2nd May, 1897.
The Secretary for Defence.
Sir,—I have tho honour, for the information of the Government, to forward a report showing the state of affairs in front of the Langberg.
Since having made the attack on Gamasep I have, as far as possible, made a series of patrols with a view to ascertaining the best and least difficult position to attack. I say “as far as possible,” as the utter absence of water in the vicinity of the Langberg has made the work of patrolling a most difficult one; several springs and wells that were known to have existed both in and at the foot of the Langberg being now perfectly dry. The only water supply therefore that I have had to depend upon is from pits at Bishopswood (Ryan’s), 16 miles from either Gamasep or Puduhusche, aud at Oliphant’s Kloof, at the southern end, of the Langberg, which is also about 16 miles from Gamasep. At this place we have had to dig our own water pits, but the supply is only sufficient for about 500 mounted men, aud the water for drinking purposes is not good. I have come to the conclusion that the least difficult position held by the rebels is that occupied by Toto in Puduhusche Kloof, aud have decided to attack this place.
To attack direct, however, without being covered, would be hopeless; as when we had taken the position wo could never possibly hold it, on account of the fire from the sides and top of the kloof; and after having, in all probability, lost several lives, there would be nothing for it but to retire. I have therefore decided, although I consider that the risk is great, to send a covering party of 250 men, who will leave this camp at dusk, will have to move first about 6 miles up Oliphant’s Kloof, and will then ascend the mountain in a northerly direction through the heart of the Langberg about 8 miles, to the heights overlooking Puduhusche from the south.
At the same time I shall break up my camp here, and move through the night with the main column, to a position in front of the Puduhusche valley, waiting there for a signal from the covering column before commencing the attack; at daybreak, the wagons, horses, camp equipment, &c., being sent under escort back to Ryan’s at the same time. As I have before stated, I consider that the risk of sending a column through the Langberg is great, especially bearing in mind the great difficulties and hardships experienced by Captain Johnson’s column on the 6th and 7th April, but from the tenour of the telegrams received from you dated April the 27th, No. 3, and 28th, No.4 [?] respectively, it is apparently the wish of the Premier that an attack should [>>>-ice] be made, so under these circumstances, I have selected Puduhusche as being the best point for attack.
Should I succeed in taking the Puduhusche Kloof and holding it, for. the time being, I shall have to evacuate the Kloof again, as I move northwards to attack the next position held by the rebels, as I have not sufficient men to hold each position as I take it, owing to the number which have to be employed in holding lines of communication and base, water supplies, convoys on stores, &c.
I may add that, with the exception of 50 men, this move will be made dismounted and that to-morrow I commence sending the horses back to Ryan;s with an escort.
I have, &c.,
(Sgd.) E. H. DALGETY,
Lieut.-Col. Commanding B. F. Force.
An enormous number of cattle must have died in the mountain from Rinderpest, and as the last harvest was a poor one, the rebels are reported to be running short of food.