William Cullen Bryant.
The preceding chapter will have made it clear that the year 1900 had seen almost the whole of the two Republics reduced to chaos. From January onwards helpless families had been wandering homeless, captured, exiled, deported hither and thither on foot, in trucks, trolleys, waggons, and trains. It may be long before they can fully speak or write the story of that twelve months. Some women here and there wrote cautiously to friends, intimating rather than dwelling upon their experiences. It is my object in this chapter to give a few of these letters, written as they were unconsciously, and with no view to publication, so that by this means the story may be told in their own words by themselves. To these are added accounts from a few people who occupied no official position, but gave them help in their troubles. Space forbids including all the letters which came from one district after another in gloomy succession. In nearly every case I hold the originals of these letters, though some of them have already been published separately. The name of the writer where withheld is known to myself, but prudence in some cases forbids its publication for the present.
The spirit in which the bulk of the Boer women faced their troubles is well conveyed in this anecdote—
“ In the beginning of this year, when the cause of the Boers began to look uncertain, their leaders appointed a council to consider the dangers of the situation. On that occasion, General Smuts, in the presence of his men, of whom many had their wives with them, addressed his own wife in these words:—
“‘ The moment is come in which we must choose between surrender and war to the utmost, war without end. I have duties to you, wife, and to our children. I must fulfil these duties. I must not hesitate. I must surrender and sacrifice the independence of the people. But you, I, and our children, we have also duties towards the country. And if we are true to these duties, then we must sacrifice ourselves.*
“The General’s wife opened her mouth to speak, but her husband checked her with a sign, and continued: ‘First you must know all, and then answer. If we choose the country, the sacrifices we must make are immense. Listen to me well I must expose my life day by day, hour by hour, as long as the aim is not yet reached. In other words, I must forget all those I love—and you, wife, you and your children, you must forget every claim that you have upon me. Let us say good-bye to each other as if we were already stepping into the valley of death, and then go away as far as possible, that no temptation come over us to see each other again and to falter in the face of the enemy. Choose now between ourselves and our country.’
“ The woman answered these three words: ‘Go, John— farewell! ’ And all the women said even so.” [Wives of the Boers,” Upright Harlem Newspaper, 1900.]
For the first few months of the year little was heard of the privations of the women and children, though it was known that their troubles had begun. As early as May 4 the correspondent of the Manchester Guardian, describing his stay at Brandfort, dwells upon the sorrowing families there, and calls it “ the town of miserable women.”
An Englishwoman who lived at Potchefstroom wrote to me about the state of that town in June and the succeeding months. She says—
“ Last June, and through the ensuing months, there were several families whose relations were fighting and had done much harm turned out; their goods were confiscated and used by the English officers, and in many cases sold by auction on the open veld. Naturally on the English evacuating Potchefstroom the Boers endeavoured to give these families back their property, but much was either destroyed or stolen. On the English again coming they took the same measures as before. In September last the wife and family of Commandant Francis were treated shamefully ; they were turned out of the house, some of the children being sick, and would have died had it not been for kind friends who fed and kept them from starvation. The mother herself was compelled to go with the English. At this time, too, there were in the town many from Griqualand West, who had sought refuge and had been living on the kindness of us all. (I gave them an empty house, and my husband helped them with a few bits of furniture and food, as most of them had nothing, not even a bed.) These people, who had been living under the English flag, had been terrified by reports that the English would kill or treat them even worse, so that many of them tried to get away to Boer laagers for protection. Those who were left in Potchef-stroom were disgracefully handled by rude soldiers, forced to climb into waggons, some poor women on the eve of confinement, and were taken away. I heard as a fact that two poor women of this latter class died from the effects. . . . The English evacuated Potchefstroom August 9. The next date of their coming was September 10, when they arrested my husband, and sent Kaffirs into town all round to arrest Hollanders, Boers, and those who were not allowed to remain. They all left on the 16th. Captain Maxwell (the only officer who treated women in a kind manner) wrote to me very kindly the morning my husband was taken. . . . The English did not return till October 29. One night some sniping commenced at 7, while we were at supper, myself and my little boys, and we ran into the front room, laid flat on the floor, and there had to remain till the small hours of the morning. This sniping occurring rather oftener than was pleasant, we took to sleeping in town, and on our return about a week after were ordered to remove. Some of my belongings, such as beds, books, etc., which stood in the outside room, were stolen, and when I asked for the bed, which I wanted to sell, I was told I could not have it. . . .
“ One more word about the women and children, who are now the chief sufferers in this sad war. I think there are between two and three hundred brought away from their homes round Potchefstroom, no proper provision whatever having previously been made for them,[Sept. and Oct. 1900. Birth of Potchefstroom Camp.] mostly all deposited on the veld, or given such asylum as can be got quite irrespective of numbers and sex; these poor souls, before being able to obtain food, had to stand hours outside an office door waiting each her turn for admission to ask permit to get her ‘daily bread.’ When the permit is procured, she, with her fellow-sufferers, trudge off to another office, and there stand again and wait till her turn comes to receive perhaps one or more slips of paper permitting her to obtain a few meagre groceries and milk, for which each must send at a stated hour. I have heard myself the officer telling women to come at 7.30 a.m. to receive their food, and having come were told to come back again at ten.
“ I could fill many pages with the sufferings that well-to-do people are at present enduring. I will tell you anything you wish to know, as this subject lies very near my woman’s heart.” Mrs. George Moll, the wife of a prisoner of war, tells her own story in writing to Mrs. Steytler of Cape Town. In this instance publication was asked for—
“ You will no doubt be surprised to get a letter from me, who am quite a stranger to you, but I feel as if I must make our case known to you noble women of the Cape, so that you can publish it in one of the Cape papers. What I intend telling you I declare before God is the solemn and honest truth.
“ My husband was taken prisoner at Elandslaagte thirteen months ago. I had to manage alone with my two children, which I did very well until the British came to Vrede the 23rd August. We lived about an hour from the town. At the time when they came I was staying in town, as I had just had a baby which was a month old. The British went out to the farm and destroyed all my furniture and clothing. From there they went to the veld and took all the cattle belonging to me. The herdsman told them that the owner of the cattle had been captured and that I was in town; but the answer was * she ought to have been here on the farm,’ and that they would take everything; so I was left without anything. The second time the British occupied Vrede (a month later), they first went to my sister’s house (Mrs. Cornelius Moll) and drove her and her children out of the house without anything, so she fled to my house. A little later they came and told us to keep ourselves in readiness to go to Standerton. We had only a few hours to get ready, when they sent a bullock waggon to load us up for the journey. We didn’t go very far when the side of the waggon gave way. We almost fell between the wheels. They shifted us into another old waggon a very little better. So we had to travel to Standerton. When we got there we were locked up in a dirty old schoolroom. The door was guarded by armed men. They brought us food after we were almost starved, which consisted of six tins of bully-beef and some biscuits (klinkers) in a dirty grain-bag, which was thrown down in front of us; the poor children could not eat the biscuits as they were too hard. Next morning early we were marched to the station, and ten of us were packed into a third-class compartment and the door was locked. We had to sit up straight for two whole days and a ight without being allowed to go out once. Our poor children wanted to get out but they could not. They were almost starved. They would not allow me to get food for my baby, who was then little more than two months old. She had to travel all the way, you may say, without anything. Miss Marie le Roux (who is now in Caledon) and I warmed some water over a candle (as I wasn’t allowed to buy spirits or anything) to mix a little condensed milk for the child. Along the road they told the Kaffirs to drive us nicely as they were going to marry us when we got to Natal. When we got here we had to stand for ever so long with our tired, hungry children, not knowing where to go. After a lot of bother we were marched off to a private boarding-house, and we were kept there for a week, when we got notice that we would have to pay our own expenses in the future. We had no money. We only left with a few pounds in our pockets. You can never imagine what we had to go through. We managed to hire a cottage, so we took in a few of our people who are on parole here—Mr. Enslin, our Dutch minister from Vrede, and a few others, so we have to manage along. We can hardly make ends meet. We heard from some of the inhabitants of Durban that the military say we asked them for protection, which is a falsehood—we never did anything of the kind. That’s why they say we were sent down here. We have to report ourselves every day like the men. My sister was very ill just before we left Vrede. She was taken away sick and has been sick ever since. She asked the doctor here for a certificate to show the military that the heat was too much for her.
“ Mrs. Homan has just come from Harrismith. She says a few days before she left the British brought in a lot of families from different farms. One poor lady was sick and had to rush into the first house she could get, and a few minutes after that she was confined.
“ It is most heartbreaking if you hear all these things, knowing how we had and have to suffer.”
Mrs. Van Vuuren, deported from her home in the Free State, wrote to Mrs. Koopmans de Wet in gratitude for help given when destitute—
“Cape Town, Sept. 18, 1900.
“ How shall I thank you for helping me in my great need— and one who is a perfect stranger to you ? Was it not good of our Heavenly Father to have given it in the heart of the lady in England to send you the money ?
“ I started cutting out at once, and now we have finished several under-garments. My costume is also finished. Thank you so very much for the great gifts.
“ If any one had said to me a year ago that I would before the end of 1900 be homeless and penniless in a strange country, I would have said, ‘It can never be.1 Ah, how many of my dear countrywomen are in the same condition; and, alas, many are worse off than myself . . .
“ You know so little about my sad experience, as I was here only two days when your loving heart found its way to a poor and lonely stranger, that I must tell you how I came here.
“ My dear husband and three sons left me last October 1899. My eldest boy, twenty-one years, was killed in January. How I felt the hand of the cruel war—yet not once have I regretted that he went out to fight for his dear country. Yes, for his own country, bought with the blood of forefathers, which the cruel money-seekers want to take from us.
“ The next blow was that my husband and two sons were sent to Ceylon.
“ How terrible the news was to us to hear that our dear ones must go so far away. Here in Cape Town we knew were many Christian hearts who did for our people what they could to sweeten the bitter cup. It is so hard to know that we are separated from our dear ones by a vast expanse of water. I was then left alone with my only little girl of nine years, and my darling boy of thirteen years.
“ All that last week of August last the report was that ‘ General De Wet was in the vicinity of Wepener.’ Our hearts rejoiced to think that once more would we poor women be protected. We were always in fear and trembling while the soldiers were about. They would open our doors, march in, search every room, and take whatever they fancied. Not once, but time after time.
“ Each Dutch woman had to sleep in her own house, and we were never allowed to get another friend in to sleep with us, whether alone with a Kaffir boy or otherwise. I have heart disease very badly, and have often tried to have some friend with me for the night, but could not get permission.
“ On Friday, August 31, another dark cloud was near. My little boy was busy giving the horses water, when two policemen took him away. I ran out and asked what was wrong, one turned round and said—‘We have orders from the Major to put him across the border (that is Basutoland) for some days.’ I asked for permission to bid him good-bye, but was not allowed. I felt my heart would break. My heart got a fearful shock. I was quite sick. We sent for the doctor. I thought my cup of sorrow was filled to the brim, and that if anything else came I would be crushed. But my cup was not yet full, for on the Sunday evening, when I was already in my room for the night, there came a loud and harsh knock. I at once felt it could bring no good news. My little girl at once said—‘ Oh, mother, it is surely a soldier. What shall we do ? Don’t open the door, mother.’ I knew I had to open the door or else they would burst it. I called out to wait for a moment. While putting on my bodice it was one long question : ‘Oh, what can it be? Is my cup not yet full?’ I opened the door. There were two policemen and a cart. ‘You have five minutes to get ready. You must go away by this cart for a few days. On Wednesday you will be back again.’ I asked if they would ask my neighbour to come over so that I might leave directions re my property. Of course that was refused. I asked why they were sending us away—they did not know, were only carrying out orders. I was told that I may not take a single thing with me. I asked if I might take a rug since it was a cold night. That the hearts of stone did not refuse. We travelled all that night to Bloemfontein—my little girl and I in a post-cart, and only one rug to cover us with. The next morning we were put on the train. A ticket was given us but nothing said. A few minutes later the train steamed out of the station. I was so taken aback, and everything came upon me so unexpectedly, that I had no time before for reflection. My last thought was Cape Town. But so it was, as the ticket said so. Imagine how I felt on seeing that. No money, no food or rugs. Neither did the kind, civilised Major think of seeing to the needs of a poor, barbarous Boer woman. If only he had told me to provide for a long journey. But our God, who has so wonderfully helped us in this unrighteous war, was with me even on the train. The wife of a Dutch minister travelled part of the way with me, and she helped us.
“ Never shall I forget the awful feeling of loneliness which got hold of me on arriving in this great and strange city. Where should I go ? Who is there to help me ? Alone and without money. May the Major’s wife never have a similar experience. At last some one took me to the Refugee Relief Committee. On hearing that I was a Boer woman, was told—‘ No, we cannot help you, your people are fighting against our people. Go to the Dutch ministers to help you.’ They gave me the address of the Rev. Van Heerden. He then brought me to this Home, where I was most kindly received. I at once felt easier. I was then amongst my own people. I immediately wrote to Colonel Heyman at the Castle, saying the military sent me down here and they were to provide for me. His reply was—‘ We know nothing about you and can have nothing to do with you.1 If only I could go back to my home. Then I would be nearer my darling little boy. It is so terribly hard to be torn away from kith and kin like this. And what is so hard is that mine is not an isolated case, but there are hundreds of such cases. Never can you people down here know what we, women and young innocent girls, have to suffer. Do you wonder that we cannot bow down to English rule? Not if you knew everything. We are willing to suffer more, and for another year, if only,we get our independence back. That is all we want. No gold or silver. Will our faithful God then not hear us ?
“ I must write no more, as I feel it is exciting me.
“ May our dear Heavenly Father crown you and the dear unknown English lady with His richest blessing, and spare you both to be a bright and cheerful ray of light to many a sorrowing heart. Once more thanking you very much,—I remain, yours gratefully, Gertruida Van Vuuren.”
This was written in those far-off days when as yet it was not held credible that women should be turned penniless from their j homes, and deported at the will of the military. A lady in Cape ( Town thinking, therefore, that there must be some mistake, wired J to the Officer Commanding Wepener—
“ Cannot Mrs. Van Vuuren return to her home ? At whose expense is she here ? ”
The reply received was as follows:—
“I cannot have Mrs. Van Vuuren here. She is on her own expense so far as I am concerned. She may live where she likes except in the districts of Moroka and Wepener.
“ Major Wright,
Officer Commanding Wepener.”
The next letter is from Miss Ellie Cronje to Miss Hauptfleisch.
“ Wellington, Cape Colony, Nov. 6, 1900.
“ No doubt you will be very surprised to hear from me, and wonder why we are at Wellington.
“ My mother, a lady friend, and I were sent here by the military authority.
“ Knowing what an interest you take in our people, I would like to give you an account of my experience during this war. I hope you will understand, after having read my story, how much the homeless women really do suffer in the Free State. My story is quite true. Our farm lies three hours from Winburg.
“ My father, General Cronje, who served in Natal, and later on in the Free State, and four brothers, joined the commandoes in the beginning of October, the fifth brother left for the front on the 8th of January. One of the four who went first, being ill, came home, but for a short time only. Two of my brothers were taken prisoners, one with General Cronje in February, and one after being wounded at Koedoo’s Rand was taken prisoner at Bloemfontein. On the roth of May we had our last visit from my father, since then we have not seen him.
“ My mother, a lady teacher from a neighbouring village, and myself, with our servants, were alone on the farm after May ioth. A week after that date General Macdonald camped for the night on the farm. Next day we received our passes from two policemen sent out to the farm by order of the provost-marshal. General Colville with his force passed a few days later, they also camped on the farm for the night; the General sending up a night-watch to guard the house, only a few of the soldiers called at the house to buy food. On July 6 General Brabant camped about half an hour’s distance from the house, remaining for a few days. Lieutenant Morris came to the house, with his men and other soldiers; they bought food, some paying for what they got and others not. They poured into every room in the house except my mother’s bedroom; they took many things from the sitting, dining, and bedrooms. The house was a fairly large one, containing drawing-room, dining-room, six bedrooms, kitchen, and pantries, a verandah and stoep run round three sides. There was a poster on the door of the waggon-house, given by order of the provost-marshal, saying that nothing was to be removed without his orders; of this they took no notice, and took our bullock-waggon, horse-waggon, mealies, harness, and vegetables, also a load of forage, 12 oxen, poultry, and other things. We asked Lieutenant Morris for a receipt, he said we should get one from his men, but they said they had no right to give receipts, so we got nothing for all these things. Our oxen were sent to Ficksburg by one of our native servants, who on his return showed us—gave us—his pass, which stated that he was not to be interfered with as he had been sent in charge of ‘ Captured Stock ’; this pass we kept for future use, but after a little while the ‘ boy ’ demanded it, and for fear of annoyance we gave it to him. After this troops passed several times, but gave us no trouble. A force again passed in September; we asked a captain who the General was, and he told us General Colville; this was not so, for we soon found that it was some one else. A few officers with their soldiers (Highlanders) called at the house to buy eggs, butter, and ham, which they payed for. They were very nice. Then some other officers and men came, who were very uncivil. They took the cart, etc., and cleared the waggon-house, leaving us no means of getting about. They took dried fruit and blankets, and from the loft even servants’ clothing was taken. An officer marched into the kitchen, and asked all sorts of silly questions—did we do any work ? who killed our pigs and sheep for us? He went into the pantry and said, 4 I’d better take all the things (canned fruit, etc.) or else you will give and make nice things for the Boers when they come again.’ In the dining-room he told me he was going to bum the house, and asked what reasons could I give that he should not do so. I said, 4 In the first place it is cruel to treat families as you are treating them, and in the second place what is to become of my poor mother?’ He said, 4 Oh, you must not think of your old mother now, when the house is burnt you must go and live with the Kaffirs; you will like that, won’t you?’ To my mother he said, 4Go and fetch your old man by his beard and fasten him to the table and tell him to plough his lands.’ He also said we would not get an inch of ground even if my father did come back, and, further, that we were the most cunning, slyest, cleverest people he had ever had to do with. 4 You send the Boers nice things, have news of your father, and when we come and ask where the Boers are you pretend to be quite innocent, and say 44 We have not seen them for months.” ’ He left, and sent two waggons for forage, etc.
" On September 16 a small fight Took place close to the farm. On the 17th six English came to the house to ask where the Boers were. On the morning of the 18th two men came to the house and asked who the owner of the farm was, whether he was still fighting, who my mother was, and whether any of my brothers were still fighting. I answered these questions. They then asked if the Boers called at the house when passing, and whether any of them actually entered the house, and who these were. We told them the Boers did call when they passed; how could we prevent them, our own people, when we could not keep the soldiers out? Mother said she never asked their names, and added, 41 do not ask you what your name is; you go away and I never know to whom I have been speaking.’ Then they tried to find out about the Boers from the Kaffir boys. Just before riding away they called the boy aside, and told him to tell mother to carry out her furniture because they were coming back with Colonel White’s men to burn the house. We had about an hour to carry out furniture from the drawing and bedrooms, our piano and sideboard. While we were busy the troops came. They poured something over the floors to make them bum, and soon the dwelling-house and outside buildings were in flames, and soon our comfortable home was gone. My mother, our lady friend, and I remained outside amongst the furniture we had removed and watched the burning. One of the men asked where we intended sleeping that night. I said, ‘ If I had burned the house I would have known where to have gone and what to have done.’ Others said, ‘ You have to thank Presidents Steyn and Kruger for this. Why do they not come and give in, why do they go about like robbers?’ So we said, ‘They will never, never give in ; they are fighting for their country, and you are fighting women because you know they will not shoot back.’ We also asked would they give in if we were fighting them and started burning their houses and sending women into the open veld without a morsel of food because their husbands and fathers and brothers would not give in? While we were still carrying out things the cutlery was taken from the sideboard drawers, along with a lot of things from the kitchen. A soldier helped himself from our butter-barrel with his hands, and when we asked him to leave that alone be replied we might be thankful we had saved something, by rights everything should have gone. That night we Slept out among the furniture standing on the ‘werf,’ the wind carrying sparks over our heads. Twice during the night the stables caught fire, and we got up to put it out so that we might have some shelter for the next night. Next day we had the stables cleaned and our goods carried in there, and there we slept the second night. They now took our remaining horses, cattle, and other things, and were going to send to gather the sheep. I asked for one cow to be left. The reply was, ‘ Not one—not one.’ Thirteen waggons were sent to take all the homeless women to the town. On that day seventeen other families had been made homeless. Most of these are very poor and have a lot of little children. We did not want to go to the town, and asked to be left on the farm, hoping to be allowed to remain in the stables; there was no help for it, we had to go. We have our own house in the town, and were promised we might go into that On this (Thursday) morning we were just going to have our breakfast in the ruined kitchen when a major came in and hurried us out of it to get our bags of clothes, etc., on the waggon. While we were doing this a soldier told me this Major was eating our breakfast; I went in and asked was he not ashamed of himself seeing this was all the food we had? He appeared to be, and then tried to get us something. At ten we were put in an open bullock-waggon and were sent in to town, which we reached at half-past seven that night, after having been exposed to the hot sun all day. The Major calmly said, ‘ You are only common working people and used to such a rough life.* When we got to town they refused to give us our house and sent us to the hotel—paying for us. This was on September 20. On the 23rd the Commandant came to see us, and said we were to go either to Bloemfontein or to the Colony; should we refuse we should be sent later on with the other women in open trucks to Bloemfontein and placed in tents there—these were his orders. He further promised that if we went to Cape Town we would see our prisoner brothers at Green Point every afternoon. An officer standing by said, * No, my dear girl, you will never see them; you might see them through the bars but won’t be allowed to speak to them.’
“ At Winburg there were a number of families less fortunate than ourselves, who were obliged to crowd together; they received food from the military, but were without any comforts for the little children, the sick, and the old women. These people had been able to bring nothing with them. One of these women, in my presence, told the military that when she tried to save some of her children’s clothing the soldiers threw these back into the flames. Another woman had with her twins of five months old, children of her daughter, who had died soon after their birth— when sent in she had asked for milk for these children, but it was not given her.
“ These are only a few instances out of many cases of equal suffering. These unfortunate women were told by the Commandant that on no account would they be allowed to remain where they were, they would be sent to a women’s camp at Bloemfontein. Can any one imagine, without indignation, the misery of such a place—no privacy, the herding together of young and old, and barely the necessaries of life ?
“ I did not think my story would be so long, but I only hope this will give you some idea of what the poor homeless families must suffer in the Free State. My statements are all true.— Yours sincerely, Ellie Cronje.”
The above is that letter from Miss Cronje which was published by Mr. John Morley in the Times of November 17,1900, ^ and which caused such a wave of feeling throughout the country. The farm is amongst those mentioned in the Government
Return[Cd 524] (Welgelegen, Dist. Winburg) as having been burnt on September 18, 1900, and the reason given is an “order to lay waste the Doornberg district.” The Return gives seventeen farms as having been destroyed that same day, which agrees with Miss Cronje’s statement that seventeen families had been made homeless.
When I saw Miss Ellie Cronje she was living in exile with her mother in Cape Colony. She received me very civilly, and seemed relieved to tell me her story. There was not a trace of self-pity in the way she dwelt upon her sufferings—on the contrary, she gloried in them; it was a source of strength and comfort to the girl to feel that she too had suffered for her country—but she is anxious the world should know how they have suffered and what hard things they have endured. She was delicately careful not to hurt my feelings, and there was not a shade of bitterness expressed either by the girl or her mother towards the English people or the Queen.
Mrs. Cronje, who spoke only Dutch, is a quiet, dignified woman. Her first remark was to express sorrow for the many English soldiers who had fallen. “Both sides have suffered much," she said, “and neither English nor Boer is to blame; it is the fault of the millionaires.” She made no allusion to her own losses. Miss Cronje said five farms in their family had been burnt; their own, those of her two married sisters and of her two married brothers. In her sister’s case the soldiers came when it was early and she was but partially dressed, with her hair all down her back. In this state the poor thing had to watch her house burnt, while Kaffirs tore the rings off her fingers. Then, as all vehicles had been taken, she and her five children had to trudge into the town, a two hours’ walk. Miss Cronje spoke with gratitude of General Colville’s conduct towards them. “ We all loved him,” she said. At one time he sent up a guard to protect their house at night. On the other hand, the women shrank from some of the officers. One of them said to her, in answer to her question why the houses should be burnt, “ We burn them because your men won't give in, and if that won’t do we’ll burn the women next.” “ Then why not begin with me ? ” she replied ; “ I am here, and quite ready to suffer for my country.”
“ But there are bad Boers too," wound up Miss Cronje, “ and there are good English. I was very grateful to an Imperial Yeoman who, seeing our condition, most considerately offered me money or any assistance, and said he felt ashamed of the things done and said.”
The next letter describes the eviction of Mrs. John Murray, wife of the missionary in the district of Waterberg, Transvaal. The mission station, which appears to have been burnt in September or October, is not mentioned in the Government Return—
Mrs. John Murray to a Relative.
(Received Dec. 17, 1900.)
“ At last I am able to write you a few lines. I took ill the very day I arrived here, and have been three weeks in bed. I only got up for the first time this morning. . . . During the past year of war I tried in various ways to write letter after letter to you, but after some months all our letters were returned to us again. You can imagine how disappointed [we] were. We received some of your letters, but not all. We had always food in the house, although we had sometimes to pay tremendous prices for it. But last month our provisions were getting so low, and there was no way of getting anything, so on the 17th J. left me by cart for Delagoa Bay to telegraph to Mr. R. for his salary that he might buy provisions. The day after J. left, W. H. drove out to our mission station to fetch me to spend a few days with them. J. had asked him to take care of me.
“I had only left a few days when the British came. We were then on the fighting line, and our people with General Grobelaar were about a mile from the house we were in, on the mountains, and the tremendous English camp about ten minutes from us.
“We had cannon and rifle firing over the house for more than two weeks; we never hardly put our heads out of our doors during the day; and it was dreadful to see the dead and wounded being carried forth. The English took all the food we had, leaving us hardly enough for a fortnight. It was terribly hard when we had no more bread for the little children. Then I applied to the British for food, but they said they could do nothing. Then they gave us two hours’ notice to leave for Pretoria; Mr. and Mrs. A. and their children, Mr. and Mrs. H. and child, and myself and three children. We were all put into cattle-trucks. I was not even allowed to send home to fetch some dothes for the journey.
[start of text damaged] all sent away because the officer said every home's burned down, so you can imagine with what ;s we If es. I told the officer that our. .. was ( . [end of text damage] property, but he said it made no difference! It is hard to think we have perhaps lost everything. I expected J. the week before we left, but the officer said he would not be allowed to get through, so I cannot think what has become of him. The officer said if J. had been in the station he would have been taken prisoner and sent to Ceylon, adding that ministers, missionaries, and Boers are all treated alike! I feel very anxious about J., but I know the dear Lord will take care of him. Oh! you cannot think what poverty and misery there is in the Transvaal, not so much in towns as in farms. It is dreadful to see the homes burned down, and not a living thing about."
Mrs. Murray gives further particulars upon another occasion. The officers said to her, “ You women are the cause of this war, if you were to give in your husbands would give in too. You must go and tell your uncle Louis Botha to surrender.” “ Louis Botha will care nothing what I say,” she replied. Mrs. Murray asked an officer why the British were burning all the farms, and he replied, “ Oh, because when you are all poor we can buy your farms for pretty well nothing, and then your husbands will be our servants and you women will serve our wives.”
When the troops came they were ordered to give up all their supplies—the meal, the rice, etc., which, with the milk of the cow, Mrs. Murray and the children had managed to live on up to then. “ But what is to become of us ? ” she asked. “ If any one is to suffer you must be the ones to suffer, not we,” they said, and gave her two bags of hard mealies. “ But the baby cannot live on these,” she exclaimed in horror. “ It is all you will get,” they replied. If she had not previously secreted a little meal under a mattress the baby must have died, as she was not nursing him herself.
When the order came to burn down the house, Mrs. Murray protested, on the score of the house not being her own but Church property, but they turned a deaf ear to all she said. She hurriedly put together a few parcels of clothes, and placed them on the stoep for putting on the waggon, but the soldiers tossed them all away. She was obliged to come away in the old dress she was wearing about the house, and all she carried was a small hand-parcel of a few necessaries for the baby. They were placed on the waggon and driven through the British camp towards Warmbaths. Soldiers guarded the waggon with fixed bayonets both in front and behind. At Warmbaths they were put into a dirty cattle-truck which had carried cattle the day before and not been cleaned out, and sat there exposed to the cold without wraps from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., when they arrived at Pretoria. She asked to be allowed to go to her aunt, Mrs. Louis Botha, but this was refused. Mrs. Murray argued that her children would perish of cold if they sat all night long in the cattle-truck. Upon this they were allowed to go into the ladies’ waiting-room, and locked in. Every scrap of furniture had been removed from this room, even to the carpet, and there was nothing on which to sit or lie but the bare floor. It was lighted above by a skylight, which was out of order and would not shut, and the night was bitterly cold. She lay down on the floor with her maid and the children, and the wind streamed down from the skylight and they could not sleep. She took off her own skirt and wrapped one child in that, and the other was wrapped in the maid’s skirt. The baby screamed all night from cold and hunger. In the morning Mrs. Murray called out to the soldiers from the window, “ If you do not let us out this child will die.” At first they said she must stay were she was, for she was to be taken down to the Women’s Camp at Port Elizabeth, but finally they allowed her to go and see her aunt. Mrs. Botha took her at once to Governor Maxwell, and through her influence Mrs. Murray was allowed to proceed to her parents in Natal Her health, however, was severely, and it is to be feared permanently, injured by all she had undergone. In Natal she was three weeks in bed, and on coming to Cape Colony to live with relations she was four months in bed, and had to undergo a bad operation. The doctor said had she gone to a camp she must have died.
At Green Point, prisoners were beginning to learn from letters and also from new-comers of the capture of their wives and children.
To a Prisoner of War from his Wife.
“ Natal, Sept, 1900.
“ Dear------, I received your letter; I had just written to Ceylon and St. Helena to hear if you were there when your letter came; you cannot think how thankful I was. We cannot find out why we are taken prisoners. We left Vrede in two buck-waggons, and had only two hours to get all ready. From Standerton we went in third-class carriages, ten of us in one compartment. For two days and one night we were locked up in these carriages almost without food. Baby takes a bottle, but I was not allowed to make food for her; I had a little spirit stove, but they would not let me buy spirits for it At first they paid our expenses, but now we must manage for ourselves or go to the Refugee Camp, where we should get 7 Jd. a day. We thanked them, and preferred to pay our own expenses. We have hired a nice house, food is cheap, so we are comfortable. We must report ourselves daily at the office. Our home is totally ruined, everything smashed in it and all our cattle taken except a few goats. Myrtle is grown a great deal, so has Eric; baby [born while the father was in prison] is very like him. What shall I call her ? She is not yet christened. Willem is prisoner here on a ship. Yours, etc.”
To a Prisoner of War from his Wife.
“ Durban, Sept. 12.
“ Much Beloved,—You will be surprised to hear that I and our children have all been taken prisoners and are here in Durban. The little one [only four months old] is such a strong, healthy, and pretty child.”
To a Prisoner of War from his Mother, giving earliest personal account of Bloemfontein Camp.
“ Bloemfontein, Oct. 17.
“ We were taken out of our house and the house was burnt. It is to-day a week since we arrived here [Bloemfontein]. We were 15 days at Winburg and had a comfortable house belonging to Mr. ----, who was willing to do everything for us, but to punish us we were sent to this place. We were not allowed to take anything with us but our clothes; we get rations (chilled meat and baker’s bread). It is very hard to be beggars, but I hope everything will come right. We are half an hour from Bloemfontein, in a camp; they call it the Refugee Camp. There are 13 families in the camp. We are placed 12 in one tent, and your mother is cook, for we were forbidden to bring servants. You can imagine what it is to wash clothes, etc., in a small bath. They cart the water here in two vats for the use of all the people. You can fancy what things look like; and we must gather for ourselves and chop the green bushes to make a fire. There are no cattle here, and we have to use mule dung to light the fire with. Your loving mother.”
To a Friend in Cape Town.
“ Bloemfontein Female Prisoners’ Camp, Nov. 30.
“ Dear------, Only a few lines to tell you that I was taken [caught] last Sunday and sent to Sanna’s Post. I then asked that my children [aged 5 years, 3 years, and 18 months] might be sent for to be sent along with me, as I could not think of them alone on the farm. Now we are all here in a tent; old Aunt N. and my sister also. The latter they brought here with her three little sons. They would not even allow her to bring her baby. Oh! unless God come to help us, I do not know what is going to become of us. I must perish in my misery with my children. I entreated them to let me go into a boardinghouse, but it was positively refused me. I had to go to a camp. No mercy! I am hoping and trusting in God. He will hear us and send us deliverance. If I have to endure ever so much I shall remain an Afrikander. Do, dear, pray much for us all. God alone knows what we have to suffer. I may not write or I would tell you all. Christie and John are both ill, as they sent us in an open cart six hours* distance in the glowing hot sun. And now here in the tent it is very hot. No animal can live in it. Here are many people we know from different places. Uncle P. T. and his aged wife. Do write soon. I am longing to hear from you. The oats that I got sown are now standing beautiful on the field. When I went away I sent C. [the Kaffir servant] to reap it, but I do not believe they will allow it.
“ Loving greetings from myself and the children.”
Mrs. J. R. Green who, as is well known, visited the prisoners of war in St. Helena, has kindly supplied from her notes a few anecdotes which show clearly the anxiety felt by the men for the safety of their families in the unsettled state of the country—
“ Wednesday, Oct. 10, 1900.
“. . . Among the new prisoners there are, I am told, about sixty farmers taken up on their farms and sent off without any reason given. . . . One told me his wife and three children were now left alone on the farm—the eldest girl 13, the eldest boy 11—three miles from the nearest neighbour. There were others in the same distress. The country unsettled, prowlers, and men stealing what they could get, and the like. The father of the three children, when his arms were taken some time ago, had begged to keep one Mauser, given him by Joubert, to protect his farm. When the English came to his farm first they took the black boy and asked him where he had buried his arms. The boy did not know. ‘They beat him badly. Still he did not know. ‘You must know,* they said; ‘you were the boy who drove and went everywhere with him.* ‘That was my brother,* said the boy, ‘and he went away many weeks ago.*
The Kaffirs were frightened at all this, and left the farm, all but three.
“ I asked if he was charged with concealing ammunition.
" No, there was no charge,’ he said. ‘ I was a Progressive member of the Raad ’ (he was a very educated and superior man), ‘and for ten years I have been struggling to avert this war.’ ‘Your sorrow must be great?’ I said. ‘Oh, Mrs. Green, I cannot tell it. I am like a son mourning for his mother; and what I fear is that now there will begin a set of horrible murders, such as history has never told of before. I used to hear that if you burned a man’s house you turned him into a soldier. Now I have seen it all round me, and I know that if you burn a man’s house down you turn a coward into a hero. When a man has seen his wife and children turned out of doors with nothing but what they have on, and the house blown up, that man does not care from that time what he does.’ The men out now are desperate men.”
Mrs. Green continues—
“ Then I was fetched to Roos’s tent. ... A very young-looking boy was brought, Du Toit. I thought him about 17. He was 21. . . . He was taken on September 10 at Potchefstroom. ... On the 15th his mother was taken as ‘prisoner of war’ and put in prison. At eight in the evening he was sent out with a guard to fetch the baby to her. There were five other children, the eldest girl 16, the youngest 3—and these were left alone. He does not know where they are. His mother and the baby were sent to prison in Johannesburg. No reason was given for the arrest. He has no idea why she was taken. (Waldeck said he heard the mother had been out on the farm some little time before to drive in the horses, and found a wounded Boer lying in the field, and had carried him not to her own house, but to some other shelter. He thinks that may have been the charge.) Of the ten mothers he thinks eight were sent to Naauwpoort: thirty-one women and children taken in all. The whole house was sacked; everything taken out of it but the mattresses, and the farm wasted, and every beast or fowl on it cleared off, and then these five children were left. . . .
“. . . . They cannot tell why women are seized. Some say to keep the Boers from firing on the troops with prisoners. Some think it is to force the husbands to come and give themselves up and set the wives free. Zinn, in the hospital, had been also on the journey with the women prisoners. He said it was a pitiable sight. The number of children, many in arms, not a year old, wailing and crying. His anger is very, very hot.
“ Oct. 12, 1900. Friday.—Commandant Wolmarans . . . asked me to lunch in tent, Commandant Viljoen with him. . . . Talked of the women and children turned out. * God knows, no one else knows, how they can live.’ Old white-haired Viljoen never spoke. . . . Wolmarans asked me to stay, and poured out his story with vehement animation. His wife died seven years ago. His house was shut up, he being away. One son of 14 was living near with a married sister. The soldiers came (these new prisoners report), tore the roof off the house, wrecked it, and took everything away. They drove off his cattle, every single thing on the farm. The boy of 14 ran after the cattle to try and drive them back. They took him prisoner of war to Johannesburg with another boy, and kept them in gaol some days. Then had them out, gave them ten strokes with a stick, and turned them out. One boy shrieked and cried. Wolmarans’ son said not a word nor dropped a tear. When it was over he said, * Now I will shoot the English.’ Wolmarans tells that these blows, which must have been given by an official’s order, are worse to him than the destruction of all his property.
To all of them it was a horrible insult. This story and others have given all the camp a new fear as to what may have happened to their families. They had expected under Roberts’ proclamation that the farms of surrendered men would be protected from the English soldiers. They still think they ought to be.”
Mrs. P. J. Botha to a Sister in Cape Town.
“ Bloemfontein Camp, Dec. 20.
“ This is just to let you know our whereabouts. I and my family were sent here eight days ago with thirty other families from Philippolis. You can well imagine how longing we are to hear from our dear ones—it was in September we had the last letters. Communication has been cut off since then, and now we are here. I need not tell what camp life is like, being placed with all classes and all conditions in one place; it is too rough to describe to any one, I never knew tent life was so hard. I have a bell-tent, with all my children ; in dry weather it is very hot, but don’t speak of wet weather, when the water runs in under one and wets all one’s bedding, and water leaking from above. You would be amused and sad to see your poor old sister trotting after the water-cart to get a water supply, then up the kopjes to gather wood; we have to find it all ourselves. We get Government rations, meat, bread, sugar, coffee, no luxuries. Still we are satisfied, it might have been worse. We are not allowed to go into town or else I could go and see A----[brother], and they are not allowed to come to camp or send any eatables, but he sent me a mattress and chairs and waterproof to make our tent a bit comfortable. ... I tried to get a permit to go to Cape Town, but was refused. Mind, Hessie dear, in a way I feel proud to suffer with my people, for one can never really sympathise before being placed in the same circumstances, and now I assure you I can in full sympathise with all. ... I have very much to be thankful for, it might have been worse. I hear our dear boy has been sent to Ceylon—from my husband I have not heard for months. ... I will never be dissatisfied with anything again, for I have had it too hard; all my things I have lost. When I was driven out of my house and home and went into Susan’s house, I stored all my things in a room of a Mr. Gertenbach, and that has all been destroyed, so we have nothing to lose more. Naked we came into the world and naked we will have to leave it. I have much to write, but for the present we must be satisfied. I find it very difficult to write as we have no table to write on. ..."
From a Free State Lady, describing the Early Camp at Bloemfontein.
“ Oct. 29.
“ Oh ! it is so wearying, and one looks forward fearfully. Boers are brought in daily, some as prisoners and others who have laid down their arms. The wives and children of many of our well-to-do farmers, whose farms have been burnt out and everything taken, are dumped down in tents in the direction of Spitz Kop on the dusty veld. The bread supplied them by the military authorities is so bitter they cannot eat it, and there is much sickness.”
From the same Lady.
“ Bloemfontein, Nov. 14.
“ Only yesterday more women and children were brought from the camp to be sent to Norval’s Pont, scarcity of water being the reason given; and along the street some insolent natives chaffed the native drivers, shouting, ‘Where did you pick up that lot?’ Poor weeping women and children, and the guard not manly enough to protect them from insult! I could fill pages. Misery and suffering are everywhere, and poverty gaunt. Yesterday was a terrific day—a fierce wind raged, and about two o’clock the clouds gathered and we hoped rain was really coming, but dust storm upon storm raged all the afternoon, and at sunset it blew madly and the whole western sky was vermilion. I thought of those poor women in camp with the little babes. The weather is truly awful, and natives say, ‘It can never rain again, there is too much blood in the land! * What is before us ? God only knows. The poverty is overwhelming—no ploughing, no sowing, people depressed beyond telling—depressed but dogged.”
A British subject who resided in Bethlehem wrote me a description of her deportation to Natal. She gives an account, which is the earliest we have, of the camp at Pietermaritzburg, where food and necessaries were always comparatively abundant. It would be a mistake to suppose that the large tents and furniture she describes were provided in all camps, or indeed in any after the very first weeks. The people were brought to bell-tents really bare.
“ In October 1900 (26th) we were taken away from Bethlehem. We were stopped by a fight with the Boers on Mr. Van der Merwe’s farm, Mooihoek, about two hours from Bethlehem. The Boers were on the rand and kopje at the back of the house; there were none in the house or garden.
“ The English bombarded the house, where the women and children were, at intervals from about nine in the morning until five in the afternoon. One bomb fell on the schoolroom where the women and children were sitting; they escaped only just in time. Owing to the bombs falling on the house they had at last to take refuge behind the garden wall; the bombs and bullets were falling thickly around them all the time.
“ When the General came to the house he told Mrs. Van der Merwe and Mrs. Pretorius to take out what they wanted quickly as the house was to be burnt; as quickly as they brought them out some of the soldiers carried back the things, so that in the end they had very little besides what they had on. They were brought into camp late that night, having had to walk quite a long distance to reach it.
“ In speaking about the matter to Captain Webber, I told him that Mrs. Van der Merwe had told me that there were no Boers in the house or garden, and that she had not even known that they were on the farm. He said that Mrs. Van der Merwe was telling a lie. I know Mrs. Van der Merwe to be thoroughly truthful.
“ Our waggons were just at the back of the cannon, and we saw the Boers on the rand but none in the garden. There were three generals with their forces at this place, but I believe that it was General Bundle who took Mrs. Van der Merwe and Mrs. Pretorius away. The husbands of these two ladies had both been taken prisoners in August. There were about 150 women and children in our company. Each family had a waggon, with a small tent at the one end; at night each family was provided with a small bell-tent; the tents and waggons then formed the sides of a small square in which the women and children could walk about when encamped. The corporal and his men who had charge of the women did all they could for their comfort. The party arrived at Harrismith on the 30th, and remained there for a week; then half of them were sent by train to Maritzburg; the first part of the way they were put into second-class carriages, at Ladysmith they were put into third-class.
“ On arrival at Maritzburg they found tents ready for them, but nothing else; before evening, however, blankets and food were supplied. The tents were the large oblong tents with double canvas, one for each family. The furniture consisted of iron stretchers with straw mattresses, five blankets to each person, a table and two benches, a tin basin, a bucket, and a camp-kettle. The food was prepared by the women themselves; a fair amount was'given. The women did their own washing; a shed with good water had been put up for the purpose. The great drawback was the intense heat, and there was no shade for the children to play outside. The women were allowed to go out visiting their friends in the town or to go shopping.
“ After spending a fortnight in the camp, I was allowed to go home to my friends in Cape Colony.”
From a Clergyman’s Wife to a Friend at Stellenbosch.
“ Pietermaritzburg, Nov. 1900.
" My dear Mrs. Louw,—You will no doubt be surprised to receive a letter from me from this place. I am now also experiencing camp life, and do not find it very convenient. Last Sunday I was still at Heidelberg, getting ready to come away. Mrs. O. and I were sent off together. When I last saw her she was still in a hotel and not on parole yet. I was at once put on parole, and stayed in an hotel one night, but could not stay longer as the room I had was engaged for the next; day. I tried to find another place, but that was unprocurable, as it is holiday time, and between that and the exiles every vacant place was already occupied, so I had no alternative but to come to the camp on the understanding that as soon as I could get a moderate boarding-place that I would be allowed to go out. I am here with the two youngest children; my boy had to remain behind as witness in his cousin’s case, which had to come off last week, but I was so undesirable that it was impossible to leave me a few days longer. My daughter and the boys will come on later. A certain colonel is to go into my house; he means to get his wife out. I doubt if I shall ever see any of my things again. This is a very large camp. I hear some 500 families are here. I daily find people I know. Life would not be so hard if one could get a marquee tent for a family, but now there are so many in one small tent.[See previous account a month earlier; over-crowding had now begun.] Part of the camp will be removed to Howick sometime next week.
“ The women really behave splendidly, making the best of all the hard jobs, chopping wood, carrying water, cooking outside, etc I should like to see a lot of Englishwomen placed in these circumstances, you would not be safe to come near for all the quarrelling there would be. Last night we witnessed a sad sight, about 130 persons, women and children, were marched out to this place from the railway station (three miles off). Just as they arrived a heavy shower of hail and rain came on, and before every one had a tent they were soaking wet; to see wee little children drenched to the skin was so sad, and the tents were as wet as they themselves. All the luggage was still behind, and they had to turn in for the night as they were. We fortunately had heard in the afternoon that some eatables were sent for the camp from some good people at Greytown, I believe, so Miss B. and I went to find out the Committee and asked for some bread for the new arrivals (as they had hardly had any food all the way down here), which they willingly gave us, so although the poor little things were wet they could be fed.
“ Some of the women who arrived were very ill and wanted medical attendance at once, especially one woman who had sickened on the road for her confinement. I have not yet heard what became of her. The tents are so alike that it is hard to find a person here. Two other women arrived, one with a baby five days old, the other is seven days old; imagine them arriving in a thunder and hailstorm. One of these women was taken away by ambulance-waggon this morning, so I make out that she has been taken worse, as they only take away those that are seriously ill. . . . New arrivals tell us they had tidings of our people as still in excellent health and spirits; they wish us all to be of good cheer and as confident as they are.”
From Rev. N. P. Rousseau to the Committee in Cape Town.
“ Pietermaritzburg, Dec. 10.
“ There are more than 1000 men, women, and children together in the camp. They have pretty large comfortable tents, but complain bitterly of not getting enough of meat and bread and of being without any clothing whatever. 1 am not sure of this being the case with the women from Heidelberg, but of most of the others I know that after a moment’s notice, in many instances, their houses, with all in them, were burnt down before their eyes, while they were not allowed even to take an extra bit of clothing with them. Some are in a terrible plight. ... I have been to the Commandant about their food supplies. . . . AVe are doing what we can. We have a Ladies’ Committee which cares for the clothing and shoes for the most needy. The military authorities have offered help in this respect also; but there is so much of red-tapeism about it, and they want each one to sign for what he or she gets so as to pay back after the war, that they do not wish to avail themselves of this help.[It is well to note this proposed repayment for clothes supplied.] ... Of course every penny is welcome. . . . There is a talk of some of them being removed. . . .”
A Clergyman to Helpers at Stelleneosch.
“ Pietermaritzburg, Dec. 29.
“ I have received your note re the Boer women and children in the so-called Refugee Camp here. . . . With regard to the hundreds of our poor women and children here, 1 am sorry to say that the most of them are sadly in want of clothing ; our Ladies’ Committee here has received a list from the Committee in the camp, from which it appears that there are hundreds who need help, and the account will certainly amount to more than jQ 100 sterling. Many of the women and children are almost naked. Some have no underclothing whatever. They say they were driven out of their homes just with the old things they had on at the time, and that they were not allowed to take anything with them however much they begged to do so, while their houses were burning even before they had fully left. Others just had time to take a single box of clothing with them and some bedding. Others, again, did save some of their furniture even, but had to leave all behind, as they were driven away by the soldiers. Some have money with them, but the majority of them have not a penny. I cannot describe to you the misery these poor people are in. Here some of them arrived while it was pouring with rain, and were just put into those small round bell-tents, sometimes ten in one of these tents, where they are almost burned to death in these hot summer days when the sun shines. I was in several of these tents yesterday but could not endure the heat in them for a few moments, and yet in these very tents there are sick women and children of a few days old. In one tent I found a mother who was confined on the way to this—she lay there with her baby of a few days old in the burning heat. She was taken out of her comfortable home, where she was already ill in bed, and carried out, while her house was set fire to. The only crime of these women seems to have been that their husbands are away with the Boer commandoes.
“ The food these people receive is so little that they cannot exist from it I have complained to the Commandant about all this, but as yet we have had no redress.
“ I gave some money to the most needy families so as to buy some more food for themselves. I got some money from the Committee in Cape Town, and to-day £40 has been wired me again.
“ The Greytown and Maritzburg people are doing what they can to relieve this distress, but many are in great want. I visit them regularly and preach for them at stated times. We need help, but as the camp is to be shifted to Howick, or at least a part of the camp, I have not yet decided what steps to take for securing the help of a brother minister. There are those who have plenty of money amongst them, and others, alas, who cause us a deal of sorrow by their conduct. . . . But we certainly do need help and much of help. We dare not write, and I am afraid even what I have written now might do harm.”
Turning to the Transvaal, we find a lady occupied in mission work writes at this time—
“ Near Johannesburg, Nov. 1900.
" If we look around us at the needs of others, we feel that we dare not open our mouths, our privileges have been great We are hard up, but we can manage with the little our Church gives to procure food and clothing. We had a very terrible experience about a fortnight ago. Four men entered our house at ten o’clock in the evening and would not be persuaded to go out. We did not know what to do; but as always the way to the throne of grace was open, we knelt down and cried to God. Even then they hardened their hearts and took not the slightest notice of what we were doing. They stood talking to us as if nothing was happening; I just felt I could not let the Lord go before He heard us and answered, and when they saw we were determined not to give them their way they stepped out and closed the door behind them. You will hear more about this later on. M. and S.’s nerves were so shattered that they were obliged to be sent away for a fortnight’s rest.”
" Johannesburg, Dec. 8, 1900.
“ Words [South African News, January 9, 1901] cannot express,” writes a friend, “the extent of misery which is meted out to our womenfolk here in this country. To-day about fifty families were brought in from the Potchefstroom District, all past my door, and they were all dumped down on the Robinson Deep men’s quarters. I then went down to see, but my heart wept within me when I saw the misery. Children were crying with hunger, and mothers the same, and had nothing to give them to eat. They had not had anything to eat since yesterday. They have been removed from their farms. I took as much milk and bread as we had and divided it among them. I sent Johannes with money into the town to try and buy bread, but he could not get a single loaf, so they will have to hold out until they get something from the relief. You can never form an idea of what it is, and we can’t realise what the end will be. Food is so scarce that even money can’t buy it; . . . but there are, you may say, thousands whom starvation is staring in the face. I hear all, or most, of the women in the two Republics are to be brought here. Ophirton is as full as it can be, so is the Racecourse, and now I hear they are to be put in the compounds.”
The letter continues—
“ Dec. 18.
“ I have written about the treatment of the women here, but the worst I have not told you.
“ A certain train arrived from Potchefstroom full of females all loaded in open trucks, and three women confined in the open trucks in the midst of children. On arrival at Braamfontein Station it was found that one had died under confinement, together with the baby. Others on alighting at the station fainted from sheer exhaustion. We have arranged with the authorities and got permission to send refreshments to the station when the trains arrive, as the poor people are without anything to eat for days.”
Rev. Mr. Meiring of Johannesburg wrote also to friends in Cape Colony describing the early want in Johannesburg Camp—
“ Johannesburg, Dec. 1900.
“ There is much sickness amongst the people, ascribable very largely to want of sufficient and proper food, the promised improvement in the rations not coming up to our expectation. The whole matter both of feeding and clothing our poor people is causing us much anxiety. We are resolved, if we can get no satisfaction with the local authorities, to appeal to the Commander-in-Chief, and if need be to higher officials. The people have, very many of them, no change of raiment, and without soap, as a result cannot cleanse themselves. We cannot of course supply all this from our own wardrobes, although some seven waggonloads of old clothes have been sent out there by us from time to time. We cannot clothe 2000 or 3000 women and children. These poor sisters were in many cases brought away from their homes with nothing but what they had on, or what they could gather in the few minutes allowed them; and while they have till now been accustomed to food and respectable living, they are at present as the off-scouring of the country.
“ We have asked for another interview with the Governor to discuss this matter and to ask for immediate improvement. It is heartrending to move among these sisters and witness their silent sufferings.”
Very important, with its detailed information, is this letter / published first in the Algemeen Handelsblad of February 21,/ 1901, and in the Daily News of March 1, 1901—
“ Johannesburg, Dec. 2, 1900.
“ During my stay in Johannesburg IJhad the opportunity of attending the public meetings which were held in December by a Committee charged with the distribution of the ‘ Dutch Church funds for the relief of prisoners of war and captured women and children at Johannesburg,* and, being a prisoner on parole myself, I naturally took a great interest in all that was being done for these poor people. I state nothing but that of which I have immediate personal knowledge. On December 2 a deputation from the above-named Committee had a meeting with the military Governor of Johannesburg with a view of seeing what could be done to provide for the lodging and feeding of the captured women and children who were to be sent there. The deputation, as the result of this meeting, was referred to the architect Mr. Nicholson, and to Major Cavaye, the officer charged with the distribution of the Imperial Relief Fund. The architect exhibited the plans for the buildings which were to be erected for the reception of the prisoners. Three sheds were to be erected, each aoo ft. long by 25 ft. wide. In each of these sheds 400 adults were to be lodged; wooden cribs would be supplied, but the prisoners must supply their own bedding. Major Cavaye informed the deputation that, in accordance with a new ration scale which he had received from Lord Kitchener in Pretoria, only 7 lbs. of maize meal, 4 ozs. of coffee, 4 ozs. of salt, and 8 ozs. of sugar would be provided weekly for each adult. The children would receive the same quantity of sugar, and half rations of the other articles. The Major admitted that this diet was not sufficient to keep body and soul together, and stated that he had on his own authority allowed 2 lbs. of flour and s lbs. of maize meal to be given instead of 7 lbs. of the latter. In face of these facts, it is needless to say that the lot of the prisoners of war in St. Helena and Ceylon is infinitely better than that of their wives and children left behind. On the 19th December the Chief Medical Officer addressed the following letter to the military Governor of Johannesburg :—
“‘ Sir,—In my capacity as Chief Medical Officer of the Boer camp, I have to report that I consider the rations served out to the refugees to be insufficient to keep them in health. The great majority of these people are women and children who are not in a condition of health to withstand the sudden change in their diet, for, as is well known, most of them have been accustomed to ,a diet consisting largely of meat. The consequence of this sudden change is that much sickness has broken out amongst them. Most of the women, and almost all the children, are suffering from a more or less acute form of diarrhoea. In this state of things the supply of drugs and medical comforts forms a very large item in the expenses of the camp. I would suggest that in addition to the present ration of maize meal, flour, coffee, sugar and salt, meat and fresh vegetables should be supplied at least three times a week to those who are not in a position to purchase them for themselves.
(Signed) ‘“R. P. Mackenzie, District Medical Officer.’
“ On December 9 also the Secretary of the Committee wrote to Major Cavaye, pointing out that the 282 women and old men, and the 547 children, confined on the grounds of the Robinson Deep, Mainreef, and Ferreira Mines, were obliged to procure their rations at the Racecourse, three-quarters of an hour’s walk away. As they had no means of transport, they were obliged to walk there and back in the burning sun, a terrible hardship in the case of people nearly all of whom were suffering and ill. The Committee prayed, therefore, that a depot might be established at the Robinson Deep Mine to lessen in some measure the hardships for the women, old men, and children. The lot of these unfortunate people here is thus, it may be seen, a terrible one, but the treatment they undergo on their way from their homes to Johannesburg was no less cruel. A letter addressed by the Committee to the Military Governor on December 27 throws some light on the matter. In this letter the Committee speak of an interview they had had with the Governor, in which he had consented to their supplying the women and children who were arriving at Johannesburg by trainsful with coffee and biscuits on their arrival; for the poor creatures were given no food or drink on the journey, and arrived in an almost starving condition. They go on to state that the military shops refused to sell them the coffee and biscuits for this purpose, and pray that he will give orders that the goods shall be sold. I will now show how far, up to the 15th of January, the requests of the Committee had been acceded to, and the promises of the authorities fulfilled. The promised buildings on the Racecourse have not been erected, and the women and children have to sleep 16 together in rooms 12 by 14 feet 626 of them are lodged in the workmen’s quarters of the Robinson and village Mainreef Mines, and the remaining 2300 are packed in tents under the blazing sun. The suggestion that meat and vegetables shall be supplied three times a week has not been carried out, but a portion of meat is supplied once a week. No depot has been erected on the Robinson Deep Mine, so that the prisoners still have to take their trying walk for their scanty rations. Nothing has been done for the women and children arriving by train; only on one occasion have we been able to supply them with a little maize gruel and coffee. One must have seen one of these trains arrive in order to form any conception of what the poor unfortunates have to undergo. The crying of the starving children, the moaning of the suffering women, are enough to melt a heart of stone. On one occasion when I was present the soldiers themselves could stand it no longer, and divided their rations among the poor wretches. I heard one of them say, 'lama father of a family myself, and I know what it is when the children cry for bread.’ I was often present at the arrival of the trains, and could not wonder at the feeling of bitter hatred with which the sight filled those present, making them more than ever determined to continue the struggle till death.
“ In conclusion, let me give a letter addressed by the Secretary of the Committee to Major-General French at Johannesburg The letter is dated December 15—
" * Sir,—with reference to a conversation held last Friday between a deputation from my Committee and a member of your staff, I have now the honour to bring the following matters before you in writing:—
“ ' (a) .. . (hardly relevant).
“ ‘ (b) Failure to inform the local authorities of the despatch of trains containing women and children to Johannesburg.
“ ‘ The deputation begs to inform you that on various occasions trains full of women and children have been despatched from or have arrived at Johannesburg without notice having been given to the local officials, with the result that the prisoners have had to wait for a very long time on arrival or before departure in the goods’ sheds. They have even been kept from 24 to 30 hours in open trucks standing on the line, without any attention being paid to them, and exposed to much unnecessary inconvenience owing to the lack of lavatory accommodation on the train. The deputation wish, therefore, respectfully to request that the station-masters be instructed to notify the officials of the station at which a train is to arrive of its departure from their own stations—and that the railway officials shall give immediate notice to the officer in charge of the arrival of all trains containing captured women and children.
“ ‘ (c) The short notice these people receive of the intention of the military authorities to deport them, leaves the women and children frequently only a few minutes in which to prepare for their journey, so that they have no opportunity to get together the food, clothing, and bedding they require. Only in exceptional cases are they allowed to bring provisions with them, but articles such as flour are brought outside by the soldiers, the sacks cut open, and the contents strewn on the ground, quantities of fresh potatoes, newly harvested maize and other food-stuffs, destroyed and burnt, articles which in almost every case the women and children themselves have sown and reaped, working late into the night, as their cattle have been taken from them. And these women and children who have worked so hard to save themselves from want, are carried off into the towns and fed on starvation diet. The deputation would respectfully request that wherever possible these unfortunate people—in cases where their removal from their farms to prison camps be still considered necessary by the military authorities— be allowed to bring with them provisions, cattle, and clothing for their own use.
(Signed) “‘Van Os (Secretary).*
“ To this letter General French vouchsafed no answer, and up to the middle of January no improvement had taken place in the lot of the unfortunate women and children.**
From the neighbourhood of Kimberley came similar stories. The account given here by Mrs. Hurdus of the women brought from Potchefstroom coincides with that given in an earlier letter—
“ Kimberley, Oct. 1900.
“ I proceeded to Modder River with a few pounds given by kindly colonists, which, although it gave some relief, seemed like a drop in the ocean when distributed amongst the destitute families. I was sadly impressed with the desolate appearance of the once pretty spot, the only green spot to go to from Kimberley, the general picnicking place.
“ The second farmhouse I came to belonged to Mr. J. Fourie, and was one of the best houses on the river. To my surprise I found a heap of sand where the house stood. Mrs. Fourie and children were in an outside building, put up by her husband shortly before his death. The husband was arrested on suspicion —no evidence against him. After being kept in gaol for months, without trial, he was released, to return to a heap of ruins.
“ We have several such cases. Another sad thing is the condition of two old people, about 80 years of age, whose earnings have been stolen. They are old, destitute, and helpless, and there is no workhouse in South Africa to send them to.
“ The suffering and wrongs endured by women and children in the martial law districts would move the hardest to tears. A lady named Cotzee, at Modder River, gave birth to a baby just after the arrival of the British troops. The poor creature was turned out of her bed and made to walk a great distance. The baby died a few minutes after, through neglect and exposure.
“One old woman said to me, ‘If our Queen, who is a mother herself, who has also lost husband and children, could know how her Dutch subjects are treated, and what terrible suffering is caused by this war, she would never allow the war to continue.’
“ This simple soul did not understand that our Queen does not govern, and that the real state of things never reach her. I, too, believe that if the Queen was able to hear and see the facts, and could be made acquainted with the truth of this war, she would see that justice is done, even though at the loss of fame and worldly honour.
“ About two weeks ago, six mothers, with 20 children from one month to 16 years, from Potchefstroom, were brought into Kimberley by the military. These women were taken from their homes, and mounted Kaffirs conducted them through the streets to the gaol. They were kept there a night and day without food and bedding, with their children. The next day these women refused to go into the railway trucks, not knowing where they were to be sent to, and refusing to leave behind children, as two of these unhappy mothers had a child sick in bed. These mothers do not know what has become of their children. They were then taken by force and put into trucks for Johannesburg. They showed me their clothing, torn by soldiers who took them out of the cell. When I visited these poor women in their tents, they were sitting down in the bare sand, and one woman was very ill.
“ They were treated with kindness and respect by the officer that took charge of them from Johannesburg, and also received all attention from the officer in command at Kimberley, who gave all assistance possible to provide for them, and is not able to say why these women were sent here at all. By the aid of friends we succeeded in making them as comfortable as possible under the circumstances.
“ Mr. Truter deserves all praise for his self-sacrificing deeds. He gave a house free of rent, as did Mr. Lingefield. As house rents are high, and those gentlemen both suffered heavy losses during the war, they deserve all praise for their charitable and unselfish conduct.
“ The names of the women are as follows:—Mrs. Van Wyk and family, Mrs. Myburgh and baby, Mrs. Marais and child, Mrs. Grobbelaar and children, Mrs. Benade and family, Mrs. Kruger and family. I give these names as somebody may hear of a lost wife, mother, sister, or friend, and by giving these names I may afford some trace of a lost one. These women are originally from Griqualand West. Their husbands were commandeered by the Boers at the commencement of the Kimberley siege, and some taken prisoners. The wives followed, but lost all trace of their husbands.”
State-Attorney Smuts in his Report to President Steyn, issued in the beginning of the year 1902, describes the lamentable state of homeless women in the Western Districts of the Transvaal—
“ During the month of July 1900 I was ordered by my Government on a mission to the Western Districts, which had been cut off from communication, and from Balmoral Station set out for these districts, but on arriving at Elandsrivier I was recalled by the Government on pressing business, and returned by way of Bronkhorstspruit Station. I arrived here late in the afternoon, and on that high table-land and in the middle of winter it was so fearfully cold that I could hardly bear it, and (according to official reports) many English soldiers had succumbed there with starvation.
“ Hardly had I arrived there when I saw in a cart two women and some little children. One of the two women was an old widow, Mrs. Neethling of Tierpoort, the mother of the magistrate (landdrost) of Klerksdorp, and a relation of the much-respected clergyman of Stellenbosch; the other woman was her daughter, Mrs. Du Toit, and her children. Their condition in that bitterly cold climate was most heartrending, without any food, without any covering, with nothing else about them than the clothes on their backs. That old mother, over 70 years old, told me the following things. Tierpoort some weeks before had been lying in the field of battle during the skirmishes which preceded and followed upon the great battle of Donkerhoek, and from the fields behind her dwelling our men had repeatedly fired at the patrols of the enemy. At one time some Boers had ventured as far as the house, and she had given them a loaf of bread; when one evening, a short time afterwards, an English officer came to the house with a strong patrol, and gave her notice to leave her house that same night, as the place was to be burnt down next day. She called his attention to the fact that this would be impossible, as all the cattle and the carts had been taken away by the English, and that she was too old to walk so far to the Boer lines. He remained inexorable, and was so impudent that the grown-up daughter of Mrs. Du Toit, who was her interpreter, told him that he ought to feel ashamed of persecuting defenceless women and children in this way, instead of fighting the Boers; upon which he in so far forgot who he was that he gave her a slap in her face. As he would not give in, a messenger was sent to the Boer forces that same evening to fetch an ox-cart. When the cart had arrived, this knightly officer (an Australian Colonist) refused to allow that some food, clothes, or bedclothes were put in the cart, and in this wretched condition these poor people had to be sent out into the wide, wide world.
“ Her youngest son, Johannes Neethling, was with me at the time, to her immense joy, and whatever I could spare I gave her to take along with her on her journey to the Boschveld. Having only in the world her daughter and grand-daughter, she was however full of courage and strong in faith, and even succeeded in cheering us up. I do not mention this as a rare case, but as a typical example of what happened in hundreds of other places.”
Mr. Smuts passes on to speak of the formation of Boer laagers for the women as a protection from the natives, and of the sickness and misery there endured. No statistics as to the death-rate in these laagers are yet forthcoming.
“ I shall therefore speak of another subject, namely, how the enemy avails himself of the help of Kaffirs to make our women and children suffer greater pains. I do not intend to speak about the old story, how natives were enlisted and imported by the English officers along the Western and Northern borders of the land, which, as your Honour knows, has been proved by documents now in possession of the Government. The massacres at Derdepoort and at other places on the Western border have been surpassed by what has happened since May last. The Kaffir chiefs having joined the enemy, crossed the Western border and committed murders and cruelties from which even English soldiers shrank back. The consequences were that the greater part of the Western and Northern Districts had to be abandoned by us, because the women and children were constantly exposed to being murdered. Camps for the women were then made in the central parts of the Western Districts, and the women provided with carts, tents, food, and placed under the protection of old men who were less fit for military service. It was expected that the enemy from a sense of pity, which is even found with animals, would have left these camps for women alone. But not at all! he repeatedly marched upon them, burnt the carts, tents, and the food, seized the aged guards who had not been able to fly, and caused so much misery as cannot be described. And when he did not appear himself, the enemy sent the Kaffirs, or rather the hordes of Kaffirs always formed a wing of the British forces, and completed the work of destruction which had been undertaken by the English troops. Many a time it was my task to visit these women-camps, and I cannot help saying that I had never expected to be a witness of such scenes of misery. The women and children, suffering almost every one of them from malaria, fever, and other diseases, in consequence of privations and bad food, without physicians, without medicine, without any consolation in this world, almost without any clothes, and, after hostile raids, without any food at all. And all these women did not belong to the poorer and lower classes, but some of them belonged to the richest families of our country. But privation could not curb the spirit of these noble martyrs, and by one consent they advised me and the burghers to persevere to the bitter end.”
At Port Elizabeth Camp the number of persons affected was comparatively small, hundreds in place of the thousands in the north. Undoubtedly their preliminary sufferings were great, but with no martial law in the town public opinion could and did make itself felt. Many friends came forward with help, and as a consequence the conditions of life were soon made healthy and tolerable. Many accounts exist of this one little camp, numbering only about 380 people, for the horrors of war were first vividly depicted in these poor women when they arrived carrying their bundles and their babies; there is, however, little space here for letters which filled the Cape papers at the close of the year 1900. Soon after the arrival of the exiled women, a lady at Port Elizabeth wrote to her friends in Cape Town as follows:—
“Port Elizabeth, Nov. 12.
" ... I have been with them twice, but now the authorities have become more severe. Yes, it is quite true that nearly all the farms are burnt I do not think Piet Visser’s is, though Groenkloof, the Rabie’s, is burnt, Vlakfontein and Huctelspoort. Poor old Mrs. Coetzee of Vlakfontein is also here. Old Mrs. Hertzog’s house was blown up a quarter of an hour after she quitted it. It is too pitiful to see all the misery and suffering. Poor old Mrs. Hertzog said to me, ‘ Ach, myn kind, stuur toch voor my een ketelje en een wenig goede kcffe.*[“Ah, my child, send me a little kettle and a little good coffee.” The story of the Mrs. Hertzogs is appended to this chapter.] Fancy, they have no tables, chairs, or bedsteads, they are just on the floor— on mattresses—sometimes ten in a room, or rather hut.
" It is so awful to see the soldiers with fixed bayonets guarding defenceless women and children. . . but one must not say many things.”
In November the Cape Town Relief Committee took the sensible step of applying to the military authorities for the release of those in the camp [Letter to Military Authorities, Nov. 19. Sec South African News of Dec. 12.] who had friends to receive them, or whose expenses could be paid for by subscription; and some Dutch ministers, Mr. Rabie and Mr. Pienaar, who were asked to visit and report on the camp, also advocated this course as the most sensible and best calculated to allay unnecessary feeling. [See Report of Dutch Ministers, South African News. Dec. 1900.] To this application Colonel Trotter sent an answer in the negative.
To the appointment of Miss Hauptfleisch as matron was largely due the rapid improvement in the organisation of this little camp, and when the primary discomforts had abated Mrs. Leroux was able to report favourably of the progress made in a letter to the South African News.
" Dec. 14.
“ Sir, [Report of Mrs. Leroux (Railway Missioned, South African News, Dec. 19.]—Requested by Miss Nellie Hauptfleisch to give a report of our visit to the exiled women, I will try to do so in a few words.
“ We spent two days (Saturday and Sunday) in the camp, and had two meetings for children in the camp. I am glad to be able to give a more favourable report now than last time. The women find a decided improvement in the cooking of the food. The quality of the food now sent out is better than before. Mr. Smith has promised not to give any more ‘ bully ’ beef. If the dinner is always (with a variety in the preparation of the meat) as it was on the 8th inst., there is not much room for complaint in that respect. The way the meals are served out is, I daresay, the best under the circumstances. We cherish the hope when the unfortunate exiles are in their new quarters (which promise to be an improvement on the present) things may be arranged more to the taste of civilised people. I am happy to report that there are bedsteads now in all the tents and huts. In the medical line, too, there is an improvement. Dr. Casey pays more attention to his patients than did his predecessor.
“ The military have given Miss Hauptfleisch every opportunity to visit the camp and see what was wrong. They have taken most of her suggestions into kind consideration. Colonel Salmond is very kind to all the exiles, and is respected by all.
“ All the improvements do not alter the fact that the women are still in pole-tents and kept as prisoners. Why are they so jealously guarded if they must not be considered prisoners of war but exiles ? Call a spade a spade. Your readers can form their own opinion. I give facts as I found them,—I am, etc.,
“ M. H. Leroux, Railway Missioner.”
Thus the year ended with some relief at the thought of the *. reform effected in the camp at Port Elizabeth, but at the same moment away in the north far greater sufferings and privations were being endured, and these were preparing the ground and sowing the seed of diseases which must inevitably yield a rich harvest for the Reaper Death.
Mothers of the brave and free? ”—J. R. Lowell.
In Port Elizabeth Camp there were three ladies of the name of Hertzog, the mother of the Commandant Judge Hertzog, his wife Mrs. Barry Hertzog, and his sister-in-law Mrs. James Hertzog. These two ladies were sisters, daughters of Mrs. Neethling of Evergreen, Stellenbosch, and British subjects born. Mr. James Hertzog had been taken prisoner early in the war, and his wife being alone in her house at Jagersfontein, her sister Mrs. Barry Hertzog came from Bloemfontein to visit her. While there, measles broke out, and both the Mrs. Hertzogs’ children were down with it when the military authorities seized the mothers with their sick children and sent them to Edenburg Station, exposed in open waggons for two days. [By post-cart this place is only five hours distant.] The Hertzogs* house was then laid waste, blown to dust with dynamite. Arrived at Edenburg, the children were pronounced too ill to travel farther. Hearing this, their relatives at Stellenbosch at once applied for a permit for the two Mrs. Hertzogs to come on parole to their father’s house, and after considerable trouble this permit was granted. But in the meanwhile the families had been removed to Port Elizabeth, notwithstanding the condition of the children, and this though they prayed to be sent to Stellenbosch. When the authorities heard that they had been removed to Port Elizabeth, they withdrew the permit. No necessary comforts could be procured or the journey or on arrival in the camp, and the consequence! were fatal. The first death notice from the camps appeared ir the papers when Mrs. James Hertzog’s boy died.
“ Hertzog.—On the 12th November 1900, Prisoner of Wai in the camp at Port Elizabeth, Charles Neethling Hertzog, in the 8th year of his age.—The sorrowing grandparents,
“ Charles M. Neethling.
“ W. Neethling.
“ Evergreen, Stellenbosch.”
Sixteen thousand children have followed him to the grave.
After this sad event a lady wrote thus to Miss Neethling urging her to come to the help of her married sisters. She showi how rough and unsuitable the arrangements were to which thesi ladies were at first subjected—
“ Port Elizabeth, Nov. 17.
“ Have you heard anything again from your two sisters a Port Elizabeth except that they are there as prisoners ? It make one’s blood boil to think of the poor people there—it is a cryinj shame. Mrs. Jordaan, with whom I am here, returned fron Port Elizabeth this morning; she saw both the Mrs. Hertzogs so I’ll be able to give you more particulars than they may writ from the camp. Mrs. Jordaan and another lady from Cradocl were sent to Port Elizabeth by their 1 Dames Comite ’ to go am see what they could do for the women prisoners there. She say she can never tell and make us understand how miserable am uncomfortable the state of things is at the camp. When sh speaks of what she saw there the tears run down her face. Mrs Jordaan thinks it urgently necessary that some of you shouli come to Port Elizabeth and try and get the Mrs. Hertzogs ou on parole. She thinks perhaps you might be successful; it seem impossible that any one can survive in those miserable iron shed and tents for many days longer. But if you could not get th mothers out you might at least take the children with you. Th military officers say that they are awaiting further orders fror headquarters, and they expect to have things improved in a fe' days’ time. (Still it would be much better to get the childre away.) Mrs. J. came to the camp just after Charles (Mrs. Jame Hertzog’s son) was buried. She thinks Mrs. Hertzog wonderful calm under the sad circumstances—probably through the man prayers sent up for her at Stellenbosch, Mrs. J. says.
“ There are no chairs, no beds! the bedclothes lie on the ground in the dust, and the people must either sit on the ground or stand about. The military had the decency to give Mrs. (Rev.) Malherbe a chair to sit on as she watches by the side of her child down with fever (that was the only chair to be seen). One of the officers said to Mrs. J.: * You must understand that the less you speak about the state of things here, and the less fuss you make about it, the better it will be for the prisoners.* (The better it will be for them, the military, he meant to say.) They are afraid of having things brought to light. Mrs. J. told the Intelligence Officer that she will not promise to keep quiet; but the sooner they let the women out the better it would be for them, and that it would lessen the strain on the colonists.**
Miss Neethling visited the camp as requested, but did not succeed in obtaining the release of her sisters. After many applications and much red-tapeism, however, she was successful in securing the release of Mrs. Barry Hertzog*s baby boy, aged then about 17 months. The child was weak and pining, and she took it back to the home at Stellenbosch without its mother. From that day to the end of the war repeated efforts were made to secure the release of the two sisters, but in vain. I give a -copy of the refusal received by Mr. Neethling, who, on hearing of the concession made by Mr. Brodrick in June 1901, that all women separated from their children, or having friends ready to receive them, might be allowed to go, made instant application on behalf of his daughters.
“ B. 3795. 17A.
“ The Castle, Cape Town, Aug. 4, 1901.
“ Sir,—I am directed to inform you that your application to Lord Kitchener, dated July 12, with reference to Mrs. Hertzog and family, now at Port Elizabeth, has been noted; but that the G.O.C. regrets that in the present state of affairs in the Colony he cannot yet sanction their removal to Stellenbosch.—I am, Sir, yours faithfully,
“ L. Heyman, Lieutenant-Colonel S.O. Prisoners of War.
“ Mr. C. M. Neethling, Evergreen, Stellenbosch, C.C.”
After the formation of the camp at Merebank, specially set apart for women whose husbands failed to surrender on September 15, 1901, Mrs. Barry Hertzog was suddenly transferred thither, and this in spite of the fact that Port Elizabeth was a small and healthy camp, while Merebank was very crowded, and condemned as marshy and unhealthy. Thus from December 1900 till June 1902 Mrs. Hertzog was separated from her only child, and no chivalrous voice was upraised in England strong enough to insist upon the release of this lady, or to condemn a system of warfare which included the wholesale imprisonment of women, and, in this case, necessitated separation from a young child, if that child’s life was to be saved. Exposure and rough camp life have seriously affected Mrs. Hertzog’s health.
SKETCH OF MY LIFE FROM THE OCCUPATION OF BLOEMFONTEIN
Bv Mijnie Hertzog.
On the evening of 11th March 1900, my husband left Bloemfontein. When the British came on the 13th several officers came to requisition my house. I protested, and eventually they desisted, resting satisfied with some bedding and furniture. On July 3 I left for Jagersfontein to visit my sister. On September 30 I requested permission from the military authorities to return to Bloemfontein, receiving from them the answer, that as my husband was Acting President it could not be granted before inquiring from Bloemfontein whether my return was desirable. It was found not, and I had to stay. On the day of my asking for the permit, Major Hall, Sitting in an adjoining room, yelled out, “She shall not go,” whereat another officer, a lieutenant, jeer-ingly asked me if I did not feel proud of the distinction conferred upon my husband.
At 4.30 a.m. on October 16, the burghers attacked and entered the town. After releasing the burgher prisoners from gaol, a party of them came up to my sister’s house, where I was informed by them that my husband was in command. About 9 a.m. the burghers left the town, and at 10 a.m. there appeared at our door Lieutenant Rudledge with a party of soldiers in search of Boers. Finding none, he turned his men loose on our pantry, telling them to take all eatables they could get. At my instance he seemed to relent, and stopped the soldiers from further depredations.
Before sunrise on the 19th of October we were roused by a sergeant, with orders that I and my sister with our sick children were to leave within 15 minutes for another house. Dressing hurriedly, we did as ordered, shifting our children, 3 in number and all ill of measles, as best we could, without any aid, and taking nothing with us but a few blankets and pillows. The house assigned us contained 5 rooms, and we were 13 families to occupy it. To myself, sister, and sister-in-law with 5 children was allotted half the parlour. Under strict guard we were kept here until Sunday with no food, except a little milk for our sick children, which after much trouble we obtained from a compassionate townsman.
On the morning of our arrival here, an officer coming up to us had declared in angry tone that we could starve here, a threat which they now seemed to be executing. On Sunday morning the townsman referred to again came to our assistance, sending us a bag of bones. While still rejoicing over the prospects of having soup, orders came that we were immediately to start for Port Elizabeth. I was allowed to run over under guard to fetch some clothes. My house, however, had been plundered, and all my belongings gone. Famished, I returned and had our children examined. Two doctors declared that they were unfit to travel. Orders came, however, that we had to go. About 11 a.m. Sunday morning the convoy started. We arrived at Edenburg Monday evening at 7, having had nothing to eat all the time barring a small crust begged at a farmhouse on Sunday, and again a few mouthfuls at another place on Monday. On my arrival at Edenburg, my child, whose temperature on the day of removal registered 102°, was now, through exposure and privation, a mere skeleton. Also my sister's children had a relapse. In consequence of the illness of our children, we were the following day left behind, a tent being erected for our accommodation. No permission was granted to leave our premises, and having no food we were left unsupplied until the following Sunday. The stationm aster's wife having in the meanwhile learned of our distress, kindly provided us with necessaries. On Sunday, Dr. Johnson from Bloemfontein hearing that we were subsisting on charity, interceded for us. Thenceforth we were regularly supplied.
After 13 days’ stay at Edenburg, our children then being convalescent, we were sent on to Port Elizabeth. Arriving there, we were placed in a small iron shanty about 7 x 10 ft., having to share this with 5 other persons. In order to find sleeping accommodation, we ten had to be packed like sardines. Thus we lived about 2 months, my sister's little boy 8 years old dying 12 days after our arrival. About the same time I was taken ill of fever, while my child was growing worse every day. Later on I was removed from this dingy hole to the English Refugee Hospital, a favour granted me after much supplication. After a fortnight I was obliged to leave the hospital because of the conduct of the matron, who seemed to grudge me even the little food I got. My sister, Miss Neethling, having come from Stellenbosch to inquire into our state, and finding how weak I was, took back with her my child, then a mere skeleton. I never saw him again until peace was declared, though I had frequently requested to be allowed to proceed to Stellenbosch where my parents were living, who were desirous to have me with them. Our food, which was as bad as our accommodation, was prepared and distributed to us by a very inferior and insulting class of Johannesburg Refugees, who treated us alternately to boiled bully-beef and maggoty salt fish, which they did not scruple to ladle with their hands. Finding that we were starving for want of nutritive food, I complained, saying that if the food were not improved we should be forced to try and escape, a threat which probably gave colour to the absurd story published later that I had tried to run away.
We were later on shifted to a new camp, where both food and accommodation were substantially improved.
After a year at Port Elizabeth, in November 1901 I suddenly got notice to leave for Durban. At East London the boat stopped for 3 days, but I was not allowed to go on land. After 8 days I arrived in Durban. The following morning I was by my guard taken to Merebank Camp, a marshy hole, later on condemned by the Commission of Inspection from England. Separated from all my relatives and acquaintances, for reasons unknown to me, I arrived here a forlorn stranger with only a few pounds in my purse, for the money deposited by my husband in the bank for me I had never received. The rations obtained from the authorities being both insufficient and unfit for my constitution, I found it necessary to obtain additional supplies. I therefore tried to earn a little money by giving lessons in music. My provisions I had to fetch from the commissariat store, having at times to wait hours before obtaining them. My wood, in large blocks, I had likewise to fetch thence once a week, and chop up as best I could. Being insufficient, I had to supplement it from the fields, that is to say when the authorities could be induced to grant a permit. More than once I was on my way back deprived of my little bundle, collected under the greatest difficulties. Cooking had to be done in the open air.
One day His Excellency the Governor visited us for the object of hearing and inquiring into complaints. He heard them, but postponed the inquiry indefinitely. We asked for the erection of soup kitchens for the convalescent, better bread, more soap, and an increase of food in general, etc. Suffice it to say that, after treating some of us with scant courtesy, he dismissed all with an increase of, as far as I can remember, half an ounce of soap to our weekly supply.
On the 3rd of June 1902 I was set at liberty, and granted a free pass to Bloemfontein.