A perfect spy system - Captain Naude and his female spies of great service - The attitude of the American Consuls
During the last two years of the war, the Boers had a perfect system of communication with Pretoria and Johannesburg. Captain J. J. Naude, a young Boer about twenty-three years old, was chief spy, and it was he who organized the force that did the work. In Pretoria he had seven Boer ladies, all smart and daring, and all prominent in Pretoria society. Their duty was to collect all information, official and otherwise, about what the English were doing in Pretoria, and what their intentions might be, have it typewritten and ready for delivery every Wednesday evening. Every Monday, dressed in an English officer's uniform, Captain Naude would work his way through wire fences, forts, blockhouses and three lines of guards, into the town and stop at the home of a Mrs. Van W . Sometimes he would stop with one of his other spies, at the home of a Mrs. M . Another one of his spies, a Mrs. H , often drove with him in a carriage through the streets during the day, and visited certain important places. The English soldiers invariably saluted Captain Naude as he passed by them. In the evening, at the house where he was staying, Miss M , known as "Little Megs," Mrs. A , possibly Mrs. J , Mrs. M , and Mrs. H , would assemble to talk over the situation, put everything in proper form for Captain Naude, and then quietly return to their homes. These ladies would in person deliver all letters brought in by Captain Naude from the burghers in the field, and he would take back the answers. He conducted his affairs in Johannesburg in the same way, but here his assistants brought out a typewritten paper every week, telling the people what had happened hi the field, which the English tried to keep concealed. These typewritten papers would be posted up early in the morning, and before the English authorities could find and tear them down, hundreds of people had read them.
Little Megs, who since the surrender has changed her name to Mrs. Jan , took desperate chances on many occasions, and actually supplied the Boers near Pretoria with ammunition, clothing, boots, etc. Her father's farm was a few miles out of town, and she would get a permit to go there and back and bring in vegetables. She always drove out with four horses to her cart, and came back with two, leaving the others with the commando. Sometimes, English officers would accompany her, and often she felt much alarmed, but her coolness and nerve always brought her out all right. Several times she was under heavy fire, being caught between the Boer and English lines. Many shot and shell passed over her head and many came near catching her, but never did she waver. When all was over, she would pursue her way and deliver her contraband goods. She was hi constant communication with a young lady, a cousin of hers, in far away Cape Colony. This cousin was a Miss Maggie Joubert, about twenty-three years old, and one of the pluckiest and most daring young ladies in the world. Her people are wealthy, but are Africanders to the backbone, and took the desperate chance of losing their property in order to help the cause of freedom. Most of our information as to what was going on in Cape Colony came from letters written by Miss Maggie Joubert to her little cousin Megs in Pretoria. Little Megs would give this information to Captain Naude, and he, in turn, would bring it out to the commandos, so our lines of communication were complete and our information genuine. Miss Joubert would write on one side of the paper an ordinary family letter, and leave the opposite side blank. On the blank side she would write with lemon juice for her ink, and tell all about the English, where they were, what they were doing, the location of forts, etc. She would also tell all about the Boer forces, where they were and what they were doing. She also sent these letters to prisoners in the far away Islands, and kept them well informed. She knew at least one in every place who knew her method.
For two years she kept this up, but about six months before peace was made, the English began to suspect her, because she wrote so many letters. To one of her letters to little Meg in Pretoria they applied the hot iron, and out came the lemon juice as black as ink. This exposed her, for the English now read all about the movements of their troops in the Colony, their location, etc. Two police were sent to arrest her at once. She was carried away to Wellington, and locked up in a cell. After remaining there for a week, she was taken to the Paarl and imprisoned. Neither her people or any one else was allowed to see her.
After a few weeks she was tried by a military court. This court tried to find out from her whether she had given any information to the enemy outside their lines. She always answered: "Yon have my letters, and must find out for yourselves." Little Megs was inside the English lines,and she was never in any way suspected of being a spy. The court found Miss Joubert guilty of treason, and sentenced her to five years' hard labor. She told the court that she could stand just as much as they could give her. She was returned to her cell and very closely confined.
Lord Kitchener commuted the sentence to six months' imprisonment without hard labor. The matron of the prison secured her some silks and she spent her time making fancy articles. In the evening she would sing the Volksleid (National Anthem) and then say the Boer prisoner's prayer, one verse of which is as follows:
"When shall I be, shall I be returning
To my dear old plaats, to my good old home
Where the duiker, spring-bok, and Koedoe roam
And the hot fire of freedom is burning?"
Miss Joubert's daily rations consisted of one bottle of milk, one pound of bread, and one pound of meat. This food without change for six months, proved too much for her. She fell very ill, and how she lived to the end of the time, she cannot explain. She was considered a dangerous character, and a close damp cell must be her home, and in that home she was doomed to live or die on food that would probably kill a Kaffir.
Major Benson of the Intelligence Department, by way of consolation, told her that after enjoying the blessings of English liberty for two years, she had acted like a cur, and therefore deserved to suffer. She replied that she was proud of all her acts, and she was ready to suffer for them.
Several other ladies are lying in prison cells today charged with giving the Boers information, and probably will remain there until death comes to their rescue and frees them. Miss Joubert and her comrades who have been locked within prison cells all know what it is to be grossly insulted by the English officer, and all have suffered. Little Megs and her associates in Pretoria, and Miss Joubert and her companions in Cape Colony are all noble and grand women. The flame of patriotism glowed in their hearts. All were ready to be sacrificed to save the Africander people from being shackled with the chains of the slave. All spurned danger and faced death itself. They are patriots, and their names will endure.
Captain Naude, the commander of the lady spies in Pretoria, was well known in the town, and his young wife and his people resided there. The English knew him, too, and they were aware of the fact that he was coming in and going out. They had a standing reward of $10,000 for him, dead or alive. Every few days every house in Pretoria would be carefully searched, and the three lines of guards put on the lookout for him.
Nothing was left undone to catch or kill him, yet he went in every Monday evening and came out every Wednesday evening. He is the coolest, most determined and daring young man I ever saw, and I believe he is the most wonderful spy known, when all the circumstances are considered. He wore a slight mustache, an English officer's uniform, could talk but little English and would drive in an open carriage through the principal streets of the town in open daylight; yet he was never caught, though hundreds of detectives were watching for him. Many letters has he taken in for me, and he never failed to bring me back the answer. In my eyes he is a marvel, and the Africander people are heavily indebted to him for the services he rendered to them and their country. Long may he live.
I must say a few words about the American Consuls in South Africa. I was in that country eight years, and during this time I naturally became acquainted with some of them. In the first place, I must say that their pay is so small that it is almost impossible for them to make both ends meet, it matters not how economically they live. Good men and smart men will naturally refuse such an appointment, unless they have spare money of their own to spend. The first consul who was sent to Pretoria was C. E. Macrum, and he was a good and smart man, and an excellent one for the place, as well as a genuine American. He was perfectly conversant with all the causes that led up to the war, and he knew that the English forced the Boers into it for no other reason than to take the Johannesburg gold fields; therefore, a few months after the war began, he was recalled. Young Adelbert Hay, son of John Hay, Secretary of State, was appointed in his place. When he arrived in Pretoria it was plain that he was an Englishman, both in heart and soul. I have an idea that he was so educated before he left Washington City, judging huii by his conversation. He had not been there more than two months before he changed, and became pro-Boer both in heart and soul, and so remained till death. He was thrown in close contact with the English in Pretoria, soon learned what an Englishman really was, why he was fighting the Boer, his methods of fighting, etc., and he became thoroughly convinced that all he had been taught to believe about the English, and the war, was utterly false. He learned of their barbarity in war, their treachery and unscrupulousness, and he saw their treatment of the Boer women and children in the prison camps, which he declared to be sickening. I don't know but if the whole truth were known, I think it would be found that the powers that be in America came to the conclusion that young Mr. Hay was not the proper man for his position in Pretoria, and he therefore resigned. When the news of his sudden death reached South Africa, the Africander people felt deeply grieved, and at several of their evening services his name was affectionately mentioned in their prayers.
W. D. Gordon, the Consular Agent in Johannesburg, is unquestionably the ablest and strongest representative that the United States has ever had in South Africa. He is a genuine American, a successful business man, and as Consular Agent he carefully guards American interests and American citizens, while by his honesty, uprightness and openness, he commands the respect of the whole people. The English respect him because they are afraid of him, and know that they can neither deceive him nor win him by flattery. He receives no salary as Consular Agent, yet the position costs him much time and trouble. No act of his will ever bring discredit to the American people or his Country.
It was but a few weeks before war was declared that I met Consul General Stowe of Cape Town, and although I was convinced that he was American, yet I could not make out whether he was an Anglo-American or a genuine Englishman. In a conversation with him in Johannesburg, he told me that on hostilities breaking out, he intended to come to Johannesburg and hoist the Stars and Stripes over Heath's Hotel as his headquarters. Now, Heath's Hotel was the chief rendezvous of the most rabid Englishmen, and it was very nmch feared that when war once began, the Boers would destroy the building. Consul Stowe was determined to prevent this, if possible, by placing his august person in the door, and waving the Stars and Stripes above his head. Of course, the Boers never had any idea of destroying this hotel, or any other property, but the English press tried to make the world believe otherwise. By way of retort, I told Consul Stowe that if he hoisted the American flag over that hot bed of rebellion, we would set fire to the other and adjoining buildings, and that if he were unfortunate enough to be caught in the general conflagration, he would have no one to -blame but himself. He changed his mind then, and said that, after all, he thought he could be of more service in Cape Town than in Johannesburg. During the war, Consul Stowe was very prominent in English circles, and no doubt he served them well. On one occasion, on the 4th of July, an American lady intended to give a dinner to some Americans, and she thought of inviting some English also. As some of the latter were sure to come, she thought it would show courtesy if she put up a British flag as well as the American flag. She spoke to Consul Stowe on the subject, and he told her that most certainly she must hoist the British flag. He further told her, that she must float the British flag on top of the pole, and the American flag below it on the same pole. This will give the American people a slight insight into the character of the American Consul-General at Cape Town.
On another occasion, he concluded to visit Pretoria for reasons best known to himself. Above the finest carriage in the long train, he hoisted the American flag, and then he, etc., etc., were ready to move out. All was smooth sailing until far into the Free State. Suddenly the train stopped, firing was heard, and the Boers were all around the unfortunates. Soon the white flag was hoisted and the train captured. Captain Daanie Theron, the famous Boer scout, the little man so dearly loved by the whole Africander race, with his hundred daring patriots had committed the terrible offence of firing upon a train floating the Stars and Stripes, and capturing the American Consul-General of Cape Town, the great Colonel Stowe. He captured something else, too, for there were on that train about seventy-five English soldiers, and they fell into his hands, together with their rifles and ammunition. In Colonel Stowe's carriage there were some lordly looking individuals, too, but as all were Colonel Stowe's private secretaries, Captain Theron did not disturb them. He allowed the carriage floating the Stars and Stripes to proceed on its journey to Pretoria. I never heard, but it is safe to say, that he landed his secretaries in Pretoria, and that at a swell banquet many stirring and patriotic' speeches were made.
Of course, the English press was full of glowing accounts of the way in which the savage Boers had insulted the American flag, but not one of them thought to mention anything about English prisoners and private secretaries. No doubt Colonel Stowe was a great credit to the American Government, but I would not like to add " and also to the American people," because I am not seeking trouble.