This corps, about 300 strong, was raised in the eastern portion of Cape Colony in December 1899 by Colonel Nesbitt, "a veteran South African campaigner". As in the case of many other Colonial bodies, the strength varied greatly in the course of the campaign, being at one time about 5 squadrons, but probably not much more than a squadron was in the field when peace came.
Part of the corps accompanied Lord Roberts in the great fighting march from Modder River to Bloemfontein, being in the 2nd Brigade of Mounted Infantry, at first under Ridley, afterwards under Le Gallais, and they were generally attached to the VIIth Division under General Tucker. On arriving at Bloemfontein the strength of the corps was officially stated at 8 officers, 119 men, and 136 horses. Very few corps were so well supplied with horses, a fact which tends to prove the good mastership of the South African Colonials. Nesbitt's Horse were with Le Gallais and Tucker in the stiffly contested battle at Karee Siding on 29th March, Le Gallais' men taking a very important share in the work. The Boers were driven from their position, and the road towards Brandfort was opened.
When Lord Roberts was advancing to Bloemfontein disaffection broke out to the west of the De Aar line. Among other troops employed on the Lower Orange and about Prieska was one squadron of Nesbitt's Horse which did much hard patrol work. They operated during part of March and April 1900 under Lord Kitchener and General Settle, and were present with Colonel Adye in a sharp fight in the Kheis district, Griqualand West, on 28th May 1900, when Lieutenant Venables and 1 man were wounded. The total British losses in Adye's action were about 7 killed and 20 wounded, and that of the enemy was heavier, 20 of them being taken prisoners. This squadron of Nesbitt's remained in the Prieska district for over one year.
After Pretoria was occupied, the detachment which had accompanied Lord Roberts northwards was taken south of the Vaal in consequence of De Wet having attacked the railway, and they afterwards did duty in the Orange River Colony and in Cape Colony. In his despatch of 15th November 1900, Lord Roberts mentioned that when the enemy moved south in force in October, Philippolis in the south of the Orange River Colony, was attacked almost daily between 18th and 24th October. The Magistrate with 11 police and 18 British residents skilfully entrenched a kopje having a water-supply, and held out till relieved on the 24th. The enemy at first numbered about 100, but other commandos coming up, their force was increased to 600. On hearing of the investment of the place, the commandant at Colesberg sent on the 20th October Lieutenant Hannah and 34 of Nesbitt's Horse to relieve or assist the garrison — surely a dangerously small force for the object. Lieutenant Hannah approached Philippolis on the 21st and posted pickets. These were heavily attacked early on the 22nd and were practically annihilated, but he and 6 men succeeded in joining the garrison. The party of Nesbitt's Horse lost 9 men killed and 12 wounded.
During the second phase of the war Nesbitt's Horse was employed in Cape Colony. They were frequently engaged, and took part in many pursuits. On 14th December a small post near Colesberg, garrisoned by 14 of the corps, was attacked. Lieutenant Kelyl and several men were severely wounded. Lieutenant Hannah was severely wounded on 12th May, and on 9th August Captain Noel Nesbitt was severely wounded at Maraisburg. For a great part of 1901 a portion of the corps was in the western district doing column work under Colonel Capper and Major Jeudwine, and their fine scouting often prevented loss. Another portion worked in the central district of the colony. The corps remained in the field to the very end, and when Commandant Malau was defeated in Central Cape Colony three days before peace was declared, he himself being wounded and captured, the successful British force was composed of the Jansenville district mounted troops, Nesbitt's Horse, and some other local troops, Lovat's Scouts helping indirectly.
The Mentions gained by the corps were:
Lord Roberts' Despatch: 31st March 1900 — Major W L Currie.
Lord Roberts' Final Despatch: Lieutenant Colonel E A Nesbitt, Major Currie, Captain C W Nesbitt, Troopers F Hill, Hiscock and L F Brown. Colonel Nesbitt was awarded the CB and Major Currie the CMG.
Lord Kitchener's Despatch: 8th December 1901 — Lieutenant S A Callaghan, by coolness and good dispositions repulsed enemy's attack at Ganna Hoek, Cape Colony, 21st September. Trooper R Nel, in same action by coolness and courage under close fire rendered most valuable service; wounded in three places but continued to fight.
Lieutenant Harvey was on 25th October 1900, at Pretoria, presented by Lord Roberts with the Royal Humane Society award for gallantry in saving a man from drowning.
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