History often reproduces without reference to nationality some particular human type or class which becomes active and predominant for a time, and fades away when its task is finished. It is, however, not utterly lost, for the germ of it lies dormant yet ready to re-appear when the exigencies of the moment recall it. The reserve forces of human nature are inexhaustible and inextinguishable.
It is probable that few of the Boers had ever heard of Oliver Cromwell, or that his life and times had ever been studied in the South African Republics, and had influenced the Boer action; yet the affinity of the South African burghers of the XIXth century with the Puritans and the Roundheads of the XVIIth is striking. It was not so much a parallelism of aims and hopes, for the struggle in England was political and not national as in South Africa, as of temperament, character, and method. There was hardly an individuity in the Boers of the War which might not have been found in the followers of Cromwell. Like these they were fanatically but sincerely religious, and their unabashed and fearless adherence to their beliefs and their open observance of the outward forms of religion exposed them to the same cruel and baseless charge of hypocrisy. Just as the aristocratic followers of Charles I had jeered at the Roundheads, so did every thoughtless officer and newspaper correspondent jeer at the psalm-singing and the prayer meetings in the laagers. The Boers had the courage of their religious opinions, and were not ashamed to proclaim them in the face of man. The Bible was the only book they knew, and they guided themselves according to their lights by its precepts. In opposing the English they believed that they were resisting the enemies of the Almighty. Like the Puritans they honestly thought that certain passages in the Holy Scriptures applied to them as the Chosen People, and that they were assured of Divine Protection; and if they erred in their exegesis their delusion at least deserves respect. Yet all the while the Old Testament was the volume they chiefly studied, and if they quoted the New Testament they sometimes modified the context to their own advantage.
Each Puritan movement has derived its strength not so much from its abstract merit as from the intense personal conviction felt by each unit engaged in it, that the righteousness of the cause was unassailable. The Puritan never wavered in philosophic doubt. No misgivings disturbed his soul, and he pursued his object with all the strength of his body.
The Puritan stir in the reign of Charles I was a revival, almost a continuation, of the half political, half religious activity which in the previous century had effected the Reformation. The Boer movement in South Africa, which sprang up after a germination lasting three generations, was brought about by a recrudescence of the spirit which made the Boers of the Netherlands rise against Alva and the Spanish domination in the XVIth century.
In the XVIIth century the Boers of the Netherlands, made a voluntary settlement in South Africa, and there under the Southern Cross they were joined by French Puritans, who had fought under Condé and who left their country after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and also by some persecuted sectaries from Piedmont. The two stocks, although one was of Teutonic and the other of Celtic origin, easily came together, and under the pressure of common interests and common dangers were consolidated and vulcanized: and if in the previous generation the English Pilgrim Fathers of the Mayflower had directed their course to the south instead of to the west, and had cast anchor off the shore of that distant region of Good Hope, it is probable that a mighty nation would have been founded in South Africa.
Cromwell as the military leader of the Commonwealth Boers is, at least in England where the military art has not been scientifically studied, one of the suppressed characters of history. His political achievements, as is perhaps natural in a community which courts the voter and despises the soldier, have put out of sight the means by which he mainly won them; namely his genius as a cavalry and partisan commander. An ungainly, narrow-minded, bigoted, bucolic squireen of Huntingdon, lacking in every quality which we are accustomed to associate with a cavalry officer, inaugurated an era in the history of Mounted Troops. His methods are studied on the Continent, and the German Staff has recently discovered that he was the first leader to use cavalry as a screen to hide the movements of the main body. Yet there is no evidence that he ever studied the military art, and he did not become a soldier until he had reached his fourth decade. In the Royalist Army opposed to him were soldiers by profession and experience; officers and men who had been under Gustavus Adolphus in the Thirty Years' War; for in the XVIIth century the services of aliens were in request on the Continent, and at one time no less than eighty-seven senior officers of British nationality were serving in the Swedish Army, then the most renowned in Europe. Yet Cromwell with his "Eastern Association," his Ironsides, his yeomen and raw levies, beat the Royalist Army, officered from the same class which is still believed to possess the monopoly of the aptitude for leading men in war, by exercising the homely qualities of energy, self-control, endurance, and practical common sense applied instantly to the occasion of the moment.
The lessons to be learnt from Cromwell's campaigns have been thus epitomized by General Baden-Powell:—"There is one thing that ought not to escape the attention of students, namely the success that attended Cromwell's method of rallying his troops whenever they got dispersed. When things looked bad, as they did on one or two occasions, when some of his cavalry were defeated and the rest scattered, he never lost heart and his men never lost heart; they knew they had to rally again and attack somewhere else. Very often the enemy were deceived by that, thinking that the Roundheads were scattered and broken up, and took no further notice of him until they suddenly found him attacking from quite a new direction. That was the secret of his success on many occasions, and one that has its lesson to-day, just as it had in those days—that when all seems pretty bad and you are scattered and broken, keep up a good heart and get together again and have another go." With scarcely the change of a word these remarks will account for the prolongation of the war for two years after the occupation of the Boer capitals.
The Boer leaders, like their great prototype Cromwell, owed much of their success to their novel and skilful use of mounted troops. The European conception of the functions of mounted troops had been stereotyped for some time; Cavalry screens an advancing army, prevents the enemy observing its dispositions, acts as its eyes and ears; and so forth. It is true that Great Britain had already for at least a generation employed Mounted Infantry in colonial wars; but the innovation had never been approved of on the Continent, where it was regarded as a cheap and inefficient British substitute for Cavalry.
Yet the famous postscript "unmounted men preferred,"2 which was affixed to the acceptance of the help proffered by the Australian Colonies, shows that at first the power of mounted troops acting not as the eyes and ears of an army, but as a mobile and supple "mailed fist," was not understood. In ten weeks, however, the tune changed, and it was "preference given to mounted contingents."
When the grand operations were over, the enemy's chief towns occupied, and the lines of communication fairly secure, the necessity for mounted troops became still more apparent. The Boers saw that it was useless for them to campaign at large. They took to guerilla, and restricted themselves generally to independent horse raids against which foot troops were powerless. Gradually the proportion of horses to men in the British columns rose, until practically all the combatants were mounted, and at last the Cromwellian principle that the best military weapon is a man on a horse was fully accepted.
The military qualities of the Boers, like those of Cromwell's men, were useful but not showy. They came by instinct and not by acquisition, and they cannot be sufficiently accounted for as the outcome of experience in the pursuit of game on the veld. They were neutralized partially by characteristics the reverse of military. The Boers were not remarkable for personal courage. If there had been in the Boer Army a decoration corresponding to the Victoria Cross it would have been rarely won or at least rarely earned. There is scarcely an instance of an individual feat of arms or act of devotion performed by a Burgher. On the few occasions when the Boers were charged by cavalry they became paralysed with terror. They were incapable of submitting themselves to discipline, and difficult to command in large numbers. They could not be made to understand that prompt action, which possibly might not be the best under the circumstances, was preferable to wasting time in discussing a better with the field cornets. They were subject to panics and, for the time, easily disheartened: and their sense of duty was not conspicuous. The principles of strategy were unknown to them, their tactics were crude, and with the exception of a very few who had fought in 1881, they were without experience of the realities of war.3
If in the month of September, 1899, an impartial military critic in a foreign Ministry of War had been directed to draw up an appreciation of the situation and to forecast the course of the impending struggle, he would probably have expressed himself somewhat as follows:—
"An Army of 100,000 men is the utmost that Great Britain will be able to place in the field in South Africa, for the Indian and Colonial drafts must be provided for, and the Militia and other Auxiliary Forces, which are not of much account, are tethered to the country; but it will be sufficient for the purpose. Although the military system of Great Britain is hopelessly behind the times, she has always done wonders with her boomerangs, bows and arrows, and flint instruments. That Army will be fairly well furnished with modern weapons and equipment, and the excellent personality of the soldier will compensate to a great extent for incapacity in the Staff and superior officers. With this Army she will have to meet a brave but undisciplined opponent whose numbers cannot be estimated. Even if the Free Staters are included it is improbable that more than 100,000 men can be put into the field. These have had no military training, their leaders will be unprofessional officers who will be unable to make good use of the munitions of War which the two Republics have been strangely allowed to import through British ports and to accumulate in large quantities. If the burghers of the Orange Free State throw in their lot with the Transvaalers, which is improbable as they have no quarrel with Great Britain, the numbers opposed to her will certainly be augmented, but the task before her will be greatly simplified. Instead of having to send one portion of her Army by way of Natal to effect a junction in the Transvaal, with the other portion working northwards through Kimberley and Mafeking, a campaign which would involve two long and vulnerable lines of communication, she will be able to strike at once through the heart of the Free State and will advance without much difficulty to Johannesburg and Pretoria. The hardest part of her task will be the passage of the Vaal, where a great battle will be fought, and the capture of Pretoria, which is reported to be well fortified. With Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Pretoria and the railways in the possession of Great Britain, the opposition will collapse in a very few weeks, for no nation has ever been able to carry on a struggle when its chief towns and means of communication are in the enemy's possession."
This hypothetical appreciation probably represents the general opinion current both at home and abroad during the period immediately preceding the outbreak of the War: but it proved to be mistaken from the first. The Free Staters joined the Transvaalers and the allied forces assumed the offensive over a wide area without delay. Kimberley and Mafeking were threatened on the west, and on the east the Boers poured into Natal, upon which they had for sixty years looked with the aggrieved and greedy eyes of a dog from whom a bone, to which he believes he is entitled, has been recovered.
To Natal, in 1824, had come a handful of British pioneers. From Chaka, the King of the Zulus, they obtained a grant of land upon the coast, and after eleven years they endeavoured without success to induce the British Government to recognize the settlement, which in course of time became the City of Durban, as a Colony to which, in honour of the Princess heiress presumptive to the Throne of Great Britain, they proposed to give the name Victoria; and they were thus the first to associate her with the Empire, which, in spite of reluctant politicians who did their best to restrict it, was destined to expand marvellously during her reign.
The Natal settlement was frowned on by the Imperial Government, who even confiscated a little ship which the pioneers had toilfully fitted out and which was bringing envoys from the King of the Zulus to the King of England, on the plea that it was unregistered and that it came from a foreign port. In 1828 Chaka, who was not unfavourably disposed towards the Durban pioneers, was murdered by his brother Dingaan, who succeeded him as King of the Zulus. It is said that his last words to Dingaan were, "You think that you will rule the land when I am gone, but I see the white men coming, and they will be your masters."
His words were prophetically true, but there were two races of white men hovering over Natal; and the Great King of the Zulus, a tribe held in little account before his time, but which had under his leadership absorbed or exterminated almost every other tribe from Pondoland to Delagoa Bay, was no longer with them to choose between the rivals to his own ends and advantage; and Dingaan inherited the cruelty without the ability or the statecraft of his brother, the Napoleon of South Africa.
Of all the races of Europe the Low Germans of Holland seemed the least likely to contract the migratory habit. The Hollander of the present day, popularly but incorrectly called a Dutchman, is home-staying and home-loving. The compact, well-cared-for, well-ordered homestead, village, and town communities of the Netherlands are inconsistent with a roving disposition, and yet the Hollanders of South Africa furnished the most conspicuous example of Nomadism in modern times.
It may have been that the ordeal of Alva and the subsequent disturbance of the Thirty Years' War had constitutionally unsettled the Hollanders to such a degree that their descendants, emancipated from European ideas, became prone to restlessness, for in a generation or two they began to trek; or perhaps the magic of the spacious veld, with its clear sky and the mountains and flat-topped kopjes sharply defined on the horizon, irresistibly lured them on. In the land they had quitted the air was dense with moisture; scarcely a hill was to be seen; they were hemmed in by sluggish rivers and by the sea, which leaned heavily against the dykes and threw its spray angrily down on to the reclaimed pastures which had been stolen from it.
The original Dutch settlement at the Cape was made by a Company of Amsterdam merchants for the refreshment and refitting of their ships engaged in trade with the East. The Company was a harsh and extortionate master, who paid little attention to the needs and the welfare of the settlement, which was regarded merely as a place of call. The discontented colonists began to leave the seacoast and trekked inwards, where the heavy hands of the cordially detested representatives of the Company could not reach them. Its rule came to an end in 1795, when, at the request of Holland, Great Britain took over the Colony in order to prevent it falling into the hands of France. It was restored at the Peace of Amiens, but in a few years again came into the possession of Great Britain.
The Colonies of the Empire were at that time administered by a Branch of the War Office which regarded the Cape settlement much in the same light as it had been regarded by the Dutch Company, as a necessary but troublesome depôt on the way to the East; and had the Overland Route and the Suez Canal been available a generation earlier it would probably have been abandoned.
The Boers hoped that their new masters, who at least were not an association of Amsterdam merchants absorbed in their ledgers, would treat them with more sympathy and consideration. But the only serious colonial problem with which British politicians had up to that time been called upon to deal was in North America, and they had disastrously failed in their attempt to solve it. They were without experience in the management of white plantations, they shirked the future and looked only to the "ignorant present," and their policy in South Africa was based upon two principles: that on no account must the boundaries of the Empire be enlarged and new responsibilities incurred, and that in all quarrels between white man and black man the presumption was that the white man was in the wrong.
The Great Trek of 1836-7 was brought about by the emancipation of the slaves and by the refusal or inability of the Government to protect the farmers against the raids of the "Kaffir"4 tribes on the border. There is no doubt that enslaved Hottentots, Bushmen, and even Malays who had been with the knowledge of the authorities imported from Madagascar and Malacca, were often ill-treated by individual slave-owners; but the Boers resented the charge of wholesale cruelty which was made against them, and the favour and patronage bestowed upon native tribes. Moreover, although the slave-owners were entitled to compensation for the loss of their helots, the fund was administered in London, with the result that a considerable proportion of the already inadequate sum was retained in the hands of agents.
The object of the Great Trek was deliverance from the harsh and hostile jurisdiction of the British Government, and the setting up of a new and independent Boer community in Natal, which was reported to be a promised land flowing with milk and honey. The Boers proposed to shake themselves free from the Egyptian and to occupy Canaan.
The voortrekkers, among whom was the boy Paul Kruger, slowly passed away towards the north and crossed the Orange River. Moshesh, the chief of the Basutos, watched curiously from his mountains the trains of wagons strung out on the veld, but refrained from molesting the emigrants. Not so Moselekatse,5 a chief who had formerly broken away from Chaka and had set himself up beyond the Vaal, and who subsequently founded the Matabele Kingdom in which he was succeeded by his son Lobengula. He swooped down upon the advanced parties, who defended themselves with success and afterwards chastised him in his own country, in which, hidden from his eyes, lay the gold-bearing reefs of Johannesburg.
Meanwhile the British Government had forged a useless and clumsy weapon for the coercion of its "erring and misguided" subjects. It was held by the lawyers that the trekkers could not at will and by the simple process of migration throw off their allegiance to the Crown of England, and a declaratory Act was passed under which all British subjects south of Latitude 25, whether within or without the colony, could be arrested and punished.
The Boer scouts discovered passes over the Drakensberg which gave them a readier access than they had expected into Natal. It had not recovered from the devastations of Chaka and was thinly inhabited. Settlements were made near the banks of the Tugela, while Piet Retief, after a brief visit to Durban, went on to negotiate with Dingaan at the royal kraal of Umgungundhlovu in Zululand. He was received with some cordiality, but accused of participating in a recent cattle raid. Retief, to show his good faith, offered to catch the robber, a chief named Sikunyela, whose kraal was a hundred miles away. He found Sikunyela, who greatly admired the glistening rings of a pair of handcuffs shown him by the slim Dutchman, and who was even persuaded that they would be a becoming ornament to a native chief. He tried them on, but a more intimate acquaintance with the use of handcuffs induced him to surrender the cattle he had stolen from Dingaan, the King of the Zulus.
Again Retief with a hundred followers waited upon Dingaan at Umgungundhlovu, and after military displays on each side received from him a grant of the same land which Chaka had already given to the British pioneers of Durban. Next day the Boers were received in farewell audience by Dingaan, by whose orders they were treacherously surrounded and led out to the place of execution, a hill of mimosas outside the royal kraal, where they were put to death.
There remained the defenceless plantations on the Tugela. Before the news of the massacre could reach them, and while they were hourly expecting the return of Retief, Dingaan's impis swooped down upon them from Zululand. At the cost of the lives of 600 men, women, and children, the tribes were driven back, and the little town of Weenen, the "place of weeping," remains to mark the spot.
Soon other parties of emigrants came in from beyond the Drakensberg, and in 1838 an expedition under Potgieter failed to punish Dingaan for his treachery. Nor did an attempt to help the emigrants made by the British settlers at Durban meet with success. A small force of Natal natives under an Englishman named Biggar was greatly out-numbered at the mouth of the Tugela and perished almost to a man. Dingaan retaliated by sending an impi to Durban, which he held for a few days; the settlers taking refuge on board a ship in the Bay.
The Boers were disheartened and many of them trekked back to the veld beyond the Drakensberg passes, which is now the Orange River Colony. Their position in face of Dingaan seemed hopeless; but in November, 1838, there came out of the Cape Colony one Pretorius. He had heard of their distress, and he organized a force of 500 men, with whom, on December 16, he successfully encountered Dingaan's army and slew 3,000 of his warriors at the Blood River, an affluent of the Buffalo. Dingaan fled and the column marched on to Umgungundhlovu, where Retief's mouldering body was found on the hill of mimosas, and on it the deed of grant of land at Durban. Pretorius was ambushed by Zulus disguised as cattle, crawling on all fours and wearing ox hides; but he escaped with slight loss, and returned to the Tugela. "Dingaan's Day," December 16, is kept by the Boers as a festival of thanksgiving and rejoicing.
Soon a new complication beset the harassed emigrants. In December, 1838, the British Government, anxious to stop the wars between the Boers and the natives and to exclude the former from the sea, sent one hundred soldiers to Durban and issued a proclamation in which the Boers were declared to be British subjects who had unlawfully occupied Natal, and who were morally responsible for all the blood that had been shed. They protested against the imputation and against the military occupation of Durban, but took no active steps to resent the affront.
When twelve months had passed without hostilities between Boer and native, the British Government withdrew its hundred warriors from Durban and tacitly handed over Natal to the emigrant Boers. Hardly had the little transport Vectis catted her anchor when the Republic of Natalia was proclaimed and its flag run up on the staff of the forsaken British Camp on Durban Bay.
But the dog-in-the-manger policy of neither incorporating Natal in the British Empire nor frankly allowing the Boers to occupy it could not be indefinitely maintained. Each present difficulty wriggled out of made the future more embarrassing. Soon, as might have been anticipated, the Boers were again in trouble with the natives. Panda, the father of Cetchwayo, whose impis forty years after washed their spears in the blood of 800 British soldiers at Isandhlwana, broke away from his brother Dingaan, taking with him into Natal many thousand Zulus who were awaiting an opportunity of shaking themselves free from the tyranny and cruelty of Dingaan. Panda made overtures to the Boers and was gladly received as an ally, and with his help Dingaan was finally crushed and driven into Swaziland, where, in the hands of a hostile tribe, he perished miserably by torture.
The emigrants were now favourably situated in Natal. They had established an equitable if not a legal claim to it; Dingaan was out of the way; and the British Government seemed indisposed to inter-meddle. But the fatal and grotesque alliance with Panda, which culminated in his installation as King of the Zulus by Pretorius in 1840, and which was entirely inconsistent with the attitude hitherto assumed towards the natives, was the undoing of the trekkers of 1836.
Panda's men as native auxiliaries eager to avenge themselves on the common enemy Dingaan were all very well in their way. Most of them, however, belonged to Natal and joined him in the hope of recovering the tribal lands from which they had been evicted by Chaka and to which they had a better right than the trekkers.
The Boers now began to reap the harvest of the Panda alliance. They regarded the new arrivals as intruders, refused to acknowledge their claims, and finally in August, 1841, decreed their expulsion from Natal. The location chosen for their settlement was a district in Pondoland in the possession of a chief under British protection, who already had had occasion to lodge at Capetown a complaint against the Boers.
The British Government now found it necessary to intervene again in Natal. A military occupation was announced by proclamation in December, 1841, and 240 men, under the command of an infantry captain named Smith, were sent up to Durban to give effect to it.
When Smith, after a difficult march along the coast, reached his destination on May 4, 1842, he pitched his camp on the flat which forms the base of one of the promontories enclosing the Bay. He at once lowered the Republican flag flying over the block-house at the Point, and soon found that 1,500 Boers were occupying Congella on the shore of the Bay. An attempt to surprise them by night failed disastrously; Smith's force was reduced to half its strength, and the block-house was captured by Pretorius.
Smith was now besieged in his camp, and the nearest help that could come to him was at Grahamstown, five hundred miles away. Thither a gallant civilian named King, who was one of the pioneers, rode in ten days; and on June 25, when the little garrison was in extremity, it was relieved by sea. Pretorius withdrew into the interior, and the Volksraad at Pietermaritzburg, the capital of the Republic of Natalia, voted the submission of the Boers. Pending a final settlement it was allowed to remain in authority over the settlers, but the district around Durban Bay was at once taken over as British territory. In May, 1843, a year after the landing of Smith, the Republic of Natalia passed away and Natal was proclaimed a British Colony.
The final settlement did not come for some time. The Volksraad was abolished, but the claims of the Boers to the lands upon which they had squatted were liberally considered. They were, however, dissatisfied because the rights of Panda's men were also regarded, and many trekked away across the Drakensberg. Those who remained protested that their lives and property were insecure in the presence of the natives, and Pretorius was deputed to go and lay their grievances before the British Governor at the Cape.
The ill success of his mission provoked him to reprisals, and he proceeded to stir up trouble in the Orange River Sovereignty, which had recently been formally proclaimed British Territory. If not actively loyal it was peaceably disposed until the arrival of Pretorius, who soon drove out the British Resident and the little garrison of Bloemfontein and set them on the run as far as Colesberg in the Cape Colony. He was defeated at Boomplatz in August, 1848, by Sir Harry Smith, a veteran of the Peninsular War, and British authority was for a time reestablished over the Sovereignty. The Colonial Office soon however tired of the new possession and gladly scuttled out in 1854 in order to avoid the task of reaping the harvest of a clumsy and grotesque policy, which it had formulated a few years before, of hemming in the voortrekkers, who had settled north of the Orange River, with a barrier of native states set up for the purpose on the east and west; and which now threatened to involve it in a quarrel which naturally arose between Moshesh, the Basuto chief, and the emigrants whom he had been appointed to restrain.
Pretorius retired across the Vaal where he joined Potgieter, who, after the failure of his attack on Dingaan in 1838, had gone into Moselekatse's country and had driven him beyond the Limpopo. A Republic was set up beyond the Vaal which the British Government recognized as independent in the Zand River Convention of 1852.
Such is in brief the story of the Boers' claim to Natal. They considered it to be their lawful heritage out of which they had been jockeyed, and in October, 1899, they seemed to have a chance of recovering it. They boasted that they would not only win back Pietermaritzburg, which was named after two leaders of the Great Trek, Pieter Retief and Gert Maritz, but that they would establish themselves on the shores of the Indian Ocean. It was not the vainglorious gasconade of a swashbuckler. Four months after October 11, 1899, when the Boer ultimatum expired, the British Army was still engaged in endeavouring to drive out the Boers from British territory, and hardly a rifle had been discharged in the enemy's country.
Napoleon was in the habit of impressing upon his officers the necessity of studying past campaigns, both modern and ancient; but those who anticipated confidently that the Boer War would soon be brought to a successful close by the British Army were led into their error by the history of past campaigns. There was, however, one campaign, the War of Independence in North America, which the discerning might have recognized as an analogous struggle; but it was overlooked, and the history of the great European conflicts was established as the leading authority. The occupation of the populous places and the control of the means of access to them, which seemed to present few difficulties, meant the end of the war and the subsequent negotiations as to the amount of the indemnity or other penalty to be paid by the defeated.
But not only were the necessary preliminary successes deferred far beyond the expected time of their accomplishment—Bloemfontein was not occupied until five months, nor Pretoria until eight months had rolled by since that October dawn when the Boers crossed the frontier into Natal—but the prospect of the end of the War soon began to recede into the perspective of infinity: and even now, after an interval of some years since the peace of Vereeniging, when, like the proportions of some huge edifice which can be truly comprehended only by the observer who views it from a distance, the various incidents and phases of the War begin to assume their relative importance, the difficulty of discovering some guiding principle which shall reconcile the Great Boer War with other wars is as great as ever.
Sometimes a cause can be found a posteriori by groping in the dim and deceptive light cast by an effect: or a process of exhaustion and elimination may be set up in which the qualities common to each side are cancelled and the result attributed to the credit balance which will appear under one of the accounts. We saw for some months a gallant and well equipped if somewhat amorphous British Army impotently endeavouring, though in superior numbers, to make headway against an aggregation of Boer commandos, and checked at various points on an arc drawn wholly in British territory and extending in a circuit of over 500 miles from Ladysmith in Northern Natal through Stormberg and Colesberg to Kimberley and Mafeking; and at each extremity of the arc was a besieged city. Was the military art as taught in Europe founded upon error, or had the British Army been negligently instructed in it?
Yet no European troops had had so much recent experience of active service. We had lately fought in the Soudan, in East and West Africa, in Burmah and on the North-West frontier of India; there was in fact hardly a year in the preceding decade in which the portals of the temple of a British Janus would have been closed. Moreover, our fighting had not been against trained soldiers, but against enemies who like the Boers were undisciplined, collectively if not individually brave men patriotically defending their own country. We therefore entered the arena with experience which no other European army possessed.
In justice to the War Office it should be stated that this was inserted at the instance of Sir Redvers Buller, who believed that he would be able to raise in South Africa a sufficient force of mounted troops.
B. Viljoen in his "Reminiscences of the Anglo-Boer War" frequently complains of the insubordination, the malingering, and the cowardice of his followers, and of the incompetence of his superior officers.
"Kaffir" is an Arabic word meaning one who does not believe in the religion of Mahomet. It was introduced into South Africa by the Portuguese and subsequently applied to the tribes living on the N.E. of the Cape Colony.
Zilikat's Nek in the Magaliesberg is named after him.