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The anxiety felt by the commanders of the three detached forces in South Africa was shared by the nation at home. The telegrams sent to England by Sir Redvers Buller showed that the state of affairs in Natal after the battle of Colenso was very critical, and that only prompt and ample reinforcements would be of any avail. Troops of all arms were despatched to Capetown as fast as ships could be got ready to carry them, and Field-Marshal Lord Roberts was appointed Commander-in-Chief, with Lord Kitchener as his chief staff officer.

The Field-Marshal reached Capetown on January 10. Four weeks were necessary for the organisation of his new army, which amounted to 35,000 men when concentrated at Modder River on February 8. A week later General French at the head of a Cavalry Division rode into Kimberley, and on the same day the Sixth Division got in touch with General Cronje, and commenced the series of operations which led to his surrender with all his army. There were yet, however, two serious engagements to be fought, at Poplar Grove and Driefontein, before the Commander-in-Chief entered Bloemfontein on Thursday, March 15, 1900. By that time this advance in force into the enemy's country had had its effect in the east and south. The pressure in Natal was relaxed, and on March 1 Sir Redvers Buller rode into Ladysmith and greeted Sir George White and his gallant garrison. In the meantime Gatacre and Clements had been holding on to the railways, impatient to move forward as soon as it was safe to do so. Both these columns, which had been marking time in the face of the enemy, had had occasional conflicts, but these were, for the most part, outpost affairs, or the result of reconnaissance.

Writing from Sterkstroom on February 24, Sir William says:

"Yesterday we had a fight just north of Molteno, and unfortunately lost about seventy men, but we gained the information we required. Montmorency is missing, and I fear he has been wounded or shot. His party got too far ahead of us, and it was with difficulty I extricated them. I was very nearly shot twice, once by a rifleman (Boer), once by a shell—very near. I have had marvellous luck on more than one occasion. The men all behaved very well. I do not think that people realise quite the extent of the country I am covering. From Karn Nek to Bird's River is thirty-five miles, and I have three and a half regiments only to do it with. I think I told you that Brabant, a Colonial, had been given a command under me of mounted troops. He has a very mixed lot, and their procedure is sketchy, but Lord Roberts wishes him to have a free hand. He is to start to-day towards Dordrecht, and I have told him what I want him to do, i.e. to cut in between Dordrecht and Jamestown, which I think should have the effect of making them fall back from Stormberg, in which case I could occupy it, but, as you see, I cannot occupy it without evacuating some place behind me."

Across the river

On March 5 the Third Division reoccupied Stormberg; on the 6th they reached Burghersdorp; on the 9th the scouts chased the Boers to the bridge over the Orange River at Bethulie, and entrenched themselves on the southern bank. The little band arrived just in time to see the railway bridge blown up, but their advance saved the roadway. Lieutenant Popham, of the Derbyshire Regiment, promptly cut the electric wire that would have fused the dynamite, and at night Sir William, accompanied by Lieutenant Grant, R.E., crept along the parapet, and dropped the parcels of explosives into the river. The scouts of the Third Division were rather proud of having saved this bridge, as at Norvals Pont both were destroyed. The next day the column occupied Bethulie in the enemy's country, and on the 15th took possession of the railway junction at Springfontein. Colonel Clements had also crossed the Orange River, and made his way on to the junction shortly after the Third Division had captured the place.

"The deliberation of Gatacre's movements surprised his younger officers, who did not know that the Divisional General had received orders from the Commander-in-Chief not to commit himself seriously until reinforcements had reached him, and, if possible, to repair the railway which connects Stormberg with Naauwpoort Junction."[1]

[1] See Official History, vol. ii. p. 247.

Colonel Clements had received orders in the same strain:

"Do not attempt to force passage of river until you hear from me, or are certain that the enemy have considerably loosened their hold over the heights on the north bank. This they are sure to do when we reach Bloemfontein, and it is better that the repair of the bridge be delayed a few days than that lives be lost unnecessarily."[2]

[2] Ibid., vol. ii. p. 256.

On March 16 General Pole-Carew was sent down the line from Bloemfontein to meet Gatacre and Clements.

"He found at Edenburg that he had just missed Grobler's contingent proceeding north-east. This was only the first of two parties escaping from Colesberg, the second being under Lemmer, while Du Plessis and Olivier were leading a third party in the same direction from Bethulie and Aliwal North. When the three parties united in the neighbourhood of Ladybrand, they formed the imposing total of 5,500 Boers, 1,000 Kaffirs, 10,000 oxen and 800 waggons, covering a total extent of twenty-four miles on the march.

"As soon as Pole-Carew heard of Grobler's movements on the 16th, he urged upon the Commander-in-Chief the advisability of sending out a strong force east of Bloemfontein, to intercept the Boer commandoes as they came up from the south, and of bringing Brabant from Aliwal North and Gatacre from Springfontein to close in upon their rear."[3]

[3] See Times History, vol. iv. p. 7.

A pacific policy

The Field-Marshal was not, however, ready to undertake such an extensive movement; his force had only reached its goal the day before, and neither his men nor his horses would have been equal to such a chase. Moreover the situation presented itself to him in quite a different light. The ready submission of the Boer farmers in the vicinity of the main army led him to exaggerate the effect on the nation at large of the capture of General Cronje and his four thousand fighting men. He was led to believe by reports from various outlying districts that there was no fight left in the Boers, and in his desire to win them without unnecessary blood-shed he decided to try a policy of pacification.

On his arrival at Bloemfontein Lord Roberts issued a Proclamation by which, in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, he offered pardon and protection to all such burghers as would lay down their arms and swear an oath of allegiance.[4] A week later he telegraphed to the War Office:

[4] For words of Proclamation see Official History, vol. ii. p. 260.

"So many burghers have expressed their desire to surrender under the terms of the last proclamation that I have sent small columns in various directions to register the names and to take over arms."[5]

[5] See Times History, vol. iv. p. 8.

In pursuance of this policy the Field-Marshal on March 19 telegraphed the following order to Sir William Gatacre, whose headquarters were at Springfontein:

"Could you manage to take a small force, say two battalions, one battery, and some mounted infantry, as far as Smithfield? It is very desirable British troops should be seen all over the country and opportunity given to burghers to surrender and deliver up their arms under the conditions of the Proclamation of March 15."[6]

[6] See Official History, vol. ii. p. 301.

Gatacre's command at this time had increased to four battalions of infantry, with such mounted infantry as he had been able to raise from their ranks, and this Brigade was now employed as line-of-communication troops. Two battalions were needed at Bethulie Bridge, where the men's assistance was required in passing stores, etc., over the road-bridge until the railway should be repaired; from the other two he had to supply guards for 115 miles of railway from Bethulie to Bloemfontein. The Colonial section of his force was acting more or less independently under General Brabant, who had established his headquarters at Aliwal North.

To the telegram given above Gatacre replied that he could not spare more than one battalion (the 2nd Royal Irish Rifles), a field battery, a company of the mounted infantry of the Royal Scots and a section of that of the Royal Irish Rifles. His suggested reduction was approved, and the column started on its fifty-mile march to Smithfield on the 20th.

On the 21st Sir William rode about twenty miles west of the railway to Philipolis, where he took over the keys from the Landrost without opposition, returning the same evening to Springfontein.

In order to understand Sir William's part in the affairs of the next ten days, it will be necessary to follow in detail the messages that passed daily between the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief and the Divisional General.

Troops sent to Wepener

On Monday, March 26, instructions were received directing that two squadrons of Brabant's Mounted Colonials from Aliwal North, together with the mounted infantry company of the Royal Scots already at Smithfield, should push on to Wepener, which lies fifty miles to the north-east of Smithfield.

On Tuesday, the 27th, the 1st Derbyshire Regiment and the 11th Brigade Division of the Royal Field Artillery were called up to complete a Division at headquarters, thus reducing Gatacre's small force by about 1,000 men.

On the same day Sir William telegraphed to Headquarters reporting a rumoured concentration of the enemy at Modder Poort, expressing his anxiety for the detachment that was marching on Wepener, and suggesting that he should reinforce the column. In reply he was informed that the Field-Marshal did not anticipate danger at Wepener, but that he concurred in the strengthening of the party there.

On March 28 the following telegram was received from Headquarters:

"If you have enough troops at your disposal, I should wish you to occupy Dewetsdorp will make road from here to Maseru safe preventing enemy's forces from using telegraph lines to the south let me know what you can do to this ends."[7]

[7] From True Copy, furnished by D.A.A.G. in 1900.

Now there are two versions of this telegram. The above is the version as it was received by General Gatacre at 9.40 a.m. on March 28. Between the words "Dewetsdorp" and "will" he mentally supplied the word "I" to fill in the sense. When, however, this important telegram was quoted by Lord Roberts in a despatch to the War Office (dated April 16, 1900), the following verbal variations occur. We find "I should like" for "I should wish"; the words "it would" take the place of "will"; "and prevent enemy" stands for "preventing enemy's forces"; and the last word "ends" appears in the singular, thus bringing it into the body of the message.[8] These differences will seem trifling to the reader, but the meaning of this telegram has since been questioned. Gatacre read it as an order to send a detachment to Dewetsdorp similar to the one already ordered to Wepener, and the writer of the Official History so reads it, even in the secondary form.[9]

[8] See Official History, vol. ii. app. vii. p. 614.

[9] See marginal note, Official History, vol. ii. p. 302.

Detachments

Dewetsdorp lies on the main road that runs from Bloemfontein south-east through Wepener into Basutoland; the distance from the capital to Dewetsdorp is forty miles, and it is twenty-five miles on to Wepener. A detachment sent there was therefore in far less danger than the post at Wepener, and was a source of strength to the latter. It was also known to Gatacre that General French was operating with a mounted force at Thaba'Nchu, so that he naturally concluded that the road Bloemfontein—Thaba'Nchu—Ladybrand, or Maseru, was strongly held. As he himself said in evidence before the Royal Commission, he "never sent them [the troops] there as an outpost, nor expected them to act as such, but merely to hold a post on an interior road."[10]

[10] See Report South African War Commission, vol. iii. p. 276.

On the same day, March 28, Gatacre sent this reply to the disputed telegram:

"Following moves are in progress, in view to covering whole country east of railway.

"Three squadrons Brabant's Horse moving Rouxville to Wepener; two will reach Wepener Sunday next (April 1), the third on Tuesday.

"One squadron Brabant's is moving to Bushman's Kop half-way between Rouxville and Wepener.

"One company Royal Scots Mounted Infantry reaches Wepener Sunday.

"Two companies 2nd Royal Irish, Rifles reach Dewetsdorp Sunday.

"One company Royal Irish Rifles and one section Mounted Infantry Royal Irish Rifles reach Helvetia to-morrow.

"Three companies Royal Irish Rifles at Smithfield with squadron Brabant's Horse."[11]

[11] See Official History, vol. ii. p. 303.

As Gatacre received no reply to the above message he assumed that his dispositions were approved. In furtherance of Lord Roberts's wishes he slightly strengthened the post at Dewetsdorp next day by sending there some mounted infantry of the Northumberland Fusiliers. These changes were also telegraphed to Headquarters.

Although such detachment duty naturally fell to the Third Division as line-of-communication troops, still it would seem that the Headquarters Staff, in calling upon Gatacre to furnish these remote garrisons, had overlooked the fact that his Division had never numbered more than four infantry battalions, and had not at any time ever possessed any cavalry. By thus scattering the few men at Gatacre's disposal, the Commander-in-Chief reduced the numbers available for guarding the hundred miles of railway.

"The railway was necessarily the first care; if that was seriously broken, the army at Bloemfontein, if it did not actually starve, must be injuriously affected."[12]

[12] Ibid. vol. ii. p. 306

That this question of the adequate protection of the railway line became a week later a great anxiety to Lord Roberts we know from his urgent telegram of April 5, in which he tells Gatacre to satisfy himself that the guards are properly placed, sufficiently entrenched, and on the alert.

Great distances

There were at Headquarters in March 1900 three brigades of Cavalry, and three divisions of Infantry, with their complement of Horse and Field Artillery, which with other units made up a fighting force of 34,000 men. As has been said, Dewetsdorp and Wepener were both nearer to Bloemfontein than to Springfontein, the headquarters of the Third Division. From this place Gatacre had to arrange for the supplies for posts which were eighty and ninety miles away, and that this could not be done without difficulty we see in his letter to me, dated March 31, 1900:

"After reaching this we have been occupied in covering the whole country from Wepener to Philipolis, and all the country between them and the Orange River, with patrols and small parties, and it is such a business getting supplies to all these scattered detachments. We find we can make them somewhat self-supporting by making the farmers supply sheep, and they can get the farmers' wives to bake bread on payment. The roads generally speaking are good, not metalled, of course, but hard clay, which in dry weather are perfect to move upon; in wet weather they become slippery."

[Illustration: Map of India and Burma] (Transcriber's note: map omitted from this etext because too large to scan)

The same day the following telegram reached Gatacre from Bloemfontein:

"(With) Reference (to) telegram from Brabant to your Assistant Adjutant-General Springfontein repeated to Intelligence here, what reinforcement do you propose to send him? Boers are active on that side and have strong force between Ladybrand and Thabanchu. Brabant should be reinforced and supported."[13]

[13] From True Copy, furnished by D.A.A.G., 1900.

In response to this Gatacre ordered up troops from the Colonial Corps at Aliwal North, and pushed forward the support at Bushman's Kop.

On that same Saturday, March 31, he was directed to arrange for a battalion of infantry and a battery to be at Leeuwberg Kopje, eight miles from Bloemfontein, at daybreak of April 1. Three companies of the Northumberland Fusiliers and five companies of the Royal Scots were accordingly sent. When replying to this order he adds that he has no infantry left, and only one battalion from which to find guards for the railway line.

A third message from Headquarters reached Gatacre at 10.47 that night (the 31st), which informed him of the engagement near the Waterworks, told him to exercise special caution on the railway, and to draw in all outlying forces, adding that "it would appear that Dewetsdorp is too far advanced for security."[14]

[14] Ibid.

In response, Gatacre immediately sent off various telegrams by which he hoped to get in touch with his detachments, and also started off a despatch-rider; but the distance was eighty miles, as has been said.

At Dewetsdorp

It will be remembered that the troops from Smithfield and Helvetia that were assembling at Dewetsdorp were due to reach their destination on Sunday, April 1. On his arrival the Officer Commanding the three companies Royal Irish Fusiliers—

"was greeted with information from local sources that a Boer commando was expected soon to appear before the village, and, selecting ground which commanded the place, he began to strengthen his position, which he covered by outposts. In the evening a patrol to the north of Dewetsdorp was fired upon. He informed the Headquarters Third Division of this by telegram, and also of the rumoured approach of the commando, which, however, was not credited by the Intelligence Officer who accompanied his detachment."[15]

[15] See Official History, vol. ii. p. 306.

At midnight Gatacre's telegram arrived directing him "that he should immediately move his troops to Reddersburg," and closing with the words "matter urgent." At 3.30 a.m. next morning (April 2) the despatch-rider appeared with the same instructions.

In the meantime the engagement known as Sannah's Post had taken place on Saturday, March 31, only thirty miles away. As this unfortunate affair directly affected the Proclamation detachments, I hope it will not seem out of place if I give a brief sketch of what had been taking place a little farther north.

The main water-supply for the city of Bloemfontein was drawn from a point on the Modder River, where it is crossed by the high road running due east to Thaba'Nchu. This point, which is about twenty-one miles from the capital, is known as Sannah's Post. On March 15 the "somewhat inadequate force of 300 mounted infantry" was sent out to hold the Waterworks, and two days later a mounted column, 1,500 strong, under General French, was pushed on to Thaba'Nchu, twenty-one miles farther east. From this force Colonel Pilcher was detached, and through his operations definite news of the enemy's whereabouts was obtained and duly forwarded to Bloemfontein. General French was soon after called back to Headquarters, and left Colonel Broadwood in command of the column. It is clear that—

"Broadwood, with his 1,500 men, had never been intended to fight battles where he was, forty miles from any supporting force, but only to publish Lord Roberts's proclamations, and to collect arms from any Boers that might surrender."[16]

[16] See Times History, vol. iv. p. 33.

So that when he discovered that General Olivier was behind him with 5,000 men, he had no choice but to retire on the Waterworks.

After the death of Joubert the control of the Boer forces fell into the hands of younger men, the most conspicuous amongst whom was Christian de Wet. Having conceived a plan for capturing the Waterworks guard, he placed his forces astride of the road, and hid them in the bed of a stream about five miles west of the Modder River. When the day arrived for the execution of his plan, he found that the mounted column was also delivered into his hand.

Sannah's Post

A messenger got through who carried news of Broadwood's plight between Olivier and De Wet to Lord Roberts, and he sent out an infantry division under General Colvile. But the two forces failed to work together, and the enemy triumphed. This was on Saturday, March 31.

"The material result of De Wet's achievements at Sannah's Post was the acquisition of seven guns, much ammunition, many horses and waggons, and a large number of prisoners. By occupying the Waterworks, which did not again pass into Lord Roberts's hands until April 23, he inflicted great injury on the health of the troops in Bloemfontein. The moral effect of his success was enormous. It confirmed the resolution of those of the Free State burghers who still remained in arms; it encouraged the waverers; it afforded De Wet the occasion for putting strong pressure upon the considerable numbers of his fellow countrymen who, declaring themselves tired of the war, had given in their rifles to the British troops, and had been allowed to return to their farms as peaceful non-combatants; and it gave those who followed him good heart for his next stroke."[17]

[17] See Official History, vol. ii. pp. 298, 299.

On the Sunday following Gatacre was summoned to Headquarters, and had interviews with the Commander-in-Chief, of which he has left the following memorandum:

"On Sunday, April 1, I proceeded to Bloemfontein by order to see Lord Roberts, arriving late at night. Early next morning (April 2) I saw the Field-Marshal, and he told me he was placing me in command of the Orange Free State territory held by us, and was giving me ten other battalions, which were to be used as under, i.e. six Militia battalions to be distributed along the railway south of Bloemfontein, and in the country east and west of it; the four battalions were, with the four I had already (the 2nd wing of the Berkshire was to be called up from Cape Colony), to make up a Division with which I was to proceed at once to Dewetsdorp and operate along the Basuto border through Ladybrand, Clocolan, Ficksburg country, to clear Lord Roberts's right flank, to enable him to advance northwards. He directed me to draw up for his approval a scheme of distribution for the six Militia battalions through the country. This I did, and submitted it on the spot. The Field-Marshal was anxious to know by what date I considered I could concentrate my troops at Reddersburg, ready to move, after relief by the Militia battalions. I replied that, on the assumption that I received the Militia battalions on the 6th, I could move on April 17 (reliefs had to be effected, transport collected, supplies, etc., etc.). This date was considered satisfactory by Lord Roberts. The same evening (April 2) about 9.30 p.m. Lord Roberts again explained to me carefully what he wished, that he was anxious for me to move as soon as possible, and that I was to proceed to Springfontein immediately, and commence preparations. This I did, morning of April 3, by first train."

It would appear that nothing was said during the Monday spent at Bloemfontein about the detachment that was moving that very day from Dewetsdorp through Reddersburg back to the railway at Bethanie. No anxiety seems to have been felt at Headquarters as to what De Wet would do next.

A relief column

At about 7 o'clock on Tuesday evening, April 3, information was brought into Edenburg that the Dewetsdorp detachment was surrounded at Mostert's Hoek, a ridge three or four miles east of Reddersburg. This disquieting news was telegraphed to Lord Roberts, who sent an urgent message to Gatacre directing him to prepare to move on Reddersburg, and asking what troops he had available. The reply stated that there were forty scouts and about twenty-five mounted infantry at Springfontein, a Brigade Division Field Artillery at Bethanie, and about two companies mounted infantry at or near Edenburg. A return message informed Gatacre that the Field-Marshal was sending five companies of the Cameron Highlanders by train to Bethanie, and told the General that he was on no account to go without them.

The order to turn out reached the regiment just before midnight; they had three miles to march to the station, and were entrained at 3.30 a.m.

That same morning, April 4, at about 6 o'clock, the scouts and some mounted infantry started from Bethanie to reconnoitre towards Reddersburg, which was about twelve miles distant, and an hour later they sent in a message that they could hear the firing.

When the five companies of the Camerons and the mounted infantry from Edenburg had joined him at Bethanie, Gatacre started at the head of the column. At 9.30 a.m. another message was sent back by the Officer Commanding the scouts to say that firing had ceased for half an hour. Gatacre pushed on till he reached a ridge west of the village, but he was still five or six miles from the scene of the fight when he learnt through a loyal colonial that two hours earlier the British had surrendered to a force of Boers between two and three thousand strong.

Too late

It was then 11 o'clock, and the relief column was at least five miles from the scene of the misfortune.

The General called a halt, and eventually decided that his troops, being mainly infantry, could do nothing in the way of pursuit of a mounted enemy. After resting for an hour or so, Gatacre came to the conclusion that the safer course would be to retire on the railway, for it must be remembered that he had received the most precise orders "not to move against the Boers until he had satisfied himself that their strength and position warranted his doing so with success."[18]

[18] See Official History, vol. ii. p. 311.

About four miles had been accomplished on the return journey, when a messenger arrived from the Chief Staff Officer ordering the column to return and occupy Reddersburg. Accordingly the men retraced their steps and settled down for the night as best they could; but at midnight a telegram reached the General containing very urgent counter-orders:

"The C.-in-C. directs that you retire to Bethanie during this night so as to reach Bethanie to-morrow morning, as our information leads us to believe that the enemy are moving down in the Reddersburg direction and you are not strong enough to oppose a large force."[19]

[19] From original text.

The column started off again at 2 a.m. April 5.[20]

[20] The movements of the Relief Column are taken from The 79th News, special issue entitled "South African War Record," p. 17. The hours differ slightly from those given in the Official History.

We are not concerned here with the fatigues of the march from Dewetsdorp, nor with the particular stress which led to capitulation. It is enough to know that although a messenger had succeeded in getting through the enemy's lines, and although the casualties numbered only ten killed and thirty-five wounded out of 591 men of the regular army, some one betrayed his comrades' honour, and the whole party was captured.[21] If this column had been able to hold on an hour or so longer, there would have been no Reddersburg incident. In the same way, if more prompt and more energetic measures had been taken from Headquarters to rescue the column from the perilous situation created by the defeat at Sannah's Post, the little force could easily have been brought into Bloemfontein with the help of cavalry. As a matter of fact there were on April 2 three cavalry brigades camped at Springfield, Rustfontein, and Bloemspruit respectively, all of which lie just outside the capital to the south and east.

[21] NOTE.—The Officer Commanding was exonerated from all blame in this matter.

In the meantime, what had become of the other detachments? At Wepener, four days later, a force of 1,898 men, composed almost entirely of Colonial Corps, under the command of Colonel Dalgety of the Cape Mounted Rifles, was attacked by De Wet and blockaded for fourteen days; but so skilfully, under the guidance of Major Ronald Maxwell, R.E., did the men entrench themselves, that the total casualties at the end of the siege were only 169.

The other columns, at Smithfield, Helvetia, and Rouxville, were only saved by the skilful handling of Major Allen of the Royal Irish Rifles, who collected them all and withdrew on Aliwal North, and by the heroic spirit of the men themselves. The detachment from Helvetia marched seventy-three miles in fifty-two hours, and that from Smithfield forty-five miles in thirty-six hours. General Brabant sent out some empty waggons to meet the exhausted infantry, but, though almost barefoot and reeling with fatigue, they refused to accept the lift, saying that if they did so the good name of the regiment would suffer.

The story of all these detachments must be looked at as a whole, as a policy. It was the defeat at Sannah's Post which, coming "like a bolt from the blue," changed the whole situation; "the dispositions of the troops, designed to restore peace, were (now) not merely inadequate, they were wholly inappropriate."[22] It is difficult to see how the position of the Dewetsdorp detachment differs from that of the others, all of which were but the execution of the policy sketched in the telegram from the Field-Marshal to the War Office of March 21, given on page 243.

[22] See Official History, vol. ii. p. 305.

On April 9 Sir Herbert Chermside arrived at Springfontein to take over the command of the Third Division, and the next day the following letter reached Sir William Gatacre:

"From Chief of the Staff, S.A.F.F.

"SIR,

"I am directed by the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief in South Africa to inform you that his lordship has decided, though with much regret, to relieve you of your present command. You will therefore be good enough to make over the command of the 3rd Division to Major-General Sir Herbert Chermside, G.C.M.G., C.B., and proceed to England at an early date.

"I have the honour to be, Sir, "Your obedient servant, "B. DUFF, Colonel, for Major-General, "Chief of the Staff, S.A.F. Force."

When the camp woke up on the morning of the 11th their ex-commander was gone. The following letter reflects the spirit in which his staff officers looked at the matter.

"REDDERSBURG, April 12, 1900.

"It is with a heavy heart indeed that I write this. Why, oh why did they treat our General so hardly, so unfairly? We know nothing except the bare facts. All are sorry and grieved, and many question the fairness, the justice of the action taken. No one worked harder than he did. I may say it would have been impossible to do so. He never spared himself. Luck, cursed luck, has been all against him. I heard two days ago from England that they believed that he had attacked at Stormberg with two battalions when he had eight at his command,—such a gross mistake! Now the luck having turned, as it appeared, the unfortunate Royal Irish Rifles get caught again, although no possible blame could be attached to him by reasonable men. I worked out the orders and telegrams he had given and received myself, and I know what was done. They seem to have attributed the blame of it to him—most unfairly. He was so good about it and so plucky, blaming no one and taking the blow so courageously,—man could not be braver under any circumstances. All the interest of the campaign has gone for me, and —— feels for him as much as I do.

"We shall never have a chief whom we can serve more loyally, who was always considerate and even-tempered, and spared himself so little. His faults, if I may use the expression, are his virtues, devotion and loyalty and energy—to use all in the service of his country. It has been a great blow to us all.

"Believe me, we feel it as the loss of a personal and dear friend."

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