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Alfred Emery of Ferreira's Horse 1 year 8 months ago #65809

  • Rory
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Alfred Emery

Trooper, Ferreira’s Horse – Sekukuni and Zulu Campaigns 1879

- South African General Service Medal with 1879 clasp to Troopr. A. Emery, Ferreira’s Horse

Alfred Emery must have bread in his blood! After all his father, Henry, was a Baker and, when he wasn’t waging war himself, that was the occupation that he pursued. Our first exposure to a young Alfred comes courtesy of the 1851 census where we learn that he was born in Southampton in the County of Hampshire in 1848, the son of Henry (as we have seen) and his wife Mary, born Ransom. The family was a young one with Alfred’s eldest sibling Harry, six years of age followed by William (5), Alfred (4) and George Thomas (a babe in arms). That the family was a reasonably prosperous one was confirmed by the presence of Richard Fox, an unmarried Baker employed in the business and Fanny, a house servant – all under one roof at 44 Chapel Road, St. Mary’s, Southampton.

Tragedy struck the young family a mere five years later when, on 27 December 1855, at the age of 36, Henry Emery passed away leaving his wife to carry on with the business and raise their young family. The 1861 England census gives us an idea as to how she had fared with the unfair burden placed on her shoulders by her husband’s untimely demise. The family had now moved to 32 Paget Street, St. Mary’s, Southampton and the oldest boy, Harry now 16 and a Boat Builder apprentice. William, 15, pursued the same occupation but it was 13-year-old Alfred that had followed in his father’s footsteps and was a Baker alongside his mother. George (10) and new arrival Frank (6) brought up the rear with Sarah Gilbert, the servant girl, tasked with keeping the household neat and tidy.

By the time the 1871 England census came around the family had moved once more, this time to Peel Street in St. Mary’s. The domestic situation had altered somewhat drastically – Mary Emery (45) was now married to a Shipwright called Frederick Grace, at 28 a much younger man. The couple had a daughter Mary (6) of their own with three of the “originals” still living at home in an uneasy alliance with their new step-father. These were Alfred (23) and still a Baker along with brothers George and Frank.

It was at this stage of his life, a few weeks before the above census was taken, that Alfred got into a spot of bother with the law. The Hampshire Advertiser of 15 March 1871 carried the story:

“An Assault by Mistake – Alfred Emery, a Baker, was summoned for assaulting one Henry Holmes. – Mr Kilby appeared for the defendant and said that his client had been insulted, and, thinking the complainant was the party who did it, he assaulted him by mistake. –

Complainant said defendant came up to him, and asked him if he could spare a loaf. He replied that he could, and defendant then hit him a violent blow in the head, saying “That is the loaf I want of you.” The bench fined the defendant 10s and the costs.”

Having stuck it out in England for a further four years, Emery set sail for South Africa and a new life with new beginnings. He wasn’t alone in this quest, thousands of Englishmen, bored with Victorian England and from all walks of life, set out to all corners of the globe in search of adventure or out of pure economic necessity. This was the age of the “remittance man” – men who were “dispatched” from home and sent a regular income on the understanding that they stayed away.

Emery was most likely one of those in search of adventure and, if that was his intention, it wasn’t long before he found it. Having arrived in the Cape he worked his way Northwards to the Transvaal where, it was said, work was to be had. 1878 saw the outbreak of hostilities between Sekukuni, a chief in the Eastern reaches of the Transvaal and the British Government.

Several irregular Corps were raised to side with the British forces, one of them being under the auspices of Colonel Ignatius Phillip Ferreira.

This gentleman raised as many as three mounted corps at Pretoria during the first occupation of the Transvaal. The first saw service against Sekukuni in June 1878. The second, with a strength of 115, served in Wood’s column, and also took part in the capture of Sekukuni’s Mountain in 1879 whilst the third corps was known as the Transvaal Horse, had a strength of 300, and was in action in Leribe, in Northern Basutoland, where it served until disbanded in August, 1881.

Emery, as events will show, was one of the 115 who served in the second Corps.

As the most instructive reference we turn to contemporary newspaper reports which reveal just what actions Ferreira’s Horse were involved in. The first comes via a newspaper account which appeared in The Scotsman on 18 February 1879. In a letter home, describing the enlistment process, the correspondent wrote:

“I found a very nice party, just ready to start as volunteers in a corps called Ferreira’s Horse, the pay being 5 shillings per day, everything found, and a half share of all cattle taken.”

The Graphic of 24 January 1880 carried an account of the Sekukuni conflict which serves as a wonderful summary of the causes and outcome of the campaign. It read, in part, as follows:

“It is beyond dispute that for years Sekukuni has played the part of the bandit chieftan, welcoming to his rock girt bands of men from all tribes. They not only levied blackmail upon the surrounding native tribes, but made frequent raids into the lands occupied by the Boers, who failed to conquer them, though in 1876, they harassed him so much that Sekukuni sued for peace. When the Transvaal was annexed (1877), he craftily professed friendship for the British, but in a few months he broke out in open rebellion; and in March 1878 Captain Clarke R.A. went against him with a force which was found to be too small, and was therefore withdrawn.

A second campaign under Colonel Hugh Rowlands, V.C., undertaken in the following September also failed, the troops being withdrawn on account of a great drought, from which both men and cattle suffered severely. The subsequent outbreak of the Zulu War was one of the reasons why the attempt was not repeated when the sickly season was over. Sir Garnet Wolseley has now, however, grappled successfully with the difficulty. A close reconnaissance of Sekukuni’s position was first made by Colonel Harrison, R.E., this was succeeded by a rigorous blockade, the cordon around the hill being gradually drawn closer and closer; and then after terms of peace had been offered and rejected, the plan of attack was arranged.

The first encounter took place on 23 November when Ferreira’s Horse (a Transvaal Volunteer Corps) stormed and destroyed the kraal of Umguano, one of Sekukuni’s outposts. On November 25, another position, the Water Koppie, was taken with little or no opposition by Major Carrington, and at the same time Major Bushman occupied another post, called Fort George. Colonel Baker Russell’s main column then moved forward by forced and rapid marches, some of them effected in terrific thunderstorms, and on the evening of the 27th was encamped within a mile of the famous “Fighting Koppie”.

At 3 a.m. on the following morning tents were struck, at 4.15 precisely the guns opened fire in answer to the signal rocket, and the assault was simultaneously commenced from both sides. The right column under Colonel Ferreira, consisting of his own men, the Transvaal Horse and Mapoch’s contingent, attacked the southern part of the town. The central attack, under Colonel Murray, 94th Regiment, was directed against the “Fighting Koppie” itself, whilst the left attack under Major Carrington, composed of all the mounted troops except Ferreira’s Horse, attacked the north side of the town from a gorge leading up to two ridges of the hill commanding the centre of the town.

Early as was the attack the Basutos were on the alert, and soon responded to the fire of their assailants, and ere long the firing on the Koppie and the surrounding hills became general. Ferreira’s Volunteers, having fired the town, went forward to the Koppie. All behaved well except the Zoutpansbergers and the Rustenbergers who, although they had roasted and eaten the right hand of their enemy, Umguano, to give them courage, could not be induced to fight.

The firing continued until 9.45 a.m. when General Russell ordered a general advance to carry the Koppie by storm. The special correspondent of the Daily Telegraph says that, “not a minute for the hasty rush for the schanzes, ere Russell, Carrington, Ferreira with regulars volunteers and Swazis, were upon them, among them, shooting and stabbing, and driving them from rock to rock into the tomb where they were to die. So rapid had been the advance, so quick the rush, that scarcely a man fell on our side till the troops had actually got on the Koppie itself.

Then the mouths of the caves spat out flame, and from chinks and crannies whistled bullets, but every Basuto who remained outside, or failed to gain cover, died. In less time than I take to pen these lines, a Swazi was dancing on the topmost boulder of Sekukuni’s citadel.”
Sir Garnet Wolseley, as the rocket went up said, ‘Mark the time. I make it to be 9.45.’ and the whole mass of the wild crowd, springing, leaping, bounding, flooded the plain towards the devoted Koppie which now resembled an ant hill on fire. Sekukuni’s followers defended their chief with great bravery, and even after the battle was over, and our men had commenced blowing up the caves with dynamite and gun-cotton, they refused to surrender, although they came out, and begged piteously for water to be given to them. Their loss is not accurately known although it must have been great.

The day after the assault, November 29, the Engineers were engaged in blowing up the caves, and after each explosion there came out men, women and children, but some of the men still persisted in remaining. Immediate search was made for the fugitive Sekukuni, who with some 600 of his people, had taken refuge in a cave called Kokono, some distance from the Fighting Koppie. Ferreira surrounded this place with his force on 30 November, but on that day and the succeeding one, Sekukuni refused to surrender. On December 2nd, however about daybreak he gave himself up and was taken to Sir Garnet Wolseley’s camp. Ferreira’s Horse kept the crowd back on each flank as he was carried in, exhausted, on a stretcher.”

The war against Sekukuni was over. There is confusion in some quarters as to what role, if any, Ferreira’s Horse played in the war against the Zulu. It has already been seen that they were part of the initial campaign against Sekukuni and were in at the finish at the end of 1879 in the third and final campaign but what of the “time in the middle”?

Several reports have them as part of No. 5 Column (Colonel Rowlands) who had been “engaged against Sekukuni and in protecting the Transvaal border of Zululand” This account was dated 21 February 1879 just after the massacre of Isandlwana and before the Hlobane mountain debacle. It was said that No. 5 Column, under Colonel Rowland V.C. consisted of 80th Foot, Eckersley’s Contingent, Raaff’s Corps, Ferreira’s Horse, Weatherley’s Border Lancers, Transvaal Rangers, Cape Mounted Riflemen, one Krupp gun and two Armstrong 6-pounders.

An article in the Aberdeen Press and Journal dated 10 April 1879, referring to the disaster at Intombi Spruit on 25 March 1879 where Captain Moriarty and his men perished, stated that:

“Colonel Rowland’s column, to which belonged the escort which has met with the above disaster, consists of the 80th Foot, Major Tucker, Schutte’s Corps, Captain Schutte, Eckersley’s Contingent, Raaff’s Corps, Ferreira’s Horse etc. – altogether 1565 officers and men.” So were Ferreira’s Horse in Natal at the “moment critique?” Although they didn’t take part in the Hlobane Mountain assault they were in close proximity to the action.

Another source reveals that, ‘after the defeat of the Zulus at Ulundi they were ordered up to the Pongola border as part of the attempt to capture Cetchwayo.”

Whatever the case may be Ferreira’s Horse were disbanded on 31 December 1879. For his not inconsiderable efforts Emery was awarded the “Zulu” medal with 1879 clasp. The medal roll makes for interesting reading – it confirms that Emery was engaged against the Zulus and Sekukuni – against the Zulus “All the Officers, N.C. Officers and Troopers named in this sheet were engaged in the operations in Zululand with Col. Villiers’ Column from 6 August to 1st October.”

But had he survived the war? What followed was a flurry of correspondence between his step-father, Frederick Grace, and the civilian and military authorities in South Africa.

On 2 July 1880 the Colonial Secretariat, Transvaal, under a Minute entitled ‘Requests information as to Alfred Emery’ wrote to a Captain Saunders asking if he could “find any information” about one Alfred Emery who had served with Ferreira’s Horse. This worthy wrote to Ferreira himself,

“I.P. Ferreira Esq. C.M.G.
Kindly give me what information you can about Alfred Emery who was a Trooper in your Corps.
Allan Saunders, Captain. 80th Regiment.
Pretoria, 2 July 1880.”

Attached to this was the letter from Mr Grace which seemed to indicate that Emery, as far as his family were concerned, was a casualty. It read thus:

“42 Brinton’s Road
23 May 1880

The Colonial Secretary

Dear Sir

My step-son Alfred Emery has been in the Zulu War serving under Ferreira’s Light Horse for 1 ½ years or more and the last letter I received was dated the 17 December 1879. Then he had been with Garnet Wolseley and others storming Secucuni’s mountain.

He expected then to go to Fort Webber and since then I have heard nothing except a letter returned last Friday with a Red mark on Dead.
If you would gather any information respecting him to tell us where he died or find out any one in his Corps that knew anything about him or any one of the officers to sign a paper to satisfy us he is dead we should be ever thankful to you for your trouble.

He has been in the Cape about 5 years and I should think he must have some effects as he was careful and steady whilst in England. If you will be good enough to give this your consideration you will ever have the thanks of his distressed mother. An early reply will oblige.

Yours obediently

Frederick Grace”

The contretemps was soon solved with Saunders replying to the Colonial Secretary from Pretoria on 19 July 1880 as follows:
“Mr I.R. Ferreira sent these documents back to me this morning by Alfred Emery himself who told me he had not written home lately because his people had changed their residence, with that now that he knows their address he would write by the next mail.”

So Alfred Emery was alive and well although not overly anxious to let his kin at home know. He passed away from Apoplexy at Maitland, Cape Town on 3 February 1913 at the age of 64 years. A Baker to the end he had never married.

The following user(s) said Thank You: QSAMIKE, Frank Kelley

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Alfred Emery of Ferreira's Horse 1 year 8 months ago #65817

  • Frank Kelley
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Very nice Rory, although, I'm not sure about life in Southampton, looking at the attached photo, everything seems, well, a bit narrow, elongated, in a vertical sort of way?:ohmy:
One wonders what the Emery's would have made of plastic doors and windows as well as recycling!:huh:

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