Durban: March 10, 1900.
Since the road by which Dundonald's squadrons had entered the town was never again closed by the enemy, the siege of Ladysmith may be said to have ended on the last day of February. During the night the heavy guns fired at intervals, using up the carefully husbanded ammunition in order to prevent the Boers from removing their artillery.
On March 1 the garrison reverted to a full half-ration of biscuits and horseflesh, and an attempt was made to harass the Boers, who were in full retreat towards the Biggarsberg. Sir George White had made careful inquiries among the regiments for men who would undertake to walk five miles and fight at the end of the march. But so reduced were the soldiers through want of food that, though many volunteered, only two thousand men were considered fit out of the whole garrison. These were, however, formed into a column, under Colonel Knox, consisting of two batteries of artillery, two squadrons of the 19th Hussars and 5th Lancers, 'all that was left of them,' with horses, and detachments, each about two hundred and fifty strong, from the Manchester, Liverpool, and Devon Regiments, the 60th Rifles, and the Gordon Highlanders, and this force moved out of Ladysmith at dawn on the 1st to attack the Boers on Pepworth's Hill, in the hope of interfering with their entrainment at Modderspruit Station.
The Dutch, however, had left a rear guard sufficient to hold in check so small a force, and it was 2 o'clock before Pepworth's Hill was occupied. The batteries then shelled Modderspruit Station, and very nearly caught three crowded trains, which just managed to steam out of range in time. The whole force of men and horses was by this time quite exhausted. The men could scarcely carry their rifles. In the squadron of 19th Hussars nine horses out of sixty fell down and died, and Colonel Knox therefore ordered the withdrawal into the town.
Only about a dozen men were killed or wounded in this affair, but the fact that the garrison was capable of making any offensive movement after their privations is a manifest proof of their soldierly spirit and excellent discipline.
On the same morning Sir Redvers Buller advanced on Bulwana Hill. Down from the commanding positions which they had won by their courage and endurance marched the incomparable infantry, and by 2 o'clock the plain of Pieters was thickly occupied by successive lines of men in extended order, with long columns of guns and transport trailing behind them. Shortly before noon it was ascertained that Bulwana Hill was abandoned by the enemy, and the army was thereon ordered to camp in the plain, no further fighting being necessary.
The failure to pursue the retreating Boers when two fine cavalry brigades were standing idle and eager must be noticed. It is probable that the Boer rearguard would have been sufficiently strong to require both infantry and guns to drive it back. It is certain that sharp fighting must have attended the effort. Nevertheless the opinion generally expressed was that it should have been made. My personal impression is that Sir Redvers Buller was deeply moved by the heavy losses the troops had suffered, and was reluctant to demand further sacrifices from them at this time. Indeed, the price of victory had been a high one.
In the fortnight's fighting, from February 14 to February 28, two generals, six colonels commanding regiments, a hundred and five other officers, and one thousand five hundred and eleven soldiers had been killed or wounded out of an engaged force of about eighteen thousand men; a proportion of slightly under 10 per cent.
In the whole series of operations for the relief of Ladysmith the losses amounted to three hundred officers and more than five thousand men, out of a total engaged force of about twenty-three thousand, a proportion of rather more than 20 per cent. Nor had this loss been inflicted in a single day's victorious battle, but was spread over twenty-five days of general action in a period of ten weeks; and until the last week no decided success had cheered the troops.
The stress of the campaign, moreover, had fallen with peculiar force on certain regiments: the Lancashire Fusiliers sustained losses of over 35 per cent., the Inniskillings of 40 per cent., and the Dublin Fusiliers of over 60 per cent. It was very remarkable that the fighting efficiency of these regiments was in no way impaired by such serious reductions. The casualties among the officers maintained their usual glorious disproportion, six or seven regiments in the army having less than eight officers left alive and unwounded. Among the cavalry the heaviest losses occurred in Dundonald's Brigade, the South African Light Horse, Thorneycroft's Mounted Infantry, and the squadron of Imperial Light Horse, each losing a little less than a quarter of their strength.
The ceaseless marching and fighting had worn out the clothes and boots of the army, and a certain number of the guns of the field artillery were unserviceable through constant firing. The troops, besides clothes, needed fresh meat, an exclusive diet of tinned food being unwholesome if unduly prolonged. Sir Redvers Buller's estimate that a week's rest was needed does not seem excessive by the light of such facts, but still one more effort might have saved much trouble later on. On March 3 the relieving army made its triumphal entry into Ladysmith, and passing through the town camped on the plain beyond. The scene was solemn and stirring, and only the most phlegmatic were able to conceal their emotions. The streets were lined with the brave defenders, looking very smart and clean in their best clothes, but pale, thin, and wasp-waisted—their belts several holes tighter than was satisfactory.
Before the little Town Hall, the tower of which, sorely battered, yet unyielding, seemed to symbolise the spirit of the garrison, Sir George White and his staff sat on their skeleton horses. Opposite to them were drawn up the pipers of the Gordon Highlanders. The townsfolk, hollow-eyed but jubilant, crowded the pavement and the windows of the houses. Everyone who could find a flag had hung it out, but we needed no bright colours to raise our spirits.
At eleven o'clock precisely the relieving army began to march into the town. First of all rode Sir Redvers Buller with his headquarters staff and an escort of the Royal Dragoons. The infantry and artillery followed by brigades, but in front of all, as a special recognition of their devoted valour, marched the Dublin Fusiliers, few, but proud.
Many of the soldiers, remembering their emerald island, had fastened sprigs of green to their helmets, and all marched with a swing that was wonderful to watch. Their Colonel and their four officers looked as happy as kings are thought to be. As the regiments passed Sir George White, the men recognised their former general, and, disdaining the rules of the service, waved their helmets and rifles, and cheered him with intense enthusiasm. Some even broke from the ranks. Seeing this the Gordon Highlanders began to cheer the Dublins, and after that the noise of cheering was continual, every regiment as it passed giving and receiving fresh ovations.
All through the morning and on into the afternoon the long stream of men and guns flowed through the streets of Ladysmith, and all marvelled to see what manner of men these were—dirty, war-worn, travel-stained, tanned, their uniforms in tatters, their boots falling to pieces, their helmets dinted and broken, but nevertheless magnificent soldiers, striding along, deep-chested and broad-shouldered, with the light of triumph in their eyes and the blood of fighting ancestors in their veins. It was a procession of lions. And presently, when the two battalions of Devons met—both full of honours—and old friends breaking from the ranks gripped each other's hands and shouted, everyone was carried away, and I waved my feathered hat, and cheered and cheered until I could cheer no longer for joy that I had lived to see the day.
At length all was over. The last dust-brown battalion had passed away and the roadway was again clear. Yet the ceremony was incomplete. Before the staff could ride away the Mayor of Ladysmith advanced and requested Sir George White to receive an address which the townspeople had prepared and were anxious to present to him. The General dismounted from his horse, and standing on the steps of the Town Hall, in the midst of the inhabitants whom he had ruled so rigorously during the hard months of the siege, listened while their Town Clerk read their earnest grateful thanks to him for saving their town from the hands of the enemy. The General replied briefly, complimented them on their behaviour during the siege, thanked them for the way in which they had borne their many hardships and submitted to the severe restrictions which the circumstances of war had brought on them, and rejoiced with them that they had been enabled by their devotion and by the bravery of the soldiers to keep the Queen's flag flying over Ladysmith. And then everybody cheered everybody else, and so, very tired and very happy, we all went home to our belated luncheons.
Walking through the streets it was difficult to see many signs of the bombardment. The tower of the Town Hall was smashed and chipped, several houses showed large holes in their walls, and heaps of broken brickwork lay here and there. But on the whole the impression produced was one of surprise that the Boers had done so little damage with the sixteen thousand shells they had fired during the siege.
On entering the houses, however, the effect was more apparent. In one the floor was ripped up, in another the daylight gleamed through the corrugated iron roof, and in some houses the inner walls had been completely destroyed, and only heaps of rubbish lay on the floor.
The fortifications which the troops had built, though of a very strong and effective character, were neither imposing nor conspicuous; indeed, being composed of heaps of stone they were visible only as dark lines on the rugged kopjes, and if the fame of the town were to depend on relics of the war it would not long survive the siege.
But memories dwell among the tin houses and on the stony hills that will keep the name of Ladysmith fresh and full of meaning in the hearts of our countrymen. Every trench, every mound has its own tale to tell, some of them sad, but not one shameful. Here and there, scattered through the scrub by the river or on the hills of red stones almost red hot in the sun blaze, rise the wooden crosses which mark the graves of British soldiers. Near the iron bridge a considerable granite pyramid records the spot where Dick Cunyngham, colonel of the Gordons—what prouder office could a man hold?—fell mortally wounded on the 6th of January. Another monument is being built on Waggon Hill to commemorate the brave men of the Imperial Light Horse who lost their lives but saved the day. The place is also marked where the noble Ava fell.
But there was one who found, to use his own words, 'a strange sideway out of Ladysmith,' whose memory many English-speaking people will preserve. I do not write of Steevens as a journalist, nor as the master of a popular and pleasing style, but as a man. I knew him, though I had met him rarely. A dinner up the Nile, a chance meeting at an Indian junction, five days on a Mediterranean steamer, two in a Continental express, and a long Sunday at his house near Merton—it was a scanty acquaintance, but sufficient to be quite certain that in all the varied circumstances and conditions to which men are subjected Steevens rang true. Modest yet proud, wise as well as witty, cynical but above all things sincere, he combined the characters of a charming companion and a good comrade.
His conversation and his private letters sparkled like his books and articles. Original expressions, just similitudes, striking phrases, quaint or droll ideas welled in his mind without the slightest effort. He was always at his best. I have never met a man who talked so well, so easily. His wit was the genuine article—absolutely natural and spontaneous.
I once heard him describe an incident in the Nile campaign, and the description amused me so much that I was impatient to hear it again, and when a suitable occasion offered I asked him to tell his tale to the others. But he told it quite differently, and left me wondering which version was the better. He could not repeat himself if he tried, whereas most of the renowned talkers I have met will go over the old impression with the certainty of a phonograph.
But enough of his words. He was not a soldier, but he walked into the Atbara zareba with the leading company of the Seaforth Highlanders. He wrote a vivid account of the attack, but there was nothing in it about himself.
When the investment of Ladysmith shut the door on soldiers, townspeople, and War Correspondents alike, Steevens set to work to do his share of keeping up the good spirits of the garrison and of relieving the monotony of the long days. Through the first three months of the siege no local event was awaited with more interest than the publication of a 'Ladysmith Lyre,' and the weary defenders had many a good laugh at its witticisms.
Sun, stink, and sickness harassed the beleaguered. The bombardment was perpetual, the relief always delayed; hope again and again deferred. But nothing daunted Steevens, depressed his courage, or curbed his wit. What such a man is worth in gloomy days those may appreciate who have seen the effect of public misfortunes on a modern community.
At last he was himself stricken down by enteric fever. When it seemed that the worst was over there came a fatal relapse, and the brightest Intellect yet sacrificed by this war perished; nor among all the stubborn garrison of Ladysmith was there a stouter heart or a more enduring spirit.
Dismal scenes were to be found at the hospital camp by Intombi Spruit. Here, in a town of white tents, under the shadow of Bulwana, were collected upwards of two thousand sick and wounded—a fifth of the entire garrison. They were spared the shells, but exposed to all the privations of the siege.
Officers and men, doctors and patients, presented alike a most melancholy and even ghastly appearance. Men had been wounded, had been cured of their wounds, and had died simply because there was no nourishing food to restore their strength. Others had become convalescent from fever, but had succumbed from depression and lack of medical comforts. Hundreds required milk and brandy, but there was only water to give them. The weak died: at one time the death rate averaged fifteen a day. Nearly a tenth of the whole garrison died of disease. A forest of crosses, marking the graves of six hundred men, sprang up behind the camp.
It was a painful thing to watch the hungry patients, so haggard and worn that their friends could scarcely recognise them; and after a visit to Intombi I sat and gloated for an hour at the long train of waggons filled with all kinds of necessary comforts which crawled along the roads, and the relief of Ladysmith seemed more than ever worth the heavy price we had paid.
On the evening after Buller's victorious army had entered the town I went to see Sir George White, and was so fortunate as to find him alone and disengaged. The General received me in a room the windows of which gave a wide view of the defences. Bulwana, Caesar's Camp, Waggon Hill lay before us, and beneath—for the house stood on high ground—spread the blue roofs of Ladysmith. From the conversation that followed, and from my own knowledge of events, I shall endeavour to explain so far as is at present possible the course of the campaign in Natal; and I will ask the reader to observe that only the remarks actually quoted should be attributed to the various officers.
Sir George White told me how he had reached Natal less than a week before the declaration of war. He found certain arrangements in progress to meet a swiftly approaching emergency, and he had to choose between upsetting all these plans and entirely reconstructing the scheme of defence, or of accepting what was already done as the groundwork of his operations.
Sir Penn Symons, who had been commanding in the Colony, and who was presumably best qualified to form an opinion on the military necessities, extravagantly underrated the Boer fighting power. Some of his calculations of the force necessary to hold various places seem incredible in the light of recent events. But everyone was wrong about the Boers, and the more they knew the worse they erred. Symons laughed at the Boer military strength, and laboured to impress his opinions on Sir George White, who having Hamilton's South African experience to fall back on, however, took a much more serious view of the situation, and was particularly disturbed at the advanced position of the troops at Dundee. He wanted to withdraw them. Symons urged the opposite considerations vehemently. He was a man of great personal force, and his manner carried people with him. 'Besides,' said the General, with a kindling eye and extraordinary emphasis, 'he was a good, brave fighting man, and you know how much that is worth in war.'
In spite of Symons's confidence and enthusiasm White hated to leave troops at Dundee, and Sir Archibald Hunter, his chief of staff, agreed with him. But not to occupy a place is one thing: to abandon it after it has been occupied another.
They decided to ask Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson what consequences would in his opinion follow a withdrawal. They visited him at ten o'clock at night, and put the question straightly. Thus appealed to, the Governor declared that in that event 'loyalists' would be disgusted and discouraged; the results as regards the Dutch would be grave, many, if not most, would very likely rise, believing us to be afraid ... and the effect on the natives, of whom there are some 750,000 in Natal and Zululand, might be disastrous.'
On hearing this opinion expressed by a man of the Governor's ability and local knowledge, Sir Archibald Hunter said that it was a question 'of balancing drawbacks,' and advised that the troops be retained at Glencoe. So the matter was clinched, 'and,' said Sir George, 'when I made up my mind to let Symons stay I shared and shared alike with him in the matter of troops, giving him three batteries, a regiment, and an infantry brigade, and keeping the same myself.'
For his share in this discussion the Governor was at one time subjected to a considerable volume of abuse in the public Press, it being charged against him that he had 'interfered' with the military arrangements.
Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson, with whom I have had many pleasant talks, makes this invariable reply: 'I never said a word to Sir George White until I was asked. When my opinion was called for I gave it according to the best of my judgment.'
In the actual event Dundee had to be abandoned, nor was this a deliberate evacuation arising out of any regular military policy, but a swift retreat without stores or wounded, compelled by the force of the enemy.
It is, therefore, worth while considering how far the Governor's judgment had been vindicated by events. Undoubtedly loyalists throughout the Colony were disgusted, and that they were not discouraged was mainly due to the fact that with the Anglo-Saxon peoples anger at the injury usually overcomes dismay. The effect on the Dutch was grave, but was considerably modified by the electrical influence of the victory of Elandslaagte, and the spectacle of Boer prisoners marching southward.
The whole of the Klip River country, however, rose, and many prominent Natal Dutch farmers joined the enemy. The loyalty of the natives alone exceeded the Governor's anticipations, and their belief in the British power and preference for British rule was found to stand more knocking about than those best able to judge expected. We have reaped a rich reward in this dark season for having consistently pursued a kindly and humane policy towards the Bantu races; and the Boers have paid a heavy penalty for their cruelty and harshness.
On the subject of holding Ladysmith Sir George White was quite clear. 'I never wanted to abandon Ladysmith; I considered it a place of primary importance to hold. It was on Ladysmith that both Republics concentrated their first efforts. Here, where the railways join, the armies of the Free State and the Transvaal were to unite, and the capture of the town was to seal their union.'
It is now certain that Ladysmith was an essential to the carefully thought out Boer plan of campaign. To make quite sure of victory they directed twenty-five thousand of their best men on it under the Commandant-General himself. Flushed with the spirit of invasion, they scarcely reckoned on a fortnight's resistance; nor in their wildest nightmares did they conceive a four months' siege terminating in the furious inroad of a relieving army.
Exasperated at unexpected opposition—for they underrated us even more than we underrated them—they sacrificed around Ladysmith their chances of taking Pietermaritzburg and raiding all Natal; and it is moreover incontestable that in their resolve to take the town, on which they had set their hearts, they were provoked into close fighting with Sir Redvers Buller's army, and even to make an actual assault on the defences of Ladysmith, and so suffered far heavier losses than could otherwise have been inflicted on so elusive an enemy in such broken country.
'Besides,' said the General, 'I had no choice in the matter. I did not want to leave Ladysmith, but even if I had wanted, it would have been impossible.'
He then explained how not only the moral value, the political significance of Ladysmith, and the great magazines accumulated there rendered it desirable to hold the town, but that the shortness of time, the necessity of evacuating the civil population, and of helping in the Dundee garrison, made its retention actually obligatory.
Passing to the actual siege of the town, Sir George White said that he had decided to make an active defence in order to keep the enemy's attention fixed on his force, and so prevent them from invading South Natal before the reinforcements could arrive. With that object he had fought the action of October 30, which had turned out so disastrously. After that he fell back on his entrenchments, and the blockade began.
'The experience we had gained of the long-range guns possessed by the enemy,' said Sir George, 'made it necessary for me to occupy a very large area of ground, and I had to extend my lines accordingly. My lines are now nearly fourteen miles in circumference. If I had taken up a smaller position we should have been pounded to death.'
He said that the fact that they had plenty of room alone enabled them to live, for the shell fire was thus spread over a large area, and, as it were, diluted. Besides this the cattle were enabled to find grazing, but these extended lines were also a source of weakness. At one time on several sections of the defences the garrison could only provide two hundred men to the mile.
'That is scarcely the prescribed proportion. I would like to have occupied Bulwana, in which case we should have been quite comfortable, but I did not dare extend my lines any further. It was better to endure the bombardment than to run the risk of being stormed. Because my lines were so extended I was compelled to keep all the cavalry in Ladysmith.'
Until they began to eat instead of feed the horses this powerful mounted force, upwards of three thousand strong, had been his mobile, almost his only reserve. Used in conjunction with an elaborate system of telephones the cavalry from their central position could powerfully reinforce any threatened section.
The value of this was proved on January 6. The General thought that the fierce assault delivered by the enemy on that day vindicated his policy in not occupying Bulwana and in keeping his cavalry within the town, on both of which points he had been much criticised.
He spoke with some bitterness of the attacks which had been made on him in the newspapers. He had always begged that the relieving operations should not be compromised by any hurry on his account, and he said, with earnestness, 'It is not fair to charge me with all the loss of life they have involved.' He concluded by saying, deliberately: 'I regret Nicholson's Nek; perhaps I was rash then, but it was my only chance of striking a heavy blow. I regret nothing else. It may be that I am an obstinate man to say so, but if I had the last five months to live over again I would not—with that exception—-do otherwise than I have done.'
And then I came away and thought of the cheers of the relieving troops. Never before had I heard soldiers cheer like that. There was not much doubt about the verdict of the army on Sir George White's conduct of the defence, and it is one which the nation may gracefully accept.
But I am anxious also to discuss the Ladysmith episode from Sir Redvers Buller's point of view. This officer reached Cape Town on the very day that White was driven back on Ladysmith. His army, which would not arrive for several weeks, was calculated to be strong enough to overcome the utmost resistance the Boer Republics could offer.
To what extent he was responsible for the estimates of the number of troops necessary is not known. It is certain, however, that everyone—Ministers, generals, colonists, and intelligence officers—concurred in making a most remarkable miscalculation.
It reminds me of Jules Verne's story of the men who planned to shift the axis of the earth by the discharge of a great cannon. Everything was arranged. The calculations were exact to the most minute fraction. The world stood aghast at the impending explosion. But the men of science, whose figures were otherwise so accurate, had left out a nought, and their whole plan came to nothing. So it was with the British. Their original design of a containing division in Natal, and an invading army of three divisions in the Free State, would have been excellent if only they had written army corps instead of division.
Buller found himself confronted with an alarming and critical situation in Natal. Practically the whole force which had been deemed sufficient to protect the Colony was locked up in Ladysmith, and only a few line of communication troops stood between the enemy and the capital or even the seaport. Plainly, therefore, strong reinforcements—at least a division—must be hurried to Natal without an hour's unnecessary delay.
When these troops were subtracted from the forces in the Cape Colony all prospect of pursuing the original plan of invading the Free State was destroyed. It was evident that the war would assume dimensions which no one had ever contemplated.
The first thing to be done therefore was to grapple with the immediate emergencies, and await the arrival of the necessary troops to carry on the war on an altogether larger scale. Natal was the most acute situation. But there were others scarcely less serious and critical. The Cape Colony was quivering with rebellion. The Republican forces were everywhere advancing. Kimberley and Mafeking were isolated. A small British garrison held a dangerous position at Orange River bridge. Nearly all the other bridges had been seized or destroyed by rebels or invaders.
From every quarter came clamourings for troops. Soldiers were wanted with vital need at Stormberg, at Rosmead Junction, at Colesberg, at De Aar, but most of all they were wanted in Natal—Natal, which had been promised protection 'with the whole force of the Empire,' and which was already half overrun and the rest almost defenceless. So the army corps, which was to have marched irresistibly to Bloemfontein and Pretoria, had to be hurled into the country—each unit as it arrived—wherever the need was greatest where all were great.
Sir Redvers Buller, thus assailed by the unforeseen and pressed on every side, had to make up his mind quickly. He looked to Natal. It was there that the fiercest fighting was in progress and that the strength and vigour of the enemy was apparently most formidable. He had always regarded the line of the Tugela as the only defensive line which British forces would be strong enough to hold, and had recorded his opinion against placing any troops north of that river.
In spite of this warning Ladysmith had been made a great military depot, and had consequently come to be considered a place of primary importance. It was again a question of balancing drawbacks. Buller therefore telegraphed to White asking him whether he could entrench and maintain himself pending the arrival of reinforcements. White replied that he was prepared to make a prolonged defence of Ladysmith. To this proposal the General-in-chief assented, observing only 'but the line of the Tugela is very tempting.'
General Buller's plan now seems to have been briefly as follows: First, to establish a modus vivendi in the Cape Colony, with sufficient troops to stand strictly on the defensive; secondly, to send a strong force to Natal, and either restore the situation there, or, failing that, extricate Sir George White so that his troops would be again available for the defence of the Southern portion of the Colony; thirdly, with what was left of the army corps—no longer strong enough to invade the Free State—to relieve Kimberley; fourthly, after settling Natal to return with such troops as could be spared and form with reinforcements from home a fresh army to carry out the original scheme of invading the Free State.
The defect in this plan was that there were not enough troops to carry it out. As we had underestimated the offensive vigour which the enemy was able to develop before the army could reach South Africa, so now we altogether miscalculated his extraordinary strength on the defensive. But it is impossible to see what else could have been done, and at any rate no one appreciated the magnitude of the difficulties more correctly than Sir Redvers Buller. He knew Northern Natal and understood the advantages that the Boers enjoyed among its mountains and kopjes.
On one occasion he even went so far as to describe the operation he had proposed as a 'forlorn hope,' so dark and gloomy was the situation in South Africa during the first fortnight in November. It was stated that the General was ordered by the War Office to go to Natal, and went there against his own will and judgment. This, however, was not true; and when I asked him he replied: 'It was the most difficult business of all. I knew what it meant, and that it was doubtful whether we should get through to Ladysmith. I had not the nerve to order a subordinate to do it. I was the big man. I had to go myself.'
What followed, with the exception of the battle of Colenso, our first experience of the Boer behind entrenchments, has been to some extent described in these letters. Viewed in the light of after knowledge it does not appear that the holding of Ladysmith was an unfortunate act.
The flower of the Boer army was occupied and exhausted in futile efforts to take the town and stave off the relieving forces. Four precious months were wasted by the enemy in a vain enterprise. Fierce and bloody fighting raged for several weeks with heavy loss to both sides, but without shame to either. In the end the British were completely victorious. Not only did their garrison endure famine, disease, and bombardment with constancy and composure and repel all assaults, but the soldiers of the relief column sustained undismayed repeated disappointments and reverses, and finally triumphed because through thick and thin they were loyal to their commander and more stubborn even than the stubborn Dutch.
In spite of, perhaps because of, some mistakes and many misfortunes the defence and relief of Ladysmith will not make a bad page in British history. Indeed it seems to me very likely that in future times our countrymen will think that we were most fortunate to find after a prolonged peace leaders of quality and courage, who were moreover honourable gentlemen, to carry our military affairs through all kinds of difficulties to a prosperous issue; and whatever may be said of the generals it is certain that all will praise the enduring courage of the regimental officer and the private soldier.