Born in 1828, James Sansom was the son of George Sansom and his wife Dorothy, members of Calton’s party from Nottinghamshire, who settled originally near Bathurst in the early 1820s. He saw service in the Frontier Wars of 1846 and 1851-53, and in common with many of the young men who had rallied to the Colours, was rewarded by the grant of a farm in the new territory.
A condition attached to the grant of a farm and actually written into the title deeds of his property, Hopewell, when ownership was registered in 1864, was that all able-bodied men were required to hold themselves in readiness to defend the nearby Frontier in event of war; James Sansom evidently accepted the responsibility of leadership in this matter and formed his own volunteer detachment which became known as Sansom’s Horse and met once a month for target practice.
On 9 October 1877, a force consisting mainly of Sansom’s Horse was encamped at Springs, about six miles on the Transkei side of the Great Kei, south-east of the present Kei bridge. Early that morning, while most of the men were still asleep, the camp was heavily attacked by a large force of Galekas. Captain Sansom ordered his men to stand fast and immediately sent a dispatch rider for reinforcements. Some of the young recruits were close to panic, but Sansom rallied them and coolly set about arranging the defence of the camp.
The battle continued until after midday, but by the time that reinforcements had arrived the Galekas had withdrawn leaving many dead in their wake. Sansom’s Horse had two men wounded. Subsequently the Cape Colonial Forces under Commandant C. D. Griffith drove Kreli and the Galekas over the Bashee River into Bomvanaland. The Cape Government came to the mistaken conclusion that the war was over and the volunteers - including Sansom’s Horse - were allowed to return to their homes before Christmas 1877.
76 Medals were awarded to Sansom’s Horse, 75 of them with the ‘1877-8’ clasp.