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|Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah
|How Boers Warred with British
Jyow Boers Waphd:Wiflf::Britisb Story of tlie -Wresting of the Transvaal From the Black Aborigine-Sloth and Bankruptcy . Compelled the Boers to Ask British ProtectionThen Game Arrogance Leading to Revolt, Ending in the Disaster of Majuba Hill. The South African Dutchman makes en excellent pioneer. Naturaiiy nomadic, no-madic, tall and muscular, possessing an irreproachable -digestive apparatus, and feeling: an infinite contempt for all forms of conventional life, he is eminently emi-nently adapted for pioneering expeditions. expedi-tions. "Wandering as he did in early days away from the settlements which merely fringed the southern portion of the great African continent, he had many dangers to encounter, many difficulties diffi-culties to overcome, many anxious moments mo-ments to pass, and at all times he had only his own strong arm to rely upon. an edifice on his purchased lot, such i edifices to be of a stated minimum valuation. In some of these villages, or "dorps." a church was built, and in a short time the dorp assumed outwardly out-wardly quite a thriving appearance. Only outwardly, though, as "most of the houses were unoccupied, excepting at "Xaachtmaal" seasons. As the pop-ulat pop-ulat ion increased a. volksraad, or con- J gress, was formed. This was and is the most crudely primitive assemblage of law-makers ever imagined that is, amongst nineteenth century white people. peo-ple. There is no political excitement at election times: in fact, there is no electioneering worth calling by that ' - I KRUGER'S WATERFALL, NEAR JOHANNESBERG He had to make his own roads, ford rapid rivers, scale rugged mountains, fight savage animals and still more savage human beings. When I think of the fortitude and bravery shown by the Boer during his exodus from civilization, civil-ization, he has my unqualified admiration: admir-ation: but having conceded him this, I have given him all he is entitled to. As a pioneer the Boer is a decided success; suc-cess; as a civilizer he is a pronounced failure. I admit readily that this criticism criti-cism is captious, for the Boer does not pretend to civilize anything. When the Boer. -was seeking a home r where he hoped to be free from the im- pertinent intrusion of English philanthropy, philan-thropy, a strange thing happened to i him. A race of men. infinitely inferTor to the. Boers, because their pkins were black, had the inconceivable audacity to resent losing their land and liberty. Thf-s benighted heathens imagined that by right of conquest and occupation occupa-tion they should be allowed to remain in undisturbed possession of their herds and fields. Of course, this was the sheerest nonsense. England has no right to take an inch of land from the Boers, but the Boers had the clearest possible right to tage it all from the Kaffirs, because they were doing it tot .benefit the poor negro. The most dangerous dan-gerous fr.es the Boers had to contend with were the bushmen or Bosjesmen, : a wandering tribe of aboriginal Ish-maelites. Ish-maelites. short in stature and speaking an. utterly untranslatable language, re- ' sombling more the clicks and gutturals of the nnthrfinni.l nnoc -M,on n-,. 1- I human speech. These Bushmen lived principally in caves and decayed tree trunks and were hopelessly untamable. " Kaffirs Hate the Boers. .Their hatred of the Boers exceeded that of the Boers towards the English, for they hated the white man indiscriminately indiscrim-inately and individually, parent and son, root and branch. The pioneering Dutchmen u-d to organize hunting parties for the purpose of exterminating exterminat-ing the Bushmen, just as they hunted lions ai.d leopards. Xo mercy was shown or expected on either side. An old Boer once showed me the scars of a wound in his thigh, which he had I received during one of these raids! against me uusnmen. lie had accidentally acci-dentally been separated from his companions com-panions and was endeavoring to rejoin them when a Bushman, seated in the branches of a large tree, sent an arrow into the Boer's thigh. The Boer immediately im-mediately shot the Bushman, and then sitting down, deliberately carved the flesh around the wound, taking the arrow ar-row head out entire. He then cauterised cauter-ised the wound by placing a handful -f . gunpowder in it and setting fire to the same. His companions found him about two hours afterwards in a half fainting condition and carried him home. Investigation proved that the Boer had saved his life by his prompt action, as the poison on the Bushman's Bush-man's arrow was perfectly fresh and had fhe Boer not acted as he did he would, in all probability, nave died in the course of three or four hours after receiving his wound. Had the poison isfd by the Bushman been, say two days old. its effect would not necessarily neces-sarily have been fatal, but the victim Mould have suffered from it for the rest of his life. I mention the incident s illustrative of ihe pluck and grim determination shown bv the Boer in his pioneering days. The younger Bo?rs of the present day are more effeminate ef-feminate than their ancestors were but they are descendants of a tern' hardy stock, -and should occasion ever arise, are likely to display the same traits which made the early Boer i successful pioneer. a "Growth of Tra It is-unnecessary to follow the Boers in detail in their occupation of th! Transvaal. We will consider them from the time when the objections of lho native owners of the soil had been effectually silenced by rifle and lah and the Boers settled in complete au' tiioruy. They were a small community, commu-nity, more, as it were, one large family, fam-ily, and they parceled the land out among, themselves, each pioneer bein-, en . led to a farm of 3.000 morgen ! C..WI acres They lived in the patri-l !u 1,e.fo',0ir,nP- As his sons grew up ' In 7! USOS m"dr the roof Hid man ied, or married first and built afterwards, whichever happened to be! most convenient. In the magnificent chtnate of the fertile Transva i, community grew rapidlv. Sittls V Townships w selected and the l ,t! by public auction, rrcnerallv m conditiou that each purchaser erected! J If 3 name. The honorable member for the i, volksraad is chosen by his brother e Boers generally on account of his rep-c rep-c utation for wealth. The early volks-f volks-f raad was quite a family affair, . the members spending their time . principally in fraternally swapoing , tobacco pouches and drinking coffee. . There was nothing particularly impor-. impor-. tant to discuss, outside of the prospects I for the next sheep shearing, season and . the present state of the crops. So the ; honorable members of the volksraad would look as wise as possible,, draw their pay. and return home to report to ' their constituents.' There. were very-few very-few Transvaal newspapers in the days of which I speak, and very few Boers who read even these. A stranger was always welcomed on account -of the news he could presumably relate. There were no telegraph offices, no railroads and a mighty uncertain postal service.' Drifted Into Bankruptcy This condition of affairs satisfief Boer, however, and as Englanc recognized the independence of th colony the Dutchman was the on4 son to be consulted in the mattel a time came when the exchequej , exhausted, and the state bari I Government officials had not, fori , months, seen any of their easily f salary. Food was scarce and f scarcer. The slothful Boer; revef his liberty, had simply driftetj drifted until he could see the ra breakers straight ahead of him.f other conditions, may have m;t-?tS'i mark. He had a number of god coins struck off with his own enterprising head shown on them. This wasj pretty-good pretty-good for an insolvent country, but he went still further. Ke went to Holland and negotiated a loan for building a railroad from Delagoa hay to Pretoria. He succeeded so far that he landed the material, but was unable to raise money j for laying the rails, and I think they are still rusting in the Delagoa bay marshes. The Transvaal republic was unable to pay the interest on the loan made by this Napoleonic president. Worse than national bankruptcy was the trouble on the borders. The native 1 however, to respond humanely to the Boers' appeal, and sent a few troops, who entered the Transvaal without opposition op-position and formally took it under the protection of the British ag in the early part of 1S77. I do not remember hearing a single dissentient opinion among . my Dutch acquaintances in South Africa at the 'time of this annexation. an-nexation. The Boers living in the Cape Colony, Orange Free States and Natal were aware of the deplorable condiiton their Transvaal friends were in and considered England's act a necessary one. Cause of Revolt. The question, then, is: "Why did the Boers subsequently revolt, when the j annexation took place at their express wish?" As near as I can arrive at the facts, it was due partly to the treacherous treach-erous ingratitude of the semi-civilized Jioers, and partly to the action of the jb-nglish officials sent to govern them. These officials despised the Boers and . took no pains to hide their contempt. for my part, I heartily sympathize with the Boer in the position he then found himself. The Boer has an intense desire for freedom. He longs to feel as unfettered as the springboks which road over his untilled acres. The ques,-tion ques,-tion as to whether the Boer is qualified for such freedom, considering his present pres-ent surroundings, is quite another matter. mat-ter. The fact remains that he loves lib-erty-by this I mean his own personal, unenterprising liberty he is not interested inter-ested in the liberty of anyone else. The burghers, therefore, who signed the petition pe-tition asking England to annex them, must have felt a gnawing at their heart strings at the thought of again being under British authority, which, to them meant degradation. Nothing but th sense of the extreme urgency of their case could have imoelled them to this step. Now, it seems to me. that this fact should to some extent have been . considered by the officials sent by Eng-I Eng-I lanjl ruIe the. Boers, and that their ?''mUi:'l---r Should have ( "1 English to Blame. """""""""""" I repeat that the inconsiderate conduct con-duct of the English officials at Pretoria Pre-toria towards the Boers hastened the events of. ISSO-I, though I am not at all sure that the revolt of the Boers would not. in time havo tai- ic,,. anyhow. Let us look for a moment at the circumstances in the case. England had paid the Transvaal's debts, she had relieved them from immediate alarm of a native invasion; she had given commercial prosperity to the country I nder these new and prosperous conditions, con-ditions, many Boers from the surrounding surround-ing countries joined their Transvaal brethren. English traders erected stores in different parts of the country, and the.. Boers could now get . good value for his wool and other mercantile mercan-tile commodities. For the first time in many long, weary months, he heard the cheerful jingle of gold in his pocket-it pocket-it was English gold, it is true, but still it was gold, good, glorious, glitter- ing gold, and he reveled in unaccustomed unaccus-tomed luxury. Secretly, however, the Boers held meetings and aa secretlv resolved to revolt against the intolerable English I 5roke. Without warning they armed fr ' - - - ' m O'NEIL'S FARM, NEAR MAJUBA HILL. W here the Treaty of Peace Between England and the Transvaal Was Signed in 1SS1. tribes living- adjacent to the Transvaal, Trans-vaal, becoming aware of the impoverished impover-ished condition of the Boers, were threatening to inundate the countrv. This was inimical to British interests, for the natives once in jussession of the Transvaal republic and Hushed with victory over the usurping white man, would probably have attempted to overrun over-run Natal and the Cape Colony. In this extremity a number of the influential I.oers signed a petition to the British government asking for protection Nothing can more emphatically demonstrate demon-strate the hopeless .condition the Boers were in than this appeal of theirs to ;ne generosity of their hated enemy I am far from saying that England is S actuated by purely unselfish motnes and even in this instance her s!ncw0-P3I VaS nt unadulterated, j since her interests were at stake; nil she could easily have left the Boers o their fate and defended her own hor-dels hor-dels from native rails. She decided j. victory, ana cited tV-"-.!,,- I at Bronker's spruit as a direct instamf. of divine interposition on behalf of the-Dutch the-Dutch forces, but the plain truth ii that it was as atrocious and cold-blood ed a murder as anything recorded ii history. This was the beginning of th Boer-English war of 1SS0-1. The English Eng-lish being totally unprepared for sucii an outbreak, were taken at a disadvantage, disad-vantage, for there were very few English Eng-lish troops in South Africa at this time. Disaster of Laing's Nek. Sir George Colley was the civil governor gov-ernor of Natal and ex-offlcio was at the head of the army. He had not, as I far as I know, seen any active service previously, and was by no means quali-j quali-j tied to command a force. It is presumed that he, in his contempt for the Boers, saw an opportunity to be raised to the peerage by marching into the Transvaal Trans-vaal and simply wiping the malcontent Boers off the face of the earth. However How-ever this may be. it is certain that he assumed command, of the small British army theji in Natal and marched for the- Transvaal, but found himself stopped by the Boers at Laing'e Nek Tliis Nek is on British territory, and is the only available pass in the Drak-ensberg Drak-ensberg range by which the Transvaal may be entered from the Natal side. The Boers were laagered on the Transvaal Trans-vaal side of the range, where the country coun-try is level; Colley pitched his camp in a' f 1 he foot of Laing's Nek, on the Natal side. The subsequent events of the war. after the forming of the J-jruisn camp, showed such gross in-' conu.ency . on the 'part pfhe English f commander, such insane waste of human hu-man life, such 'an utter' ignorance of the skill and determination of the enemy, that it is difficult, even after 60 many intervening years, to review them calmly, it is a blot on the English Eng-lish military escutcheon which has not yet been obliterated It is a blot which to this day brings the burning blush of ehame to the brow of every Englishman, English-man, whether, home or colonial born. The years which have since rolled by have in no degree mitigated 'the overwhelming over-whelming disgrace of -the, whole affair. af-fair. : In the first place the Boers, from their exalted position on the summit of the Drankensberg mountains, were able to observe every movement of the little British army encamped v in the valley , beneath; it was their custom, each morning, to send a spy to the top of Majuba hill, whi;h overlooks the entire valley.' This seems to have been overlooked over-looked by Colley. ,)r jf not overlooked, was foolishly ignored Sir George Col ley's first idea was to, charge up the mountain on the east of Laing's Nek, Majuba hill being on the west; the intention being, after surmounting sur-mounting the range, to attack the Boer laager in the open country beyond. This was an admirable plan, and ought ! to have succeeded to a dead certainty, for the Boers would not have withstood the British charge in the open veldt. There was, however, one unfortunate item which prevented ;the success of this deeply-laid scheme; an item which Sir George Colley appears to have quite forgotten, and that was that the Boers objected to having their laager attack- eu in mat particular manner. Being acquainted with the design of the British. Brit-ish. troops, the JJuers stationed themselves them-selves amongst the rocks leading up the mountain; there are three layers of j outcropping granite at different heights on the mountain the British meant to attack, and the Boers were quick to see the advantage this security would give them. Imagine the folly of the British movement. Each solcMer had a scarlet coat-and a white helmet, making mak-ing the best possible target; tl.sy were . rushing up the side of a steep mountain moun-tain to attack a body of hidden foes each one. of their opponents being a crack sharpshooter; instead of fighting from rock to rock and bush to bush, as the Boers subsequently did, when attacking at-tacking Majuba hill, the English, rushed rush-ed tnemselver,, out of breath in the first fifteen minutrs. The officers were nearly near-ly all killed, and the bodies of the common com-mon soldiers lay scattered over the mountain-sid2 when-the retreat was sounded.. This was indeed a Boer victory. Nor a treacherous, barbarous massacre like -the Bronker's Spruft, disaster. It was a fair tight and a genuine defeat. But as- far rs strategic skill, is concerned Colley might as well have ordered his men to stand in line and asked the ;Boers to shoot them down, man bv jnan. The ollowihg evening, as the ambulance ambu-lance wagons," under escort, were conveying con-veying the English wounded to Newcastle, New-castle, the Boers attacked them, at a place called Schuins Hoogte. Although the Boers outnumbered the English on this occasion, the fight was about a draw when night coming on, the Boers retired to their laager. Majuba Hill Fight. ' Sir Evelyn Wood, a grand fighter and all-round soldier, accustomed to South African warfare, now joined Sir George Colley but disagreed with him as to the advisability of ascending Majuba Hill, which was Colley s next inspired move. Wood in consequence of this i disagreement, returned to Pietermaritz- ' burg and Colley, : undoubtedly thirst-I ing to retrieve his-name from the dark ! dishonor which had fallen on if .J : night led a detachment of his trooDs up Majuba Hill. From the side the English Eng-lish were: on, Majuba presents a ru"-.ged, ru"-.ged, most forbidding front, from the side of the Boer laager, the ascent is 'gradual and protected; by rocks and trees. I have been up-'the hill several times from the Boer side and once I attempted it from the English side as an experiment, but gave it up half way. If ever men deserved victory it was the small devoted force whom Col-lC,!;dered Col-lC,!;dered Uli tn4recipitous side of Majuba: that fatal, ever-memorable night. Among his- followers were the Ninety-first Highlanders, newly arrived I from their iglorious campaign in Af ghanista-n, as brave a body of men as ever drew a dirk or 'wore a kilt I re member the day they marched' out of Pietermaritzburg for the front. Bands were playing, flags were flying, crowds were cheering and the Highland laddies .stepped high. I remember also when 'the remnant of the regiment returned m utter silence, dejection in every movement and sorrow in every face They had let their.eomrades moulder-11I?,,.n,a:ll;ue moulder-11I?,,.n,a:ll;ue cemetery near the base of Majuba,; a cemetery, where I have several tirnes spent :a' moody half hour ; I ascended -Majuba hill shortly after the fight and -to me it was incomprehensible, incompre-hensible, how. the English sustained defeat de-feat there. On the summit there is a basin-like depression, naturally fortified by large masses of surrounding rock as complete a fortification as any man could wish, and still the English were beaten and what is worse, beaten by x uue nui.rnucn stronger than them-I them-I selves, and wnat is still worse, beaten by a loss of. over COO men to four only rof the enemy. It may be partly ac- counted for, though I admit the reason is a lame one, by remembering that the average English Tommy Atkins is a machine. What he knows has been per sistentiy drilled into it. He lives, moves and has his being in accordance with the commands of his superior offi cer. Place this machine-made fellow being in any unusual position and take away his officer and he immediately loses his head. With artillery the English Eng-lish could have battered down the Boer laager from the crest of Majuba; without with-out artillery no tangible reason appears to exist for the occupation of th mountain. The Boers. foHight their way up as they had a right to fight, from cover to , cover. The English exhausted their ammunition in the most lamentably pobr shooting1 ever known. When the Boers reached the summit, the English Eng-lish officers fell like ninepins and Tommy Tom-my Atkins, being the machine he is and having neither officer nor ammunition ammuni-tion left, turned tail and scrambled, jumped, rolled, slid and tumbled down the sr.de of Majuba in his frantic en- I deavor to regain the English camp. Colley Col-ley was among the fiist to fall when the Boers gained .the top of Majuba. He .died like a, -Briton, with his wounds in front. ' The Boers are justly proud of the victory. they gained that day. It was a victory any body if men can be proud of.. In a future article, I shall have something .to say about the manner in which the Boers celebrate the anniversary anniver-sary of Majuba day; in the meantime, while talking of the battle, I take the occasion to say that, personally, I admire, ad-mire, as intensely as anyone can, the manly courage displayed by the Boer in fighting his way up Majuba and wresting it from' fhe English. That was the last conflict of the war. .Sir Evelyn Woood now took command of the English force and an armistice was declared. During the armistice, Gladstone, divining-on-the Koran perhaps, per-haps, found it would be magnanimous to give the; Transvaal back to the Boers me 'inuiKnaiion or. Sir JiAelyn Wood and of every British colonist, colo-nist, it was given back; England re-lt re-lt ?f suzerainty. Lord Roberts, the Afghanistan hero, coming with re-nforcements re-nforcements for the Transvaal war Aandnd,oDt, C?pe Town on 1st of April, 1881. and found a cablegram awaiting him there, ordering his return to England as the war was ended. Thus was British honor vindicated according to the gospel of Gladstone. . J. WILLIAM EDMUNDS.