The episode of Bakenlaagte called for vigorous measures to be taken against Botha and the men of the high veld in the Eastern Transvaal; and in November, 1901, a second and revised edition of French's programme at the beginning of the year was issued.
The new campaign was placed in charge of Bruce Hamilton, and the general idea, at least in its earlier movement, was the same as that furnished to French, namely the outward sweep of columns having for its object the rounding-up, pursuit towards the Swaziland border, and capture of the various guerilla commandos, which with the Transvaal Government in their midst haunted the Ermelo and Bethal districts.
Bruce Hamilton, with 15,000 men in twelve columns, either under his immediate command or co-operating with him, started on November 16, his immediate objective being the same as French's ten months before, namely, Botha on the high veld. He advanced the Constabulary posts fifteen miles, so that the line now ran between Brugspruit and Waterval; and proceeded to carry out a movement on Ermelo, in which he was supported on either flank by columns acting from the Natal and Delagoa Bay Railways. Botha, however, had had warning of his approach, and having conducted the Transvaal Government out of the area of immediate danger and dispatched it to its old seat at Paardeplatz, returned to deal with Bruce Hamilton, who, on reaching Ermelo on December 3, found, as French had found in February, that he had nothing to strike at. The Transvaal Government had vanished, and Botha and his chief lieutenant, P. Viljoen, instead of being on the run towards Swaziland, had broken back and were now behind him.
In order to deal with them, a pause in the operations became necessary. A series of night raids was instituted. In the first of these Botha, who was lying twenty miles west of Ermelo, was nearly taken. He succeeded in escaping towards the S.E., but was headed by a column under Pulteney operating from Wakkerstroom and was forced towards the upper waters of the Vaal. The raid upon P. Viljoen in the Bethal district was so far successful that in it 200 of his burghers were made prisoners, and one of the guns taken at Bakenlaagte was recovered: while he himself not only escaped, but succeeded in putting 300 of his followers under J. Prinsloo across the recently established Brugspruit-Waterval line of Constabulary posts and in planting them in the "protected area" as seeds of future mischief.
Bruce Hamilton now resumed the general operation eastwards with fair success. Botha at Beginderlyn was faced by the columns supporting the right flank of the advance, and had the Ermelo-Standerton blockhouse line behind him. One of his lieutenants named Britz went out and ambushed a night raid sent out from the line on December 19 at Holland, making nearly 100 prisoners; and a few days later he squeezed through an enveloping movement in which he lost somewhat heavily, but he eventually succeeded in rejoining Botha.
It was now necessary to drive on to Bruce Hamilton a compact little force of over 800 burghers, which on New Year's Day, 1902, Botha had under his command; and this task devolved upon Plumer and the other column commanders operating from the S.E. corner of the Transvaal. Botha was engaged at Bankkop, between Ermelo and Amsterdam, by a strong scouting party acting in advance of the main columns, which he was on the point of overwhelming when it was reinforced. He escaped without difficulty, taking with him eighty prisoners. The plan of throwing him into Bruce Hamilton's arms had failed.
Bruce Hamilton returned to Ermelo, and late in January again swept the country, with scanty results. His operations had been successful to the extent that they finally denied the high veld to Botha, who in February withdrew to the Vryheid district, and secreted himself among the mountains. Bruce Hamilton was sent after him and hunted him for a month. His next appearance was neither as a prisoner of war nor as an opponent in battle, but as the representative of his country on the way to attend the Peace Conference which assembled at Pretoria on April 12.
P. Viljoen, as soon as Bruce Hamilton was out of the way, discussed the situation with his followers. It was decided that he should take action in what was apparently the direction of greatest risk. With 400 men he burst through the line of Constabulary posts, and on January 24 joined J. Prinsloo in the Wilge River Valley, within the so-called "protected area." Prinsloo, even before Viljoen's arrival, had maintained himself without difficulty; and for some weeks after February 24, when an unsuccessful effort was made at Klippan to crush them, they were practically left to roam as they willed, no British troops being available to deal with them effectively.
In the N.E. Transvaal B. Viljoen and Muller had been quiescent throughout the summer. The former lay usually at Pilgrim's Rest; the latter haunted the hilly country west and S.W. of Lydenburg; neither leader being able to get much work out of passive and spiritless followers. When Schalk Burger, the Acting President of the Transvaal, and the rest of the Government were driven across the Delagoa Bay Railway by Bruce Hamilton in December, Park, who was in command of the solitary British force north of the line, aided by a column from Belfast, made an unsuccessful attempt to capture the wandering Government.
B. Viljoen was anxious for its safety and persuaded it to take refuge with him at Pilgrim's Rest. It started on the journey with him; but fortunately its courage failed it, and Viljoen was left to return alone and to be taken prisoner near Lydenburg on January 25. Troops were slipped at it but were evaded; and it withdrew to the west across the Olifant's River. It maintained itself until March 12, when by leave of Lord Kitchener it passed through Balmoral into conference with Steyn and the remnants of the Orange Free State Government at Kroonstad and thence to Klerksdorp.
In the "protected area" P. Viljoen had perforce to be left unmolested until the end of March, when the conclusion of the third drive in the Orange River Colony set some troops free for work elsewhere. His commandos, about 800 strong, were discovered in laager twenty miles east of Springs by a cavalry column under Lawley during a night raid on April 1. After a temporary panic they not only rallied, but drove away the attacking force and pursued it until restrained by the intervention of another portion of Lawley's command which had remained in camp. The incident called for strenuous measures. During the last three weeks of April the whole district was driven by Bruce Hamilton; at first from north to south starting from the vicinity of Carolina, then by a counter march from south to north through the "protected area," the latter movement being repeated in the reverse direction. P. Viljoen was not found in the wilderness, while his colleague Alberts escaped with 500 burghers into the Orange River Colony, whither he was followed by Bruce Hamilton.