THERE is courage and merit in openly speaking the truth about any engagement, for only thereby can be had clearer knowledge, higher efficiency of service, and sterner resolution. On Friday last the Ladysmith Relief Column, under General Sir Redvers Buller, attacked the Boers with all arms. It was the biggest, the most severe and inconclusive battle of the war. The enemy held an exceedingly strong position north of Colenso, their camps there being connected by chains of laagers and outposts with those encircling Ladysmith upon its southern side. A little way north of the banks of the Tugela stretches an extensive range of bold, lofty ridges trending east and west. These walls of trap and sandstone rocks command the river and valley lands and the little angular foot-hills lying near the river. Southward of Colenso from the Tugela to Estcourt is a wide, treeless area—a sort of South African downs—of low, smoothly rounded uplands, sparsely covered with grass. Naturally difficult of access, the Boers for weeks past, by means of every device known to military engineers, had so strengthened the position as to make it almost unassailable except at terrible risk and cost Barbed wire was laid, walls and forts constructed and cleverly planned, and trenches were dug in every direction. Add to these, excellent modern artillery and magazine rifles in the hands of capable foemen, and some idea may be formed of the task our Generals had before them. True, much of what is here set out was only learned when the plunge was made, and the ability to eliminate error belongs to none.
Like a great barrier across the nearest and best highways to Ladysmith by rail and road, the Boer lines interposed between our determined General and his goal. Upon us has almost invariably devolved the burden of attacking. Even where it has been otherwise, the Boers have generally managed to secure positions from which we had to drive them. General Buller resolved to try and break through the Colenso lines, for time also was an element in the situation. Plans were prepared and orders were issued under Sir Redvers' instructions by Lieut-General Sir Francis Clery for thrusting aside the enemy. In these cases it is usually best to let the military authorities speak for themselves, and I therefore quote from the General Orders of the day." Orders of LIEUT.-GENERAL SIR FRANCIS CLERY, commanding the South Natal Field Forces.
" Chieveley, December 14,1899 (10 P.M.)
" The enemy is entrenched in the kopjes north of the Tugela; one large camp is reported to be near the Ladysmith road, about five miles northwest of Colenso. Another large camp is reported in the hills which lie off the Tugela in a northerly direction from Hlangwane Hill—a rough scrub-covered kopje.
" It is the intention of the General Officer commanding to force a passage of the Tugela to-morrow.
" The 5th Brigade (Major-General Hart's) will move from its present camp at 4.30 a.m., and march towards Bridle Drift (a ford about four miles west of Colenso), immediately west of the junction of Doornkop Spruit and the Tugela. The brigade will cross at this point, and, after crossing, move along on the left bank of the river towards the kopjes north of the iron bridge.
" The 2nd Brigade (Major-General Hildyard's) will move from its present camping-ground at 4 a.m., and, passing south of the present camping-ground of No. i and No. 2 of the divisional troops, will march in the direction of the iron bridge at Colenso, and the brigade will cross at this point and gain possession of the kopjes north of the iron bridge.
"The 4th Brigade (Major-General the Hon. N. G. Lyttelton's) will advance at 4.30 a.m. to the point between Bridle Drift and the railway south, and can support either the 5th or the 2nd Brigade.
" The 6th Brigade (Major-General Barton's), less half a battalion as escort to the baggage, will move at 4 a.m. east of the railway in the direction of Hlangwane Hill, to a position where it can protect the right flank of the 2nd Brigade, and, if necessary, support it or the mounted troops referred to later as moving towards Hlangwane Hill.
" The officer commanding the mounted brigade (the Earl of Dundonald) will move at 4 a.m. with a force of 1000 men and one battery, No. 1 Brigade Division, in the direction of Hlangwane Hill. He will cover the right flank of the general movement, and will endeavour to take up a position on Hlangwane Hill, where he will enfilade the kopjes north of the iron bridge. The officer commanding the mounted troops will also detail two forces of 300 and 500 men, to cover the right and left flanks respectively and protect the baggage.
" The 2nd Brigade Division of the Royal Field Artillery will move at 4.30 a.m., following the 4th Brigade, and will take up a position whence it can enfilade the kopjes north of the iron bridge. The 6th Brigade (Major-General Barton's) will act on any orders it receives from Major-General Hart The six naval guns—12-pounders—now in position north of the 4th Brigade, will advance on the right of the 2nd Brigade Division Royal Field Artillery. No. 1 Division Royal Field Artillery, less one battery detached to the mounted brigade, will move at 3.30 a.m. east of the railway, and proceed, under cover of the 6th Brigade, to a point from which it can prepare a crossing for the 2 nd Brigade. The six naval guns will accompany and act with the Brigade Division.
" As soon as the troops mentioned in the preceding paragraph have moved to their position, the remaining units and the baggage will be parked in deep formation in five separate lines, facing north, in rear of to-day's artillery position."
Most of the parentheses are mine. There are other details given in the General Order, but enough has been quoted to enable a fairer judgment being framed between expectation and performance. What will strike nearly everybody who reads further is, that the portions of the programme left to Major-Generals Hart, Barton, and the Earl of Dundonald by some mischance were not completed in accordance with the general plan. The field batteries also failed to render the expected help to the assaulting infantry. Each soldier carried 150 rounds of ball cartridges. Beyond these and his great-coat Tommy went into the fight in the lightest marching order, and unquestionably eager to engage hand-to-hand. General Buller had his headquarters nominally beside the two 4.7-inch naval guns, which were firing lyddite. As a matter of fact, he and his escort of mounted police rode everywhere where the roar and briskness of the battle seemed most to demand his personal supervision. There is a preliminary scene or two that must be limned, for that will help to the better unfolding of the drama of Colenso.
On Thursday all General Buller's column, consisting of four brigades of infantry, nearly two brigades of cavalry—including Volunteers—six Royal Artillery field batteries, sixteen naval guns, a big Royal Engineer pontoon-train, with other branches of the Queen's Service, totalling 23,000 men, were encamped upon the open veldt some three miles north of Chieveley Railway-station. The majority of the troops quitted Frere Camp before daybreak, and had comfortably ridden or tramped the intervening eight or nine miles. Major-General Barton's Union Fusilier Brigade had, however, occupied part of the intended new camp site the previous day. Along the stone ridge west of the railway was the centre and key of Chieveley Camp. There we were less than 5000 yards south of Colenso and the Tugela. The puffing clouds of smoke and dull roar from Mount Bulwan showed that Ladysmith was still being materially bombarded. Before us loomed dark and large, Grobler's Hill, and the continuous ranges, foreground of meadow, brown ridges, and background of hills, were scored with serried lines of Boer trenches punctuated by forts. Upon the right, crowning the rounded shoulder of a reddish foothill, was Fort Wylie, a small redoubt built before Colenso was evacuated. That, as well as their new works, was in occupation by the enemy. With characteristic astuteness the Boers were chary of disclosing their whereabouts. We knew that they had numerous camps behind the hills, and were in force before us. Occasionally a few horsemen could be seen cantering swiftly over the plain or making up the hill-tracks. Later on, in scattered twos and threes, they galloped furiously to get under cover of the hills and to reinforce their firing-lines in the trenches. Small groups also could be caught sight of, through good glasses, watching our movements from the remote hilltops. There was a belief entertained by not a few, but which I did not share, (hat the enemy would decline battle. The advantages were too much in their favour for that course; besides, they would have time and space * enough to run away when they were likely to be more closely pressed. Nothing in the course of the war has dimmed the keenness of officers and men. Undoubtedly their hearts are in the task set them.
Thursday broke raw and cold. The weather has made more than fervent tropical amends since. Never, with the usual exaggeration of oldest inhabitants, has there been such sweltering weather during December in Natal. The pastures and rivers are as dried up as in June. It was difficult to locate the more elaborate and strongly occupied works of the Boers. We had given them a taste of our gun-metal on Wednesday, but for Thursday was reserved an ample banquet served up by the two 4.7-inch and the 12-pounder naval guns. As soon as the light was good enough the bombardment was begun. General Buller had signalled to General White that his attack upon Colenso lines should be the prelude to the advance upon Ladysmith. Captain Jones, of her Majesty's ship Forte, with part of the naval contingent, began shelling Commandant Botha's, the Boer leader's, works. The air crackled with the stunning roar of guns and exploding shells. Heavy and steady was the cannonade of the sailors. The enemy had made no attempt to check our advance or the pitching of the tents for our new camp, although we were well within the range of their Krupp and big Creusot cannon. The Boers " lay" low. Not a word or shot did they return us. A few of our scouts, who, in the early morning, had ridden close to the Tugela, had been fired upon by their riflemen. When the bombardment started numbers of our men watched and criticised the effect of our shells as the lyddite missiles struck rock or work with resounding impact. They threw up enormous columns of smoke and dust. Not more than three shots had been fired from the big guns when the Boers promptly suspended all trenching operations, hurrying off towards the hills or burrowing in their most secure cover.
At noon our bombardment was stopped until 3 p.m. From that hour it went forward in a slow, intermittent fashion, until nightfall. With more guns, a heavy and systematic searching by lyddite fire could—and, perhaps, should—have been made of the Boer ground in front. During the cannonade the enemy were seen to be trying to place a large cannon near Fort Wylie, which is the nearest foothill across the Tugela bridge. A shell or two led to the total suspension of that operation. Nearly 140 shells were pitched on Thursday by the naval guns at the Boer lines. We learned that same day that over five of the enemy's bridge guards had been killed on Wednesday by one of our lyddite shells. The heavier bombardment of Thursday must have accounted for many more, but not a shot in reply did the wily Boers vouchsafe us. They took their punishment, biding their opportunity. One thing proximity disclosed was that the Boers' favourite position for placing their cannon is in or near a dip or neck between hills. They also arrange to shift to and fro with their lighter guns. Another trick of theirs, to prevent their heads being seen above the skyline, is to have their trenches in front of the earth thrown out in digging.
All was in readiness in the camps of the left column before daylight on Friday. What with packing baggage and making ready, there had been few hours left for rest to officers and men. Sleep, even in campaign clothes and boots, by order, is not always possible. Away to the east of the railway went the cavalry, under Lord Dundonald, and several of the batteries. Hart's Fusiliers went off to the west, the Irishmen as gay and as pleased as Punch to be in the van. With them also were field-guns and cavalry. I think the 13th Hussars were on the right (east) and the Royals on the left; but neither of the crack regiments had much beyond the part of lookers-on to play that day. General Hildyard, who is always steady and to be relied upon, had the post of honour, the attack upon the centre, where the Boer works were nearest and strongest; and, with the Queen's Own on the right of the railway, and the Devons from Chieveley on the left of the metals, he advanced leisurely. The men were in open order, eight paces or so apart, and moved onward with perfect dressing—almost too perfect for the job on hand. Behind the West Surrey, or Queen's, in support, were part of the West Yorks, whilst the Devons had the East Surrey in rear. Major-General Hart made his detour in advance towards Bridle Drift in closer formation; indeed, his men were caught under fire in quarter column and column of route, or something like it. Lord Dundonald made a wide circuit to get upon the slopes of the rough hills which run north towards Pieter's Crossing, and expose the flanks of the Colenso lines. With him was most of the Colonial Cavalry. I went forward, in the first instance, to the big guns, then towards Hart's brigade, keeping up on the high ground, then back past the guns towards Colenso. Our front extended for fully six miles, not including the cavalry flankers.
The action was begun shortly before 6 a.m. by the naval contingent firing lyddite and 12-pounders. Heavily did they pound the trenches upon their front—Grobler's Hill, and the lesser ridges from Fort Wylie northward—but not an answer came back from the Boers. Forward proceeded our infantry, whilst the Natal Carbineers, South African Light Horse, Thorneycroft's Mounted Infantry, and the " Kings" Mounted Infantry, advanced to occupy Hlangwane Hill. Major-General Hildyard's Queen's arid Devons were nearing the platelayers' and other outlying houses of Colenso. Colonels Long and Hunt had come into line with their three field batteries, and Lieutenant James, R.N., with his six long naval 12-pounders, was doing his best with ox-waggons to range alongside of them. Major-General Barton's brigade, on the right of Hildyard's, was doing nothing in particular, with the exception of part of the Scottish and Irish Fusiliers, who got, later on, well into the heat of the fray. The field batteries upon Hildyard's right might have been moving down the Long Valley, Aldershot, so excellently were they aligned over the downward slopes. They rumbled towards the timber-fringed bank of the Tugela, half a mile or more east of Colenso. Colonel Long was determined his guns should not be outclassed, and was, with too great hardihood, bringing them within 1500 yards of Fort Wylie. Indeed, he outpaced the infantry escort.
At 6.25 a.m. suddenly there burst an awful crash of Boer musketry upon the batteries and advancing infantry, Devons and Queen's. The rattle of Mausers swelled, and was maintained as one continuous roar from within 600 yards. From buildings and lines of trenches south of the river, and from the river bank itself, the Boers fired at our gunners and footmen ; and from trenches on the northern side of the Tugela, and from Fort Wylie and elsewhere they sent out a hurricane of leaden hail. The bullets venomously rained upon the ground in all directions, raising puffs of dust, and tearing the air with shrill sounds. It seemed impossible that anything could face and live in that fire. Few have ever seen so heavy and deadly a fusillade; but neither the British gunners nor infantry hesitated or winced. The cannon were wheeled into position, although many horses and men were shot down ere the manoeuvre was completed. Our indomitable soldiers walked erect and straight onward. Not Rome in her palmiest days ever possessed more devoted sons. As the gladiators marched proud and beaming to meet death, so the British soldiers doomed to die saluted, and then, and with alacrity, stepped forward to do their duty—glory or the grave. I, like hundreds more, am eager to proclaim that Tommy Atkins is a far grander hero than ninety-nine hundredths of the people in England have any conception of. Rough, it is true, he may be, but the stuff that makes for empires and for greatness fills his every vein and heart-beat. Anglo-Saxon soldiers always advance in that way. I asked an American, who had seen warfare at home in Cuba and Manila, if his own countrymen generally did. He answered, " Yes; it is marvellous, but wasteful." Perhaps there may be occasions when the sight of men coming on so steadily in the face of almost certain death, will try the nerves of their antagonists ; but my own view is that, save where men have to get to within running distance of a few lines of trenches, the system of rushes from cover to cover by small squads is far less wasteful of life. Closer and closer walked the soldiers to the Boer trenches. Our men managed to get within 400 yards of the nearest rifle-pits; lying down, they then returned the fire; but there was little or nothing to be seen to aim at, for the enemy kept themselves carefully hidden behind trees, in trenches, or behind walls. Unfortunately, it had not been suspected that the Boers had ventured to construct cover upon the south side of the river.
With magnificent courage Long and Hunt fought their guns, shelling the ridges across the Tugela for over an hour. Fort Wylie and the adjacent stony crest were swept with shrapnel; but the Boer fire from other coigns of vantage grew in volume during the temporary pacification by shell of Fort Wylie. The Mausers did their work all too well, and gradually two of Long's batteries were put out of action ; but not before he and Hunt had been wounded, as well as most of the officers and men. The horses had been shot down, and the others brought up to retire the guns shared their fate. Happily, the naval battery and the third field battery were able to withdraw to a safer position.
Meanwhile, the Devons and the Queen's had driven the Boers out of the platelayers' and other houses, and had manage?! to clear the enemy out of Colenso village. Several of the Boer trenches had also been carried; the enemy, as usual, bolting when Tommy got near with gun and bayonet. Backwards and forwards wove the shuttle of death from the trenches covering the low ground and foot-hills and the walled crests across the Tugela. The enemy's lines were crowded with riflemen, and the flash and puff of musketry ran ever up and down their front. Our naval guns in the centre, helped now in a desultory way by others, hammered away at the Boer trenches. Five minutes after they opened with their rifles, the enemy's gunners followed suit with half a score of cannon. Our infantry and batteries were ploughed with 6-inch Creusot shells, lesser Krupps, and the aggravating rat-a-tat-tat of the i-pounder Maxims and Hotch-kiss machine-cannon. Ah! I should have added that, for it was part of the hurricane of iron and lead our infantry and gunners dauntlessly faced and advanced against. What wonder that all who saw the soldiers' heroism were enthusiastic in their admiration of Tommy !
I turn from Hildyard, who has got forward to the bank of the Tugela, has men in Colenso, and has seen a few of our reckless youngsters set foot by the ruined iron highway bridge, to Hart's Brigade. The Irish Brigade, through no fault of the men's, were somewhat late. Possibly the map was wrongly drawn upon which Major-General Hart base*! his plans. At any rate, where he thought was the main river, only a bewildering spruit interposed. Down towards the salient, so to speak, of the Boer trenches and works he led his men as if on parade, far within possible, and, as it unfortunately turned out, actual point-blank range of the enemy's Mausers, in close formation. The brigade had a withering fire poured into them and their accompanying cavalry and batteries. Long had outstripped his escort; Hart had taken everybody with him. Then the brigade strove to deploy, and Hart actually is said to have got markers out to see that was done by book! The Boers promptly helped their Mausers with artillery, big and little, and our batteries and cavalry had to hurry to the rear to secure better ground. A further swing to the left was made by the Irish Brigade; and General Lyttelton, who admirably handled his men throughout, keeping them in open order, pushed on a little way to lend support. Consumed with wrath, the Dublin and Inniskilling Fusiliers hurried forward, backed by the Connaught Rangers and the Border Regiment. They soon got to grips with the Boers. Swift and straight, they swept down through the long grass into the dongas towards the Tugela.
It was about 7 a.m. With as fierce and prolonged a rifle-fire as had greeted Hildyard's Brigade, the Irishmen had to deal. Down upon them also descended 100-pounder shells from the lofty hill west of Grobler's. With jibe and cheer they pushed for the river, and the enemy fell away before them or were killed in their trenches by the smart shots of the Dublin boys. Five hundred yards of Boer trenches were passed over, and Buller himself watched them the while with admiration. The General, however, was recalled to Hildyard's Brigade with the news that the enemy from the river banks, which he held in large numbers, was slating the batteries and the Second Brigade. The battle proceeded with undiminished fury; yet, as in all big actions, there were those unaccountable and strange lulls, when the sound of conflict drifted into silence, the birds took up their songs, and one made note that the sun was still shining peacefully. Rifles and cannon were cooling, and men were sitting tight, taking breath.
From 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. the fight was general and fiercest all along the line. Hildyard and Hart's Brigades had respectively suffered long before that hour, but the later hours had heavier trials for all. The Colonial Cavalry had advanced to Hlangwane, to find the Boers in strength there before them. Nay, they had guns in position upon that rough hill and the larger range behind. Truly, the wings or flanks of a Boer army are in the air, and it is well-nigh hopeless to attempt to turn their flanks, so much do they gain by their extreme mobility and intimate knowledge of the country. To get at them, keep at them, and drive them—as at Eland's Laagte [Ed - Elandslaagte]— appear the safest tactics. An hour of Brigadier Hector Macdonald would have made a difference in the turning movements that failed. The Colonials fought bravely at Hlangwane, and even without the support they might have counted upon from Lord Dundonald and General Barton—but did not get either timely or generously, or indeed at all— came nigh winning with their own hands the position. Why they were not helped I am unable at the moment to say, or to afford an explanation. What I do know is that they won their way under a sharp rifle-fire almost to the summit, and the enemy admitted that the position was all but gained. Regretfully, too, do I add, that the battery was not able to render them much assistance. They were ordered down, and Hlangwane was abandoned to the Boers, with the result that the Colonials suffered more in retreat than in the advance. The same fate, but to a lesser extent, also befell the infantry when later on they fell back to camp.
By 7.15 a.m. the Irish Brigade had driven the Boers to the north bank of the Tugela. They found that the enemy had planted the ground with barbed-wire entanglements. Even in the bed of the river barbed wire had been laid. Down into the water went the Dublins, Inniskillings, Borderers, and Connaughts. It was found there was no drift or ford. The Boers had cunningly dammed the river, and there was ten feet of water where it was ordinarily but knee-deep. They strove to find crossings, and many a fine fellow, with his weight of ammunition and accoutrements, was drowned. It was a desperate and serious situation. The attack upon the right was making no progress, and Hart's men had reached an apparent impasse ; but there were furious, angry Irishmen, who resolved to get across somehow by dint of scrambling from rock to rock and swimming. A number won the other side, yet most found that they had but passed across a winding spruit. The Tugela still lay in front, and all the while the murderous fire of cannon and Mausers crashed, and comrades fell weltering in blood. Our naval guns did their best to silence the enemy's cannon, but the Boer gunners devoted their attention almost exclusively to slaughtering our cavalry, field artillery, and infantry. Not more than a dozen shots were fired at Captain Jones's central battery, yet it was well within range. To conceal the position of their cannon was evidently an ever-present desire of the enemy; but the sailors did catch sight of one or two of the Boer cannon, and managed effectually to silence them. Several of the lyddite shells made magnificent hits, and one blew up a Creusot gun near Grobler's Kloof. Another broke down the parapet of Fort Wylie, clearing an opening big enough to drive two Fleet Street omnibuses abreast. In these and other instances nearly all the enemy in the vicinity of the works must have been killed or maimed.
Matters were at their worst about 10 a.m. Daring spirits of the Irish Brigade had got across the Tugela, only to find lines upon lines of trenches before them or a wide network of wire entanglement. Colenso was in our occupation. The Queen's, and others of the Second Brigade, with a few of Barton's, chiefly the Scottish Fusiliers, were quite near the iron bridge and the river. Regardless of the wildest fusillade ever heard from an enemy, our men tried to bore in farther. Generals Buller and Clery, with their Staffs and escort, had ridden near the lost guns, and subsequently went towards the platelayers' houses. The spouting hail of lead and iron snapped and spluttered; dust puffed more than ever. Lord Roberts' son, Lieutenant Roberts, K.R.R., with Captains Schofield and Congreve, of the Staff, volunteered to ride out and endeavour to save the two field batteries in the open. Readily other volunteers were found. Corporals from the linesmen and drivers of the ammunition-waggons, taking spare teams, galloped out, and men and horses again began falling on every side. Young Roberts' horse was blown up with a shell, which inflicted severe wounds upon his body and limbs. Congreve was hit in the leg with a bullet, and his clothes cut by other missiles. Schofield alone escaped untouched across that valley of death. Quickly the surviving animals were rounded up, the guns hooked, and dragged away. Again and again that day were attempts made to haul off the remaining guns, which belonged to the 14th and 66th Field Batteries; but the Boer cannon and rifle-fire was incessant and withering.
Self-sacrifice and heroism were common during those hours before Colenso. The difficulty was to restrain too many from rushing out to help the gunners; but that detracts not an iota from the merit of Roberts, Congreve, and Schofield, who have earned the V.C. as worthily as it was ever won. Scores of times did I see horse and rider fall beneath the stroke of Boer bullet and shell into the vortex, and then some soldier-comrade would ride and assist his mate to rise, or two or more would set the wounded man on horseback and bear him from the field. How shall I find space to tell half of the incidents? Men would have their horses shot under them, and the unwounded soldier would help his comrade to limp back to his command. Comrades true to death, too, were there, weary, wounded, assisting one another from the ground. Sometimes they managed to get away; more frequently they fell smitten, killed side by side. Generals Buller and Clery had numerous escapes, and ran risks that made men nervous about them, for the death of either would have been hailed by the enemy as a victory. Both were hit by glancing bullets: Buller in the side and Clery in the arm. Out of the Staff, Captain Hughes, R.A.M.C., was killed, others were wounded, and Lord Gerard had his horse shot twice. Captain Congreve crept into a donga, above which no one could with safety peep. From there he subsequently went out with Major Baptie, and brought in Lieutenant Roberts.
The end was near. Although Lyttelton's brigade moved closer forward to Hart's and Hild-yard's support about noon ; yet, there being no appreciable advance made in any direction, General Clery ordered a retirement. Word was sent to the General Officer commanding the Field Batteries: "You are ordered to retire. You cannot get your guns away, I fear." The surgeons and ambulance men had followed in the footsteps of the troops, and done all that was possible to mitigate suffering. Still, there were many they could not reach, for the Boers took no notice of the Geneva Cross badge on any man's arm. Gradually, steadily, the infantry came in without flurry or fear. Nay, most of them were clamorous to be left to stay where they had won their way, confident by-and-by of rushing the Boer position. Several detached parties from Hart's brigade at Bridle Drift to Hlangwane learned too late that they had been left unsupported. Many of the Irish made plucky dashes through the field of death to rejoin their battalions. Others, less fortunate, were captured. Fourteen of the Devons, with Colonel Bullock, Major Mac Walter, Captains Goodwin and Vigors, with fourteen gunners, including Colonel Hunt, lay in the same donga as Captain Congreve until 5 p.m. They hoped, like many more, to keep the enemy from carrying off the guns, and slip away themselves after sunset; but a complete retirement had been effected by the brigades actively engaged. Although Lyttelton's men had advanced, they were not permitted to take up a position from which they could check the Boers from returning to the south side of the Tugela. By 4 p.m. the fight was practically at an end. Our naval guns, however, fired occasionally. Lyttel-ton's and Barton's brigades were still out, but Hart's and Hildyard's were moving into their old camp. The men had not lost heart, but smoked, chatted, and sang, and would have given the shirts off their backs to have been in at the Boers. But our losses were heavy ; probably in all—killed and wounded and missing — some 1500. They must have run into 5000, or thereabouts, had the troops been permitted to force their way through the Boer works to the top of Grobler*s Hill. Given re-arrangement of the disposition of the troops, I doubt not they would have carried the whole position. About 5 p.m. parties of Boers approached the ten guns, and Colonel Bullock threatened to fire upon them unless they retired. A parley ensued. The Boers declared their willingness to allow the wounded to be taken back into camp • but just then over 150 Boers got to within a few yards of the donga, and further resistance was hopeless. Colonel Bullock, declining to surrender, was knocked down and captured. With a good deal of consideration, the enemy furnished the wounded with water and cordials. All their arms, ammunition, and field-glasses were taken from them, and then an ambulance waggon was brought up, and the more severely injured were sent back; the unwounded, including Colonel Hunt, Royal Artillery, who they said was not seriously hit, were made prisoners. Our loss in prisoners is about 330, including men from most of the battalions of Hart's and Hildyard's brigade, with several from General Barton's force. The Scottish Fusiliers, in that connection, had very bad luck, for they got left in an untenable position, and were surrounded. Our losses in officers have been heavy, but relatively not so great, since they have discarded swords and other too conspicuous insignia of rank.
On Saturday we slept in camp, facing the enemy, who began moving down heavy Creusot guns wherewith to shell us; but as there was no water available for any body of troops nearer than Frere, unless at Colenso, it was decided to send back two of the brigades. Indeed, water for drinking purposes was at a premium in Chieveley advanced camps on Saturday. That night there was an eclipse of the moon. In the dusk and dark tents were struck and packed. At 3 a.m. on Sunday Hildyard's and Hart's brigades were marched back to Frere, the Irishmen, I declare, growling terribly, and swearing that they were being taken the wrong road. It was to Colenso, sure, they should be going to see the Boers. With exceptional tact the majority of the wounded were recovered from the battlefield, and sent in to the ample and well-planned hospitals at Chieveley Railway-station, Frere, Estcourt, Pin-burg, etc. Lyttelton's and Bartons brigades retired about a mile and a half, and are now, with the big naval guns and 12-pounders, occupying a stony ridge commanding the southern roads from Colenso. We are said to be waiting for more guns and re-arranging plans for a successful battle and advance upon Ladysmith. General White has been informed of what has taken place, and told to hold on a little longer.
I regret to say Lieutenant Roberts succumbed to his painful injuries this (Sunday) morning. He was buried with five soldiers, each in separate graves, close to Chieveley Railway-station. General Clery and Staff attended the funeral, as well as many of the gallant deceased's brother Riflemen. There he now sleeps in a soldier's grave.