Reitzburg, Byng then scoured the lower 
Rhenoster river, having several smart skirmishes with local 
bands which were chiefly engaged in the guardianship of the 
large magazines of grain and the numerous women's laagers which 
had collected in this district. On the night of the 19th twenty 
prisoners were taken at Rensburgs Drift. Next day Dawkins 
secured nine more, and by September 24th sixty fighting men 
and more than 500 families had been gathered in. At every 
march the country seemed to become richer and more infested, 
and Byng reported that it would occupy at least three weeks 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 325 

properly to deal with the Boers and the innumerable storehouses 
which he had met at every turn. Here may be noted another 
formidable difficulty of this singular campaign, namely, the 
extraordinary rapidity with which the enemy contrived to 
re-occupy districts which had been apparently denuded of every 
hving and growing thing. This district but a month before 
had been the path of ElUot's line of columns on their way to 
the Modder ; but its speedy replenishment was only an instance 
of many such feats performed in every quarter of the theatre 
of war. Thus EUiot, again, had lately found the very farms of 
the Witte Bergen which he had ransacked in the first week of 
September to be as full as ever of grain when he revisited them 
ten days later on his second excursion from Winburg. No 
resources are so difficult to dry up as those of an agricultural 
people. Manufacture, commerce, finance, war may kill at one 
blow ; but the army which makes war upon the sons and stores 
of the soil has a long and tedious task. 

About September i6th the last blockhouse of the new system 
was completed, its value being shown by the continual attempts 
to pierce it which occurred from this time forward. The Boers 
were gradually pressed towards Bothaville, Byng taking in all 
eighty-one prisoners before he moved up the Valsch towards 
Kroonstad, which he reached on October 3rd. His own losses 
had been small, the heaviest in one day having been one killed 
and ten taken prisoners in an attack made by a commando under 
Liebenberg upon a party of South African Light Horse which 
was returning from a patrol to Klerksdorp. Of the other 
columns in the west Henry had all this time been operating in 
the Ramah — Luckhoff district, and W. H. Williams between 
Fauresmith and Edenburg, accounting between them for 145 
Boers in raids too frequent to be given in detail. 

Within less than a week from his return to Kroonstad, 
Byng, now in command both of his own column and that 
of Dawkins (who departed to take up a command in 
the Northern Transvaal*), was once more in the Bothaville — 

• See Chapter XXV. 



326 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Reitzburg area. Here he remained throughout October, 
operating with uniform success against his former opponents. 
On the I2th and 13th he took twenty-eight prisoners north- 
east of Botha ville. He then combined with Hickie, who 
pushed the enemy towards him from Dood's Drift whilst 
Byng himself came south from a visit to Klerksdorp. The 
result was that on the 26th Byng was able to surround a 
laager at Kameelfontein, and take a whole field-cornetcy of 
twenty-two men, including two officers. Making for Vredefort 
Road towards the end of the month, a sudden volte-face 
surprised the enemy's scouts as they tracked the hne of 
march, and a further sixteen prisoners brought Byng's total 
captures for October to sixty-six. These and the prisoners of 
the previous month were especially valuable because all the 
Boers in this district were under orders to reinforce the invaders 
of Cape Colony, and Byng had not only considerably weakened 
the contingent, but thoroughly disorganised its preparations for 
the march southward. On November ist Byng was in Vrede- 
fort Road. The only other columns working on the western 
side of the railway during October were those of Henry and W. H. 
Williams, who combined in a search for Hertzog between Faure- 
smith and the defended Riet river. Wilhams met with success 
on the I2th at Schraalfontein, one day's march from Edenburg, 
taking ten prisoners, including three officers. At the end of 
the month he was back at Edenburg, Henry going in the opposite 
direction to Modder River station. On the east of the railway 
there was more activity. The continually disturbed state of the 
area bounded by the Orange river, the railway, the Basuto 
border, and the Bloemfontein — Thabanchu — Ladybrand block- 
houses, that is, the south-eastern quarter of the Orange River 
Colony, now caused the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate fresh 
measures for its subjugation. Combinations of troops, " drives " 
and raids had all aUke failed to free this district, a part the 
more important because it gave access to the main passages 
in^^e south- i^^o Cape Colony. Abandoning the principle of moving 

^t of the columns, therefore. Lord Kitchener now ordered the assign- 
Orange River r /- 1 • 1 • 1 

Colony. ment of fixed areas to the several columns withm the zone. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 327 

each column to be made responsible for the complete clearance 
of " the enemy, as well as of every living creature "* from the 
country within its allotted section. In comphance with this 
scheme a number of columns drawn from Sir C. Knox and 
Rochfort (late Bruce Hamilton) were at once centred as 
follows : Du Moulin at Ventershoek ; Lowry-Cole at Jammers- 
berg Bridge ; Bogle Smith at Schanskopjes on the Kaffir 
river ; Major A. C. Hamilton at Kransfontein ; Lord Basing at 
Humans Rust ; Minchin and Copeman, Thomeycroft's two wing 
commanders, at Elands Berg and Vecht Kop ; Western at Zand- 
fontein, north of Aliwal North ; Taylor and Lean, the leaders 
of Pilcher's units (which returned from Cape Colony on 
October 5th), at Wolve Kop and Pampasfontein respectively. 
All were placed under the general command of Lieut.-General 
Sir C. Tucker, who controlled also the South African Con- 
stabulary posts along the hne Kaffir River — Dewetsdorp — 
Wepener. Space fails to deal in detail with the doings of each 
and all of this assembly during the ensuing two months. There 
was never a moment's cessation of activity, never a day without 
fighting. In this district, scoured a hundred times as it had 
been, every column found an enemy, and sometimes alone, 
sometimes in combination with a neighbour, carried out schemes 
so numerous and varied, evolved with so much care and pro- 
ductive of so much labour that here, as in too many other por- 
tions of this history, a paragraph must do scant justice to what 
would adequately fill a volume. That the enemy survived Tenacity of 
at all in the narrow interstices between the revolving bodies of ^ * «"emy. 
troops was striking evidence of his extraordinary military 
quaUties. But he did more ; he was as ready as ever to take 
the offensive, and to deal prompt justice upon the most momen- 
tary lapse on the part of a column commander. As late as 
October 26th, when scarcely a yard of the region had been left 
unswept, a detachment of 200 men wandering too far afield at 
Klein Zevenfontein, north-west of Smithfield, found itself in 
extreme danger from a commando double its strength, which 

* Telegram from Commander-in-Chief, September 28th, 1901. 



328 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

charged in to within fifty paces of camp, killing an officer, 
wounding ten men, and destroying most of the horses. By a 
stout defence, aided by the approach of Lean from Pampas- 
fontein, the Boers were driven off with loss. A few days earlier 
a patrol had been surrounded and destroyed near the same spot. 
Again, on the 27th a reconnoitring party sent out by A. C. Hamil- 
ton north of Bethulie was attacked by some 200 Boers near 
Grootfontein. On November 5th Bogle Smith and Lowry-Cole 
were in contact with a band of 200 near Daspoort ; a week later 
a strong patrol was attacked at Rietput ; on the 17th one of 
Lowry-Cole's patrols of 100 men had to fight for six hours at 
Roodepoort against a commando which all but succeeded in 
rushing the position, an officer and eleven men falling in the 
encoimter ; on the 19th A. C. Hamilton discovered a laager of 
200 on the Shk Spruit ; on the 27th a commando of 300 was 
reported at Commissie Hoek. These repeated apparitions were 
largely the work of the same roving bands, a fact which only 
exemplified the difficulty of clearing, even by the closest quarter- 
ing, a single small area of the theatre of war. Nevertheless, 
the final balance was heavily against the enemy. By the end 
of November two-thirds of their armed strength had been 
removed by death or capture ; their most secret storehouses 
had been ransacked, " sufficient wheat being found concealed 
in false ceilings and by false walls to feed the Boer forces in the 
district for years ; "* scarcely a head of stock remained alive 
between Dewetsdorp and Aliwal North. The system, in short, 
proved more successful than any which had been yet attempted ; 
and if its profits appear trifling in comparison with its enormous 
expenditure, such must always be the case when a nation of 
armed nomads, for such the Boers had now become, challenges 
its opponent to a war of extermination. 
Elliot on the Throughout October affairs on the Natal borders and the 

subsequent pursuit of Botha's defeated forces confined Elliot 
to the neighbourhood of Harrismith, where he held himself in 
readiness to reinforce the eastern troops should need arise. 

* Colonel A. N. Rochfort's report, December nth, 1901. 



Natal border. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 329 

Nevertheless, he kept his columns continually employed, and 
his stay was more fruitful than many of his more comprehensive 
manoeuvres had been. De Lisle, supported by Broadwood, and 
based on Verkykers Kop, scoured first the Witkoppies, then the 
valley of the Wilge river, in which on October 15 th a laager of 
thirty-four vehicles was captured with fifteen prisoners. A 
movement upon the Botha's Berg, to be made in conjunction 
with Rimington from Standerton, fell through owing to rain 
and mist. The columns then separated, Broadwood's moving 
southward to Witzies Hoek in combination with a force 
despatched by Sir L. Rundle, whilst de Lisle, pushing on north- 
ward, skirmished his way by Pram Kop and De Lange's Drift 
(26th) to Standerton at the end of the month. Thirty-three 
Boers killed, wounded and taken prisoner, eighty-five vehicles 
and 26,000 head of stock were the gains of these operations. 
Rimington, it has been mentioned, was at Standerton at the 
time of de Lisle's northward marches from Verkykers Kop. He 
had been led thither partly in the hope of co-operating with 
Sir H. Rawlinson who, in the course of his operations in the 
Transvaal, was nearing the Vaal. As it was probable that bands 
would avoid him by crossing this frontier, Rimington had 
skirted the left bank of the river by Villiersdorp and Cornelia, 
and fording Roberts Drift on October 3rd, camped near Stander- 
ton until the 7th. He then made for the Botha's Berg, expecting 
to combine with de Lisle and Broadwood. But for the reasons 
given above Elliot's columns were not to be found, and Rimington 
circled northward in chase of several small convoys, some of 
which he captured. On October 14th he took twelve prisoners 
near Vilhersdorp, and returning thence to Standerton with thirty- Rimington 
seven prisoners and eighty-two vehicles to his credit, was drawn ^"m"' *^* 
into the pursuit of Botha's levies in the Eastern Transvaal. Transvaal. 
He returned to Standerton early in November. 

In the first week of October Lord Kitchener ordered the 
construction of a fresh blockhouse line, to run in the first 
instance from Heilbron to Frankfort. In order that the work 
might be begun from both ends simultaneously, which was now 
the usual practice, Damant, last seen at Edenburg, was railed 



330 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

northward with orders to march to Frankfort, and Wilson was 
despatched to Heilbron with his regiment of Kitchener's Fight- 
ing Scouts, Wilson was strongly opposed on his march from 
Fighting Kroonstad. Rimington had now been absent for five days, 

HeUbJon. Damant had only just reached Heilbron, and in the interval a 
strong body of Boers had gathered to the south of the town. 
On the 6th, after passing the Rhenoster, Wilson became hotly 
engaged. One of his parties was lured into an ambush and 
almost surrounded, thirteen men being captured ; but the rest, 
holding out firmly, kept off superior numbers at thirty yards' 
range, and the force got through to Heilbron with the loss of 
four killed, and fourteen, including five officers, wounded. 
Damant, delayed by weather and the difficulty of equipping, 
did not leave Heilbron until the 12th, and employed the time 
in driving off Wilson's attackers, whom he ascertained to be 
part of a nmnerous body assembled by De Wet himself. On 
the 13th Damant was at Frankfort, and at once came in touch 
with a commando 500 strong which was on the march for the 
interior of the Orange River Colony from out of the Transvaal. 
From this time imtil the end of October strong hostile 
bodies were reported and observed in every direction. On 
the 2ist there were some 1,500 Boers within reach of Heil- 
bron, and Damant decided to strike. On the night of October 
24th he marched against a laager discovered on the Vaal at 
Rietfontein, which he attacked at dawn. The majority of the 
Boers, who were some 300 strong, escaped, but nineteen were 
taken with thirteen wagons. Damant then (27th) pursued 
another commando along the Libenbergs Vlei river, capturing 
five, and thereafter continued to raid around Frankfort until, 
in the first week of November, he received orders concerning a 
manoeuvre which must now be considered in some detail. 

The experiences of Damant and Wilson revealed the presence 
of an unusually strong hostile concentration between Heilbron, 
Lindley, Reitz and Frankfort, collected, it was continually 
reported, by the long invisible De Wet. At this period no news 
was more gladly received by the British Headquarters than that 
of a tangible enemy, especially in the Orange River Colony, 



I 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 331 

where De Wet's tactics of dispersion had practically demorahsed 
the campaign. But De Wet himself had now begun to suspect De Wet 
the ultimate futility of such methods against an opponent who concentrates. 
was to be worn out neither by tedium nor expense. His multi- 
tudinous bands had in reality achieved little or nothing, and, 
gradually whittled as they were by incessant contact with 
superior forces, it was they, not the British columns, who were 
feeling the strain. Towards the end of September, therefore, 
De Wet had summoned the commandos of Bethlehem, Vrede, 
Heilbron, Ladybrand, Kroonstad and others to assemble on the 
Libenbergs Vlei river, and it was the gradual convergence of 
these forces that had caused the columns in the district daily 
to report the appearance of fresh bodies. 

Lord Kitchener at once prepared elaborate measures for Plan to sur- 

... J , , , rj^t , round De Wet 

taking advantage of so welcome an occurrence. 1 he enemy s 
rendezvous appeared to be a farm, called Paardehoek, on the 
Libenbergs Vlei river, some forty miles south-east of Heilbron 
and twenty south of Frankfort. On all sides of this, but at 
a great distance from it, the Commander-in-Chief disposed a 
cordon of columns. The spot was in a measure already sur- 
rounded. At Harrismith were Sir L. Rundle and Elliot, the 
latter strengthened by McKenzie's 2nd Imperial Light Horse 
(of Brigadier-General Sir J. Dartnell's brigade) in place of de 
Lisle, who was at Standerton in company with Rimington ; 
Damant was at Frankfort ; Wilson with Kitchener's Fighting 
Scouts at Heilbron ; the ist Imperial Light Horse under Briggs 
(of Brigadier-General Sir J. Dartnell's brigade) at Bethlehem ; 
Barker, W. H. Williams and Holmes (successor to Pine-Coffin) 
at Winburg. Completing the ring by bringing Sp)ens to Botha's 
Pass and sending Byng to join Wilson in Heilbron, Lord 
Kitchener issued orders for a general movement on Paardehoek 
by all the columns with the exception of Sir L. Rundle's and 
those from Winburg, which were instructed to take up an im- 
passable line from Lindley through Bethlehem to Harrismith, 
blocking all egress to the south. Unlimited ingenuity and 
thought were lavished on the scheme. It was to be carried 
out in six marches. Whilst the daily destinations of each 



332 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

column were strictly appointed, and carefully adjusted to equalise 
the pressure and allay the suspicions of the enemy, each com- 
mander was allowed to select his own route, and was enjoined 
above all to conceal his ultimate aim from the enemy. Decep- 
tion, it was hoped, would be further assisted by Damant remain- 
ing motionless at Frankfort until the rest of the cordon had 
contracted by four days' marching. On November 6th the 
operation began, and the columns advanced from the circum- 
ference of a circle of a diameter of more than 150 miles in 
length. Six days later they drew up face to face at the 
appointed spot, having neither seen nor heard of any large hostile 
body, and with less than 100 prisoners amongst them all. Yet 
the plan and its execution, if they had failed to command 
success, had well deserved it. In spite of a hundred unfore- 
seen difficulties the orders had been carried out as accurately 
as they had been drawn. Swollen rivers had baulked the 
arrangements of the commanders, heavy mists had blinded their 
scouts. In the obscured atmosphere the labour of deceiving 
the enemy was almost useless, yet it was faithfully borne. " No 
column marched straight upon its objective ; some at times were 
actually moving away from it ; and the marches of all were 
circuitous and misleading to a degree : yet none were late, and 
all reached their allotted points fresh and ready for the work 
which they hoped would ensue. . . . The results were less than 
the excellence of the work performed by officers and men deserved, 
and this was in a great measure due to accident."* Twenty-two 
Boers killed, ninety-eight captured, 200 wagons and 14,000 head 
of stock formed the total acquisitions of the thirteen columns. 
The Boers, in fact, had been so much more scattered than had 
been reported that many had drifted through the meshes with- 
out even being aware that a net had been thrown around them. 
De Wet Every accident conspired to assist them. De Wet, finding sup- 

disperses, plies, and especially grass, insufficient to maintain a concentrated 

levy, had ordered another partial dispersal, and his detach- 
ments were now riding in all directions seeking pasture. By 

* Lord Kitchener's despatch, December 8th, 1901. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 333 

pure good fortune their marches had led them out through the 
columns during the first three days of marching, when the gaps 
in the circle were still wide. Only one force of any strength 
had been sighted, when on the evening of November gth some 
400 men had passed between EUiot and Sir J. Dartnell moving 
south-eastward, to be quickly lost in the fog. 

This effort concluded, all the units returned to the original 
points of departure except those of Rimington and Spens, who 
made for Frankfort and Standerton respectively. Even on the 
return marches only one column encountered a formed hostile 
body. On the morning of November i6th Byng and Wilson 
were boldly attacked in rear as they left bivouac at Jagersrust 
for the last day's march into Heilbron, and, hampered by an 
unwieldy mass of cattle and vehicles, had some difficulty in 
beating off their assailants. Eventually they handsomely 
repulsed the Boers, who left eight on the field and carried off 
many more, the casualties in the columns being an officer and 
man killed, three officers and nine men wounded, all of Kitchener's 
Fighting Scouts, which were ably handled by Wilson. Having 
arrived in Heilbron, Wilson resumed his task of guarding the 
construction of the blockhouse line, whilst Byng, going on to 
Vredefort Road, raided the Vaal basin about Lindequee, then 
came back to the railway at Kroonstad on November 24th. 

Rimington and Damant entered Frankfort together on the Rimington's 
i6th, only to quit it again still in company three days later for ^rations!"^ * 
a joint foray down the valley of the Wilge in search of Com- 
mandant Buys, a noted leader who was reported from Head- 
quarters to be in the neighbourhood. A party of South African 
Constabulary and Railway Pioneer regiment were detached to 
hold the drifts of the Vaal across the front. Buys was not on 
the Wilge, and Damant, whose special duty tied him to Frankfort, 
returned on the 19th. Rimington had a roving commission, 
and keeping out east of the Wilge, moved by Bendigo to Villiers- 
dorp. Crossing the Vaal there on the 20th he then swung west- 
ward, and immediately came in touch with the enemy. On that 
morning a post of the Railway Pioneer regiment stationed at a 
drift at Bothaskraal had been rushed, and Rimington, sighting 



334 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

a force on the march, found it to be the successful commando 
making off with its captives, some fifty in number, towards the 
Hex Rivier hills. At Rimington's approach the Boers scattered 
and fled, the prisoners were recovered, and shortly after the 
object of the operation, Buys himself, who had been wounded 
in the attack on the Railway Pioneer regiment, was discovered 
and captured as he was attempting to reach a hospital. Drawing 
supphes from Greyhngstad, Rimington now for a short time 
covered the building of a hne of blockhouses which was in 
progress from Greyhngstad to Villiersdorp, taking eleven 
prisoners on the 22nd. Once more a combined operation was 
arranged with Damant, who, on the 23rd, drove northward from 
Frankfort towards Rimington, who lined the Vaal from Platkop 
to Villiersdorp. Few of the enemy were seen north of the Vaal, 
but Damant discovered several bands lurking beyond Perth, 
and accounted for sixteen Boers and eleven wagons before 
reaching Villiersdorp. Regaining Frankfort on the 24th, Damant 
was immediately despatched southward to follow a reported trail 
of De Wet. Six prisoners were the result of a night march to 
Houbaan and back to Frankfort on the 27th. Both Damant 
and Rimington, together with Wilson from Heilbron, were then 
ordered to conceal themselves near the Krom Spruit, in order to 
be able to descend suddenly southward, Rimington having 
news that De Wet was about to hold a Council of War in the 
midst of his forces half-way between Lindley and Reitz. This 
movement would also enable the columns to act effectively 
outside the right flank of Elliot in a manoeuvre which must now 
be followed. 

At the conclusion of the abortive convergence upon Paarde- 
hoek Elliot had returned to Harrismith on November i6th. 
Elliot Three days later he set out westward again, with orders to 

wMtward. Sweep back to Kroonstad by Bethlehem and Lindley, in con- 
junction with Sir J. Dartnell's and Sir L. Rundle's troops, who 
would hold the mountainous ground on both flanks for the first 
few stages of the march. Accordingly Sir J. Dartnell took the 
Imperial Light Horse brigade to Elands River Bridge ; Reay 
moved to Witzies Hoek ; Firman, with the nth Imperial Yeo- 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 335 

manry, to Oliviers Hoek Pass, and B. Campbell collected his 
long scattered troops at Fouriesburg to post them at Naauwpoort 
Nek, all on November 19th. On the same day Elliot pushed out 
Broadwood and de Lisle, both lightly equipped, towards the 
Brandwater basin, following himself two days later with 
Lowe and the transport of the whole division by the direct 
road to Bethlehem. Constant skirmishing attended the march, 
especially on the left where Broadwood, riding under the shadow 
of the mountains from Elands River Drift to the Roode Bergen, 
found himself almost beneath the rifles of sharpshooters perched 
upon the walls of every defile. He lost in this manner eight 
men on the 22nd. On the 23rd the three columns of EUiot's 
division concentrated east of Bethlehem, and Sir J. Dartnell's 
and Sir L. Rundle's troops turned to leave them and regain 
Harrismith ; not, however, before the value of their assistance 
had been shown, for Dartnell was able not only to divert but 
to defeat an attack on the rear of Lowe's column as it drew on 
towards the others. RefiUing their light wagons, Broadwood 
and de Lisle then pushed on through Bethlehem, Rimington, 
Wilson and Damant on the north, Byng in front, and Barker's 
and the other Winburg columns on the south-west all receiving 
orders to be on the alert both for fugitives and to cover Elliot's 
now open flanks. 

After a night raid to Rexford by Broadwood, which just 
failed to secure Prinsloo's laager, Elliot's columns turned north- 
ward, Broadwood to Bankfontein, Lowe, now in the centre, to 
Rietpoort, de Lisle on the right to Middel Water. North-east 
of Lindley both flanks were engaged, and reports of several 
commandos were current. Nothing more was seen, however, 
than a few small laagers, several of which were taken, and on 
November 30th EUiot entered Kroonstad with eleven prisoners, 
200 vehicles, 42,000 stock ; heaps of destroyed farm stuff and 
implements marked his track across the veld. Towards the 
termination of his march, Rimington and Damant, as has been 
seen, came southward to Jagersrust, joining Wilson who had 
got touch with Elliot on November 27th. Rimington decided Rimington 
to test the truth of the report of De Wet's concentration by a De w?. °' 



336 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Rimington's 
convoy 
attacked by 
DeWet. 



De Wet pre- 



surprise. On the 30th he pressed on to Spytfontein, ordering his 
convoy to follow on the Lindley — Heilbron road escorted by 250 
mounted troops, 300 infantry and a gun under Major A. J. 
Bennett (New South Wales Mounted Rifles). 

The accuracy of the information concerning De Wet was 
quickly proved. At the moment when Rimington ranged ahead 
across the Lindley — Reitz road, chasing groups of Boer scouts, 
De Wet was encamped close on his left front at Blydschap, 
with the commandos of General M. Prinsloo (Bethlehem), General 
Hattingh (Kroonstad) and Commandant H. Botha (Vrede) and 
others lying around him in scattered laagers. Hattingh was the 
first to espy the advancing troops, and sending word to De Wet, 
he circled round behind Rimington and attacked his wagons 
from right and rear. Soon after Prinsloo hurried up, and fell 
upon the left of the convoy, which was thus almost surrounded. 
The escort fought well, a troop of the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons 
especially distinguishing itself by a charge the leader of which. 
Second Lieutenant L. M. Oliver, was killed ; but it must have 
gone hard with the convoy, which was now some seven miles 
behind the main body, had not a messenger despatched by 
Bennett safely reached Rimington with the news. The course 
of Rimington's pursuit had fortunately brought him at this 
moment back to the Lindley — Heilbron road about Groenvlei. 
The whole column immediately galloped back, and outflanking 
the attack, drove it off just as De Wet himself arrived on the 
field with the Vrede and Heilbron men. The Free State leader 
was now in superior strength, and he quickly restored order 
amongst his disconnected units. Expecting Rimington to make 



^imtn°ton^'^'^ for Lindley, he disposed his commandos so as to envelop the 
road, and looked for anpther of those captures such as had 
marked this district as lucky ground for his arms. As his ar- 
rangements progressed, and Rimington appeared to be furthering 
his plans by advancing southward to Victoriaspruit, a torrential 
fall of rain brought both sides to a halt. The downpour con- 
tinued until dark, and De Wet, whose extension had been inter- 
fered with by the storm, decided to postpone his attack until 
next day. He saw the British going into bivouac, and had so 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 337 

little doubt of their intention to march on Lindley, from which 
they were only five miles distant, that he placed no special out- 
posts to keep watch on them. But Rimington had more than a 
suspicion of the dangers l5nng in wait for him. From a Boer 
scout captured at dusk he had learned the strength and com- 
position of his opponents. Benson's fate exactly a month 
before had taught the risks attending isolated columns in the 
presence of a sudden concentration, and Rimington decided that 
for once he would adopt the only portion of his enemy's tactics 
in which he had not already excelled, that of evasion. Parading 
his column at 11.30 p.m. he marched all night, not to Lindley Rimington 
but northward towards Heilbron, leaving De Wet to marvel at Heiibron. 
his disappearance at dawn of December ist. 



VOL. IV. 22 



338 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 



COLUMN. 



August — November, 1 901. 
Lt.-Col.T.D.Pilcher(twocolumns) 
Lt.-Col. A. W. Thorneycroft 
Lt.-Col. C. St. G. Henry 
Lt.-Col. W. G. B. Western 
Major A. Paris ... 
Col. A. N. Rochfort ... 
Lt.-Col. W. n. Williams 
Lt.-Col. the Hon. J. Byng 
Ll-CoI. L. E. du Moulin 
Lt.-Col. W. L. White ... 
Lt.-Col. A. Lowry-Cole 
Major A. C. Hamilton ... 
Major J. H. Damant 
Lt.-Col. J. G. W. Dawkins 
Major S. Bogle Smith ... 
Major G. N. Going 
Brig.-Gen. R. G. Broadwood 
Col.E.C.Bethune(later Col.Lowe) 
Lt.-Col. H. de B. de Lisle 
Maj.-Gen. B. B. R. Campbell .. 

Col. G. E. Harley 

Lt.-Col. C. T. Reay 

Col. F. S. Garratt 

Brig.-Gen. G. M. Bullock 
Lt.-Col. M. F. Rimington 
Major H. d'A. P Taylor 

Major C. F. Minchin 

Major K. E. Lean 

Major F. C. Lloyd 
Lt.-Col. H. C. Copeman 
Major J. E. Pine-Coffin (later 

Holmes) 
Lt.-Col. J. S. S. Barker 
Col. Sir J. Jervis-White-Jervis 
Major F. C. Lloyd 
Lt.-Col. F. F. Colvin ... 
Col. Sir H. Rawlinson ... 
Lt.-Col. Lord Basing 
Lt.-Col. the Hon. A- Murray 
Lt.-Col. M. G. Moore ... 
Brig.-Gen. J. Spens 
Lt.-Col. A. E. Wilson ... 
Lt.-Col. C. J. Briggs 
LL-CoI. D. McKenzie ... 
Lt.-Col. A. H. M. Edwards 
Lt.-Col. W. B. Hickie ... 



1,182 

>.345 
542 
641 

273 
441 

449 
1,014 

Soo 
505 
S04 
57 « 
659 
478 
500 

81S 
1,618 
1,005 
357 
275 
254 
900 

».53o 
726 

695 
477 
210 

457 

834 
500 
360 
210 
410 

1.095 
500 
250 
250 

1,119 
600 

635 
677 
8oot 
642 



260 

211 

94 



600 



99 



1,204 
610 
60s 
269 

1,200 
262 



50 

250 
152 



.S E 



in a; 
9 u 
OS 



o 



Major - General Sir C. 
Knox in command. 



Major - General Bruce 
) Hamilton in command 
(later Col. Rochfort). 



Lieut. - General E. L. 
Elliot in command. 

Lieut. - General Sir L. 
Rundle in command. 



[ Brig.-General H. C. O. 
I Plumer in command. 



1 Major-General A. FitzR. 
\ Hart directing. 



Brig. - General Sir J. 
Dartnell in command. , 



t South African Constabulary. 



{ 



339 



CHAPTER XIX. 

EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL* 

{Continued from Chapter XVI.). 

NOVEMBER, IQOI — JANUARY, I902. 

Early in November, 1901, Lord Methuen and Kekewich were 

once more on the move towards each other by the now familiar 

routes. Withdrawn from an area in which he had made so 

excellent a start, and where there was still much left to do, 

Kekewich passed through Olifants Nek on the 4th, was at Naauw- 

poort on the 5th and 6th, and spent the next few days searching 

for Lord Methuen along the Zeerust road. Not until the loth 

was indirect signalling communication by Magato Nek (or Hoek) Lord Methuen 

gained with Lord Methuen, who, having left Zeerust on Novem- tn coSina-"^^ 

ber 5th, had marched in pursuit of bands of freebooters and tion. 

small convoys (nine prisoners) by the Zwart Ruggens to Lindleys 

Poort (November loth). On the next day the two commanders 

joined forces at Brakfontein, to find that all combined work 

against De la Rey in the north was to be suspended in favour of 

a movement into the Klerksdorp area, whence Hickie, then 

engaged in covering the blockhouse building on the Schoon 

Spruit, had signalled that large bodies of the enemy were massing 

to the west and north-west of him. Accordingly both columns 

turned southward, Kekewich by Vlakfontein and Rietfontein 

to Ventersdorp which he reached on the 15th, on which day Lord 

Methuen, who travelled by Zuurfontein and Rietpan, had a 

sharp affair of patrols at Sterkfontein. Three days later both 

columns marched into Klerksdorp. Meanwhile Hickie, on the 

• See map No. 59. 
VOL. IV. 22* 



340 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



In Klerks- 
dorp, Nov. 
1 8th— 26th, 
1901. 



In Klerks- 
dorp, Dec. 
4th — iith, 
1901. 



13th, had sustained a serious loss at Brakspruit by the destruc- 
tion of two squadrons of Imperial Yeomanry whom he had sent 
to reconnoitre northward, seven men being killed, twelve 
wounded and sixty-four officers and men captured. Both Lord 
Methuen and Kekewich remained at Klerksdorp until November 
26th. Then, with Kekewich and Hickie on his right flank, 
Lord Methuen moved out westward through Hartebeestfontein. 
A number of Boers made off from that prolific hive as he 
approached, some of whom were overtaken next day (27th) at 
Kliprif, where seven Boers with eleven carts of their convoy 
were taken. That the enemy was in greater strength close by 
was proved when the convoy, taking a different route from that 
of the main column, was greeted with a hot fusilade as it 
approached some kopjes on Leeuwfontein. A general stampede 
of the draught animals ensued, seventy-seven horses were 
lost, two men wounded and eleven others injured by the 
unmanageable wagons. 

On the 28th, still heading westward and marching by night, 
Lord Methuen had another minor success. Once more the 
rear of the Boer convoy, lingering at Kleinplaats, was caught 
up after a smart gallop and captured by Lord Methuen's scout- 
ing corps and the 19th Imperial Yeomanry, who brought back 
to Headquarters eight prisoners, eleven carts and wagons, and 
some horses, mules and stock cattle. From Kleinplaats Lord 
Methuen bent south-westward through Klipdrift to Tweepannen, 
where he checked his westward march and turned back towards 
Klerksdorp. Hearing Rooipoort, on the Makwasi Spruit, on 
December ist further small convoys were sighted by one part 
or another of Lord Methuen's front, which covered nearly ten 
miles of the veld ; nearly all those seen were portions of Lie- 
benberg's transport, and were duly ridden down, the results of 
the day being nineteen prisoners, four carts and wagons, 9,000 
head of stock, and nearly 150 horses, mules and donkeys. On 
December 4th Lord Methuen was again in Klerksdorp, bringing 
with him thirty-six prisoners, sixty-six wagons and carts, 14,000 
head of stock, 200 draught animals, and much farm produce, 
many more tons having been destroyed on the way. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 341 

Meanwhile Kekewich, in occasional touch with Lord Methuen, 
had also been operating westward, circling chiefly about Harte- 
beestfontein from Geduld down to Rhenosterspruit and Yzerspruit. 
The sighting of a number of Boer patrols and rearguards 
proved the presence of a considerable force in the neigh- 
bourhood ; but it always eluded approach, and on December 
3rd Kekewich returned to Klerksdorp with three prisoners and 
a mass of booty. A week's rest at Klerksdorp refitted both Lord 
Methuen 's and Kekewich's colimins for the field, and on Decem- 
ber nth they once more moved out westward in combina- 
tion. This time Lord Methuen 's aim was the Mstkwasie Berg, 
north-east of Wolmaranstad, a range some twelve miles long by 
one mile broad, and difficult to search from its rugged and woody 
nature. In its recesses lurked the Wolmaranstad commando, 
led by Potgieter, under whose protection a great number of 
refugees and cattle were reported to be in hiding. On Decem- 
ber 1 2th Kekewich, moving wide on Lord Methuen's right, 
reached Korannafontein, assisting Lord Methuen's movements 
by keeping from his flank a band of 300 Boers under Vermaas 
who were coming down through Witpoort. On the 13th a brisk 
affair, which cost Kekewich two officers and eight men wounded, 
was necessary to drive these away. Lord Methuen was at Pal- 
mietfontein on the 12th on the northern flank of the Makwasie. 
No enemy were encountered here, but the mounted troops, push- 
ing on westward the same night, discovered a convoy on the 
move well to the west of Wolmaranstad. Lord Methuen im- 
mediately pursued, and after a seven-mile gallop on the 13th 
ran down and captured near Kareepan twenty-two wagons and 
carts, 3,000 head of stock, 130 draught animals, together with 
fourteen Boers who had been guarding them. These were a por" 
tion of Potgieter's transport. On the 15th, Kekewich having 
advanced to Klipdrift and Rooipoort, Lord Methuen swung 
southward to Kareepoort, in which direction it was reported that 
Potgieter's column had gone. He was not there, however, and 
had evidently doubled back into the Makwasie Berg, which the 
column had so far only skirted. Lord Methuen, having beaten 
up the outskirts, now decided to draw through the main covert. 



342 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Sending his divisional scouting corps to Leeuwfontein (south- 
west of Wolmaranstad), to block escape from the south, he 
requested Kekewich to come in nearer from the north, whilst he 
himself entered the range. Kekewich failed to receive these 
instructions, as did Lord Methuen likewise a despatch from him ; 
nevertheless, his movement on Palmietfontein on the i6th 
exactly coincided with the requirements of Lord Methuen's 
tactics, more especially as Kekewich, rightly appreciating the 
situation, demonstrated widely athwart the northern arm of the 
range, from Uitkyk on the west to his camp at Palmietfontein, 
effectually anticipating any northerly break-away. Lord 
Methuen's Leeuwfontein detachment scored the first success. 
Their retrograde march in the direction of Wolmaranstad had 
taken Potgieter by surprise, for tracking Lord Methuen as far as 
Kareepan, he had imagined him to be travelling westwcird. He 
had, therefore, as Lord Methuen soon discovered, turned back 
to his stronghold in the Makwasie Berg, and, being now in no 
haste, had allowed the rear of his transport to remain near 
Leeuwfontein. There on December loth it was discovered by 
Major B. W. Cowan and the divisional scouting corps, who 
secured the whole, namely, ten prisoners, 5,000 sheep, and 
a number of vehicles. The southerly and westerly exits thus 
barred, on the 17th Lord Methuen made sure of the east 
with von Donop's and the mounted troops, and with 300 
infantry advanced into the Makwasie. He found success 
unexpectedly easy. So close had his sudden turn northward 
brought him on to the heels of the Boers, that they had 
neither time nor courage to organise opposition along the 
formidable faces of the hills. A good track admitted the 
column into the innermost recesses of their stronghold. 
Soon the whole range was alive with stampeding burghers 
and cattle, and by evening Lord Methuen halted at Klippan 
with sixteen prisoners, 26,000 head of stock, 130 wagons, and 
289 spare draught animals, the captures including the family of 
Potgieter himself. On the i8th Lord Methuen started to return 
to Klerksdorp, captured four more Boers on the 19th, and on 
the 20th re-entered Klerksdorp with thirty-six prisoners, 161 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 343 

vehicles, 36,000 stock, 480 spare draught animals, and more Lord Methuen 
than a quarter of a million pounds of grain. Kekewich, after f^^J^^^^^'^^^J^ 
his comparatively tmeventful but most useful manoeuvres more Dec. 20th- 
to the north, came into Klerksdorp on the same day with only ^ ^ > ^901. 
one prisoner but a considerable quantity of stock and stuffs 
in his train. 

It cannot fail to have been remarked what hosts of cattle 
and sheep, masses of grain, farm implements, grinding mills, 
etc., the various columns brought in or destroyed upon the veld 
from time to time. Lord Methuen's short raid described above 
was but one of hundreds which had been and still were in pro- 
gress all over the theatre of war, sometimes with less results, 
often with greater. In view of the vast quantities of provender The supplies 
thus accounted for, the statement that South Africa was a °^ **** ^'^'*^* 
sparsely supplied and inhospitable country may be held to be 
belied. Nevertheless, for regular troops, moving, as they must, 
slowly and in compact bodies, it must be repeated that few 
countries could have been worse provided than South Africa. 
Only guerrillas, speedy, able to carry much on the saddle, and 
with an intimate knowledge of the country, could have sub- 
sisted, as did the Boers, on the widely disseminated resources 
of the veld farms. Yet the aggregate of such sustenance was of 
course incalculable ; a tally merely of that burned by the columns 
would provide melancholy evidence of the destructive powers 
of war. The attempt to despoil the whole sub-continent — and 
the campaign had for some time resolved itself into nothing less 
than this — revealed both the charity of Nature to men who 
aided her so feebly as the Boer farmers, and the ruinous industry 
of the British columns ; for enormous as were the stores of 
foodstuffs scattered over the veld, they were being surely whittled 
down. The time was drawing nigh when the whole Boer 
nation was to lie exhausted, not in spirit but in body. The task 
was long, and was not yet ended : the General who is compelled 
to grind the mill of destruction upon the provisions of an enemy 
whom he can rarely reach with the sword has taken a slow 
weapon into his hands. Nevertheless, it is a sure one ; and 
every long train of captured stock and wagons brought into 



344 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



at Vryburg, 
Jan. 6th, 
1902. 



camp by the columns, and every wheat-field left burnt and black 
upon the veld was a drop indenting the stone which had so often 
turned, and sometimes shivered, the steel. 

For the third time Lord Methuen and Kekewich saUied in 
company westward from Klerksdorp on December 28th, and 
once more the target was the Makwasie Berg and Wolmaranstad. 
A repetition of the tactics which had been successful ten days 
before found the hills nearly empty. Only Potgieter himself 
with a few followers broke away northward. Reconnaissance, 
however, disclosed the tracks of a much larger body which had 
disappeared in the opposite direction, and following these up. 
Lord Methuen withdrew out of all touch with Kekewich, passed 
Lord Methuen through Schweizer Reneke on January ist, 1902, and on the 6th 
entered Vryburg on the western line, having picked up nine 
prisoners, 8,000 head of sheep and cattle, and six wagons 
and carts. 

Kekewich, blocking, as before, the northern exits of the Mak- 
wasie Berg, on the 29th had vainly endeavoured to intercept 
Potgieter as he ran from the other column, which came in sight 
on the south. Thereafter communication with Lord Methuen 
ceased as the latter hurried westward, and Kekewich, completely 
at a loss as to his whereabouts, was obliged to forego the pre- 
arranged combination. He found, however, plenty to do in 
dealing with the bands which roved around his column and 
infested his camping grounds as soon as he had quitted them. 
One of these he outwitted on January 2nd by leaving a party 
concealed on the deserted ground, seven Boers being wounded 
and captured a few moments later. Still hoping to be of assist- 
ance to Lord Methuen, who should have been now at Doorn- 
bult, Kekewich moved to Holfontein on the 2nd. During 
the march the enemy avenged his mischance of the morning 
by setting an ambush for the scouts. Of an officer and the 
thirteen foremost troopers who rode into the midst of 250 Boers, 
six were wounded in the course of a hard fight, which ended in 
the capture of all. Kekewich now received warning that 
De la Rey and Kemp were close to the northward, and with 
Moedwil in his mind he doubly guarded his bivouacs. He 



Kekewich 
loses touch 
with Lord 
Methuen, 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 345 

still moved forward however, keeping to the north of the route 
which was to have been taken by the vanished column of Lord 
Methuen, imtil, wearying of the chase, and hearing that De la Key 
was no nearer than between Tafel Kop and Lichtenburg, he 
turned on January 4th back for Ventersdorp, which he reached and enters 
on January 9th, having taken twenty-six prisoners, 7,000 beasts, Ventersdorp. 
twelve carts and wagons since starting out on December 27th. 

Ten days earlier Tafel Kop had at last been denied to the 
enemy by the establishment upon it of a fortified post of the 
Suffolk regiment from Naauwpoort. The work of construction 
had been covered by Hickie's force. After seeing the Tafel 
Kop garrison securely seated, Hickie then protected the building Blockhouse 
of a line of blockhouses from the Kop down to Ventersdorp. '*"'''''"g- 
The whole district was at this time busy in the erection of these 
chains of fortifications, Lieut. -Colonel Sir R. Colleton (Royal 
Welsh FusiUers) being thus employed upon the line of the Vaal 
to Bothaville ; Lieut. -Colonel G. N. Mayne (King's Own Scottish 
Borderers) from Ventersdorp to the Mooi river ; Lieut.-Colonel 
G. F. C. Mackenzie (Suffolk regiment) upon the previously men- 
tioned hne from Ventersdorp to Tafel Kop. Space only peimits 
of the briefest reference to the work of several small columns 
circulating in various parts of the Western Transvaal during the 
last quarter of 1901. On the Kimberley side a force under Minor 
Colonel St. G. C. Henry had accoimted for seventy prisoners in ^"'"j"""' '" '*^^ 
many forays since September. In the previous month a credit- 
able action had been fought by the escort to a convoy under 
Major J. F. Humby which, proceeding with supplies towards 
Griquatown, had been determinedly attacked on August 24th 
in very much the same manner as von Donop in October.* Only 
Humby's promptness in laagering his wagons, and the good 
conduct of his troops (Imperial Yeomanry and Northumberland 
Fusiliers), who fought through an entire night, saved the whole 
from capture. The convoy was safely brought into Griquatown 
with the loss of ten killed and twenty-four wounded. In Sep- 
tember a force from Vrybiurg, under Lieut.-Colonel W. H. E. 
Murray, captured twenty-three prisoners in a dashing attack on 

* See Chapter XVI. 



346 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

superior numbers entrenched at Devondale, which cost him 
exactly the same number of casualties as the enemy. 

Another praiseworthy affair in this part was that conducted 
by Lieut. -Colonel R. L. Milne towards the end of November. 
Ordered to proceed with a provision column to Schweizer 
Reneke on the 20th with 129 mounted men, 330 infantry and 
two guns, Milne found his progress opposed from the first, 
being finally intercepted by a strong body when a day's march 
from his objective. Eluding these by a flank march, he entered 
Schweizer Reneke on November 25th. Two days later he 
started to return, and though by disseminating false information 
he kept off the enemy's largest bodies, he had to fight sharply 
at O'Reilly's Pan to get back into Vryburg, which he reached on 
the 30th. The repulse of a band of 150 Boers two days earlier 
by a small blockhouse near Pitsani commanded by Sergeant H. 
Waring (ist Loyal North Lancashire regiment) also deserves 
mention in connection with the western line. 

Nearer the centre of operations about the middle of Septem- 
ber a small column was formed at Bank, under Lieut. -Colonel 
H. T. Hicks (Royal Dublin Fusiliers), with the object of supply- 
ing and covering the South African Constabulary in the Gatsrand 
and Los Berg. Hicks was out until October nth, during which 
time he cleared the Venterskroon and Parys districts, and 
took a 7-pr. gun and some score of prisoners, amongst them 
a commandant, before returning to resume command of the 
garrison at Krugersdorp. He was also instrumental in pro- 
curing the surrender of twenty-seven burghers. Co-operating 
with Hicks, parties under Lieut. -Colonel J. E. Capper and Major 
C. Howard, both officers of the Railway Pioneer regiment, had 
been working about Lindequee blockhousing the drifts over the 
Vaal from October ist onwards. This district continued to be 
disturbed throughout the rest of the year. Early in December 
an alarm that the Schoeman's Drift post was cut off drew Hickie 
from Klerksdorp and McMicking from Vereeniging to its assist- 
ance, and although they found the post surrounded more by 
water than by the enemy, the Vaal being in high flood and im- 
passable, there were undoubtedly strong bands in its vicinity, 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 347 

and constant skirmishes occurred. On December 19th G. G. 
Cunningham, who was commanding the Irene — Wolvehoek 
section of communications, organised a force of 400 officers 
and men* which he took into the angle between the Vaal, the 
Rhenoster and the central rcdlway. On December 21st he 
attacked the hills south of Lindequee from two directions, and 
cleared them with the loss of fourteen officers and men. The 
enemy was then heard of in greater force near Reitzburg, and 
on the 23rd Cunningham reconnoitred in this direction, finding a 
strong position in front of him at Leeuwdooms. The brisk 
skirmishing entailed by a successful movement against the foot- 
hills entailed seven casualties. Cunningham's wagons were 
now empty, and he paused to await the arrival of co-operating 
forces from Witkoppies and Kerr's Drift on the Rhenoster river. 
These arrived under command of Lieut .-Colonel the Hon, A. E. 
Dalzell (Oxfordshire Light Infantry) on Christmas Day, and on 
the 26th the Leeuwdoom hills were cleared after a long day's 
close but inexpensive fighting. At Witbank on the Vaal next 
day the commando narrowly escaped being surrounded, but, 
escaping with the loss of four burghers, it broke up into two 
bands, one of which ran southward past Reitzburg, the other 
up the Vaal towards Parys. Whilst Dalzell pursued the first, 
Cunningham followed the latter, and both so hustled the fugi- 
tives that by the end of December Cunningham was able to 
report the district clear. His casualties during the operations 
had been three men killed, two officers and nine men wounded. 
Dalzell's assistance had been as energetic as it was timely. 
Both on December 27th and 28th he sharply engaged the enemy, 
driving them in succession from Rensburgs Drift and through 
Botha ville, which he thoroughly cleared. These, though many 
minor and often profitable affairs and expeditions must be 
omitted, are all that can be here recorded. To describe the 
skirmishes of every patrol, the attack on every blockhouse, the 
fighting at every drift, would fill many pages with tales of 
adventiure which must be left to oblivion. 

* McMicking's M.I., Royal Irish Rifles M.I., Reynolds' and Richardson's South 
African Constabulary, 4th Railway Pioneer regiment M.I. 



348 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Situation in 
the west at 
the end of 
1901. 



The campaign in the Western Transvaal at the close of 1901 
was somewhat in a state of suspension. The enemy, shouldered 
away by lines of blockhouses, harried out of the best tactical 
positions by the incessant traffic of the columns, was little to be 
heard of along the usual routes or within hail of the lines of com- 
munication. Nevertheless, it was felt rather than known that 
he was by no means mastered. Somewhere out on the western 
veld there still roved leaders whose names might yet sound the 
rally in every Boer laager and the alarm in every British camp. 
In spite of the lull the Commander-in-Chief was well aware that 
scarce one of his columns, garrisons or posts between Rusten- 
burg, Klerksdorp, Vryburg and Mafeking but was in daily risk 
of extinction. Such, however, must always be the imeasy 
position of the opponent of guerrillas. Though the general 
situation be never so safe, at any moment the wire, the tele- 
phone, the hehograph may bring him disagreeable surprises ; 
but he is unfortunate indeed if they convey what would be the 
greatest surprise of all — that the enemy had achieved a success 
great enough to affect the issue of the campaign. 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 



November, \c/a\— January, 1902. 

Lt.-Gen. Lord Methuen... 
Lt.-Col. S. B. von Donop 
Col. W. B. Hickie 
Col. R. G. Kekewich 
Col. St. G. C. Henry 
Lt.-Col. H. T. Hicks 
Lt.-Col. R. L. Milne 
Maj. H. McMicking 
Brig.-Gen. G. G. Cunningham... 
Lt.-Col. the Hon. A. E. Dalzell 







"3 '3 


S 

9 


1 


2. S 













c 
s 


l-H 


•s 







s 


s 


1,325 


600 


»3 


2 


680 


330 


7 


— 


67.S 


«93 


6 


1 


853 


1,020 


S 


2 


541 


'75 


3 


I 


250 


560 


3 


I 


129 


330 


2 


— 


300 


180 


2 


— 


400 


— 


2 


I 


450 


~ 


I 


I 



349 



CHAPTER XX. 

EVENTS IN THE NORTH-WEST AND WEST OF CAPE COLONY.* 
APRIL — DECEMBER, IQCI. 

It was characteristic of the limitations of the military talent of Strategical 
the Boers that the real joint in the strategic armour of Cape Bw^°nCape 
Colony remained undiscovered until the weapon which might Colony, 
have pierced it had been broken. In its midland and eastern 
parts the British province could never have been in extreme 
danger from such forces as the Boer States were able to bring 
against it from the end of 1900 onwards ; the country was too 
difficult, the barriers too numerous, the hostile communications, 
lengthy though they were, too well guarded, and the objectives 
too few. It was comparatively easy for the British commanders 
to cut up the terrain into so many enclosures, and so quickly 
to transfer the fencing, that the commandos, though they might 
long escape actual arrest, were always either in prison or flying 
from one corral to another. True, a more intelligent and 
coherent plan of campaign might have done much in the earUer 
days of the invasion ; but it must have eventually perished on 
one of the many ranges which barred the way to the sea. More- 
over, even supposing that the Boer commandos should have 
pitched their laagers upon the coastline from Cape Agulhas to 
East London, Cape Colony, for all its rebeUion, would still not 
have been theirs. The heart of the coimtry beat elsewhere, 
and not only the British but the Boer heart. In Cape Town 
alone, and in the country immediately north of it, lay the true 
Republican forces, forces far more potent than the sentimental 

* See nuip No. 63. 



350 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Maritz 

assumes com- 
mand in the 
north-west ; 
April, 1 901. 



vapourings of Graaff Reinet — ^the forces of money, brains, organi- 
sation and a statesmanship only awaiting the proper hour to 
reveal itself, and astute enough not to emerge at all if that hour 
should never strike. If in Natal there had been no hope at all 
— for not the fall of Ladysmith, of Pietermaritzburg, or of Durban 
itself would have wrested that little community from the British 
flag — in Cape Colony there was but one hope, and one way to it. 
Only the capture, or even the investment, of Cape Town would 
have fired the sluggish but enormous explosive of rebellion lying 
dormant in Cape Colony ; and the military road to Cape Town 
ran not within sight of the Indian but the Atlantic Ocean. Of 
all the many invaders, then, up to the time to which this narra- 
tion has been brought, Hertzog alone had opened the Boer 
game aright. But weak, unsupported and timid as he had been, 
looking back to the Orange for De Wet rather than forward to 
his best reinforcements — the unawakened commandos of the 
western farmsteads — he had proved the least instead of the most 
dangerous of the disturbers of Cape Colony. Small rebellions, 
it is true, had followed, but they were equally aimless, and even 
less daring. Such were those of J. F. Froneman in Kenhardt 
and A. Van Niekerk in Calvinia. It was not until the middle 
of April that a leader appeared with an eye to see and an arm 
to wield the potentialities of a campaign in the west. 

This was the already referred to Commandant S. G. Maritz, 
an officer selected from the staff of Scheepers at the time when 
that leader was beginning his career of adventure upon the 
mountain staircases between the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth 
railways. Maritz, with four companions, made the long and 
hazardous journey to the north-west, some 300 miles, in safety, 
and in the middle of April appeared first in Brandvlei and next 
in Kakamas. He found the field not only untilled but actually 
impoverished by his predecessors. Hertzog had done no more 
than rob it of its most valuable military asset, its horseflesh ; 
the others, by their high-handed conduct and incapacity, had 
disgu ted hundreds who had been all for the cause. Maritz 
himself was a leader after the burghers' own heart. Physically 
of great strength, recklessly brave, a fine rider and shot, he had 



EVENTS IN N.-W. AND W. OF CAPE COLONY. 351 

in addition those qualities of friendliness, patience and sympathy 
without which none could successfully command men who both 
in their own eyes and those of the law were his equals as much in 
the field as in the farm. His first act was to degrade the hated 
Froneman, who appealed in vain to the votes of the men whom 
he had mishandled. His next was to return to Brandvlei and 
take the offensive against the only British force in the district. 
This wcLs the column of Major H. S. Jeudwine, R.A., which, as British troops 
already related,* had moved from De Aar, in strength 420 men, west under 
of whom fifty were infantry, with two guns, on April 20th. Jeudwine; 
On May 12th Jeudwine entered Brandvlei, having improvised ^" ' 
his supply and transport in the face of great difficulties at Van 
Wyks Vlei. Moving upon Brandvlei from the south, in order 
to keep the Boer bands above him, Jeudwine encountered on 
the way only one of Maritz's patrols at Nelskop. The march 
from De Aar, indeed, had been no secret ; from the moment he 
left the railway Jeudwine had been dogged by a party of Boer 
officers, under a Commandant E. Conroy, who were on their 
way to join Maritz at Brandvlei. Whilst Jeudwine was occupied 
at Van Wyks Vlei this band hovered on his communications 
in observation, but Conroy, as soon as he was certain that 
Jeudwine was marching upon Brandvlei, hurried thither, out- 
riding the column. Maritz, who was unprepared to encounter 
an opponent of such strength, emptied the town of its inhabi- 
tants, goods and stock, and himself fell away twenty miles to 
the south of Nelskop, on which he left the afore-mentioned patrol 
to amuse Jeudwine. Soon after Maritz turned this enforced 
evasion both to his profit and prestige. Waylaying at Melk- 
boschfontein two detachments of Calvinia district troops, he 
captured both, and though nearly all the prisoners subsequently 
contrived to escape, the, to the Boers, more valuable portion of 
the booty, consisting of several carts and wagons and 15,000 
rounds of ammunition, remained in Maritz's hands. On the 
next day Jeudwine more than equalised matters by capturing 
on the Klaver Vlei road sixteen men of the Nelskop patrol, with 

» See Chapter XIII. 



the country. 



352 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

twenty vehicles and nearly 7,000 head of stock. Nevertheless, 
Maritz's easily earned success confirmed his ascendancy over his 
raw rebels. Especially did they admire the skill with which he 
had avoided the main British colimin, for, as with all men who 
fight as felons, the prospect of the penalties of unsuccessful 
fighting caused them to dread any encounter in which victory 
was uncertain. Unlike regular combatants, rebels, however 
numerous, are usually weakest in spirit at the opening of their 
campaign. Maritz knew this well. For weeks following this 
success he nursed both his followers and their friends by harm- 
Maritz scours less but incessant marches over all the north-west, visiting as 
many farms as possible, and generally creating an impression of 
ubiquitous power in every homestead from Kenhardt down to 
Calvinia. Conroy he had early sent up to Kakamas to organise 
the numerous but vacillating rebels there, with what success will 
be referred to later. 

Meanwhile Jeudwine moved to Tontelbosch Kolk on May 
1 6th, and to Loeries Fontein a week later, hearing much but 
seeing little of the enemy. Thence his information took him 
first to Klaver Vlei, on to Katkop, then back to Klaver Vlei 
on June ist, the troops and transport performing prodigies of 
marching over the almost impassable tracks. From Klaver 
Vlei he reconnoitred westward without result ; then, on June 6th, 
converged once more on Brandvlei, which Maritz was reported 
to have re-entered two days before. The commando was not 
there, however, and Jeudwine, whose animals were now be- 
coming exhausted, made for Tontelbosch Kolk, intending to 
rest them amid the good grazing ground. Arriving there on 
June 8th he was immediately drawn out again by news of Maritz 
at Loeries Fontein, but a forced march of fifty-four miles in 
twenty-four hours once more brought the troops upon an empty 
nest. A last effort against a reported laager fifteen miles further 
on proved equally fruitless, and Jeudwine then took his weary 
men and beasts into Calvinia to rest and refit, arriving there 
on Jime i6th. Once more his respite was brief. On the i8th 
the interruption of the telegraph to the post at Nieuwoudtville, 
forty-eight miles west of Calvinia, warned him of the enemy's 



EVENTS IN N.-W. AND W. OF CAPE COLONY. 353 

presence in that direction. Nieuwoudt villa was held by but a 

dozen men, whose fate was certain without speedy reUef. At 

3 p.m. Jeudwine set out with all the troops he could mount, 

200 in all, and marching all night through pouring rain and 

pitchy darkness, appeared before the place exactly twenty-four 

hours later. There at last he found the enemy, engaged in 

feebly beleaguering the handful of defenders. But still it was 

not the commando of Maritz, but that of a certain Commandant 

A. Louw, a rebel farmer of Calvinia, who had joined Maritz 

during his brief visit to Brandvlei in the first week of June, only 

to quarrel with and separate from him almost as soon as the two 

had met. Maritz himself was in the Bokkeveld mountains, 

south-west of Loeries Fontein, and thither Jeudwine, after 

driving off Louw, followed and found him with his patrols on 

June 2ist. Thereafter he was constantly in touch, and on the 

25th nearly forced the commando to an engagement at Gannen- 

bosch. But Maritz was more bent on canvassing the district Maritz refuses 

for recruits than on battle ; his fighting material was still untem- '° ^ 

pered, his men had as yet learned little more than scouting, 

and the Commandant desired above all things not to alarm them 

and their families by losses in action. Though he was almost 

impregnably posted, he therefore declined a serious encounter, 

and instead led off his men on one of those extraordinary 

marches which had already taught them to respect him as one of 

their ideal leaders, one who conquered by speed and endurance 

rather than by the clumsy resort of battle. For 200 miles he 

rode without a halt, not for any fixed objective, but on a roaming, 

ringing course, first north-easterly through Tontelbosch Kolk, 

thence south-easterly to Williston, then west again past Calvinia, 

next into the valley of the Fish river, which he followed to the 

borders of Sutherland, finally, having thrown out the chase, 

settling into laager in a rich valley below the Roggeveld. He 

was now once more joined by Louw with a following of sixty-six 

burghers, and the two rested together for a few days. 

Jeudwine had followed as fast as he was able. On July 2nd 
he reached Williston, where he captured a piquet which Maritz 
had apparently forgotten. On the 8th Jeudwine, after a sixty- 



VOL. IV. 



23 



354 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



T. Capper 

relieves 

Jeudwine. 



Maritz recon- 
noitres the 
approaches to 
Cape Town. 



eight-mile march, halted at Harde Heuvel. He was then called 
to Grahamstown on urgent civil business, and handing over 
command to Lieut. -Colonel T. Capper, temporarily bade adieu 
to the column which he had led for 1,150 miles in fifty-four days' 
marching, an average of over twenty-one miles a day, in the 
face of incredible difficulties of supply, transport and conditions 
of road. Capper was as unable as his predecessor to close with 
Maritz. Encimibered by gims and transport, his camps always 
overlooked from the precipices by which he was surrounded, he 
could do no more than obtain intermittent sight of the enemy, 
who fled, as active and as unhampered as goats, over the heights 
at the first appearance of danger. By devious ways Maritz 
approached within striking distance of Sutherland, around which 
he wove a network of small bands composed of local rebels, 
who watched every approach. Especially did he reconnoitre 
towards the Cape Town railway, the party-wall between himself 
and the midlands of Cape Colony ; and this not so much in 
apprehension of his adversary as in expectation of his friends, 
for the time was drawing near when the sole strategically sound 
combination of all the Boer operations in Cape Colony was to 
be inaugurated. It was to this end that Maritz, den5dng himself 
the hazards of combat, had been industriously sowing tares of 
disloyalty amongst the sparse enough British wheat in the north- 
west. As yet, however, neither the crop nor the time were ripe ; 
only half the road to Cape Town had been proved, and Attorney- 
General J. C. Smuts, the leader commissioned to reap the fruits 
of Maritz's industry as of that of all the other forerunners in 
Cape Colony, might well, as he perforce did,* delay his advent for 
a time. For the remainder of July Maritz remained in the 
vicinity of Sutherland, communicating freely with Scheepers, 
then gyrating in the Camdeboof hills, whom he urged to come 
over to aid in the work of preparation. Less fortune attended 
his attempts to consult with De Wet, his despatch riders 
being captured on the road. 

Early in August Maritz, having thoroughly investigated 



» See Chapters XIV. and XV. 



t See Chapter XIII. 



EVENTS IN N.-W. AND W. OF CAPE COLONY. 355 

Sutherland, made another of his wonderful marches, as long, as 
swift, as sinuous and as sudden as flashes of lightning, which 
marked him as one of the most able masters of man and 
horse who had yet appeared upon the veld. Rushing down 
the Tanqua Vallei, he swung northward at its junction with the 
Doom river, and traversing half Calvinia, drew rein where the 
Bokkeveld mountains stand on the borders of Van Rhyns Dorp 
county. His recruiting had now outstepped his stores, and he 
was much in need of arms, ammunition, and supplies, and of 
the latter especially horseshoes, which wasted fast under such 
travelUng as he imposed upon them. An attempt on a convoy Capture of 
making for the town of Van Rhyns Dorp miscarried, whereupon oirp!^^^"* 
Maritz decided to possess the town itself. On August 7th he 
secured it, with all its contents and twenty-nine prisoners of the 
Western Province Moimted Rifles, retiring almost immediately 
to the Bokkeveld with forty rifles, six cases of ammimition, 
sixty-five horses, 300 carts, and three wagon loads of stores. 
Capper, following at his best pace, was in Van Rh5ms Dorp four 
days after the Boers ; but he was then drawn out to Clanwilliam 
by the necessity of guarding the approaches to Cape Town, a 
measure rendered advisable by the presence therein of the Heir 
to the British Throne, who had touched at the capital on his 
return voyage from India. Maritz, left untroubled in his moun- 
tains, made eastward at his leisure, and after a visit to the 
Hantam's Berg, went into laager at Brandwacht, near to his old 
hunting ground between Loeries Fontein and Tontelbosch Kolk. 
During the rest of August little was done on either side. 
Maritz had all to gain by delay, whilst Capper, even when 
released from Clanwilliam, was not only too numerically weak 
for active operations, but of the men he had, many had lost much 
of their efficiency from a strange cause. These were colonial 
troops, who, taking service originally for three months, found 
themselves still in the field after fifteen, and they did not scruple 
to assist towards the further prolongation of a campaign under- 
taken largely for their own salvation, some by active and some 
by that passive resistance to orders which can nullify the efforts 
of a commander as effectually as open mutiny. Jeudwine, it 

VOL. IV. 23* 



356 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

should be said, had returned to the west on August 8th, but 
there being an intention to fit out a second force for him, Capper 
remained in actual command. Jeudwine merely accompanied 
the column, serving of his own free will as Staff Officer to a force 
of which, but for an accident, he would still have retained the 
leadership. On the last day of the month Capper, after escort- 
ing a convoy into Calvinia, made a determined attempt to bring 
Maritz to book. Hiding by day and marching by night he 
Capper at actually surrouuded the site of the laager at Brandwacht. But 
witTMariu'^^ ^^^^^ *^^ fortune of war was on the side of the enemy. A number 
of the burghers, led by Maritz himself, happened to be 
absent on a distant reconnaissance. They neither knew nor 
learned anything of Capper's approach until, on riding back 
towards their camp, they suddenly discovered that they were 
behind the British force. Maritz immediately despatched 
messengers by different roads to attempt to pass the column 
and warn the commando. Only one of these contrived to 
get in, but it was enough. Led by a Free State officer 
named Rudolph, the commando succeeded in galloping through 
a narrow and closing gap in the encircling troops, and thus 
escaped when on the very verge of being shut in. Only 
a few stragglers and fifty ponies remained to reward the skill 
and perseverance of the column and its leaders. Capper then 
received orders to march to Ceres, which was reached on 
September 15th. A fortnight later, after a vain attempt to inter- 
cept Theron's westerly movement, Capper was moved to Piquet- 
berg Road station, and thence — Maritz's strategy becoming 
clearer — to Moorreesburg, where he lay until October 15th, bar- 
ring the road to Cape Town to commandos reputed to number 
1,200 strong. Meanwhile Maritz returned to the Bokkeveld, 
and thence to Van Rhyns Dorp. His reputation was higher 
than ever. Daily fresh bodies of recruits joined him from the 
districts under his control. The most considerable of these was 
a band of 120 collected in Sutherland by one of Maritz's staff 
officers, one Piet De Wet ; another strong posse answered the 
call of Rudolph in Gries, a strategic post at the junction of the 
roads from Ookiep, Port NoUoth and Hondeklip Bay, which 



EVENTS IN N.-W. AND W. OF CAPE COLONY. 357 

Maritz did not fail to occupy. This success was timely, for now 
was in sight the harvesting of the crop which he had sown and 
so long tended. Smuts was already in Cape Colony, and one 
by one the various Boer commanders might be expected 
to appear to the west of the Cape Town railway, to add 
their weight at last to a scientific blow at the British hold 
upon Cape Colony. 

The Boer plan of campaign has already been referred to. The Boer 
It was drawn in broad and imposing lines. Whilst Smuts him- ^^'^'^sy- 
self descended upon Port Elizabeth, Maritz, strengthened on his 
inner flank in Ceres by Scheepers, Theron and all the group 
of leaders who had embroiled the midland counties, would move 
upon Cape Town by Clanwilham, Piquetberg and Malmesbury. 
Strategy of such a scope, more fitted to armies than to guerrilla 
bands, was indeed, with the materials now available, a limbus 
fatuorum. It presupposed much that was unlikely, or even 
impossible — that Smuts should fare triumphantly where De Wet 
and all others had failed ; that the various units should enter 
upon it in fighting condition ; that the scheme should materialise 
unobserved by the British, though it threatened the very vitals 
of their colony. It has been described how Smuts did in fact 
fare ; how he and those of the lesser leaders who survived 
counted themselves fortunate when they reeled broken across 
the railway with a few exhausted followers, seeking safety at 
the side of Maritz rather than affording him support. Never- 
theless, by the beginning of October, 1901, the storm-centre had 
definitely shifted from east to west, moving with a concentration 
of purpose which rendered it for the first time dangerous. It 
now lay over the vast plateau which is bounded on the north 
by the Orange river, on the east by the railway from the Orange 
down to Beaufort West, on the south by the line of the Doom 
and Tanqua rivers, and their prolongation the Koms Berg and 
Nieuwveld ranges, on the west by the Kobe and Bokkeveld 
mountains, east of Van Rh5ms Dorp. Over all this tract Maritz 
had hauled down the British and planted the Republican 
flag, and he held as his keep the noble and gigantic redan, 
whose parapets were 200 miles of mountains, having their 



358 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

salient in front of Sutherland and their gorge from Calvinia 
to Beaufort West.* 

But Marilz well knew that his conquest of the uplands pro- 
vided him with little more than a base. Watching with dismay 
the appearance of one battered " supporter " after another, he 
saw, too, that now all depended on himself, and he determined 
Maritz moves to strike at once directly at the strategic point. In the first 
week of October he overran ClanwilUam and Piquetberg, masked 
the garrison of Piquetberg Town, and crossing the Great Berg 
river, entered Malmesbury. On October nth he occupied 
Hopefield, less than three days' ride from Cape Town. In 
the stir which arose in the capital all varying interests 
were silenced. The proclamation of martial law two days 
earlier had at last given to the military the power so long 
begrudged, but which all hastened to invoke now that 
the enemy was so near the gates. At this moment Lieut.- 
General Sir J. French appeared on the scene at Piquetberg 
Road. The trend of the campaign had long been clear to 
him, and it was more than a month since he had assumed 
control of the operations in the west. During that time the 
General's chief aim had been, as it still was, to ruin the 
Boer combination by the wearing down of its units before they 
could come together. If he could not prevent Smuts, Scheepers, 
Theron and the others from joining Maritz, he was determined 
at least that they should carry across the railway but shreds of 
Success of ^ their fighting strength, and he saw his policy everywhere suc- 
tactics.'^^"*^ ^ ceeding. Examining the situation in Piquetberg and Malmesbury 
from October 12th to 14th, he was, therefore, very Httle alarmed 
at Maritz's daring. To the 500 men or so whom the Boer had at 
his disposal, he could oppose at once the three mounted columns 
of Wyndham, who arrived at Piquetberg Road with him on the 
I2th ; of T. Capper, who, with a reorganised and refitted force, 
was in Moorreesburg, in company with a recently formed column 
imder Major F. Wormald (12th Lancers). When these were 
lined up from Hopefield through Klip Gat to Piquetberg Road 

* The physical features of this part of Cape Colony are clearly shewn on the relief 
map to be found in the case of maps published with Volume I. 



EVENTS IN N.-W. AND W. OF CAPE COLONY. 359 

for a northward drive, Maritz himself saw the folly of pushing on 
further, and held to the hne of the Great Berg river. Having 
placed all in order in the west Sir J. French returned to 
Middleburg, delegating command of the operations against Stephenson 
Maritz to Major-General T. E. Stephenson. command. 

Before the columns moved against the Great Berg river, 
Maritz made a dash up the right bank, and hotly attacked a 
detachment of local troops at Halfmanshof on Twenty-Four 
river. The post was rescued on October i6th by a squadron 
of the 1 6th Lancers from Piquetberg Road, after a sharp affair 
which cost the squadron its commander (Captain R. W. D. 
Bellew) and three men killed and three men wounded, the Boers 
losing seven. On the 20th, the columns advanced, Wormald on 
the left, within touch of the coast, T. Capper in the centre, 
Wyndham on the right, and Maritz saw that he must fall back. 
The Great Berg river was yielded with Uttle opposition, nor was 
a stand made upon any of the numerous ridges which traversed 
the counties of Piquetberg and Clanwilliam. Maritz drew his Maritz fails 
men northward in several bodies, which he reimited at Graaf 
Water and took into the Bokkeveld just as on October 24th the 
three columns halted on the line Clanwilliam — Lamberts Bay. 
But the Commandant's retreat was neither so aimless nor so 
precipitate as it appeared. Whilst Wyndham turned aside with 
a convoy for Calvinia, and Capper and Wormald laboured 
across the sandy wastes to Compagnies Drift on the Ohfants 
river, several Boer leaders appeared to join Maritz, amongst 
them Theron, who, ever since his evasion of Wyndham and 
Alexander a month earlier, had been cautiously making his way 
about the borders of Ceres and Calvinia, looking for a chance to 
throw the remnants of his force into the western movement. 
On October 2Qth Maritz, his conmiand much augmented, re- Again 
sumed his original plan and once more turned his face towards southward, 
the south. On the 30th he crossed the Ohfants between Com- 
pagnies Drift and the sea, and pushing on, captured and burned 
a convoy which was returning from Lamberts Bay to Clan- 
wiUiam on the 31st. Wormald, hurrying to save it, arrived too 
late, though he made a noteworthy forced m<irch of sixty-five 



36o THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

miles in seventeen hours, largely in the dark. With only 150 
men he was himself in some danger below the Lange Berg 
until Capper hastened by night to support him. Maritz, having 
thus completely doubled on his former pursuers, now moved 
southward by way of the coast. On November 3rd he was at 
St. Helena Fontein, and turning the Piquetberg mountains, re- 
touched the line of the Great Berg river, up the right bank of 
which he marched as far as Zand Drift. Stephenson promptly 
called all his available units towards the spot. To T. Capper and 
Wormald orders were sent to face about and pursue southward ; 
to Wyndham, who had safely deposited his convoy in Calvinia, 
to march on Clanwilliam. Kavanagh, arrived at Constable 
station on November 2nd, was directed to Moorreesburg. 
Crabbe was entrained at Laingsburg for Malmesbury. Never- 
theless, for seven days Maritz marched unpursued, and almost 
imopposed. Not until November 8th did Capper and Wormald 
receive their instructions ; Wyndham and Crabbe, at opposite 
ends of the sphere of operations, had far to come. Only 
Kavanagh, who arrived at Moorreesburg on the 5th, was within 
the zone, and until the others appeared he could do no more 
than cover in some measure Malmesbury and the approaches 
to the capital, though he was easily to be turned from the west. 
In short, the road to Cape Town was practically open, and a 
blow which, successful or not, might have roused all rebel Cape 
Colony, seemed about to fall. But at this critical moment 
Wastes time Maritz, instead of rushing across Malmesbury, lingered on the 
Great Berg river to attend to a side issue. On the night of 
November 6th he sent Theron with half his force, some 300 
men, to attack the neighbouring town of Piquetberg. The 
undertaking of a diversion so wasteful of time was forced upon 
him by his urgent need of arms and horses. His very success 
had now encumbered him with a large and growing band of 
unequipped rebel recruits ; from Piquetberg county alone he had 
recently acquired more than one hundred, who made no secret 
of their chagrin and alarm at their helpless condition. Much 
depended, then, on Theron's mission, who, at 4.20 a.m. on the 
8th, having surrounded Piquetberg, ordered his men to fall on. 



on a 
diversion 



EVENTS IN N.-W. AND W. OF CAPE COLONY. 361 

But the burghers, deterred by the sharp reply of the garrison,* 
and kept at arm's length by the wire entanglements which 
surrounded the place, contented themselves with shooting almost 
harmlessly at the excellent defences. This fire they maintained 
for twenty-four hours, every moment of which was of value to 
Maritz's plans, after which Theron, fearing to delay longer, 
withdrew and fell back upon the main body at Zand Drift. His 
losses had been treble those of his opponents, whose casualties 
numbered three killed and four wounded. 

On the 9th Maritz and Theron crossed the Great Berg river 
together, but separating soon after, pushed on rapidly through 
Malmesbury on divergent lines, Maritz pointing on Darling, 
and Theron, whose attack on Piquet berg had drawn Kavanagh 
northward, on Malmesbury. Next day Darling was in Maritz's Maritz within 
hands, his patrols even appearing at Mamre, only thirty miles from^cajj^^ 
from the capital. But the stroke, daring as it was, even more Town, 
daring than if it had been delivered, as it might have been, 
three days earlier, was too late. Stephenson had handled his 
only available unit with skill and rapidity. On the loth, 
as Maritz rode into Dariing, Crabbe's column detrained at ^ 

Piquetberg Road station. It was immediately sent by road to 
Malmesbury, and entraining again at midnight for Kalabas 
Kraal, by daybreak on the nth extended from the railway west- 
ward to the Little Salt river, barring all approach from the 
north. Nor was Crabbe confined to the defensive. At night- 
fall he was on the Une of the Mooimook river. Pushing on next 
day he drove Maritz out of Darling, and halted in the evening Maritz driven 
on the line Groot Zwart Berg — Uilen Kraal — Vogelstruis- 
fontein. Meanwhile Kavanagh, finding Piquetberg safe, had 
returned to Moorreesburg, near to which on November 13th 
he fell in with Theron, whom he chased southward past Rie- 
beek Kasteel, then westward towards Kanon Berg. Crabbe 
on this day had pushed Maritz still further northward, back to 
the Great Berg river, across which he drove him on the 14th. 

• This consisted of eighty-six officers and men of the Town Guard, Western 
Province Mounted Rifles, District Mounted Police and other local troops, all under 
Major A. F. Pilson. 



362 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

By this time T. Capper and Wormald had come into touch, and 
from Zuurefontein they manoeuvred to intercept Maritz at the 
drifts of the Great Berg river. In this, however, they were 
unfortunate, and although Capper succeeded in engaging Maritz, 
the Boer got clear away towards Jan Boers Kraal, to the 
north-west. 
Theron Meanwhile Theron, vainly seeking his chief, had the worst 

ISO at . ^1 g^ encounter with an armoured train at Kanon Berg on the 
13th, but pressed on westward, only to find himself actually far 
in rear of the very colunm engaged in hunting Maritz out of 
Malmesbury. Theron's position was now extremely critical. 
Crabbe, warned of his presence behind him, turned at Hope- 
field ; Kavanagh was between that place and Moorreesburg ; 
Capper and Wormald, now doubly alert, watched the Great 
Berg river from Piquetberg almost to its mouth, where a gunboat 
lay ready to deal with any evasion by way of the coast. Con- 
siderably bewildered by Maritz's disappearance, Theron made 
for Darling, and finding nothing there, laagered on the i6th at 
Elands Vallei, on the Zout river. He was discovered next 
day by Crabbe, who had come down to Schildpad Vallei on 
the other side of the river. Theron at once took to his heels. 
Never had he more need of speed, nor had he ever galloped 
with better fortune and skill. Dashing north-eastward, and 
evading both Crabbe and Kavanagh, he gained and crossed 
Theron Vogelstruis Drift below Bridgetown, and disappeared on the 

**^^*' other side of the river on November i8th. There was now a 

risk lest Theron should turn the whole combination by the east 
through Ceres, whilst Maritz did the same along the coast on 
the west. Keeping Capper at Klip Bank in reserve, Stephenson 
therefore directed Kavanagh through Porterville on Piekeniers 
Kloof for Elands Kloof and Clanwilliam, and Wormald by Ceres 
towards Sutherland, whilst Crabbe marched by Piquetberg, down 
Verloren Vallei, to Lamberts Bay, which Wyndham was at this 
time also approaching. 

These dispositions were effective. The advance of Wormald 
to Wagen Drift, north of Ceres, turned Theron, who was, in 
fact, heading eastward, back through Kardouws Pass into the 



EVENTS IN N.-W. AND W. OF CAPE COLONY. 363 

Piquetberg mountains, whereupon Capper was moved up to 
Piquetberg Town in observation, whilst Wormald remained at 
Wagen Drift, and the other columns made their above-mentioned 
destinations. Little more was seen or heard of Maritz imtil in 
the last week of November it was reported that, in company 
with Malan, Bouwers, Pypers, Van der Venter and Van Reenan, 
he was closely investing the post at Tontelbosch Kolk, on the 
Zak river, fifty miles north-east of Calvinia. All these com- 
mandos were now imder the orders of Smuts, who had assumed Smuts assumes 
command of all the Boer forces in Cape Colony. The garrison J^hrSli"^ °^ 
at Tontelbosch Kolk consisted of only four officers and eighty-six forces, 
men, of the Western Province Mounted Rifles and Bushmanland 
Borderers, under Captain R. M. Bertram, disposed in six small 
forts, and was of so little tactical importance that Wynne was 
in the act of withdrawing it when it was shut up. 

To such futility, then, was reduced the long-talked-of com- 
bination of the commandos in the west. Sir J. French's policy 
of attrition in the midland areas had done its work. Maritz's six 
allies brought between them less than 400 men, and these bands 
were as spiritless as they were weak. A hot attack, which was The "siege" 
gallantly repulsed, on November 28th, was the first and last kJJJ"''''''**^*' 
bolt of the investment. Still further discouraged by losing 
Maritz, who received a severe wound, the Boers for seven days 
after relapsed into a respectful fusilade of the greatly out- 
numbered but indomitable garrison. On December 5th they 
departed after expending vastly more ammunition than they 
could spare, and four days later W. Doran, who had marched 
to the relief from Sutherland on the 6th with the greater portion 
of Callwell's column, withdrew the garrison, whose losses in a 
most creditable defence had numbered three killed and eight 
wounded. Doran's movement had been profitable in other ways. 
Covering the egregious siege of Tontelbosch Kolk was Louw, 
Maritz's former confederate, and Doran, surprising him on his 
last day's march towards the post, scattered the commando and 
took nine prisoners. Three weeks earlier Callwell himself, then 
taking up the pursuit of the various Boer bands entering 
Sutherland from across the Cape Town railway, had also 



364 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



encountered Louw in the same neighbourhood ; but on that 
occasion Van der Venter, Bouwers and Smit had come to Louw's 
assistance, and Callwell had to fall back with twenty-one 
casualties on Sutherland. There he was joined on November 
17th by Doran, who had followed Malan up through Sutherland 
district. At the same period Lund's force had been detrained at 
Matjesfontein, and these three columns, W. Doran's, Callwell's 
and Limd's, were now placed under command of Colonel D. Haig, 
to be based on Sutherland. 

Thus, by the beginning of December, 1901, the capital and 
the adjacent south-western portion of Cape Colony had been 
cleared, and Lord Kitchener determined on heroic measures to 
The Lamberts keep it iuviolate for the future. On December 3rd his order 
w«t bicK:k"* was received for the construction of the most imposing line of 
house line. blockhouses which had been yet attempted across the open veld. 
The line to be taken was from Victoria West, on the main rail- 
way, through Carnarvon, Williston, Calvinia and ClanwiUiam, 
to Lamberts Bay, a distance of 320 miles. To cover the con- 
struction of the easterly section Wormald was sent to Victoria 
Road. The other columns remained in the west, for though 
their movements from December ist to 4th had driven the com- 
mandos over the Doom river, the cessation of the pursuit had 
been followed by a return of the enemy across the river, and 
there were signs of a strong concentration at Frederick's Dal, 
north of Clanwilliam. Theron was still actually behind the pro- 
posed blockhouse line imtil, on the 8th, T. Capper from Piquet- 
berg engaged him at Witte Drift, and drove him northward to 
join the rest. It now became necessary to refill Calvinia with 
supplies, and Stephenson got ready a convoy of fifty wagons, 
which on December 19th left Clanwilliam under escort of the 
columns of Wyndham and Crabbe. It was fortunate that the 
guard selected was no weaker, for the preparation and destina- 
tion of the wagons had been as little of a secret to Smuts as his 
own presence in force was to his opponents, and he had lined 
the route to Calvinia with his commandos. Three times the 
Fighting on troops had to beat off determined attacks — on the 20th near 
road. Elizabethsfontein, two days later at Kordemoersfontein, when 



EVENTS IN N.-W. AND W. OF CAPE COLONY. 365 

Wyndham's fine handling of the rearguard foiled a bold bid for 
the convoy, and on the 23rd close outside Calvinia. On the last 
occasion the enemy, under Smuts himself, barred the road from 
strong entrenchments, but a determined rush full against the 
position by the i6th Lancers of Wyndham's column, this time 
in advance-guard, wrested the ridge from the burghers, who fled 
incontinently. In all these attempts the Boers suffered consider- 
able losses. They left twenty burghers on the field at Korde- 
moersfontein alone, and gained not a rifle or an ounce of the muni- 
tions of which they were now in extreme need. The casualties 
among the escort had been some score in all, chiefly amongst the 
1 6th Lancers, who bore the brunt of the fighting throughout 
the march with much honour. On December 23rd both columns 
entered Calvinia, whence they returned to Clanwilliam without 
further molestation, arriving on the 27th. Four days later the 
section of the blockhouse line from Clanwilliam to Lamberts Bay, 
which had been pushed on under protection of Kavanagh's 
column, was completed and fully manned, only a fortnight after 
its commencement. It effectually barred the true military road 
to the capital, and Smuts, who lay with the main body of the 
commandos about Van Rhyns Dorp, found himself without an 
object in an inhospitable and tactically unfavourable country. 

For some time past he had anticipated some such anti- Smuts' views 
climax to Maritz's well-laid strategy, A month earlier the rapid sil^tbn. 
concentration of the British columns and the damaged condition 
of his own adherents had convinced him of the impossibility 
of maintaining the war in the west with the forces available. 
He had insisted that the lack of men and material alone would 
prevent him from bringing the campaign to a successful con- 
clusion in Cape Colony. " The future," he wrote, " is bright 
and promising. . . . Thousands are anxious to join us, but 
they have no horses, as the enemy have collected all animals 
in these districts, and I am convinced that if animals were not 
so scarce it would be quite possible to cause a general rising." 
Let but a thousand men be spared from the aimless operations 
in progress in the two RepubUcs to lend weight to the blow 
which he knew how to strike at the centre of British rule in 



366 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

South Africa. Especially he had urged the return of Kritzinger, 
whom he had long ago left idling in the Zastron district under 
promise of a speedy reappearance in Cape Colony. It was 
owing to his continued absence that the commandos in the mid- 
lands and east had fallen to pieces, thereby destroying the whole 
balance of the campaign in Cape Colony.* Smuts' sound and 
soldier-like appreciation of the situation contained a suggestion 
of the only possibility of success left to the republican arms. 
The Boers' It had long been apparent to him how much might turn upon 
strategical ^ the enlargement of the invasion of Cape Colony from a mere 
opportunity, diversion into the grand plan of campaign. But neither he nor 
his superiors perceived that the moment for such a transference 
of strategy was not approaching but passing away. Smuts him- 
self actually deprecated the appearance of De la Key, of which 
there was now fresh talk at the Boer Headquarters, on the ground 
that the operations were insufficiently advanced for such dis- 
tinguished leadership. In the east of the main theatre of war 
Commandant-General Botha, in the west De la Key, in the south 
De Wet, continued to expend in brilliant but fruitless feats of 
arms men whose presence in Cape Colony at this moment might 
have kindled a fresh struggle, the termination of which no man 
could have foreseen. In other respects Smuts' representations 
remained unanswered. No considerable reinforcements were 
despatched to him, nor, until his campaign in the west had 
evaporated, did even Kritzinger attempt to fulfil his part. 
Before he appeared only one insignificant band had come to 
recruit the Boer forces in Cape Colony. On November 22nd, 
a certain Commandant Naude led fifty men over the Orange 
river at Sand Drift. He was promptly intercepted by columns 
under Lieut. -Colonel A. G. Hunter- Weston and Captain Lord 
W. A. Cavendish-Bentinck, who had been posted between 
Colesberg and De Aar for such eventualities. Naude avoided 
them both, however, and on the night of the 29th broke west- 
ward across the railway between Hout Kraal and Potfontein, 
in spite of the blockhouses and armoured trains, and was lost to 

* Summary of a report by Assistant-Commandant-General J. C. Smuts to the Boer 
Headquarters; undated, but written about November, 1901. 



EVENTS IN N.-W. AND W. OF CAPE COLONY. 367 

sight in the Prieska district. There he joined Conroy, who, ever 
since his parting from Maritz at Brandvlei in May, had been 
marauding, with many an adventmre, between Griquatown, 
Katkop and Prieska. What success attended Kritzinger will 
now be seen. 

On December 14th, nearly four months after his parting with Kritzinger 
Smuts in Zastron, Kritzinger dashed across Sand Drift and cotony"^^ ^^"^ 
re-entered Cape Colony with no men. Before undertaking the 
expedition his burghers had been reviewed and addressed by Mr. 
Steyn, who urged them to fire their rebel brethren with tales of 
the havoc they had seen wrought by the hands of the British 
in the Orange River Colony. But the adventurers had little 
leisure for preaching a crusade. No sooner were they across 
the well-worn drift than they found themselves confronted by 
the columns of B. Doran from Bosch Duiven Kop and Lord 
W. A. Cavendish-Bentinck from Hamelfontein. Barely evading 
these by a turn southward, the commando was hunted down 
to the De Aar — Naauwpoort branch railway. On the night of 
December i6th, after a rearguard action at Bosch varkens- 
fontein which cost him many horses, Kritzinger made an 
attempt to cross the intervening railway between Hanover Road 
and Franschmans Kop. But the Guards of Inigo Jones' brigade 
who held this portion of the line were on the alert, and gave 
the Boers a heavy reception. Kritzinger himself fell wounded Capture of 
and was taken prisoner ; his adjutant, nine other burghers and ^"^"^^"■ 
eighty horses were also taken. Nothing, however, could arrest 
the rush of the rest through the severed wires. Led by L. 
Wessels, Kritzinger's second-in-command, who was also wounded, 
the commando sped on through Hanover and Richmond into 
Aberdeen, where, on December 20th, having clean outrun the 
chase, it disappeared into the tangle of the most famous covert 
of the Great Karroo, the Camdeboo mountains. 

So much, then, for Smuts' most trusted ally and long-expected 
reinforcement in the centre of Cape Colony. In order to align 
his fortunes over all his sphere of operations up to the close of 
1901, there remain to be traced from an earlier period the doings 
of his detachments in the north-east. 



368 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Events in the Whilst duTuig November the incessant revolution of French's 
Cai^Coiony columns had cleared the midland and southern counties of Cape 
Colony, the north-east, with its all but inaccessible tangle of 
precipices, had resisted every effort to reclaim it. Fouch6, 
Myburg and P. Wessels, still maintained themselves between 
Burghersdorp and Barkly East, observed, but unmolested, by 
Monro, whom the departure of Pilcher at the end of September 
had left alone and passive in his duty of covering the construc- 
tion of the Stormberg — Lady Frere blockhouses. Not until 
November 14th, when Scobell's column, having been recruited 
after its exhausting chase of Van der Venter, became available, 
was it possible to resume the offensive in this quarter. At 
that time Fouche was in laager at Patriots Klip, Myburg and 
Wessels between Rhodes and Barkly East, their joint forces 
amounting to nearly 500 men. Sir J. French ordered a simul- 
taneous movement by Scobell against Fouche, by Monro against 
the other two, whilst Hart from Aliwal North sent down Moore's 
Connaught Rangers mounted infantry and Lord Lovat's Scouts 
to co-operate. All three contingents were quickly in touch with 
their allotted opponents. Scobell, working with Lovat's Scouts, 
hunted Fouche uninterruptedly and always with success all over 
Jamestown, depriving him of twenty men and nearly 200 horses, 
and so harrying the commando that by the last day of the month 
it had broken up into the small bands which were the certain 
sign of exhaustion with Boer units. Scobell had then been led 
back to near Jamestown. Monro was equally successful with 
Myburg and Wessels. His movement from Dordrecht on Barkly 
East (14th to 2oth) drove the Boers over the Drakensberg, on the 
other side of which, on the spur known as the Gatberg, they 
were encountered by a body of local defence troops under 
Captain H. W. D. Elliot, A sharp affair, in which Elliot was 
killed, resulted in the repulse of the enemy, who left eight killed 
and many wounded, as well as fifty horses, on the field as they 
made off northward. Basing himself on Barkly East Monro 
followed in three parties, and from November 22nd to 25th 
made further captures as far as Rhodes, though the main com- 
mando managed to escape him in the mists. At Barkly East, 



EVENTS IN N.-W. AND W. OF CAPE COLONY. 369 

on the 26th, Monro got news that the laager had been discovered 
in its old haunt at Drizzly Hill. Marching by night on the 28th 
he successfully surrounded the spot, broke up the camp, and 
in the running fight which ensued killed and wounded five of 
the enemy and captured eighteen with 100 horses, completely de- 
moralising Myburg, who rehnquished his independent command. 
On December ist Monro was back at Barkly East, and a few days 
later made another attempt to catch Wessels towards Rhodes. 
It was attended by no success ; but returning empty-handed to 
Barkly East on the 7th, Monro collided with Fouch^, who was in 
the act of evading Scobell, and, attacking him near Cold Brook 
on the 8th, took two prisoners and more than 200 horses. On 
the 14th Scobell and Monro joined forces in Barkly East. 

Meanwhile a fresh leader, Odendaal, had gathered together 
the fragments of Myburg's commando, and had established them 
in the old laager at Patriots Klip. The British columns had 
likewise received an addition. The Cape Colonial Government 
had recently formed a division which had been placed imder 
Lieut.-Colonel H. T. Lukin, of the Cape Mounted Riflemen, and 
a detachment of this force had been sent, under Colonel R. H. 
Price, to assist the operations in the north-east. On December 
14th Price's Kaffrarian Rifles resolutely attacked the laager at 
Patriots Klip, took five prisoners and some fifty horses and 
scattered the rest, after which Price took them back to Burghers- 
dorp. Next, a movement by Scobell on Rhodes had the effect 
of driving Fouch^ and P. Wessels south-west. As they passed 
Barkly East Monro darted out upon them, and on the 15th, at 
Schilder Kranz, on the Dordrecht road, fell upon the rear and 
captured thirteen prisoners. The Boers then doubled north-west- 
ward towards Lady Grey, Monro pursuing until the 24th. Both he 
and Scobell then returned to Dordrecht, where the latter, whose 
incessant exertions now placed him on the sick list, was relieved 
in command of his column by Major S. W. Follett (9th Lancers). 
On December 27th Price, from Burghersdorp, made another 
successful sally upon a small laager discovered at Paarde Verlies, 
killing the rebel Field-Comet, one Venter, and securing a prisoner 
and twenty-seven animals. 

VOL. IV. 24 



370 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 





1 




boa 
•SE 

T3'C 


p 




COLUMN. 




>> 

u 

1 


.2" 




V 

a 










^^ 


^ 






1 






^ 




April — December, icjoi. 












Mai. H. S. Jeudwine (later 
T. Capper) 










\ 


370 


50 


a 


— 




Lt.-Col. G. F. Gorringe . . 


680 




3 


— 




Officer Commanding 17th 












Lancers . . 


316 





— 


2 




U.-Col. S. C. H. Monro.. 


641 





3 


4 




Lt.-Col. E. M. S. Crabbe . . 


449 


70 


2 


I 




Lt.-Col. H. J. Scobell (later 












S. W. FoUett) . . 


635 





3 


I 




Lt.-Col. B. Doran , . 


489 





2 


— 




Lt.-Col. P. G. Wyndham . . 


5 SO 





2 


— 




Maj. F. T. Lund . . 


630 





2 


— 




Lt.-Col. C. P. Crewe 


340 





2 


2 




Lt.-Col. J. R. MacAndrew 
Officer Commanding at 


510 





— 


— 


Lt.-Gen. Sir J. D. P. 
French in command. 


Conway . . 


310 


40 


1 • 






Lt.-Col. C. T. McM. Kava- 












nagh 


400 





I 






Lt.-Col. A. G, Hunter- 












Weston . . 


630 





I 






Lt.-Col. H. Alexander 


420 





2 


— 




Lt.-Col. T. J. Atherton .. 


530 





2 






Capt. Lord W. A. Caven- 












dish-Bentinck . . 


280 





I 






Lt.-Col. H. T. Lukin 


690 





3 






Maj. F. Wormald .. 


330 





I 


— 




Lt.-Col. C. E. CallwelJ . . 


350 





2 






Lt.-Col. W. Doran . . 


420 





2 


— 




Lt.-Col. M. G. Moore 


250 


250 


— 


I 1 





Note. — Major-General T. E. Stephenson assumed command (under General Sir J. 
French) of operations in the west and south-west of Cape Colony in October, 1901. 



371 



CHAPTER XXI. 

EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL* 

{Continued from Chapter XVII.). 

NOVEMBER, IQOI — JANUARY, I9O2. 

During the first half of November, 1901, there was a compara- 
tive lull over all the Eastern Transvaal whilst lines of block- 
houses were pushed on along the Wilge river, and across the 
southern angle from Wakkerstroom to the Swazi border, Plumer, 
Colville, Sir H. Rawlinson, Garratt and Pulteney continued raiding 
in the south, whilst Bullock supervised the blockhouse building. 
Spens, returning by Botha's Pass into the Orange River Colony 
early in the month, came back into the Transvaal on the 17th, 
and remained for the next ten days at Standerton, into which 
town also came Allenby's and W. P, Campbell's forces. All these 
columns made small but constant profit in men and stock, the 
most considerable being the capture of a laager and fourteen 
Boers near Mahamba on November 8th, and a week later of 
another laager and twelve Boers at Plat Nek, both effected by 
Colville with his mounted troops; Major E. A. Wiggin, 13th 
Hussars, commanding the 26th battalion M.I., having a large 
share in the successes. A patrol of the 2nd West Yorkshire 
regiment under Second Lieutenant E. T. Welchman surprised 
and secured eight Boers in the Pongola Bosch on the i8th. 
Altogether about 100 of the enemy's fighting men were taken 
in operations too trifling for detailed narration. This was small 
gain, and it was plain that the main hostile bodies had now to The problem 
be sought once more upon the High Veld, that vast tract which ydd^ '^ 
columns and armies had so often crossed and recrossed, leaving 
no traces more permanent than those of ships upon the ocean. 
On expanses like these the Boers could long fend off either defeat 

* See map No. 56. 
VOL. IV. 24* 



372 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Lines of 
blockhouses. 



Bruce Hamil- 
ton placed in 
command. 



or starvation, and though in truth they were being slowly filed 
down by isolated captures and surrenders, their numbers were 
stiU sufficient to render such a process well-nigh interminable, 
and enormously expensive in men, animals, and money to the 
British army, wasting itself in carrying it out. How, then, to 
master these giant meadows and their roving populations had 
become the main problem of the Eastern Transvaal. Lord 
Kitchener had long been occupied, and was now weU advanced 
with schemes of which the map and measure alone can suggest 
the magnitude ; nothing less, in short, than the fencing in of 
whole provinces with blockhouses and entrenched posts, which 
constantly contracting towards a common centre, would eventu- 
ally choke each area in their grip as the ancient chambers of 
torture crushed their victims with converging walls. Something 
of this has already been referred to in these pages. Already in 
the Eastern Transvaal a line of blockhouses ran from Wakker- 
stroom to Piet Retief, a chain of posts from Greyhngstad up to 
WUge River station. Now (November i6th) whilst the South 
African Constabulary were ordered to advance their chain 
eastward from the line Wilge River station — Greylingstad to 
that of Brugspruit — Waterval station, Clements was to build 
blockhouses from Standerton across to Ermelo, to be extended 
later to Wonderfontein and Amsterdam, thus gridironing the 
High Veld into irregular rectangular figures enclosed by forts and 
the armoured railways which parcelled out its prairies into areas 
of manageable size. The immensity of labour and material 
entailed by these tasks must here be passed over in silence ;* 
let it suffice to remember how far and in what quantities work- 
men, fabric and tools had to be transported, how often to be 
employed in remote spots, and in the presence of the enemy, 
and in how many different directions at once these fortified lines 
were being projected. 

To protect the advance of the Constabulary posts a strong 
covering force was necessary. Early in November Major- 
General Bruce Hamilton, having been placed in command of 
all operations in the Eastern Transvaal south of the Delagoa 

* See Appendix 2 ; and map No. 58. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 373 

Bay railway, led six columns into the field, and disposed them 
in various positions. These columns were gathered as follows : 
from Standerton, Colonels E. H, H. Allenby's and W. P. Camp- 
bell's (the last-named soon to be divided into two separate com- 
mands under Lieut. -Colonels F. D. V. Wing and G. G. Simpson) ; 
from near Springs, Colonel C. St. L. Barter's (lately Bewicke- 
Copley's) ; from Brugspruit, Colonel C. J. Mackenzie's (lately 
Benson's) ; from Wonderfontein, Lieut. -Colonel E. C. IngouviUe 
WiUiams' with Lieut.-Colonel the Hon. C. G. Fortescue ; from 
Volksrust, Colonel Sir H. Rawlinson with Lieut.-Colonel H. K. 
Stewart, whilst Brigadier-General J. Spens on his return to 
Standerton was sent to cover the construction of the Standerton 
— Ermelo chain of blockhouses, his column eventually forming a 
seventh under Bruce Hamilton's command. Behind these troops 
the work of building was rapidly pushed on. By November 
22nd it was completed, and Bruce Hamilton, establishing his 
Headquarters in Bethel, prepared for more active operations.* 

On the last day of November his troops faced eastward from Bruce Hamil- 
the Delagoa Bay railway at Middelburg through Bethel down e^^^d^* 
to the Vaal, with Mackenzie, Fortescue and WiUiams on the 
left ; Barter, Wing and Simpson with the General in the centre ; 
Sir H. Rawlinson next, and Spens on the right, standing on the 
bank of the Vaal. Allenby was posted in a supporting position 
behind the right centre. Still further to the south-east Plumer 
and Pulteney were at Brereton awaiting the subsiding of many 
flooded streams before marching northward to co-oi>erate in 
the great movement which Bruce Hamilton was about to under- 
take. On December ist, whilst Barter remained to hold Bethel, 
the line advanced, the trio on the left reaching Carolina on the 
2nd, Bruce Hamilton and the centre halting between the source 
of the Vaal and Ermelo, Sir H. Rawhnson and Spens drawing 
near to that town from the south-west and south. On the 3rd 
Ermelo was entered by the centre and right, and the columns Bruce Hamii- 
at once found themselves in the presence of the enemy. ton at Ermelo. 

The approach of so strong a line of British troops had put 

• For gallantry on November 23rd, Lieutenant L. C. Maygar, 5th Victorian 
Mounted Rifles, was awarded the Victoria Cross. 



374 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

the commandos in a ferment, which their admirable scouting 
only served to increase when from end to end of a hundred 
miles of front came only the word " the enemy ! " Their 
position, in truth, would have spelt ruin to forces less mobile. 
They had been taken by surprise, and already there was but 
little space for manoeuvring between the storm travelling from 
the west and the lee shore of the eastern frontiers of the Trans- 
vaal. Paardeberg and the Brandwater basin had intensified 
a hundredfold the Boers' natural terror of a cul de sac. With 
The 0^6 accord they began to penetrate in small bodies the inter- 

commandos stices of the hne of columns, and Bruce Hamilton saw that unless 

break up. 

he struck rapidly and on aU sides he would have to turn and 
seek his quarry on the spaces behind him instead of in front. 
Such an emergency, one scarcely to be met with in any warfare 
but this, formed the strongest test of the acquired rapidity and 
elasticity of an army which, until this campaign, had not been 
remarkable for either because the need had so seldom arisen on 
a large scale. Nor could there have been on the spot any com- 
mander more able than Bruce Hamilton to snatch advantage 
from situations whose duration was to be measured in moments. 
Yet, surrounded as he was by dissolving hostile bodies, the most 
adroit General would have been helpless without good infor- 
mation. In war the power to strike is as widely dissociated 
from as it is dependent on the knowledge of where and when to 
strike : witness the spectacle, common in history, of strong 
armies wasting their vigour in purposeless blows, or so bewil- 
dered that they refrain from striking at all. Fortunately at this 
juncture Bruce Hamilton had the services of Colonel A. Wools- 
Sampson, the Intelligence Officer who had so often marked down 
the game for Benson. Tracking now the shifting units of the 
Boers, he was able to guide his commander to a series of suc- 
cesses which struck terror throughout the Eastern Transvaal. 
On the very day of his entry into Ermelo Bruce Hamilton, 
informed that hostile bodies had filtered through his right wing, 
took all the available mounted men from the columns of Spens 
?/"'^^ , and Sir H. Rawlinson, and marching all night, fell upon a large 

Hamilton's , _ t^, , ..,. 

successes. laager at dawn on December 4th, capturmg ninety-three prisoners. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 375 

116 horses, fifty-five carts and wagons, and a vast quantity 
of signalling and other gear. On the 9th he struck again, 
this time west of Bethel — so far had the enemy penetrated his 
lines — with results which make it doubtful which were the more 
amazing, the endurance or the valour of his men. By a march 
of thirty miles by night he brought the horsemen of Sir H. Raw- 
hnson's. Wing's and Williams' columns upon the laager, which 
fell to an assault worthy of fresh troops. Nor did the discom- 
fiture of the Boers end here ; for six miles they fled before 
Hamilton's inexhaustible troopers, who by the end of the day 
had killed seven and secured 130 burghers and all the camp 
stuff, riding then over twenty miles more into Bethel with their 
booty. Retracing his steps towards Ermelo on the 12th, Bruce 
Hamilton received intimation of another laager twenty-five 
miles north-east of Bethel. For the third time he hurried 
through the night, with Sir H. Rawlinson's, Wing's and E. C. I. 
Williams' men, to burst at dawn upon the encampment 
and send its occupants flying over the veld. Once more a six- 
mile gallop in pursuit rewarded the soldiers, who garnered 
eighty-six of their foes and one of the guns lost at Bakenlaagte, 
before they were recalled to Ermelo, where they halted after a 
march of more than fifty miles. Nor had Bruce Hamilton's 
columns been idle in the intervals. On December 4th E, C. I. 
Williams, raiding along the Oliphant river, had accounted for 
seventeen Boers, and Allenby and Barter five ; Sir H. Rawlinson 
had taken eight on the 7th, and Mackenzie six on the 13th, each 
securing much loot in cattle, wagons and crops. 

After sundry minor operations Bruce Hamilton moved east- 
ward from Ermelo with 2,150 mounted men from the columns 
of Sir H, Rawlinson, Williams and Wing, intending to push the 
remnants of Botha's forces against the Swazi border. Bad 
weather, drifts and guides delayed the first portion of the march 
until the Boers had warning and scattered. But Hamilton drove 
on, and assisted by Mackenzie from the north, ran down, killed 
or captured more than seventy burghers in the neighbourhood 
of Mary vale, taking nine more on his return march towards 
Ermelo on the 25th. 



376 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Altogether, up to the end of December, 508 Boers, loi 
wagons and 10,000 cattle had fallen to Bruce Hamilton's troops. 
The effect of these misfortimes was great on an enemy who, until 
recently, had camped contemptuously close to British outposts ; 
who boasted that he had made the night and the veld tracks his 
own, and that he was not to be beaten at the game of surprise 
by the very impis of the Zulu. Realising on how formidable a 
successor the mantle of Benson had fallen, Botha's commandos 
The enemy became Utterly demoralised, and nowhere was the end of the war 
emora i . j^^j.^ plainly in sight than in the Eastern Transvaal at the 
close of 1 90 1. 

During Bruce Hamilton's advance Spens, with his Head- 
quarters on the Standerton — Bethel road, had forayed con- 
tinuously with flying columns. He would have come out with 
profit but for a mischance to one of his strong patrols which, 
Loss of a chasing a commando on the banks of the Vaal on December 19th, 
Sec^igth, ^^^ ^^^ ^"^^ ^^ ambush from which it only emerged after 
1901- desperate fighting, with the loss of about 140 killed, wounded 

and prisoners. Spens was then directed southward, and placed 
with Pulteney under command of Plumer for raiding west of 
Amersfoort, which was carried out with good results. 

Barter and Allenby were likewise detached from Bruce 
Hamilton's forces in order to join a brigade of cavalry which had 
been sent down from Pretoria on the 15th under G. Hamilton, 
to deal with the broken bodies which had crept through Bruce 
Hamilton's lines, and were now wandering in some strength about 
the Constabulary blockhouse line east of Springs. Vigorous 
chasing resulted in the capture of thirty-four of these by Allenby's 
men, many more surrendering at the blockhouses ; a determined 
remnant under General Alberts, however, eluded capture, and 
remained to do much mischief in the future.* 
Events north North of the Delagoa Bay line. Park from Lydenburg, and 
Riy ra?iw51?°^ Urmston, with a roving base, but usually from Belfast, had 
patroUed the Dullstroom district, searching mainly for the Boer 
Government, and incidentally for the many small groups which, 
with constant loss, were attempting flight across the railway 

♦ See Chapter XXIX. 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 377 

from before Bruce Hamilton's advancing line of columns. The 
only formed body in the district was that of Viljoen, whose 
heutenant, the daring Muller, feU hotly upon Park near DuH- 
stroom on the night of the 19th, being repulsed with loss, but 
inflicting thirty-one casualties upon Park's command. Three 
days later Park responded with an onslaught on Muller's camp, 
the greater part of which fell into his hands, Muller abandoning 
also a Vickers-Maxim gun. Both columns returned to the line 
on the 26th, Park to Dalmanutha, Urmston to Belfast. 

In Natal Bullock, covered by Garratt, continued to build in Natal, 
blockhouses, now from Botha's Pass to Vrede, and this he con- 
tinued to do with assiduity for a month to come. By the end 
of December the blockhouses along the Ermelo road were com- 
pleted ; over those from Piet Retief to the Swazi border Colville 
remained on guard, whilst Chapman took out for a fortnight a 
raiding party 700 strong, which scoured the Zulu border from 
Nkandhla round to Nondweni. These were the doings in 
December, a month of great effort and results. 

The New Year (1902) found Bruce Hamilton busy amongst 1902 
the demoralised knots of Boers who crept along the river beds 
seeking a way of escape from the narrowing space between the 
British columns and the Swazi border. On January ist twenty- Further 
two of these were run down on the banks of the Umtali river, gru'^T^* ^^ 
north of Amsterdam. Sixty-nine more, including Commandant Hamilton. 
Erasmus, fell victims on the 3rd, forty-nine of which were taken 
on the Compies river by Colonels A. B. Scott (temporarily com- 
manding Sir H. Rawlinson's column), Stewart and Simpson, 
directed by Hamilton in person, the others falling on the Umtali 
to Wing, who next day added six more prisoners to his train on 
the Umpilusi north of Bell's Kop. On the 9th Bruce Hamilton, 
his task in the east reduced to the chasing of individuals, re- 
turned to Ermelo, around which he at once foimd fresh occupa- 
tion amongst the bands who had broken through his lines at his 
first advance. These were now mere wanderers, ringed in by 
blockhouses, exhausted by incessant harrying, and so unnerved 
that the^' dared not approach the famihar farmhouses to seek 
for the provisions and fodder which they sorely lacked. Whether 



378 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

or no, for men in such a case, capture were a relief from their 
unhappy lot, it duly befell many of them. On the night of 
January loth Bruce Hamilton, leading out Wing and E. C. I. 
Williams, marched rapidly to Witbank, and surrounded a laager 
which yielded forty-two prisoners to the throw of the net at 
dawn, Major Wolmarans, the renowned State artillerist, being 
taken with two of his officers. A second raid by Hamilton 
with Scott, Stewart and Simpson in the same neighbourhood two 
days later, nearly miscarried, owing to the vigilance of a Boer 
piquet, and the troopers, who had ridden hard for thirty miles 
in the dark, had to gallop furiously for seven miles more before 
they were content to draw rein with thirty-six burghers to their 
credit. Sir H. Rawlinson's column now (January 14th) left the 
command for Standerton, and that of Simpson was broken up ; 
but Spens had brought his force back to Ermelo on the 9th, 
and Allenby had returned to Bethel where also was Barter, so 
that there was no weakening of the chase. On the night of the 
i8th Bruce Hamilton once more cast his pack eastward, intending 
to draw the confluence of the Zand Spruit and Compies river, 
about Alkmaar. Twenty-seven prisoners had been brought to 
bag when the Vaal, coming down in flood, warned Hamilton to 
return, or be caught himself, and at midnight on the 19th Spens, 
Wing, E. C. I. Williams and Stewart, who had conjointly carried 
out the hunt, were back in Ermelo. On the 22nd a fresh series 
of blockhouses was begun from Ermelo to Carohna under cover 
of Fortescue's force, and the columns, prowling separately on 
both sides of the new line, secured a few more prisoners on the 
24th and 29th. Next day Bruce Hamilton, receiving intelli- 
gence of a laager at Tafelkop, ten miles north-west of Ermelo, 
took Spens, Mackenzie and Stewart, with 850 men, and set out 
for another trophy, directing Allenby, who was midway between 
Bethel and Ermelo, towards the same spot. The columns, sur- 
rounding the lair at midnight, found it empty ; but they followed 
hotly on the spoor which led southward from it. Near Springbok- 
fontein they fairly ran down a marching commando which 
they instantly charged and shattered, hurling it against 
the Standerton — Ermelo blockhouses, ninety-four burghers, 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 379 

including several officers, being accounted for. By the time the 

troops regained Ermelo they had covered sixty-five miles in 

twenty-four hours, in heavy rain, and without food or rest. So 

well had they learned from the enemy not how to endure, for 

that was as native in them as in the Boers, but that endurance 

was the hard road to success. The results achieved — 338 Results of 

prisoners during January, 850 during the two months' raid — ^n^w^T"*^" 

showed that it was now for the enemy to learn something 

fresh, for his hereditary crafts had been mastered. 

Meanwhile G. Hamilton's cavalry, strengthened up to 
January 14th by Barter's troops, and until the 21st by 
AUenby's, had continued to intercept to the east of Springs 
many of the fugitives from the zone which Bruce Hamilton 
had made uninhabitable. To the south Plumer, Pulteney (with Piumer in the 
Spens up to the 9th) and ColviUe had performed similarly, ***"*^* 
the first forming a roving stop between the Vaal and the 
fixed barrier of the Piet Retief — Wakkerstroom blockhouse 
line, whilst Colville patrolled the space between the terminus 
of that line at Piet Retief and the Swazi border. Operating 
first from Rotterdam, on the Mabusa Spruit, and sub- 
sequently from Wakkerstroom, Plumer had sundry encounters 
with bands whose strength and quality seemed to indicate that 
Bruce Hamilton had brushed southward the best of his opponents, 
perhaps Botha himself, in whose presence audacity and deter- 
mination were ever to be expected. On the morning of January 
3rd Plumer's New Zealanders pursuing too confidently a band 
seen retreating up the left bank of the Vaal, near Rotterdam, 
found themselves suddenly charged by 250 horsemen, who killed, 
wounded and captured thirty-one men, then drew off, and 
pursued their way. Next day Plumer pushed after across 
the Ermelo — Amsterdam road, north of which his advance- 
guard, under Major J. M. Vallentin (Somersetshire Light 
Infantry), having sighted no enemy all day, halted on the 
plateau of Onverwacht. Vallentin then descried a party Affair at 
moving north-east, and started in pursuit. No sooner was ?a'rr'^'T**^*"' 
he well on the trail when a commando of 400 men, which 1902. 
had gathered during his halt, fell upon him in front and 



38o THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

both flanks. A desperate miUe followed, in which both com- 
batants lost heavily. On the British side VaUentin himself 
and eighteen non-commissioned officers and men were killed, 
thirty-six officers and men wounded, and some fifty captured in 
the hand-to-hand fighting. The Boers lost Opperman, one of 
their bravest Generals, and many killed and wounded, but they 
were like to have annihilated Vallentin's party but for the 
opp>ortune arrival of Pulteney's supporting troops, who drove 
the enemy from the field and far to the north. Soon after this 
event Plumer repaired to the neighbourhood of Wakkerstroom 
where the wooded gorges, peopled by lurking refugees, gave him 
full occupation for the next three weeks, and finally an oppor- 
tunity of avenging his mischances earlier in the month. On the 
Success by night of the 25th Plumer surrounded, with five bodies of troops, 
jan."2sth, the kloofs between Spitz Kop and Castrol Nek, and at dawn next 
'902. (Jay sent his men through them. A number of Boers emerged, 

only to be driven against the blockhouse line where thirty-four 
prisoners were taken. Plumer then returned to Rotterdam, 
and, after some minor raids, went down with Pulteney to 
Volksrust to replenish supphes (February 4th). 
Events north North of the Delagoa Bay line Park and Urmston 

of the Deiagoa manoeuvred in the Roos Senekal area, but were much 

Bay railway. ' 

hampered by rain and fog. This was the more unfortunate 
because the Transvaal Acting-President and Government were 
at this time wandering near Dullstroom, in great straits, 
and virtually cut off from their main hope in this district. 
General B. Viljoen, who was now reduced to impotence at 
Pilgrim's Rest. Schalk Burger was anxious for more practical 
guardianship, and about the middle of the month summoned 
Viljoen to meet him at Windhoek in the Stenkamps Berg. 
In a few days Viljoen, accompanied by four adjutants, was beside 
his chief, and it was arranged that the official body should follow 
him back to Pilgrim's Rest, whither Viljoen himself set out on 
the 25th. It befell strangely that the Government had called 
their protector to his own destruction, for this ride proved to 
be the last of the Boer leader's many adventures. The British 
Intelligence Department was keenly watching the vagrant 



EVENTS IN THE EASTERN TRANSVAAL. 381 

legislature ; every outpost was alert, and ambuscades lay in 

many a likely spruit bed and rail and river crossing. Into one 

of these traps — laid by a party of the ist Royal Irish regiment, 

sent out under Major A. S. Orr by Lieut.-Colonel H. Guinness — 

fell Viljoen as, having stolen past the outposts of Lydenburg, 

he made to ford the Spekboom river. Two of his adjutants Capture of 

were killed at once, three bullets brought down the General's viijoen. 

horse, and soon one of the staunchest of the federal leaders was 

escorted into captivity. 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 





|. 




^1 


s 






i: 


b 


il 







COLUMN. 


1 


1 


4> 






s 




o>: 


s 




November, 1901 — January, 












1902. 












I.t.-Col. Sir J. H. Jervis- 












White- Jervis 


520 


— 


— 


— 


Brig.-Gen. H. C. O. 
PI umer i n command . 


Lt.Col. F. F. Colvin 


700 


— 


6 


— 


Lt.-Col. A. E. W. Colville . . 


550 


300 


4 


I 




Col. Sir H. Rawlinson 


1,100 


182 


6 


I 




Lt.-Col. F. S. Garratt 


450 


290 




I 




Col. W. P. Pulteney 


800 


361 




3 




Brig-Gen. J. Spens 


1,550 


867 




— 


\ 


Col. E. H. H. Allenby . . 


1,000 






4 




Col. W. P. Campbell 


1,300 


1,130 




4 




Col. C. St. L, Barter 


450 


690 




I 


Maj. - Gen. Bruce 


Col. C. J. Mackenzie 


1,050 


720 




— 


Hamilton in com- 


Lt.-Col. E. C. Ingouville 










mand. 


Williams . . 


SSo 


— 




— 




Lt.-Col. the Hon. C. G. 












Fortescue 


520 


473 




5 




Lt.-Col. F. D. V. f late ") 












Wing Camp- 1 


'850 


a8s 




3 




Lt.-Col. G. G.j bell's 












Simpson (. column. J 


500 


SCO 




— 




Col. C. W. Park . . 


440 


639 




I 




Lt.-Col. E. B. Urmston 


Soo 


467 




3 




Lt.-Col. H. K. Stewart 


700 






3 




Brig.-Gen. G. Hamilton . . 


750 


359 




3 





382 



EflFect of 
Dc Wet's 
concentration. 



Improved 
situation in 
S. Africa. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY* 

{Continued from Chapter XV III.). 

DECEMBER, I9OI — FEBRUARY, I902. 

With De Wet once more at the head of a force in being, the 
eastern part of the Orange River Colony became in December, 
1 90 1, the cynosure of all the theatre of war. This his presence 
would have ensured in any event, for now both sides had come 
to determine largely the chances, or rather the duration of 
the war, by the measure of the famous leader's forces and for- 
tunes. It is true that not a British soldier doubted the issue 
of his prolonged exertions, but there were few who expected 
their cessation until De Wet was either killed or taken, for either 
event was expected promptly to terminate the fighting. The 
name of Jackson was not more celebrated in the camps of Pope, 
or of Rupert in those of Fairfax than that of De Wet in the 
numberless bivouacs which had dotted the veld of South Africa 
for two years. But, apart from his high reputation, there were 
other reasons why at this moment De Wet's return to activity 
should have absorbed the attention of the British Headquarters. 
In aU other parts the Commander-in-Chief's patient, unrelenting 
methods seemed to be slowly doing their work. 

In the Eastern Transvaal Bruce Hamilton's six columns 
and the contracting rings of blockhouses were fastening upon 
the High Veld with a hold which Botha found it impossible to 
shake off.f Viljoen was practically isolated in Lydenberg. The 
Western Transvaal was less under control, but, after all, the 



* See map No. 64. 



t See Chapter XXI. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 383 

chief difficulty of Lord Methuen and Kekewich was to discover 
De la Key or any other tangible enemy.* In the Northern Trans- 
vaal Colenbrander was carrying all before him.f The Orange 
River Colony was seriously disturbed nowhere but in its eastern 
half. Cape Colony, the true foundation of the whole campaign, 
and one to be preserved from crumbhng only by the most unre- 
mitting efforts, remained a keen anxiety, but even there things 
were brighter than they had been at any time during the past 
year. In the eastern part there was scarcely a Boer leader 
above the level of a bandit, and in the west Maritz's strategy, 
and with it the success of all Smuts' plans, had been confounded 
just as it had developed into a real danger. J De Wet, then, 
took the field at a moment when some striking performance was 
most needed by his own side and least desired by the other, and 
Lord Kitchener, knowing well what to expect, directed all his 
efforts towards anticipating the offensive on the part of the 
Free State levy. 

The central point of De Wet's concentration seemed to lie 
about Elands Kop, between Lindley and Frankfort. Accord- 
ingly the following ingenious raid was instituted against the 
suspected locaUty. Whilst Elliot was to move out from Kroon- Operations 
stad, marching steadily up the Valsch, not widely extended, v^l"^' *^ 
and keeping to the south of the real objective, Rimington, 
Damant and Wilson, coming from Frankfort would approach 
up the right or eastern bank of the Libenbergs Vlei river. These 
movements, it was hoped, would have the effect of deluding De 
Wet into the impression that a general easterly march was in 
progress which would leave him free behind the receding forces. 
When the Kroonstad and Frankfort forces should come into 
touch with the Libenbergs Vlei river, the whole would suddenly 
face about, and sweep over the country between the Lindley — 
Reitz and Heilbron — Frankfort roads. On December 8th Elhot, 
marching light, took out Broadwood, de Lisle and Byng (the 
latter in place of Lowe), and advanced up the Valsch, de Lisle 
on the left, Byng in centre and Broadwood on the right. 

* See Chapter XIX. f See Chapter XXV. X See Chapter XX. 



384 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



De Wet 
discovered^ 



Loss of 
contact. 



Rimington and Wilson simultaneously started from Heilbron 
to join Damant at Frankfort. Elliot was in the midst of his 
first day's march when, about 11.30 a.m., De Wet was discovered 
by Broadwood to be sitting upon a strong position Klein 
Sedan — Quaggafontein, covering Lindley with 1,000 men. De 
Wet was at this moment meditating an attack on Barker, whose 
forays from Winburg had earned his special displeasure, and the 
appearance of the columns from Kroonstad, whilst it surprised 
him, only caused him to look with more certainty for a move- 
ment by Barker in his direction. Reserving himself, as usual, 
for the weaker opponent, he offered little resistance to Broad- 
wood and Byng who lined up on his left, and after a skirmish of 
two hours, feU back rapidly on the Libenbergs Vlei. Elliot, 
who was on the extreme left with de Lisle, knew nothing of this 
important discovery, and it was not until five hours later that 
he heard from Broadwood, who had gone into camp at Quagga- 
fontein at 3 p.m., how touch had been gained and lost. At 
9 p.m. Broadwood endeavoured to recover contact by a long and 
difi&cult night march to Rietpoort ; but De Wet, anticipating 
some such action, was also on the move, and circling south- 
ward, passed by the east of Broadwood and past Bethlehem, 
making for Kaffir Kop, north of Fouriesburg. Finding nothing 
at the end of a thirty-mile march in the dark Broadwood 
returned to resume his part in the set scheme. On the night of 
the 8th Elliot's front was Lindley — Mooifontein. 

Nothing could have been more unfortunate than these 
events. The object of the whole manoeuvre had now plainly 
vanished outside the right flank, and was to be sought rather 
at the head of the Valsch river than that of the Rhenoster. 
Only in an instant pursuit by every column towards Bethlehem 
was there any chance of regaining touch with De Wet, tactics 
in which the Frankfort troops might equally well have co- 
operated. But a plan had been formulated, and it was evidence 
of the inherent inelasticity of schemes laid down and controlled 
from Army Headquarters, that no attempt was made to depart 
from it. The march eastward was duly persisted in, Elliot 
actually feinting at Bethlehem, his proper target, with the object 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 385 

of diverting attention from the now purposeless advance towards 
Reitz. On the loth he was astride of the Libenbergs Vlei 
river on the Une Bulhoek — Fanny's Home — Zwartfontein, whilst 
De Wet, still with an eye to Winburg, scouted secure from 
interruption from Kaffir Kop. 

Meanwhile the Frankfort troops had joined hands with Elliot 
along the Libenbergs Vlei from Bordeaux and Zorgvleit. At 
4 a.m. on December nth all six columns turned and faced 
westward for the " drive " over Elands Kop. Broad wood, on 
the extreme left was thrown forward from Bulhoek so as to 
prevent a break-out by the south ; escape by the north was 
barred by the hne of blockhouses now standing between Wolve- 
hoek and Frankfort. For the next four days the return march 
proceeded, the columns searching carefully and maintaining a 
line which it would have been difficult to penetrate. It was 
not surprising, however, that their discoveries were small. Every 
mile removed them further from De Wet's main gathering, which, 
even at the outset, had been forty miles to the southward. 
Some 300 Boers in all were sighted, and when on December 
14th the operation concluded on the hne Heilbron — Kaal- 
fontein, only forty-three prisoners had been taken. Of convoys Result of the 
containing fugitive famihes there had been no lack, and 187 "P*™^'^"^ 
wagonsful were driven in. 

The whole of the eastern Orange River Colony, from Frank- 
fort down to Thabanchu now became the scene of great activity 
on both sides. De Wet, whose strength increased daily, divided rx- vvet 
his forces, sending some 800 men under General W. J. Wessels forcer*"* 
northward to reconnoitre with a view to attacking any columns 
found outside Frankfort. There was good prospect of success 
here, because at this time Brigadier-General E. O. F. Hamilton 
was engaged in laying out a prolongation of the Heilbron — 
Frankfort blockhouse hne to Tafel Kop, and the camp of his 
working parties was in the open at Dundas. De Wet himself 
returned from Kaffir Kop to his former ground between Beth- 
lehem and Lindley. No sooner had he done so when, as if led 
by a mahcious spirit, five columns converged on Kaffir Kop in 
search of him. From Kaalfontein came EUiot with his three 

VOL. IV. 25 



3^6 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Failure to 
find De Wet. 



De Wei near 
Bethlehem. 



De Wet 

attacks 
Dartnell, 
Dec. i8th, 
1901. 



brigades, Barker issued from Winburg, and from the opposite 
direction Sir J. DartneU came out of Harrismith by way of 
Elands River Bridge and Bethlehem. On December 17th all 
these should have met at Kaffir Kop ; but even had the lair not 
been deserted, the mission might have miscarried from faulty 
communication. Although they duly arrived in the neigh- 
bourhood from opposite sides, Elliot and Dartnell failed to meet, 
whilst the latter, though he did get sight of Barker, was unable 
to establish signalling communication with him. Then, having 
seen so Uttle of each other and nothing of the enemy, all five 
columns turned for the counter-march to their respective bases. 
De Wet, who had observed these manoeuvres from above Beth- 
lehem had actually hurried to attack Dartnell on his westward 
way, but was only in time to see the column disappear into 
Bethlehem, where B. Campbell had been recently installed with 
his wing of Sir L. Rundle's command. He therefore lay in 
wait some fifteen miles to the north-east of the town, and 
kept a watchful eye on the Harrismith road for the first sign of 
Dartnell's reappearance. 

At 8 a.m. on the i8th Sir J. Dartnell cleared Bethlehem and 
set out on his return march to Harrismith. He had received 
double warning of De Wet's presence. First, a native captured 
the day before had stated that the Free State force had already 
placed itself between the column and its destination ; next, just 
as Dartnell quitted Bethlehem a surrendering burgher rode up 
with the news that the Free State force was actually lying in 
wait only eight miles out upon the road. So certain did an 
attack appear that B. Campbell had agreed to send on his own 
mounted men in support of the march for a certain distance. 
Taking every precaution except that of attempting at all costs 
to discover and inform Elliot, Dartnell moved cautiously upon 
his way. As, about 11 a.m., the advance guard approached the 
drift which carried the road over the Tiger Kloof Spruit, a sudden 
and heavy volley from a hill close to the left front warned 
Dartnell that his informants had spoken truly. He instantly 
parked his wagons and pushed forward his artillery ; but before 
the guns could unlimber for action, a fusilade broke upon him 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 387 

from every side, De Wet's commandos had perfectly enveloped 
the road. Whilst a strong force of riflemen, aided by a Maxim- 
Nordenfeldt posted on the east of the Spruit, opened fire from 
the surrounding kopjes, smaller bodies galloped in and took 
cover at close quarters, and a united rush upon the column 
seemed imminent. For a few moments Dartnell's column was 
in danger of sharing the fate of others which had been waylaid 
in similar fashion by the arch highwayman of the veld ; but 
De Wet soon found that he had met his match. The Imperial 
Light Horse, the majority of whom were as experienced in such 
combats as himself, fought with determination, and utterly 
denied with their rapid shooting the 400 yards of open ground 
which separated them from the assaulting bodies. Moreover, 
the burghers by no means displayed their usual confidence in 
themselves or their leader. De Wet had ordered a general 
charge, but only half his men responded to the signal, and 
these, finding their comrades hanging back, declined to carry 
matters to a conclusion. De Wet was quick to see that an affair 
which had cooled at its first onset had miscarried ; and there 
were indications that he had not only failed, but would soon 
have to look to himself. As soon as the seriousness of the 
attack had become apparent, Dartnell had signaUed to Campbell 
that the support of his mounted men, who had advanced to 
Vogelfontein, would be welcome, and Campbell had not only 
ordered them forward, but was coming on himself with his 
infantry. At 3 p.m. De Wet called his men from the field. Repulse of 
and Dartnell, safe, but in no position to pursue, continued his ^ ^^^' 
march to Elands River Bridge and thence into Harrismith on 
December 23rd without further incident. His losses in the 
engagement were one man killed, four officers and ten men 
wounded; those of the enemy, five killed and nine wounded.* 
De Wet retired into the Lange Berg much chagrined by his 
discomfiture at the hands of a column which he had looked 
upon as a certain prey. In a few hours news reached him 
of a hot engagement in another quarter. 

* For gallantry on this occasion Surgeon-Captain T. J. Crean, 1st Imperial Light 
Horse, was awarded the Victoria Cross. 

VOL. IV. 25* 



388 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Rimington Within a week of their co-operation with Elliot's raid between 

^u?fS- ^® Libenbergs Vlei and Kroonstad, Rimington and Damant 
fort. were again in combination in the Frankfort district, chiefly with 

the object of covering the contemplated extension of the block- 
house line from Frankfort to Tafel Kop. On the night of 
December 19th the two commanders set out on a pre-arranged 
enterprise, the general scheme of which was a circular sweep 
around Tafel Kop from the east, concluding with a drive down 
the valley of the Wilge back towards Frankfort. Soon after 
dawn on the 20th the coliunns, having encompassed Tafel Kop, 
were facing west, in line but not in touch, Rimington on the left 
at the head of the tributary Kalk Spruit, Damant at the head 
of the Riet Spruit some five miles to the north. From the start 
there had been reports of the presence of a considerable Boer 
force in the hills upon the right bank of the Wilge river, and both 
Rimington and Damant had captured more than one patrol and 
outpost. These were in reahty the antennae of Wessels, who, 
fearing to attack E. O. F. Hamilton's strongly fortified camp 
at Dimdas, had lain between Tafel Kop and the Wilge observing 
the blockhouse building, and alert for any false step which would 
afford him a chance to sting. The advent of the two field-columns 
on the morning of the 20th came as a surprise to the Boer leader. 
Seeing Damant on one side of him and Rimington on the 
other, he imagined that he was being purposely surrounded,* 
whereas neither of the British commanders was in reality aware 
of his presence. This idea seemed to be confirmed when a third 
party — whether of his own men, or an advanced detachment of 
Damant's or Rimington's columns, or a reconnoitring patrol 
from Frankfort, cannot be ascertained — alarmed him by appear- 
ing to the west, and Wessels, certain that he was now shut in, 
thought that nothing could save him but a charge. Soon 
Damant's horsemen, galloping down the Riet Spruit in chase of 
a band which had been unearthed on the southern slope of Tafel 
Kop, arrived much scattered on the high ground overlooking 
the right bank. Damant himself, with eighty officers and men 

* Report by Assistant-Head-Commandant W. J. Wessels to Chief Commandant C. 
De Wet. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 389 

and the three guns, drew rein about the centre of the line, taking Damant's : 
post on a long straggling flat-topped kopje which fell steeply ^aiel^KT^ 
to the broad and shallow bowl of grass curving between the rise Dec. 20th, 
and the river. Five hundred yards on Damant's right a '^*' 
squadron of Damant's Horse had halted. Other portions of this 
regiment were on the opposite flank, that is, to the south, but 
so distant that Rimington, though completely out of touch with 
Damant himself, had picked them up on his way down the Kalk 
Spruit. The veld in front of Damant was covered with moving 
horsemen. Some were making up the river, others were crossing 
to the left bank. Five groups, each some 100 strong, could be 
distinguished from the rest, standing motionless under the 
shadow of the opposite slope. The men composing these were 
dismounted and holding their horses ; they were clothed in khaki 
uniform, and were drawn up in so compact and orderly a fashion 
that Damant, who examined them closely, came to the conclu- 
sion that they were squadrons of Yeomanry from Heilbron or 
Dundas. This impression seemed confirmed beyond suspicion 
when the parties, turning their backs on Damant's position, took 
to firing at some invisible target in the opposite direction, cer- 
tainly, so it seemed to Damant, the scattered Boers who were 
in retreat from his own advance. Next, portions of the groups 
broke up, and, collecting some cattle which were straying in the 
neighbourhood, drove them in the direction of Damant's position. 
Finally, all five groups mounted, and rode slowly in cavalry 
formation straight towards Damant. There was now no room 
for doubt ; Damant's men allowed them to approach at leisure, 
and they were soon within hail of the position. Only when one 
of the knots rode within ten yards was the identity of the whole 
array suddenly revealed, and the troops became aware that 
they had admitted a strong Boer commando almost into their 
lines. Lieutenant W. Scott's squadron, that on Damant's right, 
was the first to discover the danger, and shot point-blank into 
the nearest band, putting it to flight with the loss of eight of 
its members. The rest of the intruders, throwing off all dis- 
guise, then galloped at full speed for the foot of Damant's kopje, 
which was so steep on that side that the ground at its foot was 



390 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

hidden from view. Realising the situation at last, Damant 
hurriedly collected a troop, and rushed forward to forestall the 
enemy on the edge of his crest-line ; but he was too late. The 
Boers scrambled over the lip before he could reach it, and in 
one moment an overwhelming force poured in amongst the 
guns and covered the whole top of the kopje. Now ensued a 
combat as noble and as hopeless as that which had strewn Gun 
Hill at Bakenlaagte with dead seven weeks earlier.* The party 
with Damant was manifestly lost ; the guns were already in 
the enemy's hands ; but every man who had a rifle plied it where 
he lay, striving only how much he might cost the enemy before 
a bullet ended his own account. For an hour and a half the 
unequal contest was maintained, so long does it take men even 
so bold and skilful as Wessels' veterans to make an end of a reso- 
lute band six times smaller than itself, f At the end of that 
time, out of the eighty on the hill seventy-seven were killed or 
wounded, amongst the latter Damant himself. J When all 
resistance was quenched the Boers took possession of the kopje, 
sullying their triumph by permitting a few of their number to 
perpetrate those outrages on the wounded of which it seems 
impossible altogether to purify warfare, however humane the 
combatants. Their hold upon their capture was, however, 
but momentary. Whilst Wessels cast vainly around for means 
to remove the guns, every horse of which had long been shot, 
Scott came charging up from his detached position on the right 
with the squadron of Damant's Horse and the 30th and 31st 
companies Imperial Yeomanry, which with one united rush 
hurled the enemy from the hill almost as soon as he had won it. 
Soon after Rimington appeared from the south-west and com- 
pleted the rout. Rimington had heard the first outburst of 
firing, and also its cessation ; but he learned nothing of the 

* See Chapter XVII., pages 310-13. 

■f For gallantry on this occasion Shoeing-Smith A. E. Ind, Royal Horse Artillery 
(XI. section pompoms) was awarded the Victoria Cross. 

X Casualties, December 20th, 1901 — Killed, two officers and twenty-nine men ; 
wounded, six officers, forty men. 



< 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 391 

disaster until it was complete, when first a straggler from Damant 
and then a messenger from Scott informed him of the facts. 
He was then some miles distant, but, galloping for the scene, 
he arrived in time to chase the broken commando across the Wilge 
as far as the exhausted condition of his horses permitted. Thus 
ended an engagement remarkable for its startUng changes of 
fortune and, it may be added, for the extraordinary report 
rendered of it by Wessels, whose undoubted daring with the 
sword was certainly equalled by that with the pen. De Wet, 
brooding over his late discomfiture in the Lange Berg, must have 
derived delusive solace from an account which informed him of 
charges delivered by only 130 burghers over a bare plain 6,000 
yards broad against 2,000 Britons in position ; of incessant 
counter-charges incessantly repulsed ; of a hundred dead, and 
this but a third of the losses of the ill-fated column, being 
counted by himself in one spot.* Be this as it may, the Free 
State generaUssimo could scarcely have learned the truth before 
he delivered a more than rival blow. 

Since the middle of December the constniction of the block- Weakness of 
house line from Harrismith to Bethlehem had been steadily district. ^ ^"^ 
progressing. At this moment such work, in the absence of a 
strong and mobile covering force, was risky in the extreme. This 
was one of the rare occasions during the campaign on which 
information as to De Wet was absolutely reliable. The attack 
on Sir J. Dartnell on the i8th had disclosed both his strength 
and his anxiety to use it, and it was unlikely that such a leader 
would rest contented under the unaccustomed smart of the 
defeat of one of his favourite schemes. True, after the affair at 
Tiger Kloof Spruit, all touch with De Wet had immediately been 
lost, no special effort having been made to retain or regain it. 
Dartnell had moved on into Harrismith, taking with him the 
only mounted force in the district strong enough to beat for game 
so dangerous. Thereafter informatio was mainly dependent 
upon natives, who still reported the presence of the commandos 
in the Lange Berg. Both B. Campbell and Sir L. Rundle were 

* Sec footnote, page 388. 



392 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

practically powerless for distant scouting. Their available 
forces were trifling, and would have been immobile even had 
they not been chained by protective and working purposes 
to the partially completed blockhouse line. The brigade of 
Imperial Light Horse had been broken up, Dartnell having re- 
signed command on his return to Harrismith ; and although the 
two regiments came out again on the 24th, they were not only 
under independent commanders, but were expressly excluded 
from Sir L. Rundle's jurisdiction, reporting instead directly to 
the Commander-in-Chief.* One (Briggs) was to be based on 
Bethlehem ; the other (McKenzie) between that and Harrismith, 
Lord Kitchener intending, though he did not so inform Sir L. 
Rundle, that it should work from the blockhouse-head, f which 
it might effectually have protected. Finally, the Intelligence 
Department, lacking the only certain means of obtaining informa- 
tion, keen-eyed men on good horses, had to concern itself more 
with reports of distant British columns than of the nearer Boer 
commandos. Labouring under all these disabilities Sir L. Rundle 
remained as blind to De Wet's immediate presence as he was 
vulnerable to his attack, and it happened that Christmas Eve 
Situation on found him at his weakest. Blockhouse-head was then in the 
i^i.^'*^ ' 3^ir 3-t Tweefontein, nine miles to the west of Elands River Bridge, 
and was covered by some 500 men of the Imperial Yeomanry 
with a gun and a Vickers-Maxim, all under command of Major 
F. A. WiUiams (South Staffordshire regiment), who temporarily 
replaced Lieut. -Colonel R. B. Firman, whilst that officer was on 
leave of absence. This force lay some two miles to the west of 
the last completed blockhouse. Sir L, Rundle himself had gone 
into camp three miles behind Williams with 270 men of the 
Grenadier Guards (destined for B. Campbell) and sixty-six 
mounted men of the ist South Staffordshire mounted infantry. 
These were all the troops at the front. The regiments of the 
Imperial Light Horse were not at blockhouse-head, but both 
together at Elands River Bridge, nine miles in rear of it, and 

* Telegram from Commander-in-Chief K. 9199, December 22nd, 1901. 
•f Telegram from Commander-in-Chief. K. 9264, December 25th, 1901. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 393 

eleven miles from the force covering it. Beyond the undoubted 
fact of De Wet's presence there seemed, however, no special 
likehhood of an attack. The Intelligence summary on the 
evening of the 24th was entirely reassuring. The " situation to 
the south was quite clear. . . . Movement from north was 
unhkely." Only seventy-five Boers in all, posted as scouts and 
cattle guards, could be discovered anywhere.* Christmas Day 
had not dawned before De Wet, rushing out of this peaceful 
country, had disappeared into it again, dragging after him the 
relics of a British force. 

F. A. Williams' position at Tweefontein much resembled that Position of 

the force 

of Damant in the recently described encounter on the Wilge. covering the 
His outposts lined the edge of the almost precipitous southern '''^ci^house 
side of a kopje, the opposite slope of which, faUing gently to the 
north, contained the camp and baggage. This northern side, 
being pecuharly vulnerable to attack, was strongly defended by 
entrenched outposts. The hill was the usual camping ground 
for all columns passing that way,f and was thus almost as well 
known to the enemy as to the troops. Nevertheless De Wet 
carefully reconnoitred it in person for two days, and having DeWet 
drawn the fire of the guns by means of his scouts, and ascertained the covering 
the position of the various defences, he marked it as his victim. ^°'^"- 
Remaining in observation himself, he ordered his burghers to 
meet him at a spot four miles distant from Tweefontein during 
the night of December 24th. This was duly carried out, and 
about midnight eight commandos, numbering some 1,200 men, 
advanced upon Tweefontein. It had long been an axiom with 
the Boers, and might by this time have well been conceded by 
their opponents, that the steepest side of a position is that 
most favourable to attack. The numberless proofs of this in 
history were probably unknown to men who studied warfare not 
from books but the face of nature ; but South Africa, from 
Majuba onwards, had provided lessons enough to both sides that 
difficulties of ground are nothing compared to the advantages of 

* Intelligence summary, Harrismith District, December 24th, 1901. 
f Sir L. Rundle's report, December 26th, 1901, 



394 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

the cover from fire and view provided by the precipitous faces 

which at first sight seem impregnable. The force, therefore, 

which watches only the edge and neglects the foot of such a steep 

will always be in extreme danger from an active enemy by night. 

Wagon Hill and Spion Kop had taught the British, Elands- 

laagte and Driefontein the Boers, how much easier it is to lose 

than regain such a crest. At heavy cost F. A. Williams' Yeomanry 

were now to learn it again. De Wet steered straight for the 

De Wet southern face. At two o'clock on Christmas morning his men 

covedngforce ^^6^^ ^o scalc the height. Climbing in stockinged feet, they 

Dec. 25th, were undetected until the last moment, and then only a single 

' sentry took the alarm. Five minutes later the whole outpost 

line was destroyed and the camp flooded from comer to corner 

with an overwhelming inrush of riflemen. Of defence there 

was none ; every body of men on duty was instantly dashed to 

pieces ; the troops in camp were of no more military value than 

any other collection of suddenly and so terribly awakened 

sleepers. But of battling with an inevitable fate, the peculiar 

quality of the British soldier, there was enough both to redeem 

the field to its losers and to increase the credit of the assault. 

Broken into groups, and lost in the darkness, the Yeomanry 

offered a fierce resistance, dehvering time after time gallant but 

ineffectual charges, which were finely led wherever a leader could 

be found. The gunners stood and fell to a man by their pieces. 

De Wet himself, no unpractised judge of courage, bore witness 

Loss of the to the gallantry of his victims. In less than an hour his work 

covering ^g^g done ) 145 of the column were killed and wounded ;* and 

as dawn broke he left the hill, taking with him the two guns and 

more than 200 prisoners of war. 

The first shots fired in this disastrous affair were heard in 
Sir L. Rundle's little camp, and a quarter of an hour later the 
Staffordshire mounted infantry were led out by a Staff officer 
to ascertain the cause of the ensuing roar of musketry. As the 
scouts approached Tweefontein the faint light of a cloudy moon 

* British casualties — Killed, six officers (including Major Williams) and fifty-one 
men ; wounded, eight officers and eighty men. The Boer losses numbered about fifty, 
including three officers. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 395 

was sufficient to show them the state of affairs, and they them- 
selves were so nearly discovered that the officer in command, 
who rode ahead to reconnoitre with two men, was summoned 
to surrender, his companions being actually captured. In an 
hour's time the patrol was back with Sir L. Rundle, who, on 
hearing their report, concentrated his small force and sent his 
aide-de-camp. Captain A. C. McLean, to summon the Imperial 
Light Horse from Elands River Bridge. His own position was 
extremely hazardous. Had De Wet turned upon him it is Ukely 
that he would have shared Williams' fate ; but the Boer leader 
had allowed his men to scatter in search of the loot and as guards 
over the wagons, guns and prisoners, and he had only a small 
force with him when the rising sun revealed the adjacent camp. 
Even so, Rundle was in some jeopardy from the Boer stragglers. 
The Staffordshire mounted infantry, whom he sent at the gallop 
to seize a hill commanding his left and the road by which the 
reinforcements were expected, were all but forestalled by a 
hostile body of equal strength who raced for it from the other 
side ; a stronger commando hovered on his right. Meanwhile 
McLean, riding at speed through the darkness, dashed into 
Elands River Bridge in less than an hour, and soon both regi- 
ments of Imperial Light Horse arrived at full gallop from the 
east. But the enemy had almost disappeared. A pursuit into De Wci 
the tangled spurs of the Lange Berg led the cavalry into country '*«pp<*"- 
of such difficulty that it was imsafe to persist, and once more 
De Wet vanished. 

It now fell to Elhot to take up the chase. On his return 
from the barren operation against Kaffir Kop, Elliot had reor- 
ganised his division into two columns under de Lisle and Major 
R. Fanshawe (Oxfordshire Light Infantry), Broadwood having 
proceeded on leave of absence. Since then these troops had 
been engaged in covering the construction of the Kroonstad — 
Lindley blockhouse line, based chiefly on Quaggafontein, with 
Byng behind at Kaalfontein. On the day of the occurrence at 
Tweefontein, EUiot received intelligence that De Wet was near 
Reitz. CaUing Byng forward to guard the rapidly accumulating ^'ijot "j?jes 
depot at Quaggafontein, on the evening of December 26th, that Wet. 



396 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

is, some forty-eight hours after the disaster, Elliot sent out 
de Lisle without guns or transport, with orders to conduct a 
wide-ranging reconnaissance, Fanshawe following at dawn on 
the 27th with the impedimenta. De Wet was reported with 
suspicious promptitude. On the 28th, when de Lisle was 
approaching the left bank of the Libenbergs Vlei by Fanny's 
Home, the heights on the opposite side were seen to be covered 
by an apparently strong force which made little effort to conceal 
its numbers or disposition. It appeared certain that De Wet 
was about to oppose the passage of the Vlei, and Elliot prepared 
for an encounter with the elusive marauder. But the General 
was doubly out in his reckoning. De Wet himself was far away, 
having ridden off to visit Steyn and the commandos of W. J. 
Wessels on the Wilge river. In the meantime he had entrusted 
the leadership to General M. Prinsloo, ordering him to lead the 
commandos west of Reitz, and it was this officer who now faced 
Boer tactics Elliot across the Libenbergs Vlei. At the first news of the 
be^ Vlei. approach of the British column Prinsloo conceived a manoeuvre 
worthy of De Wet himself. Sending the bulk of his men to 
cross the Vlei, an hour's ride down stream, he drew up a small 
but showy force opposite Fanny's Home, trusting that it would 
draw Elliot across the river and allow the undisturbed passage 
of his main body in the opposite direction. In this he was 
perfectly successful. By the time that Elliot, forced to deploy 
against unknown numbers, and further delayed by his transport 
at the damaged drift, had crossed the stream, nothing was to be 
seen but a few groups of scouts. Prinsloo's actual commandos 
were at that moment fording the river ten miles to the north, 
and were fast gathering upon the very bank which Elliot had 
just quitted with so much labour. Reitz was found deserted, 
and it was not until 5.30 p.m. that the news of a numerous 
body on the march west of Roodekraal, that is, almost behind 
him, showed Elliot how he had been outwitted. 

Facing about, he at once sent five regiments and all his 
guns to gain contact, and hopes of a decisive engagement were 
renewed by the discovery of a strong rearguard embattled this 
time on the high ground on the left bank of the Libenbergs VJei 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 397 

river. The enemy was reported to number 2,000 men ; it was 
known that they possessed gims, the trophies of Tweefontein, 
and ammunition for them. The situation of a commander in 
the presence of a hostile covering force of considerable but un- 
known strength has always been held to be one of the most diffi- 
cult in warfare since the days when Ney shone in command of 
rearguards and Soult failed in attacking them. Elliot's problem 
on the Libenbergs Vlei, however differing in scale from the 
classic prototypes of the Peninsula and Russia, was even more 
difficult than they, for he was opposed to an enemy of unpre- 
cedented mobility, and in a campaign in which it were hard to 
say whether caution had proved the more profitless or dash the 
more dangerous. Where prudence gains the day it is useless 
to speculate on the possible gains or losses. Elliot, widely ex- 
tending his troops, formally advanced against the position, duly 
disclosed the enemy's guns and firing lines, and accordingly 
missed his mark. Night fell upon his division still on the right 
bank of the Libenbergs Vlei river after a remarkable march of 
seventy miles ; a few of his parties which had crossed to the 
other side were even recalled, and next morning the columns, Touch with 
extending once more on a front eight miles broad, marched over ll'Jt.^"'^"'^ 
an empty position, and soon after completely lost touch even 
with the hoof and wheel marks of their quarry. On the last 
day of December EUiot returned to the blockhouse line to refiU, 
bringing twelve prisoners and fifty-four carts and wagons. 

Thus the opening days of the year 1902 found the whole The eastern 
campaign almost come to a head in the eastern Orange River cdony th'e^^*^ 
Colony and De Wet. The conflagration which elsewhere seemed centre of the 
to be flickering to its close here burned as fiercely as ever, for *^'"P*'^- 
De Wet's renaissance was marked by an energy which recalled 
the earhest periods of the Boer campaign. From Ventersburg to 
Vrede and from Frankfort down to Fouriesburg there was not 
a convoy whose safe arrival could be counted on, not a garrison 
that did not stand continually to arms, not a column which 
even whilst it marched against the enemy had not to move with 
the strictest precautions of the defensive. The history of the 
next few months is one of continual effort to bring the guerrilla 



398 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Fresh lines of 
blockhouses. 



DeWet 
disperses his 
force. 



Elliot sweeps 
the country. 



chief to book. Columns from all parts drove and counter-drove 
from every base and every angle across his hunting ground ; 
colossal lines of blockhouses daily cut up his sphere of action. 
Soon Heilbron was joined to Frankfort, Frankfort to Tafel Kop 
and Vrede, Vrede to Botha's Pass and Natal by these fortified 
buildings, of which an unbroken row stretched also from Harri- 
smith through Bethlehem and Lindley to Kroonstad.* In 
bringing all this about De Wet had at once achieved his object 
and ended his occupation. He had roused a giant which might 
even by accident overpower him. To keep watch on the inces- 
sant gyrations of so many colimins, the almost insensible tighten- 
ing of the grip of the blockhouses on every horizon, demanded 
a hundred eyes. De Wet perceived that the moment had come 
for another disembodiment. Now, therefore, he again broke up 
the force which he had gathered for so short and adventurous a 
course, and in a few days there was scarcely a hill, hoUow, hamlet 
or farm in all the countryside without its little population of 
armed men, whilst scarcely two hundred remained anywhere 
together to reward the powerful arrays which Lord Kitchener 
poured into the district. De Wet himself, with a moderate 
following, made for the Elands Kop district. With only a few 
hours' pause Elliot, knowing nothing of this, took the field 
again, and swept rapidly to Reitz, thence northward down the 
Libenbergs Vlei river and eastward to the Wilge river, gaining 
touch with Tafel Kop (January 4th), whither E. O. F. Hamilton 
had now successfully pushed his blockhouses. Nothing was to 
be seen and little heard of the enemy, and but for sohtary scouts 
the country seemed deserted. A sudden dash back to the 
banks of the Libenbergs Vlei in the evening, often a profitable 
ruse against the Boers, resulted in the capture of eight prisoners ; 
but the commandos had utterly vanished, and Elliot, whose men 
were now on reduced rations, gave the word for Lindley. On 
this day, January 4th, he covered sixty miles : the last five 
days' marching had totalled nearly 250 miles, a feat which the 



* Fuller details of these and all other lines of blockhouse construction within the 
theatre of war will be found in Appendix 2. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 399 

most brilliant rewards have seldom been able to extract from 
troops, especially under service conditions of such rigour ; for 
it is never to be forgotten what incessant tension of mind and 
body added to the labours of columns surrounded by enemies 
who had time and again suddenly transformed themselves from 
a sprinkling of vedettes into a formidable offensive force. 

No sooner was Elliot in Lindley (January 7th) than a rumour 
of De Wet's presence close to the north-east once more drew out 
his weary men and horses. The Boer leader was reported near 
Vecht Kop, moving west with the apparent intention of break- 
ing across the railway about Roodewal. This proved true. 
On January 8th de Lisle and Fanshawe gained touch, and Touch made 

• • o ' with De WeL 

retaming it skilfully by another fifty-mile march, interposed 
between the railway and De Wet, who was already across the 
Rhenoster, and pushed him back beyond Vecht Kop, the Boer 
leader eventually drawing off out of reach towards Reitz again. 
Rest was now absolutely necessary for two out of Elliot's three 
columns. He remained based on Lindley, Fanshawe clearing 
the country around the place whilst de Lisle entrenched on 
Kaffir Kop to the south, so as to cover an extension of the 
Kroonstad — Lindley blockhouse line to that commanding hill. 
Whilst they were thus occupied Byng, who had remained in 
charge of Quaggafontein, took their place in the field, and 
endeavoured to pick up the slender threads which led to De Wet. 
He had therefore to make for Reitz, and moved in the first 
instance on Fanny's Home, where he expected to find two 
columns from Frankfort which had been placed under his com- 
mand for the task. These were the forces of Garratt, and of 
Lieut.-Colonel J. W. Dunlop, R.A., the first of whom had recently 
been engaged in covering Bullock's blockhouse building from 
Botha's Pass to Vrede, whilst the latter had been performing 
similar service for E. O. F. Hamilton from Frankfort to Tafel 
Kop. Both were delayed one day on their southward march, 
but on January 20th all three columns united at Verkykers 
Kop, and for the rest of the month they drove and counter-drove 
between the Libenbergs Vlei and the Wilge rivers, returning to 
Fanny's Home with twenty-three prisoners on February ist. By 



400 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



A general 
scheme 
against De 
Wet. 



Incidents 
during the 
concentration 
of troops. 



Successes by 
Sir H. Raw- 
linson and 
Rimington. 



that date not only was EUiot again on the move, but three more 
columns had taken the field in the immediate neighbourhood to 
join in the unending search for De Wet, namely, those of Barker 
from Winburg, Dawkins (strengthened by the two regiments 
of Imperial Light Horse) from the Harrismith — Bethlehem 
blockhouse-head, and Sir H. Rawhnson who reappeared from 
Standerton. Rimington, too, came from Frankfort, on every 
side of which, from ViUiersdorp to Heilbron and even down to 
Elands Kop, he had been raiding with his accustomed vigour 
since January ist. 

From the converging marches of all these units were 
evolved two grand tactical ideas, which were briefly as follows : 
First, to press De Wet south-eastward, either into the Drakens- 
berg, or against the Harrismith — Bethlehem blockhouses ; 
secondly, should this miscarry by De Wet breaking through the 
cordon in a westerly direction, to mass a line of columns behind 
him and drive him westward, either against a column to be 
dropped by EUiot during his advance or, failing that, into the 
strongly fortified angle between the Kroonstad railway and the 
Wolvehoek — Heilbron blockhouses. The columns did not come 
together without sundry incidents on the way. In the last week 
of January when EUiot, keeping to the south of Reitz, was 
marching on a broad front towards Harrismith, Rimington was 
sweeping down the angle between the Libenbergs Vlei and the 
WUge rivers, with Sir H. Rawhnson on his left, on the opposite 
(right) bank of the WUge. Rawhnson, who reached Comeha on 
the 23rd, secured thirty prisoners by a skilfuUy managed round- 
up of the farms on the Venters Spruit on the next night. Four 
days later he was joined by Dawkins on the Hoi Spruit, and 
continuing southward, drove before him a Boer convoy down to 
the junction of the CorneUs and WUge rivers. This he surprised 
and rushed on the 30th, taking eleven prisoners and forty-five 
vehicles. Rimington, who had arrived and remained at Reitz 
January 26th — 28th, was now abreast of Rawhnson, and 
resumed his march on Harrismith. On the night after RawHn- 
son's capture on the right bank of the WUge, Rimington was 
equally successful within a few miles of the spot on the left bank. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 401 

He, too, had been pushing a Boer convoy southward, and on 
the evening of the 31st was so close to it that its capture on the 
next day would be almost certain. Rimington's keeji observa- 
tion of Boer tactics now prompted him to adopt a manoeuvre 
after his opponent's own heart. Suspecting that the imperilled 
convoy would double past him in the dark, he himself made a 
night march backward, and at dawn on the 31st caught the 
whole convoy, with twenty- three prisoners and twenty-one • 
wagons at Morgenzon, nine miles in rear of his bivouac of 
the evening before. 

Lord Kitchener's expectation that De Wet would not be 
found in front of the foregathering columns was soon borne out. 
The troops made touch with Harrismith with no more serious The army 
encounters than those recorded, but Byng, whom Elliot had n^rismith. 
stopped at Fanny's Home, exactly fulfilled the purpose for which 
he had been left behind. On the night of February 2nd Byng, 
acting on inteUigence that the enemy was on the move to the 
north, raided in that direction, and at once struck into the midst 
of a party under Commandants Mears and Wessels whom De Wet Success \>y 
had ordered to extricate the captured guns from the closing ^"^' 
cordon of troops. Byng at once attacked, and after a close 
combat in which his South African Light Horse and Garratt's 
New Zealanders and Queensland Bushmen much distinguished 
themselves, recaptured the three guns lost at Tweefontein, 
taking in addition twenty-seven prisoners, including three officers, 
and six carts. Besides these the Boers suffered the loss of some 
dozen killed and wounded, amongst the former being Wessels. 
Byng's casualties, in spite of, or perhaps because of the 
determined nature of his attack, numbered but three. 

The quarry, though thus broken, was now out of the ring, The army 
and on February 4th the columns were turned and hurried into war"/*"*" 
position for the westerly " drive." Could some aeronaut have 
poised high enough to enable him to survey the array in all its 
proportions, he would have beheld next day the veld of the 
Orange River Colony barred from Frankfort down to Kaffir 
Kop by an unbroken arc of horsemen, whose flanks were at the 
extremities of a chord more than eighty miles in length, closing, 

VOL. IV. 26 



402 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

as they moved forward, the "gorge " of the vast open field-work 
into which the fortification of the railway and blockhouse lines 
had converted the whole of the eastern half of the province. 
The walls of this enclosure had been doubly strengthened for the 
event. Two additional battalions of infantry lined the defences 
between Kroonstad, Wolvehoek and Heilbron, which were 
patroUed incessantly by seven armoured trains. At Wolvehoek 
a battalion of mounted infantry lay in readiness to gallop to 
any quarter at a moment's notice. As for the disposition of the 
advancing semi-circle, on the left, from Lindley to near Fanny's 
Home, were Elliot's two columns, linking with Rimington, who 
reached to Stabbertswaag ; next came Byng, extended as far as 
Marsala, north of which was Sir H. Rawlinson, whose right 
touched Frankfort and gave a hand to three columns under 
Damant, Wilson and Keir* drawn up in front of the Frank- 
fort — Heilbron blockhouses. Barker remained in second line 
on Kaffir Kop behind Elliot. As this great horn, a colossal 
reproduction of the formation of the vanished Zulu impis, 
advanced, its embrace grew wider by the addition to Elliot's left 
of two columns under Majors W. R, Marshall and H. G. Holmes, 
from Sir C. Knox's southern district. 
Progress of From February 6th — 8th the unbroken curve rolled in upon 

the operation, ^j^^ railway. Not an inch of the country was left unsearched by 
day. By night, when no officer or man in all the army was 
reUeved from duty, all egress was denied by a continuous line 
of entrenched outposts, some distance in front of which fires 
were hghted both to increase the apparent depth of the forma- 
tion and to disguise the real positions of the works. To attempt 
to break through such a barrier was a madman's venture ; yet 
it was constantly attempted, especially against Rawlinson, who 
in three days took 129 prisoners, and at the northern block- 
houses, which, dangerous as they were, seemed less fatal than 
the wakeful rank of troops out on the veld. In one of these 
encounters ten Boers were killed and many wounded ; in all 

* Lieut. -Colonel J. L. Keir, R.A., who, with a command of Royal Horse artillery- 
men serving as cavalry without guns, had been placed in charge of the operations 
covering the blockhouse building in the north. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 403 

of them the fugitives suffered losses by death and capture ; 
but here and there parties and individuals, helped by fortune 
and their own valour, contrived to get through, in spite of every 
precaution. Amongst these evasions was one the bitter mis- 
fortune of which was well-nigh atoned for by the desperate 
daring of its carrying out. On February 6th De Wet himself, Escape of 
with a small following, was west of Elands Kop in the very ^'' 

centre of the circle. He was precisely informed of the con- 
verging forces by his heliographs which had begun to work from 
Blaauwkopje (between Bethlehem and Lindley) and Verkykers 
Kop as soon as the line of troops had passed them by. The 
dangers of the railway and the blockhouses radiating from it 
had long been known to him. At the first news of the army 
encompassing him he had ordered all his detachments to break 
out where they could, and he himself had now to determine 
quickly against which of the fences he should make his own rush 
for safety. For the blockhouses De Wet had invariably, both 
in conversation and his despatches, expressed such contempt that 
his decision was a foregone conclusion. Hiding himself near 
the Lindley — Kroonstad line late in the afternoon of February 
6th, he waited for darkness to cover his salvation or niin. His 
chances were small, but every moment's delay would make them 
less. Elliot was no further forward than Doomkloof ; Holmes 
and Marshall had not yet come up into line from the south. 
When night was some hours old he gave the word to march, 
and at one o'clock on the morning of February 7th he found 
himself close against the wire entanglements which barricaded 
the narrow space between the blockhouses. In the intense dark- 
ness his approach had been quite undiscovered, and when the 
wires were cut De Wet himself and his foremost men effected the 
crossing in perfect silence. Close behind him, however, came a 
herd of driven cattle, the precious meat supply of the commando, 
and it was not until these began to blunder noisily amongst the 
wires that the garrisons in the blockhouses awoke to the situa- 
tion and opened fire. Many of the beasts and a few burghers 
who were riding with them were shot ; many were turned 
back, but the majority burst their way through and rejoined 

VOL. IV. 26* 



4^4 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Close of the 
operation. 
Its results. 



Desperate 
resources of 
the fugitives. 



De Wet when he gained the banks of the Valsch river and 
freedom at dawn.* 

On the next day, February 8th, the great armament, its 
main object thus dissipated, checked its career at the railway 
and counted its gains. These were not inconsiderable, though 
there were few who would not have bartered the total yield for 
one prize which was not in the net. In killed, wounded and 
prisoners the manoeuvre had deprived the enemy of some 285 
men, perhaps one-sixth of those who had from time to time been 
reported, or had disclosed themselves during the past few weeks. 
The rest had disappeared, some with De Wet, the others as if 
they had been moles or bats, for the surface of the ground had 
been apparently utterly denied to them. Some, at least, had 
attempted to escape like fish, for Rimington actually made 
prisoners of men who had buried themselves all but their mouths 
under the waters of the Rhenoster, whilst many were raked from 
the mud and reeds of the adjacent banks ! Such desperate 
devices to avoid a captor from whom no cruelty was to be feared 
may well arouse wonder, not at the length, but the shortness of 
the campaign which brought a nation of these stalwarts to its 
knees. Must not the Romans have encountered a like spirit 
when, under remarkably similar conditions of comparative 
discipline, organisation and resources, they found a period 
of nearly one hundred and fifty years all too short for the 
subjugation of Britain ? 

* There was much uncertainty on both sides with regard to this occurrence. It was 
believed by the British, and Lord Kitchener so repxirted in his despatch, that De Wet 
had driven the cattle as a ram against the wires, hiding himself and his men in 
the midst of the mob, a device of the credit of which the Boer leader would scarcely 
have deprived himself as he did in his own account of the aflTair (" Three Years' War," 
page 352). It is probable that, unknown to him as he rode ahead in the darkness, the 
majority of his followers did actually become involved in the stampede which carried 
the herd of 600 beasts through the line of defences. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 405 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 





t 
I 


&- 


.s e 
a 8 


3 





COLUMN. 


1 

e 
9 


a 

i 


".IS 

1-5 


1 











9 u 


•^ 






:s 




^> 


»«5 




December, iqoi— February, 1902. 












Brig. -Gen. R. G. Broadwood ... 


1,030 


— 







Lieut. - General E. L. 


Lt.-Col. H. de B. de Lisle 


1,052 


— 




I 


Lt.Col. the Hon. J. Byng 


1.284 


»7' 




I 


1' Elliot in command. 


Major K. Kanshawe 


1,526 






1 


Lt.-Col, M. F. Rimin^jton 


1,620 


365 









Lt.-Col. A. E. Wilson 


569 


180 




2 




Major J. H. Damant 


611 


83 


3 


I 




Lt.-Col. J. S. S. Barker (two 












columns) 


1.07s 


— 




1 




LI.-C0I. C.J. Briggs* 


583 


— 




— 


) Brig. - General Sir I. 
) Diartnell in commanti. 


Lt.-Col. D. McKenzie • 


795 


— 




I 


Major-Gen. B. B. R. Campbell... 


393 


1,486 




2 


1 Lieut. - General Sir L. 
J Kundle in command. 


Major F. A. Williams 


500 


— 




— 


Col. F. S. Garratt 


1. 031 


270 




I 




Lt.-Col. J. W. Dunlop 


721 






3 




Lt.-Col. J. G.W. Dawkins ... 
Col. Sir H. Rawlinson 


824 


— 









1.299 


178 


I 




Lt-Col. J. L. Keir 


884 











Major W. R. Marshall 

Major H. G. Holmes 


571 


I5+ 









501 






1 





» These two columns worked independently on Sir J. 
command. 



Dartnell relinquishing 



t Scottish cyclists. 



406 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL* 

{Continued from Chapter XIX.). 

JANUARY — MARCH, I902. 

Lord Lost to sight, both of his colleague Kekewich and of Army 

mowments. Headquarters, Lord Methuen, in hot pursuit of a Boer convoy, 
had, as related, reached Vryburg on January 5th. His quarry, 
with two days' start, had disappeared, and Lord Methuen 
remained for a few days at Vryburg, employing the interval in 
scattering a laager discovered to the north-west (January 8th), 
from which his troops captured seven prisoners. On the 12th 
he struck eastward again, marching fast by way of O'Reilly's 
Pan and Mooiplaats across the Harts river to Rooiwal, beyond 
which, by hard galloping, he picked up a wandering Boer convoy 
of thirty-two vehicles and much stock on the 14th. Two days 
later, whilst heading for Boschpoort, at the head of the Little 
Harts river. Lord Methuen suddenly came upon the very convoy 
which had misled him across to Vryburg. Although it was 
strongly guarded it was quickly captured entire, forty-live 
vehicles, a herd of beasts and nineteen burghers falling into 
the hands of the mounted troops, who rode fifty horses to death 
in the pursuit. On January 19th the column entered Lichten- 
burg. Near this town the enemy, as he was so often fortunate 
enough to do, made amends for his losses on the i6th by 
inflicting a sharp blow on part of Lord Methuen's column. It 
happened that a party of some forty Boers had been reported 
at Treurfontein, some twenty miles to the south-east. On 

* See map No. 59. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 407 

January 21st Lieut.-Colonel K. Chesney was despatched to 
engage them with 200 men. But the supposed small band 
proved to be a strong commando, under General Celliers, who, 
after demolishing Chesney's advance-guard squadron, pro- 
ceeded to outflank and hustle the rest back towards Lichten- 
burg. Within six miles of the town the detachment, which had 
lost more than a third of its strength,* was fortunately met by 
Lord Methuen, who had heard of the affair and had sallied out 
to the rescue with 500 men and three guns. Rain and " rinder- 
pest " kept Lord Methuen at Lichtenburg until the 26th, when 
he made for Klerksdorp by a circuitous route around Tafel Kop,t 
arriving on the railway on February ist. 

Kekewich, since his abortive combination with Lord Methuen, Kekewich's 
had been engaged during the previous month in covering the "o^e^^"*'- 
construction of a line of blockhouses along the Taaibosch Spruit 
to Vaalbank. This he effected chiefly from Rietfontein, em- 
ploying his time in harrying any hostile parties within reach, 
from one of which, at Brakpan on January i6th, he took eleven 
prisoners and a small train of wagons. Altogether Kekewich 
took twenty-eight prisoners by these means during the month. 
On the 29th, the blockhouse line being completed to Vaalbank, 
it was decided to prolong it to Lichtenburg, and Hickie was 
called down from Tafel Kop to assist Kekewich in protecting 
the building operations. Hickie appeared on February ist, 
and Kekewich immediately resumed his wonted activity. The 
northward extension of the blockhouses was carrying him daily 
into the heart of a region which had never failed to be infested 
with the enemy's most determined bands, such as had lately 
done damage to Chesney's party within a few miles. Not far 
to the north, at Roodepan, De la Rey himself was reported to be 
in laager, and there were other camps in the vicinity. All 
were known to Kekewich's Intelligence Officer, Mr. W. Carlisle, 
a man as subtle in the detective part of war as he was skilled 

• Casualties — Killed, nine men ; wounded, twenty-four men ; captured, three officers 
and thirty-eight men ; total, seventy-four, 

f Not to l)e confused with the height of similar name in the Frankfort district of 
the Orange River Colony. 



408 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

in fighting, to whom, as to Wools-Sampson in the Eastern 
Transvaal, well-nigh every burgher on this side was known by 
name and sight, and every camping ground and water-pan upon 
the vast tract a familiar haunt. On the night of February 4th 
Kekewich despatched Major H. P. Leader, of the ist Scottish 
Horse, accompanied by Carhsle, to try their fortune with 634 
mounted men and a Vickers-Maxim. 
Success at Leader, intent on the most important game, marched straight 

1902. to Roodepan, a Boer piquet fell into his hands, from whom he 

learned that De la Rey had probably moved, but that another 
laager was certainly to be found at Gruisfontein, an intermediate 
farm. Leader decided to grasp at the substance rather than 
risk the shadow. With great skill he advanced on Gruisfontein, 
not from the south, which would have given the Boers a clear 
run in the direction most safe for them, but by a wide circling 
movement made in the dark from the north, which would both 
bewilder the enemy and drive him towards Kekewich, who was 
at Leeuwfontein, at the source of the Taaibosch Spruit. Before 
dawn on February 5th Leader arrived within charging distance 
of the laager. He disposed his men in three bodies, placing the 
scouts of the Scottish Horse in the centre, two squadrons (ninety- 
five men) of the same corps under Captain J. R. Mackenzie on 
the right, and the same (no men) under Captain W. Jardine 
on the left. In this order the force rushed upon the laager during 
the last few moments of twilight, for Leader, fearing to be dis- 
covered, would not wait for day. The Boers were completely 
taken by surprise. Sleeping in various scattered kraals, each 
party in turn attempted resistance, and more than once by their 
rapid and resolute firing went near to checking the onset. But 
Leader had sent in his men with as much intelligence as deter- 
mination. Pushing his flanks well in advance of his centre he 
had soon surrounded the whole group of kraals, from which, 
shoot as fiercely as they would, not a Boer could make his escape, 
whilst all were practically without cover from one side or the 
other. First, on the right, seventeen burghers were taken as 
they broke and fled ; a moment later Jardine secured twenty- 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 409 

seven more from one of the huts on the left ; finally, after 
hot fighting at close quarters, the centre had the satisfaction of 
receiving the surrender of Commandant Sarel Alberts, a noted 
commander, with seventeen of his officers and all his men, to the 
number of 131, of whom ten were wounded ; seven others were 
found dead. Leader's losses were comparatively trifling. Only 
eight officers and men were woimded, and twenty-eight horses 
kiUed, so completely had dismay ruined the aim of fine marks- 
men, though they had shot furiously at a few yards' range. 
Leader's march back, encumbered as he was by wounded and 
prisoners, was much facilitated by a movement by Kekewich 
westward, accompanied by an artillery demonstration, which 
effectually distracted attention from the returning detachment. 

On February 8th Kekewich, still with Hickie, advanced on 
the Lichtenburg road to Rietvlei, and on the 15th to Rietgat, 
where he remained until the completion of the blockhouses on 
the 2ist. He was then ordered back on Klerksdorp, Hickie 
handing over his command to Lieut. -Colonel H. M. Grenfell on 
the same date. On the 25th he reached Hartebeestfontein, and 
there he was met by the news that a convoy from von Donop's 
column had been lost to the south-west of Klerksdorp. There 
was not the faintest indication which way it had been removed, 
and Kekewich, feeling in all directions, entered Wolmaranstad 
on February 28th, determined to organise there a flying column 
for the rescue of the wagons. At Wolmaranstad he joined von Kekewich 
Donop, whose presence here, and the circumstances of his loss {^'"^j^"" 
must now be explained. Woimaran- 

Lord Methuen, it will be remembered, after his expedition to 
Lichtenburg had returned to Klerksdorp on February ist. Here 
he remained for a week. On the 8th he was granted leave of 
absence prior to estabhshing his permanent Headquarters at 
Vryburg on the western railway ; for it was his intention to 
rehnquish for a time the actual leadership of the column with 
which he had done such long and arduous work in the field. The 
command of the column then devolved upon Lieut. -Colonel S. B. 
von Donop, R.A., who had been Lord Methuen's lieutenant in 
all his expeditions. On the very day of his promotion von 



stad. 



4IO 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Von Donop's 

previous 

movements. 



Von Donop 
sends a convoy 
towards 
Klerksdorp. 



De la Rey in 
the neighbour- 
hood. 



Donop signally justified it. Hearing of a concentration of Boers 
under Potgieter — lately a fugitive from the Makwasie Berg — at 
Elandslaagte, eleven miles west of Klerksdorp, von Donop 
issued from Klerksdorp by night, and turning the laager from 
the north, fell upon it at dawn and completely overthrew it, 
capturing thirty-six prisoners. Potgieter himself again escaped, 
but so narrowly that he had to ride for it bareback, and clad 
only in his shirt. Von Donop then went into camp on a neigh- 
bouring farm. At 9 p.m. that night the enemy attempted to 
avenge their losses of the morning by a sharp attack on the 
baggage and supply columns, in which four men and twenty-six 
mules were shot, and some of the horses stampeded. Next day 
von Donop marched upon Wolmaranstad, which he had been 
ordered to make his base for clearing the district. There, 
making constant raids amongst the enemy's cattle, he remained 
during February until the occurrence of the incident which 
brought Kekewich to his side. On the 23rd it was necessary to 
send a convoy into Klerksdorp for supplies. The convoy, which 
consisted of 145 mule-wagons and six drawn by oxen, was 
escorted by 230 men of the 5th Imperial Yeomanry, 225 of the 
ist Northumberland Fusihers, twenty British South African 
Police, fifteen men of the 3rd South Wales Borderers with two 
guns of the 4th battery R.F.A., a Vickers-Maxim and two 
Maxims ; the whole imder Lieut. -Colonel W. C. Anderson, 
the commanding officer of the Imperial Yeomanry, Besides 
these there were seventy-eight men of Paget's Horse, who were 
proceeding on special duty to Klerksdorp, and therefore not 
properly to be considered as forming part of the escort. A 
similar convoy had travelled over and back by the same route a 
week previously. On the evening of the 23rd Anderson halted 
at Kareeboomskuil ; on the following evening at Yzerspruit. 
The two days had been quite uneventful, nor did there seem 
any hkehhood of danger attending the short march which would 
bring the column into Klerksdorp. Nevertheless every mile 
covered had brought the convoy into more imminent peril. A 
few days earlier General De la Rey had come down to the Wol- 
maranstad — Klerksdorp road in search of adventure, of supplies, 



I 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 411 

of revenge for many miscarried enterprises. He had come in 
full strength, with a following of 1,500 to 2,000 men under his 
most trusted subordinates, Kemp, Celliers and Liebenberg. His 
scouts, watching von Donop in Wolmaranstad, had immediately 
informed him of the departure of the convoy, and De la Rey, 
unaware that the wagons were empty, determined to take them. 
This with the force under his control he might have done at 
any spot upon the road, but with a true soldierly instinct, eager 
as he was, he wished to make his capture as little costly to his 
own troops as possible. He therefore deferred his stroke until 
there remained but one day's march to Klerksdorp, " for," said 
he, " seeing that in the vicinity of a fortified place the desire of 
the enemy to arrive there safely is more powerful, the English 
would offer less resistance in the neighbourhood of Klerksdorp, 
and more readily take to flight than out in the veld."* The 
added power of a mihtary leader who knows human nature, and 
how to play upon it, has long been acknowledged : that such a 
one, that more than one, existed in the Boer forces may perhaps 
enlighten those who lavished scorn on the British army for being 
so long kept at bay " by a nation of farmers." As De la Rey 
lay watching Anderson on the 24th, he was nearly discovered by 
the posse of Paget's Horse, whom Anderson sent on ahead of 
the column into Klerksdorp, where they were urgently wanted 
for duty with another column. As these horsemen drew clear 
along the road, they passed close under De la Rey himself, who 
had taken post on a rise overhanging their road, and the 
Boer General confessed that it was with difficulty that he 
restrained himself from ordering their destruction.* But to 
open fire then might lose him the heavier booty behind, and 
the party, all innocent of its escape, disappeared towards Klerks- 
dorp. At 4.30 a.m. on February 25th Anderson set his troops oeiaRey 
and wagons in motion towards Klerksdorp. The wagons moved a"acics 
four abreast, which reduced the length of road covered by them convoy""^'* " 
to 1,000 yards. In front went an advance-guard of forty- Kd^K' 
five men ; twenty more extended as guards on either flank ; '902. 

* Account of a Boer official present with General De la Rey. 



412 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

sixty-two men with a Maxim acted as rearguard, all these riding 
from 1,000 yards to a mile wide of the column. The infantry 
marched in three bodies at equal intervals amongst the train, 
which was actually headed by lOO mounted men escorting the 
field guns and Vickers-Maxim. Long before the convoy had left 
its camping ground at Yzerspruit, De la Rey had laid his plans. 
Once more they were founded as much on the characteristics of 
his antagonists as on their strength and formation. The wagons, 
which he chiefly desired, he knew that the troops would naturally 
do their utmost to preserve, probably with all their none too 
great strength, at the very first threat at any part. To draw 
them away from the convoy he arranged first a frontal attack 
to be delivered at the head of the column by Liebenberg's Pot- 
chefstroom commando from a tree-covered ridge running athwart 
the road. When this should have brought the majority of the 
troops to the front, Celliers, who had already ridden off with the 
Lichtenburgers by a circuitous track, would push the column into 
disorder from the rear, whereupon Kemp with the Rustenburg 
commando would fall upon it in flank and complete the rout. 
The sequence of these orders should be noted. The relegation to 
the last of the blow at the side, the weakest point, is especially 
remarkable as an inteUigent departure from precedent ; for 
even had the other manoeuvres failed, success here would be 
almost certain, so denuded must the flank of the convoy be by 
the efforts to repel the attacks on its front and rear. The 
colmnn had marched about a mile and a half when a volley from 
the wooded crest close in front struck not only the advance-guard 
but the leading wagons, the mules of which promptly wheeled 
and raced in panic towards the rear. Anderson, reinforcing the 
front, lost no time in pushing his guns into action, and soon 
belaboured the wood with so heavy a shower of shot and shell 
that the riflemen therein, disagreeably surprised at the success 
of their rdle, began to break up and run for shelter to other parts. 
Anderson immediately ordered the leading infantry to rush the 
plantation, which was done with such success that the front was 
cleared, and it was possible to park the wagons under the crest 
of the high ground, where the guns also took post. But Anderson 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 413 

was not to be duped into premature confidence. He feared 
continually for his left flank, which he had already reinforced with 
a squadron. When the fighting in front had proceeded for a 
quarter of an hour he had seen a strong body of Boers circling 
in this direction, and it became almost a certainty that the real 
attack was to be made there. Anderson hastily sent thither 
every available man, cooks, servants, commissariat assistants, 
etc., and soon had his flank guarded by more than 150 rifles. 
This was done only just in time to ward off the summary annihila- 
tion of the column. Nine hundred horsemen appeared on the 
left. Having advanced in unbroken Hne to within 500 yards, 
firing from the saddle as they ambled forward, the whole body 
suddenly charged impetuously down ui>on the flank. A fire Severe 
which was not to be faced met the stormers ; three times they "anting, 
came on, wavered, and fled back out of range. Once under 
shelter they were steadied by their officers, and twenty minutes 
later advanced and charged again. For the fourth time they were 
hurled back by a terrible fusilade from the men of the flank guard 
who lay immovable, in the face of what were virtually repeated 
rushes of cavalry. Anderson seized this opportunity to send 
an officer at full speed to summon help from Klerksdorp. So 
far De la Key's machinery had gone sadly out of gear ; both his 
men and his tactics had signally failed. His frontal demon- 
stration had been unexpectedly swept aside ; Celliers had not 
yet appeared in rear to roll up the column for the finishing stroke 
of the flank attack, which had thus been delivered too soon. 
But De la Key's strength was too great to penalise him fatally 
for his mischances. It was only a question of getting by patience 
what he had hoped to achieve by dash. Nor had he long to 
wait for the missing commando. Celliers, surprised by the early 
start of the column, had lingered in his hiding-place on the rear 
towards Jackalsfontein, but having discovered his mistake he 
rode hard to rectify it. Soon after the second repulse of Kemp 
from the flank he galloped on to the field with 500 men and 
immediately rode against the British rearguard. For a time 
it seemed as though this last throw, too, would fail. Like 
Kemp, Celliers met with a shattering reception ; his men refused 



414 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

to face the fire, and scattering backwards and outwards, con- 
tented themselves for the next two hours with bringing a cross 
fire to bear upon the rearguard, which suffered considerably but 
replied with vigour. The troops here were now in an unfortunate 
position. The very firmness of their resistance was momen- 
tarily robbing them of the chance of victory. Ammunition began 
to fail ; the men were growing exhausted ; the rest of the 
column had by this time closed up to the front and out of 
reach. Finally, when every round was spent, and to remain a 
moment longer meant massacre, the rearguard was ordered to 
fall back. It was of course the signal for its destruction. The 
enemy, rising from the bushes rode down in overpowering num- 
bers upon the defenceless soldiers, and passing through them, as 
Botha's burghers had passed through the Buffs at Bakenlaagte,* 
moved straight up the wooded crest where stood the remnants 
of Anderson's convoy. At the same time, on the left, Kemp's 
beaten men took heart again, and began to extend on foot in 
skirmishing order, pouring in a hot fire. At the edge of the 
plantation Anderson did his utmost to stave off the end. The 
guns had been fought until they could be no longer served. 
The wagons were now both outflanked and totally exposed in 
rear. Ordering the officer in charge to get them on the move 
towards Klerksdorp, he sent his adjutant to urge the commander 
of the artillery to attempt to gallop his guns away to the town. 
The adjutant, however, was taken prisoner almost as soon as 
he had started, and the order never reached the guns. Anderson 
then endeavoured to collect men to form a fresh rearguard behind 
which guns and wagons might get clear. Descending the slope 
in search of the scattered soldiers, he suddenly found himself 
surrounded by men in khaki uniforms who, holding their rifles 
Capture of the to his breast, demanded surrender. Other Boers, similarly dis- 
convoy. guised, were in a moment upon the guns, and soon the entire 

column passed into the enemy's hands after a resistance which 
had made its overthrow more creditable than many a victory. 
Of the 490 officers and men engaged 187 had been killed and 
wounded, the detachment of the Northumberland Fusihers alone 

* See Chapter XVII. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 415 

losing thirty-one killed and sixty-four wounded out of this 
number. Only one wounded officer and 108 men escaped and 
made their way into Klerksdorp.* The Boers owned to fifty- 
one killed and wounded, included amongst the former being one 
of their bravest officers, the young General Lemmer. 

On the news of this disaster rescue parties were organised in Search for De 
all directions. Brigadier-General J. C. Barker, in command at * ^^* 
Klerksdorp, had plainly heard the firing, and had indeed 
attempted to intervene with the few mounted troops at his 
disposal, but without success. He then collected some 300 
Yeomanry, whom he ordered to proceed to join Kekewich who 
was hurrying towards Wolmaranstad. A small column which 
had been operating about Bothaville under Colonel Sir R. Colle- 
ton was called northward with orders to join von Donop, which 
it did at Wolvespruit on the evening of February 26th, von 
Donop having dashed across from Wolmaranstad, thirty miles 
distant, with 500 men the same morning. An anxious search 
to the northward revealed no sign of the enemy and his booty, 
and on the 27th von Donop turned back for Wolmaranstad, 
where, as already related, he was joined by Kekewich, who next 
morning entered the entrenched township. Kekewich at once 
prepared a mounted column for a last effort at retaking the 
convoy. On the evening of the 28th he placed Lieut.-Colonel 
H. M. Grenfell in command of a force of 1,654 officers and men 
and 1,823 horses, with four field pieces and a Vickers-Maxim. 
These he sent northward towards Rietfontein, on the Koranna- 
fontein — Klerksdorp road, on the trail of a convoy supposed to 
be that taken from Anderson. On March 2nd he himself 
evacuated Wolmaranstad, after destroying all the defences which Evacuation of 
had been thrown up by von Donop. The abandonment of a ^j™*™"" 
fortified place as the result of the loss of a convoy may be added 
to the list of curious tactical reagents. It was here, of course, 
chiefly entailed by the departure of all the garrison of the town 
for purposes of pursuit, but undoubtedly the retention of Wol- 
maranstad had become exceedingly precarious. Kekewich then 

» Casualties— Killed, five officers, fifty-three other ranks ; wounded, six officers, 123 
other ranks; captured, one officer, 193 other ranks. 



4i6 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

moved by Yzerspruit, where he found dead bodies still unburied, 
to Klerksdorp, which he entered on March 4th. Finally Lord 
Methuen, roused by the news at Vryburg, instantly took the field 
with one hurriedly formed column under Major A. Paris (Royal 
Marine Artillery) from his Headquarters, whilst he called 
Colonel A. N. Rochfort with another from across the Vaal. 
Lord Methuen communicated these movements to Kekewich, 
and requested him to send a force to meet him on March 7 th 
about Rooirantjesfontein, due south of Lichtenburg, the inten- 
tion being for Paris and Kekewich to stand between De la Rey 
and the Marico district whilst Rochfort, advancing from the 
south, should drive the as yet undiscovered Boer leader into 
their arms. For this Kekewich decided to employ Grenfell, 
who, on March 4th, had gone into camp at Rietkuil, outside 
Klerksdorp, after a vigorous search during which he had cast 
vainly around by the south of Lichtenburg, by Holfontein and 
Paardeplaats, at both of which he had shght engagements. 
Hearing from Lord Methuen that he was being delayed by bad 
roads, and would be late at the rendezvous, Grenfell only covered 
the first stage towards Rooirantjesfontein on March 6th, when 
he marched to Leeuwfontein. On the 8th he was at the appointed 
place ; but there was no sign of the Vryburg column, and during 
the morning Grenfell learned why it would be vain to await its 
appearance. 
Lord Methuen Lord Methucu, accompanying Paris's column,* had marched 
v^'biir^'^*''" out of Vryburg on March 2nd, and following the meagre water 
supply of this parched district moved by Grootpan, Barberspan, 
and Leeuwspruit, at the junction of the two Harts rivers, to 
Tweebosch on the Little Harts river, which was reached on the 
evening of the 6th. Up to this stage his only trouble had been 
with the water supply, which had to be as carefully scouted for 

•Composition — 5th battalion I. Y., 184 men; 86th company I.Y., no men; Cape 
Police, 233 men ; Cullinan's Horse, sixty-four men ; B.S.A. Police, twenty-four men ; 
Diamond Fields Horse, ninety-two men ; Dennison's Scouts, fifty-eight men ; Ash- 
burner's Light Horse, 126 men ; 4th battery R.F.A., two guns; 38th battery R.F.A., 
two guns ; two Vickers-Maxims ; 1st battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, 200 men ; 
1st battalion Loyal North Lancashire regiment, 100 men ; about 1,200 men in all. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 417 

as the enemy. Not until this day, the 6th, had any considerable 
hostile body been met with, nor would the commando of 100 men 
or so which followed the troops through Leeuwspruit have 
attracted notice had it not been for the disquieting behaviour of 
the rearguard, a company of Imperial Yeomanry, who allowed 
the sniping of this paltry force so to disorganise their formations 
that Lord Methuen himself rode to the rear with two guns to 
steady them. The commando, which was under Van Zyl, retired 
under shell-fire towards Tweebosch, where, taking up a position 
in the bed of the Little Harts river, it remained in observation. 
Lord Methuen's intention had been to camp at Leeuwkuil. 
Learning that that place was waterless, he decided instead to 
follow the Boers to Tweebosch, which he reached in the fore- 
noon, Van Zyl's men disappearing southward on their flanks 
being threatened by the mounted troops. Though it was still 
early in the day the heat of the weather, following upon the 
extreme hardships of the previous four days' marching, induced 
Lord Methuen to go into camp at Tweebosch. There was no Lord Methuen 
cause for haste ; his information ran that the guns and convoy *' *" 
captured from Anderson were still to the south of him ;* he had 
warned Grenfell of one or possibly two days' postponement of 
their junction, the place app>ointed for which was but one march 
to the north-east. 

At three o'clock next morning, March 7th, the column was 
set in motion, pointing northward towards Leeuwkuil. The His order of 
enemy being to the south the rear was the vulnerable part, and JJarch 7th, 
Lord Methuen especiaUy enjoined Major Paris to look to this >902. 
quarter. For this reason also the transport travelled in front. 
It consisted of ox and mule wagons, the former preceding the 
latter, both escorted by a squadron of Cape Pohce, the 86th com- 
pany Imperial Yeomanry, the detachments of Northumberland 
Fusihers and Loyal North Lancashire, the two guns 4th battery 
R.F.A., and a Vickers-Maxim. Behind these, and leaving the 
bivouac an hour later, came the fighting portion of the column, dis- 
posed in three bodies, advance-guard, main body, and rearguard, 

* Lord Methuen to Commander-in-Chief, March 5th, 1902. 
VOL. IV. 27 



4i8 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



De la Rey 
attacks Lord 
Methuen at 
Tweebosch, 

5 a-m-. 
March 7th, 
1902. 



the last being composed of two detachments of irregular 
moimted levies. The country on either side was flat and open, 
unimpeded by either kopje or bush. Darkness, however, is better 
cover for an enemy than even these, and the head of the column 
had marched for two hours before the first streak of dawn. 
During that time the force was being shadowed, as a file of 
coolies is followed by the Indian tiger, by the most formidable 
depredator in all the theatre of war. Close behind the rear- 
most screen, invisible and noiseless, rode De la Rey and nearly 
2,000 men, most of whom were fresh from the field of Yzer- 
spniit, and under the same officers, Kemp, Celliers, the elder 
Lemmer, Vermaas and, finally. Van Zyl, the jackal who had 
" harboured " the game on the previous day. Enveloping the 
British rearguard under cover of the gloom, at break of day 
(5 a.m.) the commandos suddenly opened so terrible a fire from 
three sides that, with scarcely a pretence at resistance, the 
untrained, undisciplined irregulars broke and fled, before the 
guns of the 38th battery and the Vickers-Maxim, which were sent 
with other troops to their assistance, could come into action. 
The burghers were upon them at once, and, galloping forward 
amongst them in a confused mob, bore down upon the front 
and flanks of the mounted supports which had been moving 
with the guns to reinforce the now shattered screen in rear. 
For a short time these troops stood with some determination, 
but their resolution melted before the overwhelming numbers 
opposed to them, and soon the guns remained isolated in the 
midst of the enemy. Now, not for the first time, were training 
and tradition to illumine the blackness of disaster. Lieutenant 
T. P. W. Nesham and his artillerymen of the 38th battery were 
men of the same blood as they who had given way, but to them 
flight was not even a last resort, it was an impossibility. Until 
every man had fallen the gims were served with case, and even 
when the pieces were actually captured and lost to sight amidst 
the surging crowds of Boers, the young officer in command, the 
only unwounded member of the personnel, refused to surrender, 
and suffered death for his gallantry at the hands of some 
unchivalrous butcher amongst his enemies. This left the rest of 



I 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 419 

the column completely open to attack. The enemy's flanking 
parties had already outridden and assailed the slow moving 
convoy, and Lord Methuen, ordering the ox-wagons to halt, and 
the mule-drawn portion to close upon it, had disposed the troops 
of the escort for defence on both sides. Before the mule-wagons 
had drawn on far the bullets of the rear attack tore amongst 
them. Instantly appalling confusion ensued. Some of the teams 
wheeled round ; the majority, maddened by fear, rushed on in a 
weltering mass past the ox convoy and far ahead, scattering 
northward over the veld pursued by the enemy, who was now 
close in upon three sides of the motionless ox-wagons. Lord 
Methuen strove as desperately as had Anderson at Yzerspruit to 
save what remained. His ox- wagons were immovable ; no 
threats or entreaties could induce the native drivers, who lay 
panic-stricken beneath the wagons, to urge their teams forward. 
Espying a kraal on rising ground about a mile to the front 
towards Leeuwkuil, Lord Methuen then ordered Paris to rally 
there as many of the mounted men as he could collect, whilst he 
himself with the infantry and guns remained with the convoy. 
For two hours the devoted troops around him kept off their in- 
evitable fate. Surrounded at point-blank range by a force of 
marksmen five times their number, their only prospect was to 
show how soldiers may perish. The two guns of the 4th battery 
were fought as nobly as those of the 38th had been. Even after 
Lieutenant G. R. Venning, their commander, was killed, the 
gunners remained at their work until all were down. The men 
of the Northumberland Fusiliers showed that even constant mis- 
fortune could not lower their spirit. This regiment had suffered 
in well-nigh every disaster in the Western Transvaal, and that 
through as little fault and after as stout fighting as on this 
occasion. The Loyal North Lancashire vied with the Fusiliers. 
Lord Methuen himself was the central figure of his forlorn hope 
until his horse was killed and he himself fell with a fractured 
thigh. Soon after the fighting here ceased, and he passed into Capture of 
the hands of General De la Rey who rode into the convoy. In and his*' "^"^ 
this manner did Lord Methuen meet the Boer leader whom be column. 
and many others had long sought with intense assld.uity. ©Cj fe* 

VOL. IV. 27* 



420 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

Key, ever the most chivalrous of foemen, after treating his 
prisoner with the utmost kindness, with extraordinary generosity 
permitted him to be conveyed in his own wagon to Klerksdorp, 
and this in the face of considerable opposition by some of his 
colleagues, who objected to the hberation of so valuable a captive. 
Meanwhile at the kraal there had been a short but sharp 
affray. Paris had been able to collect but forty men from the 
routed irregulars, and distributing these in the huts and around 
a patch of meahes, he strove to keep off Celliers, who turned upon 
him from chasing the panic-stricken mule train, and completely 
enclosed him. Celliers had with him three light guns, and 
when shells began to riddle the kraals and tumble them in, the 
defenders, who had fought stubbornly, were in a hopeless plight, 
and at lo a.m. they surrendered. Thus, after five hours 
from its first surprise, Lord Methuen's column was completely 
destroyed. Three-quarters of the personnel were killed, wounded 
or taken prisoner.* The rest were scattered over the veld, making 
for Kraaipan, Maribogo and other places on the western railway 
line, which many reached before nightfall. It was long since 
so complete a catastrophe had befallen the British arms. Other 
disasters there had been of a similar kind during the campaign, 
but none involving the capture of an officer of high rank ; more- 
over, not even much honour had been saved at Tweebosch, for 
the personal gallantry of Lord Methuen and the few who 
emulated him could not cloak the pusillanimity of those whose 
flight had sacrificed their comrades. Of the panic of the majority 
of the mounted troops lack of training, insufficiency and inex- 
perience of officers, and above all, the heterogeneous nature of 
their composition were the main causes. But with many 
examples before them of fine defences offered by troops similarly 
handicapped, neither the soldier nor the historian can appeal too 
much to such apologies. 
Eflfoct of the Tweebosch sent the star of De la Key, which after much 

Tweebosch. wavering had for some time been in the ascendant, up to its 
zenith. The Western Transvaal was now in extreme danger, if 

* Casualties — Killed, four officers, sixty-four other ranks ; wounded, ten officers, 122 
other ranks. 



successes. 



EVENTS IN THE WESTERN TRANSVAAL. 421 

not of being reconquered by the Boers, at least of being rendered 
uninhabitable for the conquerors. One deliberately chosen 
depot, Wolmaranstad, had been already evacuated ; all others 
wide of the main hnes, especially Lichtenburg, were in danger 
either of attack or of isolation, for it was unsafe to move a 
convoy whilst such a hornet was on the wing. Yet, for the 
warning of those who base their hopes of defeating invasion on a 
last resort to guerrilla fighting, it cannot be too strongly pointed 
out that De la Key, with all his brilliant successes, had scarcely 
so much as checked the sweep of the scythe which was mowing 
down his country. His feats, like those of Botha at Baken- 
laagte, of De Wet at Roodewal and Kom Spruit, were nothing 
more than tactical and local annoyances, rockets which fell 
harmless almost as soon as they had dazzled. In them was inutility 
none of the irresistible influence of some great but possibly 
noiseless strategic accomplishment, giving a momentum to a 
campaign which a hundred affairs such as those at Yzerspruit 
or Tweebosch could not stir either forward or backward. Recall- 
ing events not long past for a single instance, what had De Wet's 
sparkhng capture at Waterval on February 15th, 1900, weighed 
against Field-Marshal Lord Roberts' intent herding of Cronje's 
commandos into the fatal bed of the Modder ?* It has not been 
the duty of the writer to point morals except by the narration of 
facts ; his space is limited, and the lessons of engagements, 
skirmishes, tactics and strategy in the war in South Africa are as 
innumerable as they are generally easily deduced. The greatest 
lesson of the campaign is, however, brief enough to be more than 
once insisted upon — that the nation which is robbed of or 
divests itself of broad military purposes, long conceived and 
long prepared, and leans instead upon the patriotism of irregu- 
lars and the delusive brilliance which so often illuminates 
their warfare, is about to vanish from its high place none the 
less surely because it sinks amid a cloud of falling stars. 

• See Volume II., Chapter VI. 



422 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 





i 




fi 


(0 

a 




COLUMN. 


•8 


i 


II 

.9 ' 


3 
4) 

a 






e 


"S 


m 4> 











H4 


S-^ 


S 






1 




3 


s 




January — March, 1902. 








Col. R. G. Kekewich 


690 


523 


3 


I 


/ Maj. - Gen. Mildmay 


Col. W. B. Hickie . . 


539 


170 


3 


I 


\ Willson in command. 


Lt.-Gen. Lord Methuen . . | 
Lt.-Col. S. B. von Donop . . j 


1,687 










409 


5 


3 




Maj. H. P. Leader 


634 





I 


— 




Lt.-Col. H. M. Grenlell 


1.654 





5 


— 




Lt.-Col. W. C. Anderson . . 


250 


240 


3 


2 




Col. Sir R. Colleton, Bart. . . 


— 


778 




I 




Maj. A. Paris 


891 


300 


6 


— 


1 Lt. Gen. Lord Methuen 
1 in command. 


Col. A. N. Rochfort 


1.377 


513 


4 


I 



423 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY* 

[Continued from Chapter XXII.). 

FEBRUARY, I902. 

Whilst the troops of the eastern part of the Orange River 
Colony rested on the railway. Lord Kitchener prepared plans a fresh 
for another expedition, which in dimensions and complexity ^foHhe 



far outstripped its predecessor. The scheme provided for con- 
volutions by co-operating but separated bodies, which can best 
be rendered intelligible in parallel tabular form, as follows : — 

FIRST PHASE. 



Elliot. 

(De Lisle, Fanshawe, Holmes, Marshall. 

Lawley.t Du Cane.t) 



March east from line Kroonstad — Venters- 
burg — Doornberg to line Lindley — 
Bethlehem. 



Rimington, Byng, Sir H. Rawlinson. 



March east, right on Wolvehoek — Frank- 
fort blockhouses, left on Heidelberg, to 
line Standerton — Tafel Kop. 



SECOND PHASE. 



Wheel eastward to line of Wilge river 
between Strijdpoort and Majoors Drift. 



Wheel south, pivoting on Tafel Kop, on 
line between Wilge river and Stander- 
ton railway. 



THIRD PHASE. 



railway. 



Hold above line on the Wilge, right 
prolonged to Harrismith by Sir L. 
Rundle. 



March south to line of l>lockhouses Van 
Reenen's Pass — Elands River Bridge. 
Right flank blocked by Elliot on Wilge. 
Lett flank (passes of Drakensberg) held 
by troops from Natal. 



* See map No. 64. 

t These fresh columns were provided as follows : Major J. P. Du Cane came from 
Colonel Rochfort's southern district ; Lieut. -Colonel the Hon. R. T. Lawley, with the 
7th Hussars and 2nd Dragoon Guards, from Winburg. 



424 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Object of the 
plan. 



The first 
move, 
Feb. 1 2th, 
1902. 



The driving 



The scope and intention of these operations will be under- 
stood by reference to the map better than by any written 
description. Briefly, their first aim was to herd the Boers of 
the eastern Orange River Colony into a closed funnel, formed by 
the Wilge river on the one side, the Khp river and the Drakens- 
berg on the other, the Harrismith — Van Reenen's blockhouses 
completing the cul de sac. Down this lane the northern columns 
would then sweep from its entrance southward, pushing the 
enemy towards its blind end, just as the fowlers of past days 
used to drive the wild-fowl through the decoy " pipes " which 
ended in the fatal enclosure of the net. 

Elliot was the first to move, quitting Kroonstad on February 
12th and 13th, with his left (Fanshawe) on the Valsch, his right 
(Lawley and Du Cane) extending southward towards the Win- 
burg — Senekal road. On the 14th his line from right to left 
was Senekal — Rienzi ; on the next day from Elands Spruit 
to the Molen Spruit. On the i6th he was between .Lindley and 
Bethlehem, halting on that hne until the distant factors of the 
operation should develop. A raid by his left flank against 
Elands Kop on the 17th resulted in the capture of ten prisoners 
and De Wet's invaluable heliograph. 

Turning now to the north, where the driving force had been 



Fe" leth^' "* ^'^ki^g ready : On February i6th Rimington's right was on the 
1902- Heilbron — Frankfort blockhouses (the line of which, as before, 

had been stiffened by Damant, Wilson, and Keir), his left at 
Groenvlei, whence Byng carried the front across the Vaal 
at Grobler's Drift to join Sir H. Rawlinson, who was extended 
from Bierlaagte to Daspoort, south-east of Heidelberg. Rawlin- 
son had already been busied in deahng with a Boer band which 
had attacked a Heidelberg detachment in the Zuikerbosch Rand ; 
this he did effectually on the 15th before taking up his Une as 
above. With little incident the three columns now advanced 
on a solid front for three days, and on the i8th had arrived at 
the wheeUng point, the Hne being then, from right to left, Tafel 
Kop — Zaam Dam — Lemoenskraal — Zamenkomst — Standerton. 
On the 19th there was a general halt for suppUes, which were 
drawn from the opposite flanks — ^Tafel Kop and Standerton. 



EVEP^TS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 425 

On the 20th, whilst Damant moved to connect Rimington's 
right with the Wilge river, an advance was made to the hne 
Cyferpoort — Gruisplaats — Baviaanskraal — Paardekop, a front of 
nearly sixty miles. On the 21st Rimington, still pivoting on 
Tafel Kop, threw his left through Vrede to Paardenkop, Byng 
beyond, touching the Klip river at Eerstegeluk. RawUnson, 
detaching his left from the Standerton railway, pushed down 
to Eerstegeluk — Zoetendalsvlei, the gap thus created between 
him and the railway being filled by a column from Paardekop 
station under Colonel J. E. Nixon, who cleared the Verzamel 
Berg on his way. 

All was now set for the final act, and Elliot moved forward Elliot seizes 
and seized the Wilge from Strijdpoort down to Majoors Drift, wli^e"*" °^ ^*'*' 
his left in touch with the Frankfort contingents, his right with 
those from Bethlehem. Facing him, and sixty miles distant, 
troops from Natal blocked every loophole of the Drakensberg ; 
the men in the Harrismith — Van Reenen's defences stood to 
arms, and every side of the great alley was lined with guns and 
rifles. On February 22nd the line descending from the north 
reached Woodside — Botha's Berg — Poortje — Zeekoevlei. Except 
for a large capture of stock by Sir H. Rawlinson, on the left, as 
he passed over the Gemsbokhoek Berg, there had been so far 
little reward for so much marching and manoeuvring. All 
depended upon the next few days, and before these had passed 
each side in turn had scored and suffered a grievous blow. 

In order to comprehend ensuing events it is necessary to De Wet 
transfer the story to the Boer side, reverting first to De Wet, [J^J'JJ^"^" 
last seen emerging into safety on the left bank of the Valsch. 
Despite his adventures the Boer leader deliberately discarded 
the opportunity of escaping from the district to which his 
presence had drawn so many thousands of British troops. 
Instead, no sooner was he informed by his signallers on Elands 
Kop that the columns had come to rest upon the railway than 
with extraordinary temerity he turned back and once more 
made for the hilly country at the head of the Rhenoster river. 
In so doing it is hard to say whether he displayed even more 
than his customary daring or less of his strategical acumen, 



426 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



De Wet meets 
Steyn in front 
of Elliot. 



De Wet in 
the centre of 
the cordon. 



De Wet 
determines to 
break out 
northward. 



for his mission was plainly ended in these districts, whereas 
there was now scarcely another in the Orange River Colony which 
was not thinly occupied and at the mercy of a sudden irruption 
by his commandos. Be this as it may, the first steps of his 
return all but led to his extinction. This time the Lindley — 
Kroonstad blockhouses were alert, and a hot reception greeted, 
but did not repel, his crossing. De Wet had not been many 
days in his old stronghold before he found himself once more 
in front of Elliot's hne of columns coming out from Kroonstad 
for their above-described march to the Wilge. On the night 
of February 17th one of his signalUng parties was captured, in 
the manner related, only four miles from his bivouac, de Lisle 
and Fanshawe Uttle knowing how close they had been to the 
sleeping-place of the leader who had long robbed armies of their 
rest. De Wet then slowly fell back before Elliot across the 
Libenbergs Vlei, and happening upon the wandering Steyn at 
a farm north-east of Reitz, the two watched for a time the 
oncoming of the tide of troops which lapped without a break 
over every horizo^j. Soon they had to be gone, for Elliot 
was bearing down on the Wilge. On February 22nd they 
sidled away up the ComeUs river with eyes on every side, faUing 
in continually with groups of burghers who were flying in all 
directions from one danger to another. Now W. Wessels, now 
H. Botha, Mentz, Ross and Beukes, all noted commandants, 
appeared and vanished, each with news of a fresh barrier on 
the north, east, south or west. De Wet had formed a plan of 
breaking through the blockhouse line between Vrede and Botha's 
Pass ; but his own scouts brought him intelhgence that Byng 
and Rawlinson were already in front of those despised obstacles. 
On the 23rd, as the columns still came on, De Wet, driven to 
definite action, determined to risk all upon a rush against what- 
ever troops he might find immediately in front of him, and at 
set of sun he moved northward with four commandos, some 
800 strong, for the decisive throw. On that evening Rimington 
lay behind the Hoi Spruit from Pram Kop to Langverwacht, 
Byng thence to Strydplaats, Sir H. RawUnson carrying on the 
hne to the left bank of the Khp river. For the first time there 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 427 

had been news of Boers within the cordon, the Vrede — Botha's 
Pass blockhouses reporting the passage two days earUer of a 
commando making southward. As De Wet approached the 
sleepless hne of troops his scouts informed him that they had 
discovered a comparatively weak spot at Kalkrans, on the Hoi 
Spruit, near the point of union between the columns of Rimington 
and Byng. Steering for this he crossed the Hoi Spruit, and in the 
midst of a downpour of rain and thick darkness fell furiously upon De Wet 
the outposts of Garratt's New Zealanders, who were hned up conion^at ^ 
before him. The onset was irresistible ; a section of the defence, ^}'*'^"^ 
standing firm to the last, was swept away, and the enemy poured 1902. 
in upon the flanks of the rest, who were partly rolled up from 
opposite sides. A desperate combat ensued. The New Zea- 
landers yielded not an inch until they were dashed aside, and 
then the survivors fought on individually. Their resistance 
was of the greatest value, for it enabled Lieut. -Colonel F. Cox, 
the commanding officer, to swing some of his posts on to a new 
front, and endeavour to deny the passage by a flank fire. In this 
he was partly successful, his rifles doing such execution that 
many of the burghers refused to run the gauntlet and fled back. 
But nothing could stop De Wet's progress, which had itself 
acquired the momentum of a stamp)ede. Many of the Boers, De Wet 
as they rushed through in the half hght intermingled with [j[^^h ^^ijh 
vehicles, loose horses and cattle, confused the defence with heavy loss, 
friendly shouts, thereby considerably checking the shooting. 
For half an hour the intermittent onrush continued, and at the 
end of that time, when all who dared had passed, the New 
Zealanders closed up their broken front, and under the rising 
sun counted the cost of De Wet's escape. Eighty dead and 
wounded of both sides* lay mingled on the narrow field amidst 
the carcasses of the same number of Boer horses and a mob of 
carts and cattle, the whole of which De Wet had left behind 
him. For the moment neither the true gains nor the losses of the 

• British casualties — Killed, two officers, eighteen men ; wounded, five officers, 
thirty-three men. 

Boer casualties — Killed and wounded, twenty-one. De Wet (" Three Years* War ") 
accounts for twelve more wounded, removed by himself, of whom two died. 



428 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Commandos 
still within 
the cordon. 



Desperate 
attempts to 
escape. 



event could be appraised. They were by no means unevenly 
balanced. On the debit side Steyn and some 500 men had 
burst the cordon with De Wet, and thus to some extent the 
whole combination had missed its aim. But De Wet had lost 
the whole of i;he moveable suppUes on which he depended, and 
was still within an area intersected by lines of blockhouses, at 
any of which he might yet meet his fate. Moreover, a portion 
of his men, about 300 in number, had turned in fear from the 
dangerous breach in the New Zealanders' ranks, and these were 
still in front of the columns, doubtless spreading alarm amongst 
their comrades with the tale of the disastrous night's adventure. 
On February 24th there was a partial halt whilst Sir H. 
Rawhnson somewhat advanced his outer flank and strengthened 
his union with Byng by transferring Nixon from the extreme 
left to about Boschfontein. On the next day all the columns 
made the line of the Comelis river from its junction with the 
Wilge to the Drakensberg. Still so few of the enemy were met 
with that failure seemed to await the closing phase of the expe- 
dition. The 26th, however, put a more hopeful aspect on affairs. 
Six or seven hundred Boers were sighted by the various columns, 
and in the skirmishing the Imperial Light Horse of Dawkins' 
column captured sixteen prisoners, and Byng's units twenty- 
eight. There was soon further evidence that De Wet had taken 
with him neither all the strength nor spirit of his forces. The 
line on the evening of the 26th was Majoors Drift — Pleasant Gift — 
the Dwaal Spruit to below Melani Kop, leaving but half a day's 
march to be accomphshed on the morrow. The troops knew 
that within the narrow strip between this front and the Harri- 
smith — Van Reenen's blockhouses must be imprisoned aU that 
was to reward the arduous beat of the last twelve days. Every 
man was alert, and only the vigilance of the troops saved them 
from being robbed of everything at the eleventh hour. At 
midnight a body of nearly 700 desperate Boers suddenly rushed 
against the central groups of Nixon's outposts along the Dwaal 
Spruit. A few broke through ; the rest were hurled back, 
ten remaining in the hands of the soldiers. An hour later the 
attempt was repeated on the left of the same section, with the 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 429 

same result. This was the final effort. Next morning, as Briggs 
took his Imperial Light Horse forward in advance of Sir H. 
Rawlinson, he was met by two envoys, who prayed for terms 
on behalf of the entrapped commandos. No conditions could 
be granted other than the retention of their personal belongings, 
and an hour was given them in which to consider. Before the Surrender of 
expiration of that time 648 burghers came forward under the l^^^^th! 
white flag and yielded themselves prisoners of war to Sir H. 1902- 
Rawlinson, together with 1,078 horses, forty-seven carts and 
wagons and 40,700 rounds of ammunition. Thus, for the third 
time, was signahsed in fatal fashion for the enemy another 
anniversary of that victory of twenty-one years before, which 
had given to the Republics their brief summer and their final 
doom. Lord Kitchener, as he rode out from Albertina station 
to greet the troops on February 28th had no reason to be dis- 
satisfied with the results of his vast calculations, even though 
the chief figures were missing from the account. The total Total results 
captures numbered 778 prisoners, 25,000 head of stock, 2,000 oUr^tjon. 
horses, and 200 wagons. Thirty-nine prisoners had been picked 
up by Barker as he watched and raided on Elliot's right rear, 
and though for some time to come the eastern part of the Orange 
River Colony was to be still the scene of much activity, it was 
not because De Wet's p)ower remained unbroken, but because 
he himself was still at large. 

This is a suitable opportunity for tracing the movements Evenu in 
in the Orange River Colony of other bodies of troops, the story °he Onmee 
of whom was interrupted by that of the great schemes which had River Colony, 
their chmax between the Wilge river and the Drakensberg. To 
do so it is necessary to make a retrospection of some three 
months, picking up first the ten columns under Sir C. Knox and 
Rochfort which were left at work in the basin of the upper 
Caledon. For the first half of December, 1901, there was httle 
change in their occupation. Brand's scattered bands continued 
to haunt the district, and they to bandy him about from one 
to the other. About December 17th, however, there app)eared 
signs that the country on the western side of the railway, so 
long quiet, was receiving the fugitives from other and more 



430 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Rochfort 
crosses to the 
west of the 
railway. 



Successes by 
both sides. 



Capture of a 
convoy at 
Kokskraal, 
Dec. 25th, 
1901. 



harried areas, and Rochfort was ordered to take his troops, 
now in five divisions under Lieut. -Colonels Western and du 
Mouhn, Major D. P. DriscoU (DriscoU's Scouts), Major E. S. 
Bulfin (Yorkshire regiment) and Major P. A. Kenna (21st 
Lancers), across the line. A. C. Hamilton's column had already 
been sent to Philippohs at the first sign of renewed activity 
in the west. Sir C. Knox was left in the east with Lord Basing, 
Pilcher (two columns), and Thomeycroft (two columns). 

Rochfort found immediate occupation amongst the small 
commandos which had recently re-entered the district. At 
dawn on December 24th du Moulin surprised a laager near 
Jagersfontein Road and captured twenty-eight prisoners, in- 
cluding two officers. This success was promptly discounted. 
Christmas Day, so grimly celebrated by De Wet 250 miles to 
the north-east*, here also brought good fortune to the Boer 
arms. A. C. Hamilton, having discovered a commando at the 
head of the Berg river, attacked at dawn, scattered the laager, 
took sixteen prisoners and hotly pursued the rest into the 
Heen-en-Weers Kop, a stronghold north-west of Fauresmith. 
The chase took him far in advance of his baggage train, which 
was escorted only by some sixty men. Once more full payment 
was exacted for a momentary and not inexcusable mistake. 
When the wagons had reached Kokskraal they were suddenly 
surrounded by 250 Boers under Hertzog and Nieuwhoudt, the 
presiding genii of this part. Resistance was out of the question ; 
the handful of guards were caught in the open and Hamilton 
was out of sight. Every wagon was quickly in the hands of the 
enemy, who having set fire to them all rode off with fifty- 
seven prisoners, the other casualties amongst the escort being 
four killed and five wounded. To what a level of brutaUty the 
long campaign had lowered a once honourable enemy was shown 
when the Boers, having shot three of the native drivers in cold 
blood, stripped some of the prisoners naked and compelled them, 
an officer amongst them, to walk in this plight more than thirty 
miles across the burning veld into Springfontein. Some amends 
was made for this mischance three days later when Driscoll, 

* See Chapter XXII. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 431 

operating along the Riet river, accounted for twelve Boers in a 
chase of many miles ; but when December closed it was plain 
that on the west of the railway there was full employment for 
Rochfort, whose task was not lightened by his having to send 
two of his columns, Kenna's and Bulfin's, to join Sir C. Knox 
at Ladybrand. 

Since the first week of December Sir C. Knox had been dis- sirc. Knox 
posing his forces for a general drive northward towards the °he*j2i*^* °^ 
Bloemfontein — Ladybrand blockhouses. On the loth his left 
was north of Edenburg, his right near Bismarck on the Basuto 
border. A week later he drew up at the blockhouses, having met 
with scarcely a living thing on the way. During the halt here, 
Colonel T. P. B. Teman succeeded to Thomeycroft's command. 
Major F. W. Heath to that of Taylor. At Christmas-time a 
move was made to the north of the blockhouses, and in conjunc- 
tion with Barker from Winburg, and the two columns sent by 
Rochfort, all were now engaged in scouring the districts about 
Clocolan, Senekal, Governors Kop, the Koranna Berg and Me- 
quatlings Nek. The country was by no means clear of the enemy, 
which was to be accoimted for by the succession of sweeps in pro- 
gress to the northward under Elliot and others, such operations 
invariably brushing a number of fugitives into the adjacent 
districts. There were several smart affairs, notably one on 
January 6th, when Lord Basing's outposts were hotly attacked 
near Ficksburg by 150 Boers under Van Niekirk. Later on 
Barker found considerable numbers about Rexford, and Teman 
and Bulfin met with opposition in the Witte Bergen. Both sides 
of the railway below Kroonstad became thus once more the scene 
of a campaign which, though it had degenerated into the constant 
revolutions of strong patrols, might at any moment provide 
incidents such as compose the triumphs and disasters of guerrilla 
warfare. Rochfort had already experienced one such affair ; 
he was soon to be the victim of another. His columns had con- 
tinued to raid between PhilippoUs and the Modder with varying 
fortune. On January 26th Driscoll found Hertzog and Nieuw- 
houdt as far north as Makauws Drift on the Petrusburg road, 
and in a creditable attack took seventeen prisoners, including 



432 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Attack on 
du Moulin, 
Jan. 28th, 
1902. 



Du Moulin 
killed. 



Boers 
repulsed. 



two officers. Subsequently he so harassed the Boer main 
body that its leaders endeavoured to shake him off by with- 
drawing southward. At this time du Moulin was north of 
the Riet river about Batsheba, and coming on the trail of the 
retreating commandos on the Emmaus road, he followed it south- 
ward, Western co-operating from Koffyfontein. On the night 
of January 27th du Moulin camped opposite Abrahamskraal* 
on the left bank of the Riet river, having pushed some of the 
enemy across the drift during the day. The night's dispositions 
consisted of a series of piquets posted on a semi-circle of kopjes 
overlooking the river; behind these, on either side of a small 
farmhouse, lay the horse lines and the parked transport wagons. 
At one o'clock on the morning of the 28th the sentries at 
the drift heard the sound of men fording the water. Before 
warning could be given, the whole piquet was overwhelmed 
by a rush of burghers who, seizing the point of vantage, kept 
the gap open whilst a strong body poured through into the 
camp. In a moment the horse lines and the outbuildings of the 
farmhouse were theirs, and every comer was searched by bullets. 
Du Moulin, who had passed the night in the house, emerged at 
the first shots, and caUing a few men round him led a charge 
against the nearest Boers. He himself, with several others, fell 
dead immediately, but the kraals were cleared, and soon after 
another determined counter-stroke against the position of the 
piquet which had been first destroyed regained that also, 
and at 1.45 a.m. the enemy fell back. Brevet-Major A. R. 
Gilbert (Royal Sussex regiment) had now assumed command 
in place of du Moulin, and he quickly redistributed his men 
along the line of defence. His promptitude was fortunate, for 
in an hour's time a second attack was dehvered against the 
outposts. This was smartly repulsed, and was not repeated. 
This affair cost the column its commander and ten men killed, 
six men wounded, and nearly 150 horses and mules lost or 
destroyed. The enemy left three on the field, and carried off 
some dozen wounded, for some of whom they next day begged 
an ambulance from Gilbert. When dayUght came they were seen 

* Not to be confused with the place of similar name on the Modder river. 



EVENTS IN THE ORANGE RIVER COLONY. 433 

to be holding strong positions on both banks of the Riet, and 
Gilbert, cut off from both Western and Driscoll, prudently 
withdrew towards Jagersfontein. 

During the first part of the month of February, whilst the 
country to the east of the line was being crossed and recrossed 
by the pack of columns there collected, Rochfort remained 
centred at Fauresmith, his columns circulating about him. 
On the 19th he moved northward to near Boshof, to co-operate Rochfort 
with a column under Lieut. -Colonel W. H. Sitwell. The latter ^^rrand"^" 
had come into the Orange River Colony after a month's raiding combines 
in Griqualand,* in the course of which he had had several sharp 
encounters with 400 Boers under De Villiers. On January 13th, 
when between Campbell and Griquatown, Sitwell had found this Sitweii's 
commando drawn up across his path, and after a close action operations, 
had cleared the way by a dashing bayonet charge delivered by 
the Royal Munster Fusiliers. The column lost an officer and 
twenty-three men killed and wounded ; the enemy was severely 
handled, and his losses numbered some forty. Two days later 
an officer and twelve men had been cut off and captured from 
Sitweii's rearguard. On February 5th Sitwell had returned 
to Kimberley, marching thence on the 9th towards Leeuwkop. 
On the i6th he found the local commandos strongly posted 
between Varkfontein and West Rietfontein. They remained 
immovable after an engagement of six hours' duration, followed 
on the next day by a searching bombardment of four hours, 
the column sustaining twenty-two casualties, f This affair 
was the cause of Rochfort's already referred to northward 
movement, the results of which must be narrated later. 

Turning again to the east of the railway : early in February Sir C. Knox 
Sir C. Knox's columns were ordered to block the southern exits ^iS^Eiu^t. 
from the area about to be swept by Elliot's advance to the 
Wilge. This they did in connection with Barker, the whole line 
moving forward to the Senekal — Bethlehem road on the i6th. 
After EUiot had passed on his way Sir C. Knox resumed his 

* See map No. 63. 

t Casualties — Killed, one officer, four men ; wounded, one officer, eight men ; 
missing, eight men. 

VOL. IV. 28 



434 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



clearing operations, and soon after gave up command in the 
field to relieve Sir C. Tucker at Bloemfontein. About the 
same time Sir L. Rundle was similariy replaced at Harrismith 
by Major-General E. S. Brook. 



Approximate Strength States of Columns referred to in 
foregoing chapter. 





t 






i 






8 




"S'S 


s 






H 


b 


.2 rt 
■".12 







COLUMN. 


1 
c 


c 


1 






5 




3 


s 




February, 1902. 










Lt.-Col. H. de B. dc Lisle 


I ,'626 





7 


__ 


1 


Ll.-Col. R. Fanshiiwe 


— 


6 


I 


1 


Major H. G. Holmes 


SOI 


— 


— 


I 


{ Lieut. - General E. L. 


Major W. R. Marshall 


571 


25* 


2 





( Elliot in command. 


Col. the Hon. R. T. Lawley ... 


».I3S 




3 


2 


I 


Major I, P. Du Cane 

Ll-CoI. M. F. Rimington 


413 


— 


3 


— 


1 


'.513 


470 


5 


— 




Lt.-Col. the Hon. J. Byng 


1,242 


«55 


5 


I 




Col. Sir H. Rawlinson 


M13 


200 


3 







Major J. II. Damant 


6SS 


75 


3 


— 




Lt.-Col. A. E. Wilson 


454 


176 


1 


2 




Lt.-Col. J. L. Keir 


893 





3 







Lt.-Col. J. E. Nixon 


1,102 


— 


3 


2 




Col. F. S. Garratt 


855 


167 


3 


1 




Ll-CoL J. W. G. Dawkins ... 


716 




3 







Lt.-Col. C. J. Brills 


570 


— 


2 


— 




Lt -Col. W. G. B. Western ... 


327 


— 


3 


— 


) 


Lt.-Col. L. E. du Moulin (later 










/ 


Major A. R. Gilbert) 


91 


545t 


3 


— 


y Colonel A. N. Rochfort 


Major D. P. DriscoU 


544 




I 


— 


I in command. 


Major E. S. Bulfin 


458 


— 


2 


— 




Major P. A. Kenna 


602 


— 


2 


— 


) 


Major A. C. Hamilton ... 


58. 


— 


3 


— 




Lt.-Col. T. D. Pilcher (two 










] 


columns) 

Col. A. W.Thorneycroft (twocol- 


J.34» 


— 


5 


I 


1 Major - General Sir C. 
/ Knox in command. 


umns)(later Col. T. P. B. Ternan) 


1,246 


— 


7 


I 


Lt.-Col. Lord Basing j 


590 


— 


3 


I 


1 


Lt.-Col. J. S. S. Barker (two j 












columns) 


1,100 


— 


2 


I 




Lt.-CoL W. H. Sitwell 


552 


236 


3 


I 




Major-Gen. B. B. R. Campbell 


526 

, 1 


3'4 


2 I 


i From Lieut. -General Sir 
'[ L. Riindle's force. 



Cyclists. 



_•)• Including sixty-four cyclists. 



435 



CHAPTER XXV. 

EVENTS IN THE NORTHERN TRANSVAAL.* 
APRIL, I9OI — MAY, 1902. 

This district, of which the town of Pietersburg formed the Remoteness of 

capital, had from the first played a rSle somewhat disconnected *e<l»*"f'ct 

from that of the rest of the theatre of war, and this less from 

its remoteness, its unhealthiness for man and horse, and its 

paucity of inhabitants, than from its comparative strategical 

inutility. At Pietersburg the interests of both combatants 

seemed to end with the railway which found its terminus there. 

Beyond lay a waste so inhospitable that, as was pointed out in 

an earlier chapter, Rhodesia itself, even without a garrison, 

was almost safeguarded from Boer invasion, had it indeed been 

worth invading in a military sense, for it was more difficult to 

approach across the salty ridges which fell to the Limpopo than 

Cape Colony across the Karroos, True, in the earliest phases 

of the conflict the duels between Plumcr and Grobelaar had 

seemed to point to mutual apprehension in this region ;f but 

that campaign had died a natural death, and in a few weeks 

the Northern Transvaal had relapsed into its normal lethargy, 

the Boers only maintaining a weak and inactive garrison in the 

capital town itself. Not until the British army had swept up 

to the eastern frontier at Komati Poort did the interest revive 

at Pietersburg. Then Botha, escaping round Lord Roberts' 

left (northern) flank, made his way thither, followed in driblets 

by many of his men, and there, when he had collected a sufficient 

number, he ceased to be a fugitive and resumed his ofl&ce of 

• See maps Nos. 56 and 59. | See Volume III., Chapter VII. 

VOL. IV. 28* 



436 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

commander of the Transvaal army. In this he was quite un- 
disturbed, and the respite he enjoyed undoubtedly enabled him 
to reconstitute a force which had been temporarily shattered in 
spirit and therefore — after the manner of the Boers — in numbers. 
Anent the omission to intercept or forestall the federal leader 
at Pietersburg contemporary criticism was as severe upon the 
British strategy as it was — as such criticism commonly is — 
The neglect unjust. Had Pietcrsburg been occupied in September, 1900, 
Piet^rsl^urg. ^^ ^'^^ ^^^<i' ^^^ enemy's last base, his last source of supplies, 
his last plotting place would have been denied to him, and the 
war consequently have been at an end. How httle of this will 
bear scrutiny. Pietersburg might indeed have been seized and 
held with advantage, but only if such a measure had left sufficient 
troops for the eastern march of the British army, with its 
necessarily strong and remote flanking detachments, and its 
liabihty to heavy general engagements at any moment. Doorn- 
kop, Diamond Hill and Bergendal had warned the Commander- 
in-Chief that he must have strength at hand however fast fled 
the enemy. He had to deal with a hostile army which though 
seen to gallop away in disorder in the evening might be found 
lying embattled at the next dawn. Pietersburg might indeed 
have been taken, but both it and the long hne of communica- 
tion linking it with Pretoria must have been held in strength ; 
it was quite in the air, the veiy mark for wandering commandos, 
for by no effort could Lord Roberts keep all the enemy before 
himself. The strong bands roving unaffected in the Waterberg 
district to the west could descend upon it at any moment. But 
even had it been occupied, Botha and his following would have 
been perfectly content to draw breath elsewhere. The Boers, 
unhke European forces, demanded no " place " in which to 
concentrate, to find sustenance, to plot or recuperate. Their 
bases were the numberless farms, their resting places the sheltered 
valleys of the veld ; their councils of war took place not in inns 
or mansions, but under the stars. Their warfare, which had 
survived the loss of Pretoria, was not Ukely to die at Pieters- 
burg, nor did it die for many a long month after that town 
was securely in British hands. It is necessary to recount these 



EVENTS IN THE NORTHERN TRANSVAAL. 437 

facts less for the purpose of answering criticism than of antici- 
pating it ; for the neglect of Pietersburg, if it did not prolong the 
general campaign, at least rendered portions of the British 
tactics more difficult, or even meaningless, especially the earUer 
operations north of the Delagoa Bay railway. When Pieters- 
burg was eventually occupied in April, 1901, it became imme- 
diately useful. Thence Plumer, it will be remembered, based 
his blockade of the Ohphant river drifts, whilst F. W. Kitchener's 
and other columns scoured the area to the east. Thereafter, 
as Plumer returned no more to Pietersburg, the conduct of 
affairs devolved upon Lieut. -Colonel H. M. Grenfell, the com- 
mander of a corps called, Kitchener's Fighting Scouts, which was 
composed of two regiments, commanded by Lieut. -Colonels 
J. W. Colenbrander and A. E. Wilson respectively. His are 
the operations now to be described. 

Grenfell took with him to Pietersburg some 900 men of the Grenfell in 
ist and 2nd Kitchener's Fighting Scouts, 400 of the 2nd Wiltshire <=°"""»"^- 
regiment, ninety-six cyclists and three Vickers-Maxim guns. At 
Pietersburg already were parts of the 2nd Gordon Highlanders 
and 2nd Wiltshire regiment, three companies of the 12th M.L, two 
guns i8th battery R.F.A., and a 5-in. gun, these being under 
command of Colonel F. H. Hall, R.A., who was also in charge of 
the seventeen posts which held the line of communication down 
to Pretoria.* Information as to the enemy was meagre, as it 
could not fail to be in a district which the majority of the Boers 
therein had entered rather to escape observation as cattle guards, 
than with any idea of making active war. Certain fighting bodies 
there were, however, under the general command of Assistant- 
Commandant-General C. J. Beyers, a leader whose quality had 
been too well proved on the heights of the Magaliesbergf for 
his presence to be ignored. Towards th*e end of April Beyers, 
with a strong band, was reported to be at Klipdam, fifteen miles 

* The 2nd Northamptonshire regiment, a company M.I., the 8sth battery R.F.A., 
and portion of the ist West Riding regiment, formed the remainder of Colonel Hall's 
command at this time. 

t See Chapter I, 



438 ' THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

north of Pietersburg, and it became Grenfell's first task to find 
Grenfell's and engage him. Leaving Pietersburg on the evening of April 
^inst°"^ 26th Grenfell marched northward in three divisions, of which 
Beyers. the right was Under Lieut.-Colonel J. W. Colenbrander, the 

centre under Major N. A. Thomson (12th M. I.), the left under 
Lieut.-Colonel A. E. Wilson. The laager was found at dawn 
on the 27th when Colenbrander, attacking from the east, drove 
the Boers into the arms of Wilson on the west. The whole 
laager, which proved to be under Commandant Van Rensburg, 
was secured with thirty-seven prisoners, seven Boers being 
killed. Next day four more prisoners and a cache of 76,000 
rounds of ammunition fell into the hands of the patrols. Grenfell 
now got news of the Boer main body on the Haenertsburg 
mountain, due east of Pietersburg ; with them was reported to 
be a 6-in. gun, rumours of which had long gone about the district. 
He immediately turned in that direction, and passing through 
Woodbush on the 29th, was greeted by the cannon from the high 
ground 10,000 yards to the south. The gun continued to shell 
his rapid advance ; but the demonstration was only a plucky 
piece of bravado, for Lieutenant Du Toit (State Artillery), who 
was in charge of the piece, had been deserted by his proper 
escort, two commandants who were coquetting with surrender, 
and he was almost alone. Firing until the attack came within 
Destruction of 3,000 yards, Du Toit then blew the weapon to fragments with 
a 6-in. gun. dynamite cartridges and made his escape, ten of his men being 
taken by Grenfell in the pursuit. The troops then scoured the 
country in all directions, discovering enormous quantities 
of buried ammunition, whilst on May 4th, Thomson, with 100 
men of his 12th M.L, surprised a Commandant Marais with 
forty men in laager, and captured the whole. Returning 
to Pietersburg Grenfell prepared another expedition, which set 
out on May 7th, 960 strong.* Louis Trichardt was occupied on 
the 9th, thirty-seven Boers being cut off and taken in the neigh- 
bourhood. Vigorous patrolling resulted in many surrenders, 
and on the 22nd in a considerable capture by Colenbrander, who, 

* Kitchener's Fighting Scouts 350 men, 12th M.I. 150 men, 2nd Wiltshire regiment 
360 men, two guns 83rd battery R.F.A., two Vickers-Maxims. 



EVENTS IN THE NORTHERN TRANSVAAL. 439 

with one casualty, took seventy-two prisoners in a surprise 

attack on a laager commanded by Field-Comet Venter. On Results of 

May 26th the column was back in Pietersburg. Grenfell's gains or^ratlons in 

during the month's operations amounted to 265 Boers kiUed ^^^y. 1901. 

and captured, 1,766 voluntary surrenders, a Maxim gim, the 

destroyed 6-in. gun, nearly half a million rounds of ammunition, 

and farm and laager stuffs too numerous to detail. 

Whilst Grenfell had been about Louis Trichardt, the reported 
approach of Beyers himself from the Waterberg district had 
caused two small columns to be concentrated for the protection 
of the railway, one* under Wilson at Naboomspruit, the otherf 
imder Major H. McMicking, who came up from Pretoria, at 
Nylstroom. These were intended to act in co-operation, but 
Wilson encountered Beyers alone at Boekenhoutskloof (twenty 
miles north-west of Nylstroom) on the i8th, and forced him back Successes by 

1 • 1 , 1 r Vx- 1 1 /- 1-1 Wilson and 

westward with the loss of a Field-Comet and eighty burghers McMicking. 
captured. Next day Wilson was in touch with McMicking, and 
the two, pushing Beyers back on to Zandrivierspoort, nearly 
surrounded him and took eighteen prisoners. The Boer leader 
fell back upon a strong main body laagered in the almost 
inaccessible fastness of Zandrivierspoort, where he had to be 5*^"^*.* 

, , , , ... _,, Zandriviers- 

left until more strength could be brought against him. The poort. 
InteUigence reports now gave infonnation of other bands more 
to the south, abreast of Warm Bath, and Wilson, moving 
down to the Rooi Berg, made plans to round them up. But * 
two squadrons which he despatched to turn the enemy in the 
desired direction fell in with commandos numbering 500 men 
under Commandants Uys and Pretorius on June ist, and after 
a spirited fight were obliged to retire with the loss of thirteen 
kiUed and wounded. The Boers, who had suffered severely, 
made off also, only to come after all within reach of Wilson. He 
fell upon them heavily on the 2nd, and after a stubborn combat 

* Strength— Four hundred Kitchener's Fighting Scouts, twenty-two Bushveld 
Carbineers, thirteen 12th M.I., 104 2nd Gordon Highlanders. 

t Strength— Three hundred and ten 20th battalion M.I., 188 2nd Lincolnshire 
regiment, two guns 7Sth battery K.F.A. 



440 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

which continued all day, utterly routed them, killing and wound- 
ing many and taking forty prisoners, with loss to his own force 
of only eleven. Wilson then went into Warm Bath, whence 
for the next three weeks he fended the enemy from the railway 
in conjunction with McMicking from Nylstroom. 

Meanwhile Grenfell was preparing a force strong enough to 
deal with Beyers and his imexpectedly numerous following to 
the west of the hne. On Jime 21st he marched from P. P. Rust 
with 1,300 men and three guns,* McMicking moving out of 
Nylstroom at the same time with 550"|" and two guns. Whilst 
the latter moved direct upon Zandrivierspoort, Grenfell, bent on 
getting well behind that stronghold, first trended north-west 
and gained the line of hiUs at Groethoek before he turned south- 
west towards his objective. Much delayed by his transport 
amongst the precipitous heights, he did not reach the Poort until 
the 28th, when he found McMicking already entrenched there and 
Beyers driven the Boer laagers in full retreat north-westward. Estabhshing a 
riviersp^rt. depot, and leaving the infantry and convoy at the defile, he 
immediately set out in pursuit with his mounted men, and at 
dawn on July ist overtook the fugitives at Hopewell, in the 
Rustenburg district. Beyers himself was not with them, and 
a few shots sufficed to bring to terms the Commandant, 
who was hampered by the presence of several hundred women 
and children. With a booty of 133 prisoners and seventy-seven 
wagons, Grenfell's men returned to Zandrivierspoort. 

The captures of the past few months, considerable though 
they were, by no means disposed of the Boer strength in the 
Northern Transvaal ; for Beyers was doing his utmost to main- 
tain his numbers, even at the cost of constant flight and loss 
Beyers' of material. The Boer General was fighting under the greatest 

difficulties, difficulties. Sickness, especially amongst the horses, was never 
absent from his laagers, and its anxieties were doubled by the 
mobs of women and children whom his men insisted on carrying 

* Kitchener's Fighting Scouts, I2th M.I., 2nd Wiltshire regiment, two guns 85th 
battery R.F.A,, one Vickers-Maxim. 

f 20th battalion M.I., 2nd Lincolnshire regiment, two guns 75th battery R.F.A. 



EVENTS IN THE NORTHERN TRANSVAAL. 441 

about less from fear of the British than of the native tribes, who 
in this region were at open feud with the Trans vaalers. The 
aloofness of the district with the consequent absence of news 
and its long neglect by the British invading columns had caused 
the burghers to relax in military ardour ; many of them, hear- 
ing nothing of war, actually beheved that peace had returned 
to the land, and were more intent on reaping their crops than 
guarding their camps. Here, too, far removed from the central 
spirit of resistance, there were many waverers and traitors. 
Important citizens, who had been fiery enough for the cause 
when at Headquarters, found their patriotism cooling rapidly 
in this outlying province, and daily Beyers discovered now one 
officer, now another, absent from his side, spirited away by the 
alluring terms of a Proclamation, or, worse, by the tempting 
voice of a comrade who had already sought shelter in the camp 
of his country's enemies. Against so many foes, visible and 
invisible, Beyers, strong as his character was, could do little. 
Determined, nevertheless, to preserve his men and their scarcely 
less valuable horses as long as p)ossible, he gave strict orders 
that no laager on being attacked was to defend itself to the 
last ; rather were the burghers to scatter from the spot, and 
abandoning all women, children and wagons, to make off with 
the food beasts. Thus Grenfell and his lieutenants, falling 
upon camp after camp, captured few but those who had obeyed 
their own solicitude for their families instead of the orders of 
their General, who travelled the lighter for their loss. Lighter 
also returned Grenfell from his many forays when he had 
abstracted all of these, the more climisy or soft-hearted of his 
opponents. July and August were unproductive months. The 
most striking event of July was the destruction near Naboom- Train- 
spruit of a train from Pietersburg, an incident chiefly notable ^'«^'^'"8- 
from the extreme gallantry of the escort, a party of the 2nd 
Gordon Highlanders, under Lieutenant A. A. Best. These 
held out until every man was out of action, the losses being the 
officer and thirteen men killed and ten wounded. On July 8th 
Grenfell, leaving McMicking at Zandrivierspoort, took a convoy 
into Nylstroom. Finding himself followed by Beyers he turned 



442 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

against him on the 12th, hoping to catch him between his own 
forces and those of McMicking* at the Poort. But six messages 
to that officer ordering co-operation all miscarried, and Grenfell, 
able to do no more than push the commandos far to the west, 
was back at Nylstroom on the 27th. During August, though 
constantly in touch with Beyers, Grenfell could by no effort 
or device come to grips with the elusive Boer, who lost less 
than a score of his men in the whole month's manoeuvrings. 
Once more the most expensive operations were train-wrecking 
expeditions. Twice during the month these were perpetrated 
by a certain " Captain " J. Hindon, a ruthless expert in this 
class of damage, near Naboomspruit on August loth, and 
Hamanskraal on the 31st. On the first of these occasions 
Hindon, having successfully derailed a mail train from Pretoria, 
was advancing on his prize when he found the scales suddenly 
turned against himself by the escort and by an armoured train 
behind, and he had to decamp, leaving six dead and seven 
wounded on the ground. His second venture was terribly 
successful. Having blown the train almost to fragments with 
a powerful charge, Hindon's men, who numbered 250, poured 
musketry upon it from all sides, though resistance was out of the 
question, so shattered were the trucks that held the stunned or 
maimed soldiers. An officer and thirteen men were killed, four 
officers and twenty men wounded, the other victims being a 
civilian passenger and two natives kUled and a woman wounded. 
The Boers then looted the debris and made off eastward, to 
be pursued some days later by a small force under Lieut.- 
Colonel F. Hacket-Thompson (Cameron Highlanders), from 
the Hekpoort valley, who overtook the marauders at De 
Wagendrift on September 3rd, kilhng four and recovering a 
portion of the mails. 

During the first half of September Grenfell continued to hunt 
Beyers west of Nylstroom, forcing him continually to change 
his ground, and always with some small loss in men and animals, 

* Lieut. -Colonel Wilson had now left this district for recruiting duties at Cape 
Town, his column being absorbed by Grenfell. McMicking's force was shortly after 
absorbed in a similar manner. 



EVENTS IN THE NORTHERN TRANSVAAL. 443 

but never succeeding in bringing him to bay. On the nth 
Grenfell himself left the district, handing over command to Coienbrander 
Colenbrander, who had never ceased to do useful work in a Q^g^ifeli 
region intimately known to him for many years past. From 
September 15th — 25th Kitchener's Fighting Scouts patrolled 
with success (fourteen prisoners) whilst Colenbrander collected at 
Warm Bath a column for a serious operation in the hitherto 
untraversed tract between the Pietersburg and Mafeking lines 
of railway. This, after an abortive expedition amongst the 
Klipdraai hills (September 27th), was begun on October 6th. 
Marching by Donkerpoort, Groethoek and Hopewell, Colen- 
brander covered the country with his patrols, scouting indeed 
so far and wide that on the 19th he found himself ten days' 
march from his base with only three days' provisions in his 
wagons. Magalipsi, on the Mafeking — Buluwayo railway, being Colenbrander 
just that distance ahead, he decided to continue his way, crossing kbg^ranwly. 
the Crocodile river at Saasi's Drift, and arrived at that distant Dawkins at 
post on the 22nd with fifty-five prisoners and a great quantity of ^ s'''oo"™- 
captured ammunition, wagons and stock. Behind him on the 
Pietersburg hne a force had been left at Nylstroom under Lieut. - 
Colonel J. W. G. Dawkins, Byng's recent colleague in the Orange 
River Colony. This party worked with much success about 
Geelhout Kop, on one occasion feeling as far northward as Palala, 
where a laager and forty prisoners fell into Dawkins' hands, 
bringing his total captures to seventy-six. After this Dawkins 
was summoned south-eastward to keep watch outside the op)era- 
tions then in progress in the Lydenburg district. Thence, 
continually picking up prisoners as he roved, he worked across 
to Kameelfontein, the scene of French's critical share in the 
battle of Diamond Hill, eventually regaining the railway at 
Pienaars River station on November 13th with twenty-four 
more prisoners. 

Meanwhile, since November ist, Colenbrander had been 
marching back from Magalipsi, by way of Sehka Drift and the 
Palala River valley to Palala, At the latter place he once more 
spread out his patrols, collecting them again on the Dwars 
river with thirty-seven priscaiers in their hands. Further on, 



444 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

the Boers were once more encountered in strength, at their 
favourite haunt Zandrivierspoort, where Commandant C. Baden- 
horst, with three or four hundred, had taken the place of Beyers. 
Colenbrander Colenbrander attacked at once, drove the commando headlong, 
dJtemjSrt^ ^^^ ^^*^^ ^ chase of no less than forty miles, in which several 
Boers were killed, drew rein with eighteen prisoners at De 
Naauwte. Thence he went into Warm Bath, arriving there 
on November 19th with fifty-five prisoners of war and a mass of 
Further produce and stock. On November 23rd Colenbrander was out 

cSSbr^der ^^^^^ Badenhorst again, in conjunction with Dawkins who left 
and Dawkins. Nylstroom on the 2ist. The two columns met at De Naauwte 
on the 27th, and when Badenhorst had been discovered in the 
hills near Hartebeestfontein, an enclosing movement was set on 
foot the next night which shut up the exits from four different 
directions. The commando fell to pieces at once, and breaking 
out at many points, was pursued piecemeal for five days by 
Colenbrander towards the west, and Dawkins to the south, 
with the result that there were 104 prisoners of war in the hands 
of both columns when the chase desisted on December 3rd. 
Sixty-two of these were cleverly taken in one band by an ambush 
laid by Thomson (12th M.I.). Badenhorst himself, with about 
sixty men, escaped ; but his liberty was of short duration. It 
had happened that Dawkins had returned to Nylstroom for 
supplies, and Badenhorst, thinking that both his adversaries had 
left the field, camped with his remnant in fancied security at 
Sterkfontein. Here he was discovered on December loth by 
Colenbrander, who had remained out at Zandrivierspoort, and 
Dawkins having by that time rejoined, the two once more 
enclosed Badenhorst's laager by a skilfully arranged night 
march. On the morning of the nth, after a brief resistance, the 
Boer Commandant, hopelessly surrounded, gave himself up with 
five other officers and seventeen burghers. Two days earlier 
his chief, Beyers, had all but shared the same fate at Geelhout 
Kop. But a failure of combination between Colenbrander and 
Dawkins, caused by atrocious weather, had given him time to 
get so far clear to the north-west that a thirty-mile chase had 
failed to catch him. 



EVENTS IN THE NORTHERN TRANSVAAL. 445 

On December 13th, leaving Dawkins in the Waterberg hills, 
Colenbrander once more pushed westward. He had informa- 
tion of laagers in the Rooi Berg hills, and on the banks of the 
Crocodile, the latter reported to be the moveable base of Kemp, 
De la Rey's heutenant in the Western Transvaal. At Morgenzon, 
on the i6th, Colenbrander hghtened himself of his infantry and 
wagons, which he sent back to Warm Bath, and taking on 300 
of Kitchener's Fighting Scouts crossed the Aapies river, and 
on the evening of the i8th set out to surprise a Boer camp which 
his scouts had marked on the spot where he had expected to 
find it, Klipgat. But the camp had already been attacked 
and scattered by a party of South African Constabulary from 
Hamanskraal on that very morning, and Colenbrander had 
nothing to do but to beat up the district for the refugees, which 
he did by extending his troops in long Unes. When on the 
evening of the 19th he called in his men at Jericho, they brought 
with them fifty-two prisoners gathered without loss from many 
spots in the dense bush. Further searching during the next 
two days produced only eight more, and Colenbrander, finding 
not enough to occupy him further, turned towards the line, and 
arrived with his captures at Hamanskraal on the 23rd. The 
season of horse-sickness was now due and active operations had Horse- 
to be suspended. Colenbrander was therefore removed into the '"c''"^?'' stops 

* operations. 

Rustenburg district after three months of strenuous campaigning, 
during which he had lessened the enemy by twenty-two killed 
and wounded and 318 prisoners, including nineteen officers. 
Neither these results, nor his own trifling casualties, which 
numbered but four in all, were any gauge of the enormous 
exertions of his and Dawkins' troops in a region in some parts 
mountainous, in others densely clothed with bush, everywhere 
unhealthy, and at times so arid that more than once the men 
marched waterless for forty hours on end. In no part of the 
Transvaal had the work been more arduous, and its proportion- 
ately small rewards so hard to come by. Shortly after Colen- 
brander's departure Dawkins was also withdrawn, to entrain 
on December 27th for the Orange River Colony. For the same 
reasons Beyers, too, was forced to change his ground and seek 



44<5 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

the High Veld to the north ; but the departure of the columns 
encouraged him to attempt to deal a blow on his way. On 
January 21st, 1902, he was at Matala's Location, abreast of 
Pietersburg. His movements were fully known to the British, 
and some scouts from Pietersburg had even engaged and taken 
Beyers attacks sixteen prisoners from his flanking parties. Nevertheless Beyers 
Tan^S^d"^^' determined on a throw for the capital. Before dawn on the 
1902. 23rd he actually succeeded in introducing forty of his men into 

the burgher refugee camp, from which they soon rode out with 
148 perjured compatriots behind them. Beyers then blew up 
the hne, crossed to the east of it, and from that side at 4 a.m. 
on January 24th assailed the town with hot musketry. Twenty 
minutes' sharp firing, during which the commando suffered 
several casualties, sufficed to drive off a hesitating attack, and 
Beyers, raiding cattle as he went, moved slowly away south- 
eastward to estabhsh a laager in the sheltered, well watered, and 
well-nigh impenetrable valley between Malipspoort and Pylkop. 
The capture of nine wagon loads of grain on the 30th near Bufiles 
Beyers went far to replenish his supphes. At Pylkop he remained 

inactive. throughout February, condemned like his opponents to idleness 

until the subsidence of the horse-sickness, which in this region 
drives troops to quarters as regularly as did winter in the 
campaigns of old. Beyers' stronghold was constantly recon- 
noitred by troops from Pietersburg under Major H. d'E. Vallancey 
(Pietersburg Light Horse), who hung as closely on the laager as 
his small force permitted, on one occasion (February 6th) 
dispersing and taking ten prisoners from a Boer patrol of 100 
men which incautiously wandered too near him. 

About the middle of March Beyers once more became active. 
Moving northward across the Spelonken mountains, about 
the head waters of the Klein Letaba river, he made for his old 
groimd to the west of the railway, intending to reach it by 
circhng round the extreme northern limit of the British com- 
munications. This — Louis Trichardt having been destroyed in 
the previous autumn — was at Fort Edward, a lonely little post 
held by but fifty men, with a Umited and easily destroyed water 
supply. News of Beyers' march came at once to hand ; from 



EVENTS IN THE NORTHERN TRANSVAAL. 447 

its direction, it was certain that Fort Edward would be attacked, 

and on the i6th Vallancey moved up to Fort Dahl with 120 

men of the Pietersburg Light Horse. On the 17th Beyers was 

at Ramagoep's Location, and three days later surrounded Fort Beyers sur- 

Edward and cut off its water, Vallancey being too weak to EdwAxd^^^ 

interfere. A force of 550 of all arms* was thereupon despatched March 20th, 

to reheve the place from Pietersburg under Lieut. -Colonel H. C. 

Denny (Northamptonshire regiment). Denny encountered the 

enemy at Vliegenpan, and at once attacked with his mounted 

troops. But the enemy was strongly posted, in number some 

400, and Denny's men, a mixed band of surrendered Boers and 

other irregulars, who regarded each other with suspicion, fought 

badly. They were soon driven back, and Denny, despairing of 

doing anything against a strong position with such discordant 

material, abandoned his mission and fell back on the Dwars river. 

The fate of Fort Edward now seemed sealed. But Beyers, whose 

operations in the Northern Transvaal had lately seemed infected 

with the listlessness characteristic of the region, sat idly round the 

little post, and time was given for other measures. By good 

fortune Colenbrander, the scourge of the northern Boers, was 

at this moment within hail of Krugersdorp. Hurrying up by a»ienbrander 

rail to Pietersburg with his column on March 27th, he marched Edward, ^"^ 

the same evening for the Dwars river. On the next day he March 28th, 

threw himself upon Beyers, dislodged him at once and chased '^^* 

him eastward, punishing him severely before he left his heels to 

take the weary troops back to Fort Edward on the last day of 

March. Thence Colenbrander moved down to Pietersburg to 

prepare to settle once for all his old antagonist. 

Strengthened by the arrival of 600 men of the 2nd Royal 
Inniskilling Fusiliers, on April 5th he was ready with about 
2,000 men and four guns, one of the latter a 5-in. piece. Beyers, 
turned back from the north, was now again below Pylkop, and Beyers at 
Colenbrander, who well knew the strength of that fastness, ^^'''^P- 
concerted careful measures to entrap him. On the evening 

* Composition — One hundred Pietersburg Light Horse, 120 Beddy's Scouts, thirty 
National Scouts, 115 Steinacker's Horse, 1002nd Northamptonshire regiment, ico 2nd 
Wiltshire regiment, two guns. 



448 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

of his arrival in Pietersburg he made the first move by sending 
two parties, each of 400 men of Steinacker's Horse and the 
National Scouts, under Captain McQueen and an ex-Boer, CeUiers, 
with orders to march by circuitous routes and close the south- 
eastern and south-western exits of Malipspoort. Both parties 
left at night, and circhng round by Chunies Poort, arrived at 
their resp)ective posts at the same hour before daybreak on 
April 8th. On the night of the 6th a third party of the same 
strength, under Captain J. C. V. Lyle (Kitchener's Fighting 
Scouts), moved out to block the western and nearer exits, whilst 
Colenbrander himself, twenty-four hours later, took the remaining 
mounted men and the infantry, intending to place himself across 
the tracks leading northward out of the Poort. All these move- 
ments, admirably planned and conducted, were carried out with 
such secrecy that Beyers, in spite of his hundred-eyed scouts, 
had caught not so much as a glimpse of the contracting toils. 
Colenbrander At dawn on the 8th he was practically surrounded, and a few 
Pvfko* hours later his commando was fighting hard for its existence. 

April ' Fixing their hopes on an escape northward, the Boers collected 

f ~'°*^' chiefly in the strong entrenchments which they had thrown up 
on that side, so that whilst McQueen and Celliers advanced 
towards Pylkop from the direction of Chunies Poort with little 
opposition, Colenbrander found his way disputed by numbers 
so formidably posted, that it was doubtful whether his 
infantry (2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers) could seize the hills 
commanding Mahpspoort and its exits. A long and anxious 
engagement ensued. The hills were steep and bushy, and the 
opposition more stubborn than had long been encountered 
from these northern Boers. The Inniskilling Fusiliers fought 
with valour ; but the only party which succeeded in gaining the 
crest before nightfall was incontinently driven off again by 
superior numbers. Lyle, too, coming in from the west, was 
stoutly opposed, and could make but little inroad, and when 
darkness fell Colenbrander, seeing he was in for serious work, 
gave orders for all to entrench where they stood. Of the detach- 
ments from the south nothing had so far been seen, nor did they 
come in sight throughout the next day (9th), from dawn to 



EVENTS IN THE NORTHERN TRANSVAAL. 449 

dusk of which heavy interchanges of fire went on as Colen- 
brander and Lyle slowly gained ground southward and eastward 
into Mahpspoort. During the night a mixed party of Innis- Capture of 
killing Fusiliers and Kitchener's Fighting Scouts clambered up ApriMoih, 
a towering hill, seized the summit, and entrenching at once, 1902- 
found themselves at dawn in a position commanding the whole 
Poort from the west. The enemy ran forthwith, and Colen- 
brander, pushing on, swept away the laager, kiUing, wounding and 
capturing many of its defenders. The rest, amongst whom was 
Beyers himself, had already fled south-eastward during the night 
and should have fallen in with McQueen or Celhers, who had been 
posted for this precise contingency. But these detachments, 
arriving utterly exhausted after their long and rapid march 
from Pietersburg, had got no further northward than Pylkop, 
where they halted to rest on a mountain which indeed seemed 
to command the whole field. A gap to the south-east, however, 
was thus left ojjen, and Beyers, with the Boer's unerring eye 
for a bolt-hole, dashed through it with the remnants of his 
commando, and made good his escape. By the time this was 
known to Colenbrander it was too late to follow, and he ordered 
a general sweep towards Lyle on the west who was still slowly 
fighting his way into Malif)Sf>oort. In its recesses remained 
many scattered parties of Boefs, which, crushed between Lyle 
and the rest, surrendered as fast as they could be found. Colen- 
brander then went into bivouac at the northern end of the Results of the 
Poort, having killed and wounded twenty Boers and captured *"*'^''- 
108 in three days' fighting, during which his men had laboured 
incessantly without rest, and almost without food and water. 
Still he was unwilling to let Beyers go unharried. Scouting 
continually, he learned on April 14th that the General had fled 
north-east beyond Haenertsburg. Colenbrander pressed after 
with the mounted troops on the same day. On the 15th a trap 
was laid by long night marches, but in vain, for the enemy had 
warning and made towards Leydsdorp. Sending 230 men of Pursuit of 
Kitchener's Fighting Scouts under Captain Blaine with orders ^y^"- 
to follow them up, Colenbrander himself dashed with incredible 
speed by a roundabout route to intercept them, and on the 17th 

VOL. IV. 29 



1902. 



450 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

was on the lookout on the Groot Letaba river. But no enemy 
came into his arms, and Colenbrander, thinking he was too far 
north, hurried down through Oud Agatha to Burghersdorp, and 
once more lay in wait, this time along the Haenertsburg — 
Leydsdorp road. Two days passed here, with news neither of 
the enemy nor of their pursuer, Blaine. Of the latter Colen- 
brander had heard nothing since parting with him on the 15th, 
though two days later it had been reported to him that heavy 
firing had been heard from the direction which the chase had 
probably taken. Not imtil the 19th did he get any certain 
intelligence, and it accounted only too plainly for his own lack 
of success. Blaine had met with a reverse, and instead of 
pursuing was in retreat. 
A detachment On the i6th Blaine had been so close to the retiring 
ImbuSe" commando that he rode into a laager twelve miles south-east 
April 16th, of Haenertsburg only a few moments after the Boers had 
abandoned it, finding therein all the indications of a hasty 
evacuation. Here he rested his travel-worn men, who break- 
fasted from the food left behind by the enemy. The appearance 
of a few Boer scouts drew several of the soldiers out to drive 
them off ; more Boers appeared and were engaged by more of 
Blaine's men ; and finaUy almost the whole detachment mounted 
and galloped against the enemy. The ground beyond the camp 
narrowed between low walls of rock, and no sooner had the 
troops passed the mouth of the defile when a heavy discharge 
from both sides warned them that they had ridden into an 
ambush. Now the enemy appeared in force on both flanks. 
Some 700 Boers were visible ; many of the British groups became 
isolated and surrounded, and only the order for a sauve qui 
pent saved the rest from sharing their fate. Scattering singly 
the men made the best of their way out of the predicament and 
back to the infantry camp at Malipspoort, the detachment having 
lost in all twenty-three killed and wounded and thirty prisoners. 
On hearing of this Colenbrander ordered his infantry up to 
Haenertsburg and repaired thither himself on April 20th, in- 
tending to carry on the pursuit with all his force. But the 
intervention of an armistice to enable certain terms of peace 



EVENTS IN THE NORTHERN TRANSVAAL. 451 

then under discussion at Headquarters* to be conveyed to Beyers 
kept him idle until May 3rd, an interval spent in camp near 
Legalie's Location. By the time the truce had expired, Beyers 
himself had removed far out of reach to the north-east ; but many 
of his burghers were known to have returned to Pylkop, and 
Colenbrander determined to endeavour to bring them to bay. 
He had never relaxed his hold on Malipspoort, the northern 
exit of the Pylkop gorges. On to the heights on each side of Colenbrander 
this he sent two strong parties of infantry, with orders to move ^kop, "^ 
southward against Pylkop, The southern gateway, it will be Maysrd— sth, 
remembered, was at Chunies Poort, and thither on the night of 
May 3rd Colenbrander took 900 men of Kitchener's Fighting 
Scouts, Pietersburg Light Horse, Steinacker's Horse, and Beddy's 
and the National Scouts. These were to advance northward 
on Pylkop. Whilst engaged in these manoeuvres Colenbrander 
learned that nearly 450 of Beyers' commando had been traced 
elsewhere. Although this left but 150 or so to be accounted for 
at Pylkop, Colenbrander decided to devote himself to the task 
in hand before turning to seek the main hostile body. At 
daybreak on May 5th Colenbrander's detachment came suddenly 
upon the Boer laagers below the southern foot of Pylkop. The 
Boers scattered at once, chmbing into such a confusion of preci- 
pices, gorges and thickets which lay behind that they may 
well have seemed lost for ever. But on their trail Wcis an enemy 
whom they themselves, perhaps, had taught that where one 
man could run another could follow, though waterless, foodless 
and without rest. For three days and nights Colenbrander's 
men hunted foot by foot through the maze, taking here a single 
prisoner, there a worn-out batch of fugitives, and finally, on 
the afternoon of May 9th, the Commandant, Biermann himself, 
with thirty of his following. Then only did Colenbrander give 
the word to halt. Of the 150 Boers in the place he had secured Results of the 
104. He soon discovered the hiding place of the remnant, and *^^<=''- 
he had marked them for his own when Peace put an end to 
their danger and his own exertions. 

• See Chapter XXX. 
VOL. IV. 29* 



452 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



Approximate Strength States 9F Columns referred to in 

FOREGOING CHAPTER. 



April, 1901 — May, 1902. 
Lt.-Col. H. M. Grenfell ... 
I^t.-C^'- A. E. Wilson 

Maj. H. McM'cking 

Lt.-Col. J. W. Colenbrander 
Lt!-Col. ]. W. G- Dawkins... 
Lt.-Col. H. C. Denny 





a 


Is 


i 

0) 




ei 


•- J) 


c 










c 

3 




3 


u 

<4 


^ 




o> 


^ 


900 


496* 


3 




435 


104 






310 


188 


2 





656 


242 


3 


2 


520 


220 


3 


— 


365 


200 


2 





Including ninety-six cyclists. 



453 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY* 

[Continued from Chapter XX.). 

JANUARY — MAY, I902. 

Notwithstanding the discouraging events recorded in Chapter Smuts' 
XX. Smuts professed to welcome the dawn of 1902 with unabated 
confidence. Never was he more assured of Divine and hopeful 
of human assistance. Reviewing the whole campaign before 
his deposed President, in an epistle which glowed with love of 
his country and hatred of his enemies, he declared that all 
things pointed to a triumphant conclusion, and that in Cape 
Colony especially " the cause had made splendid progress."! 
Nor was the Boer leader's military vision entirely blinded. 
There were features in the apparently moribund invasion which 
by no means belied his asseverations. Smuts had now nearly 
13,000 rebels in the field, a levy which, if largely powerless from 
lack of arms and horseflesh, was of a significance grave enough 
to have drawn from so cool-headed and stout-hearted an observer 
as the British High Commissioner the confession that " The 
condition of Cape Colony is deplorable, not so much for the 
material damage which is being done, as for the evidence it 
affords of the lawless and disaffected temper of the mass of the 
population. "J Smuts was as well aware as Lord Milner that 
the overt revolters were but the scoria of treasonable forces 
which were as yet beneath the surface. He knew, even better 

* See map No. 63. 

f Report by J. C. Smuts to President Kruger ; dated from Van Rhyns Dorp, 
January, 1902. 

X Despatch by the High Commissioner, November 15th, 1991 (Colonial Offic? 
Letter, S.A. No. 43056). 



454 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

perhaps than the High Commissioner, that at last the Boer army 
had put its hand, however timidly and however late, upon the 
only lever which bore upon the power of the British in South 
Africa. To him the unprofitable operations of the past months 
appeared as indications, not that the campaign in Cape Colony 
was about to be quenched, but that it was unquenchable. At 
the beginning of this, the third year of the struggle, his own 
forces and all but one of his most distant detachments still sur- 
vived in an arena in which the mere existence of a commando 
was both a triumph and a recruiting agency for the repubhcan 
cause. If these bands were too battered to wage effective war 
themselves, they were well placed to pass fresh fuel across the 
frontier to feed the enfeebled flame of invasion. From the Witte 
Bergen in the east to beyond the Kakamas uplands in the west 
his men held drift-heads upon the British side of the Orange 
river, and even of those passages which were not in Boer 
hands the British seemed unable to deny the use. Twice 
during the past six weeks one of the main thoroughfares into 
Cape Colony had been traversed without hindrance by his rein- 
forcements. The mere territory under Smuts' control was 
enormous. It was a " plain fact," as Lord Milner, despising all 
foolish optimism, at this time reported, " that the rebels are 
still in undisturbed possession of about one-third of the Colony."* 
For all these reasons Smuts, whom the disappearance of Krit- 
zinger had now formally installed as Commander-in-Chief of the 
Boer forces in Cape Colony, faced the new year with hope, and 
it was not long before he endeavoured to give a fresh turn to 
the campaign. 

At this time all the energies of Sir J. French's columns in the 
west were devoted to keeping the enemy to the north of the 
partially completed blockhouse hne,t the "Chinese Wall,"* 
which was to preserve the reclaimed portion of Cape Colony from 
a return of the tide of invasion, and in accumulating supplies for 
a general advance northward from that base. Smuts, seeing them 
thus engrossed, developed activity in two opposite directions at 

* Lord Milner to Colonial Office ; Telegram No. 273/S, 
t See Chapter XX, 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 455 

once. Sending Maritz northward to overrun Namaqualand, he Smuts' tactics 
began to feel around the right flank of the columns by way of '"J*"' '902. 
Williston. His primary object was to take Fraserburg, towards 
which Malan moved by circuitous routes, whilst, in order to 
divert suspicion, Hugo, Pyper and Van der Venter feinted 
strongly in the direction of Sutherland.* Malan, now promoted 
to General, was in charge of the manoeuvre. Smuts himself pro- 
ceeding into Calvinia, to a central position between his widely 
separated operations. As these tactics became declared, about 
January 15th, T. Capper and W. Doran were drawn out towards 
Sutherland, approaching Callwell, who was already at Ganst- 
fontein, and Lund, who was escorting a convoy up from 
Matjesfontein. As it was uncertain how far eastward the Boer 
movement might extend Crabbe was railed from Piquetberg 
Road round to Beaufort West. At the same time Callwell was 
ordered to Prince Albert Road. This left Capper the fore- 
most of the Sutherland columns, and failing to receive Callwell's 
intimation of his departure, on the 23rd he unexpectedly 
encountered the advance-guard of the Boer combination in the 
defile of Verlaten Kloof. Driving these back, Capper next day 
found the eastern exit of the Kloof at Jakals VaUei barred by 
entrenchments. But a prompt attack (five casualties) cleared 
the road, and on the 25th Capper entered Sutherland, where he 
was joined by Lund. As the enemy continued to collect between 
Sutherland and Fraserburg, a converging movement on the latter 
town was ordered to be carried out by Capper (with Lund) and 
Crabbe, from their opposite stations. Crabbe, who was escorting 
a train of donkey wagons carrying suppHes for Fraserburg, was 
first in touch with the enemy. Passing VVaterval on February 3rd 
he found himself in the presence of commandos nearly 800 
strong, who so determinedly disputed the road to Fraserburg 
that, in view of their superior strength, Crabbe retired upon a 
defensive position. At the moment when Crabbe was checked, Loss of a 
his convoy, which was marching twelve miles in rear of him, p^b**'.'^!^ 
guarded by only 160 troops, had reached Uitspanfontein. A 1902. 

* Instructions by Fighting General W. Malan to Commandant H, Hugo, January 
Qth, 1902 ; dated from Oude Muur. 



456 THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 

message despatched to bring it forward miscarried, and through- 
out the 4th both Crabbe and his wagons remained separated, 
the former rendered immovable by the close investment of the 
enemy, who imagined that the much desired supplies were with 
him. Discovering their mistake, on the night of the 4th the 
Boers passed around the flanks of the column towards the 
convoy, which they easily captured at 4 a.m. on February 5th. 
Two hours later Crabbe, who had left his main body at Waterval, 
appeared, and with only 200 men made a daring attempt to 
recover his wagons. But, greatly outnumbered, he was fortunate 
to be able to fall back upon his column again. In the three 
days' fighting his losses had been fifty-three killed and wounded ; 
those of the enemy more than seventy. By this time Capper 
and Lund had come up to Fraserburg, and by their union with 
Crabbe extricated him from an awkward predicament. Whilst 
the columns put in for re-fitting to Nels Poort and Rhenoster 
Kop the Boers withdrew to Lapfontein. 

Meanwhile, not far to the east of the scene of these events, 
a totally distinct operation had been in progress. This was 
I'ursuit of the chase of L. Wessels, Kritzinger's successor, last seen plunging 
" ^"^ ^' for safety into the recesses of the Camdeboo mountains. Wessels 
was bent on breaking westward across the railway to join Malan, 
and quitted his hiding-place on January 2nd. For the next five 
weeks his history is one of twists and turns all over the Aberdeen, 
Murraysburg, Graaff Reinet, Cradock, and Somerset East dis- 
tricts in his efforts to accomplish his end. B. Doran and 
Lord W, A. Cavendish-Bentinck followed, first across Murrays- 
burg to Leeuwfontein, thence to Rondavel, in Richmond, and 
round by the county town back to Niet Gedacht, where Doran 
caught up with him on the 15th and drove him on southward 
with the loss of eight burghers. A few days' further hunting in 
the west of Murraysburg took Doran into Nels Poort to refit on 
January 21st, Lord W. A. Cavendish-Bentinck having been pre- 
viously withdrawn from the pursuit to take part in the operations 
against Malan on the other side of the railway. At Nels Poort 
Doran stayed three days, and, taking advantage of the respite, 
Wessels , dashed eastward, burned the railway station ^t 



EVENTS IN CAPE COLONY. 457 

Bethesda Road, and turned southward for the Tandjes Berg. 
Another column now appeared to replace Lord W. A. Cavendish- 
Bentinck's, namely, Wormald's, temporarily commanded by 
Major J. Vaughan, This force had been at Richmond Road on 
January i8th, and was thence directed against L. Wessels. On 
the 26th Vaughan crossed the Graaff Reinet railway at Letskraal, 
and getting in touch with Wessels, followed him southward to 
Water Kloof, where there was a skirmish (four casualties), 
which ended in Wessels disappearing down the Vogel river. 
Vaughan pursued to Pearston, where he was on the last day of 
January. Meanwhile, B. Doran had come forward by Houd 
Constant to Oudeberg on the same date. The pursuit was now 
strengthened by the arrival of Follett, Scobell's successor in the 
north-west, who had been withdrawn from that district after a 
series of operations which will be described later. Vaughan, 
Doran, and the newcomer tossed Wessels about between them 
in Murraysburg, until on February 12th the commando, reduced 
to under fifty men, at last succeeded in effecting its purpose by 
breaking through the blockhouses near Three Sisters station, not l. WesseU 
without further loss, and joining Malan north of the Nieuwveld. J°*"* ^aUn. 

When Follett quitted the north-east there had seemed little 
left to do in that part, for the disintegration of one commando Operations in 
and the temporary expulsion of the other left scarcely 200 Boers ^^^ north-easi. 
to carry on the war. A northerly movement by Follett from 
Dordrecht on December 28th had begun the clearance by 
turning P. Wessels in front of Lord Lovat, who in the first week 
of January was between Schilder Kranz and Jamestown, Monro 
remaining at Dordrecht. Pushing the Boers northward on the 
4th, Lord Lovat drove them across the Holle Spruit, and on the 
5th surprised the laager at Kings Crown, where he secured nine 
prisoners. Monro and Follett, concentrating at Clifford, then 
arranged a joint drive westward, that is, towards Lord Lovat, 
who returned to his former situation. This time Fouch^ came 
in the way of Major N. T. Nickalls with a squadron of the 17th 
Lancers and some Imperial Yeomanry at Mooi Hoek, west of 
Oorlogs Poort, on January nth ; but he was in considerable 
strength, and got away after inflicting fourteen casualties on the 



458 



THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



r. Wessels 
joins Fouche. 



P. Wessels 
and Fouche 
driven from 
the north-east. 



Lancers. P. Wessels, trending south-west before the advancing 
columns, found return impossible, and made for the railway 
below Molteno. He was intercepted by Price when sixteen miles 
from the line ; but a dense fog on the morning of the 14th enabled 
him to avoid an action, and crossing near Cypher Gat, he made 
his escape into the Bamboes moimtains, Price following. With 
one opponent thus outside the area, all the columns then turned 
upon Fouche, who had slipped back in the direction of Clifford. 
An elaborate " drive " eastward by five bodies on the line Schilder 
Kranz — Montagu Hill — Drizzly Hill — Lady Grey was unpro- 
ductive, only Nickalls succeeding in engaging Fouche on the 
22nd, and the end of January found the columns somewhat at 
a loss. Meanwhile Price, aided after January 25th by two 
squadrons from Follett's column under Nickalls, had been vainly 
endeavouring to come to terms with P. Wessels in the Bamboes 
mountains. Price's object was to drive him into the angle of 
the Steynsburg — Middleburg — Cradock blockhouse line. But 
Wessels, well aware of the trap, turned and doubled inter- 
minably, finally gaining an offing in precisely the opposite direc- 
tion. From an attack by Price on January 30th he darted away 
north-eastward, tecrossed the railway on February 4th, and 
hurrying back into his old district, eventually rejoined Fouche 
on February 17th, when that leader had himself cast back into 
Jamestown county. At that moment Monro's column, the only 
one in the vicinity, happened to be, for the first time, unready 
for concerted action. Fouche's commando had practically 
dissolved before the incessant harrying, and Monro had just 
dispersed his troops into separate posts for purposes of local 
raiding. Fouche and P. Wessels now seized the opportunity 
to escape together from a distr