Lord Roberts is the first General of whom I have heard who ever recognised and acknowledged the Value and Power of the Press by establishing a Newspaper as a source of Entertainment and Information for an Army in the Field, and as a Medium for conveying such Arguments and Appeals as he wished to make to the Enemy. This he did, as one might say, the instant he conquered the first of the Boer Capitals, almost simultaneously with his appointment of a Military Governor and a Provost Marshal, and the establishment of a Police Force.
The story of Lord Roberts's experiment and the Experiences of the Men he selected for his Editors must be especially attractive to all Journalists, and they will find here set forth whatever is of purely professional interest to them. To those details I have added the most Notable Contributions with which each of the twenty-seven Numbers of THE FRIEND was made up, and here this narrow limitation of the interest in the book is broken wide asunder. These newspaper articles are mainly the Works of Fighting Men, at rest between Battles, and of others who were at the moment going to or coming from Engagements. They hold the Mirror up to the Life of an Army, in Camp, on the March, in Battle, and in a Conquered Capital.
In these Letters, Sketches, and Verses the Reader lives with the Soldiers in camp. He sees what they work and play at. He hears of their Deeds of Daring, Mishaps and Adventures. He catches their strange Lingo. He observes what they Eat--(and what they do not get to Drink). He notes how they speak of their Faring in Battle. In all the Wealth of English Literature I know of no such a Mirror-reflection and a Phonograph-echoing of Soldier Life as is here.
Generals, Colonels--in fact, men of every rank and grade contributed their shares; of every rank down to "Tommy Atkins," who, in general, sings his Songs in the background, in verse, like the Chorus in an Ancient Drama.
To these features I have added many Personal Recollections, as well as Anecdotes and Stories told by or about the men around me in camp, and in the conquered Capital of the Free State, with Notes and Comments upon a wide variety of subjects suggested during the editing of the other Matter here collated.
In the Proclamations of the wise and great Field-Marshal, and the Notices, Ordinances, and Camp Orders of his Lieutenants set to rule Bloemfontein after its capture by us, are to be found an account of the Methods by which a Triumphant Army establishes its own new rule in a Conquered City and Territory. This peculiar and most interesting history runs, like a steel thread, through the book from beginning to end. I do not know where else it is told, or even hinted at, in what has thus far been written of the War.
It was because each of the chief elements that make up this book of THE FRIEND is equally fresh and impossible to obtain elsewhere, that I undertook the labour of compiling this work.
It was my first intention to reproduce all the Reading Matter which appeared in THE FRIEND during the period in which we managed it (March 16th to April 16, 1900) but this would have formed a ponderous book of 270,000 words--without including the Military Proclamations. Such a work could not be produced for a price at the command of the general reader, and, furthermore, the general reader would have found it too tiresome to work his way through the many Technical Articles and others which time has rendered stale or of little interest. Therefore, not without regret, I felt obliged to select, as my best judgment prompted, the matter of the Most Peculiar character, or of Widest Interest for reproduction here.
As the former Editors of THE FRIEND have now formed themselves into an Order to which none is eligible except he or she who tells the truth without fear of consequences, the reader may as well prepare himself to meet with that rare quality in some of the pages that follow.