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The Great Boer War by Arthur Conan Doyle

Part 8 out of 11

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made swiftly for the north-west, closely followed by Paget's and
Broadwood's cavalry. It was on July 16th that he made his dash for
freedom. On the 19th Little, with the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, had come
into touch with him near Lindley. De Wet shook himself clear, and
with splendid audacity cut the railway once more to the north of
Honing Spruit, gathering up a train as he passed, and taking two
hundred details prisoners. On July 22nd De Wet was at Vredefort,
still closely followed by Broadwood, Ridley, and Little, who
gleaned his wagons and his stragglers. Thence he threw himself into
the hilly country some miles to the south of the Vaal River, where
he lurked for a week or more while Lord Kitchener came south to
direct the operations which would, as it was hoped, lead to a

Leaving the indomitable guerilla in his hiding-place, the narrative
must return to that drawing of the net which still continued in
spite of the escape of this one important fish. On all sides the
British forces had drawn closer, and they were both more numerous
and more formidable in quality. It was evident now that by a rapid
advance from Bethlehem in the direction of the Basuto border all
Boers to the north of Ficksburg would be hemmed in. On July 22nd
the columns were moving. On that date Paget moved out of Bethlehem,
and Rundle took a step forward from Ficksburg. Bruce Hamilton had
already, at the cost of twenty Cameron Highlanders, got a grip upon
a bastion of that rocky country in which the enemy lurked. On the
23rd Hunter's force was held by the Boers at the strong pass of
Retief's Nek, but on the 24th they were compelled to abandon it, as
the capture of Slabbert's Nek by Clements threatened their rear.
This latter pass was fortified most elaborately. It was attacked
upon the 23rd by Brabant's Horse and the Royal Irish without
success. Later in the day two companies of the Wiltshire Regiment
were also brought to a standstill, but retained a position until
nightfall within stone-throw of the Boer lines, though a single
company had lost 17 killed and wounded. Part of the Royal Irish
remained also close to the enemy's trenches. Under cover of
darkness, Clements sent four companies of the Royal Irish and two
of the Wiltshires under Colonel Guinness to make a flanking
movement along the crest of the heights. These six companies
completely surprised the enemy, and caused them to hurriedly
evacuate the position. Their night march was performed under great
difficulties, the men crawling on hands and knees along a rocky
path with a drop of 400 feet upon one side. But their exertions
were greatly rewarded. Upon the success of their turning movement
depended the fall of Slabbert's Nek. Retief's Nek was untenable if
we held Slabbert's Nek, and if both were in our hands the retreat
of Prinsloo was cut off.

At every opening of the hills the British guns were thundering, and
the heads of British columns were appearing on every height. The
Highland Brigade had fairly established themselves over the Boer
position, though not without hard fighting, in which a hundred men
of the Highland Light Infantry had been killed and wounded. The
Seaforths and the Sussex had also gripped the positions in front of
them, and taken some punishment in doing so. The outworks of the
great mountain fortress were all taken, and on July 26th the
British columns were converging on Fouriesburg, while Naauwpoort on
the line of retreat was held by Macdonald. It was only a matter of
time now with the Boers.

On the 28th Clements was still advancing, and contracting still
further the space which was occupied by our stubborn foe. He found
himself faced by the stiff position of Slaapkrantz, and a hot
little action was needed before the Boers could be dislodged. The
fighting fell upon Brabant's Horse, the Royal Irish, and the
Wiltshires. Three companies of the latter seized a farm upon the
enemy's left, but lost ten men in doing so, while their gallant
colonel, Carter, was severely wounded in two places. The
Wiltshires, who were excellently handled by Captain Bolton, held on
to the farm and were reinforced there by a handful of the Scots
Guards. In the night the position was abandoned by the Boers, and
the advance swept onwards. On all sides the pressure was becoming
unendurable. The burghers in the valley below could see all day the
twinkle of British heliographs from every hill, while at night the
constant flash of signals told of the sleepless vigilance which
hemmed them in. Upon July 29th, Prinsloo sent in a request for an
armistice, which was refused. Later in the day he despatched a
messenger with the white flag to Hunter, with an announcement of
his unconditional surrender.

On July 30th the motley army which had held the British off so long
emerged from among the mountains. But it soon became evident that
in speaking for all Prinsloo had gone beyond his powers. Discipline
was low and individualism high in the Boer army. Every man might
repudiate the decision of his commandant, as every man might
repudiate the white flag of his comrade. On the first day no more
than eleven hundred men of the Ficksburg and Ladybrand commandos,
with fifteen hundred horses and two guns, were surrendered. next
day seven hundred and fifty more men came in with eight hundred
horses, and by August 6th the total of the prisoners had mounted to
four thousand one hundred and fifty with three guns, two of which
were our own. But Olivier, with fifteen hundred men and several
guns, broke away from the captured force and escaped through the
hills. Of this incident General Hunter, an honourable soldier,
remarks in his official report: 'I regard it as a dishonourable
breach of faith upon the part of General Olivier, for which I hold
him personally responsible. He admitted that he knew that General
Prinsloo had included him in the unconditional surrender.' It is
strange that, on Olivier's capture shortly afterwards, he was not
court-martialled for this breach of the rules of war, but that
good-natured giant, the Empire, is quick--too quick, perhaps--to
let byegones be byegones. On August 4th Harrismith surrendered to
Macdonald, and thus was secured the opening of the Van Reenen's
Pass and the end of the Natal system of railways. This was of the
very first importance, as the utmost difficulty had been found in
supplying so large a body of troops so far from the Cape base. In a
day the base was shifted to Durban, and the distance shortened by
two-thirds, while the army came to be on the railway instead of a
hundred miles from it. This great success assured Lord Roberts's
communications from serious attack, and was of the utmost
importance in enabling him to consolidate his position at Pretoria.



Lord Roberts had now been six weeks in the capital, and British
troops had overrun the greater part of the south and west of the
Transvaal, but in spite of this there was continued Boer
resistance, which flared suddenly up in places which had been
nominally pacified and disarmed. It was found, as has often been
shown in history, that it is easier to defeat a republican army
than to conquer it. From Klerksdorp, from Ventersdorp, from
Rustenburg, came news of risings against the newly imposed British
authority. The concealed Mauser and the bandolier were dug up once
more from the trampled corner of the cattle kraal, and the farmer
was a warrior once again. Vague news of the exploits of De Wet
stimulated the fighting burghers and shamed those who had
submitted. A letter was intercepted from the guerilla chief to
Cronje's son, who had surrendered near Rustenburg. De Wet stated
that he had gained two great victories and had fifteen hundred
captured rifles with which to replace those which the burghers had
given up. Not only were the outlying districts in a state of
revolt, but even round Pretoria the Boers were inclined to take the
offensive, while both that town and Johannesburg were filled with
malcontents who were ready to fly to their arms once more.

Already at the end of June there were signs that the Boers realised
how helpless Lord Roberts was until his remounts should arrive. The
mosquitoes buzzed round the crippled lion. On June 29th there was
an attack upon Springs near Johannesburg, which was easily beaten
off by the Canadians. Early in July some of the cavalry and mounted
infantry patrols were snapped up in the neighbourhood of the
capital. Lord Roberts gave orders accordingly that Hutton and Mahon
should sweep the Boers back upon his right, and push them as far as
Bronkhorst Spruit. This was done on July 6th and 7th, the British
advance meeting with considerable resistance from artillery as well
as rifles. By this movement the pressure upon the right was
relieved, which might have created a dangerous unrest in
Johannesburg, and it was done at the moderate cost of thirty-four
killed and wounded, half of whom belonged to the Imperial Light
Horse. This famous corps, which had come across with Mahon from the
relief of Mafeking, had, a few days before, ridden with mixed
feelings through the streets of Johannesburg and past, in many
instances, the deserted houses which had once been their homes.
Many weary months were to pass before the survivors might occupy
them. On July 9th the Boers again attacked, but were again pushed
back to the eastward.

It is probable that all these demonstrations of the enemy upon the
right of Lord Roberts's extended position were really feints in
order to cover the far-reaching plans which Botha had in his mind.
The disposition of the Boer forces at this time appears to have
been as follows: Botha with his army occupied a position along
Delagoa railway line, further east than Diamond Hill, whence he
detached the bodies which attacked Hutton upon the extreme right of
the British position to the south-east of Pretoria. To the north of
Pretoria a second force was acting under Grobler, while a third
under De la Rey had been despatched secretly across to the left
wing of the British, north-west of Pretoria. While Botha engaged
the attention of Lord Roberts by energetic demonstrations on his
right, Grobler and De la Rey were to make a sudden attack upon his
centre and his left, each point being twelve or fifteen miles from
the other. It was well devised and very well carried out; but the
inherent defect of it was that, when subdivided in this way, the
Boer force was no longer strong enough to gain more than a mere
success of outposts.

De la Rey's attack was delivered at break of day on July 11th at
Uitval's Nek, a post some eighteen miles west of the capital. This
position could not be said to be part of Lord Roberts's line, but
rather to be a link to connect his army with Rustenburg. It was
weakly held by three companies of the Lincolns with two others in
support, one squadron of the Scots Greys, and two guns of O battery
R.H.A. The attack came with the first grey light of dawn, and for
many hours the small garrison bore up against a deadly fire,
waiting for the help which never came. All day they held their
assailants at bay, and it was not until evening that their
ammunition ran short and they were forced to surrender. Nothing
could have been better than the behaviour of the men, both
infantry, cavalry, and gunners, but their position was a hopeless
one. The casualties amounted to eighty killed and wounded. Nearly
two hundred were made prisoners and the two guns were taken.

On the same day that De la Rey made his coup at Uitval's Nek,
Grobler had shown his presence on the north side of the town by
treating very roughly a couple of squadrons of the 7th Dragoon
Guards which had attacked him. By the help of a section of the
ubiquitous O battery and of the 14th Hussars, Colonel Lowe was able
to disengage his cavalry from the trap into which they had fallen,
but it was at the cost of between thirty and forty officers and men
killed, wounded, or taken. The old 'Black Horse' sustained their
historical reputation, and fought their way bravely out of an
almost desperate situation, where they were exposed to the fire of
a thousand riflemen and four guns.

On this same day of skirmishes, July 11th, the Gordons had seen
some hot work twenty miles or so to the south of Uitval's Nek.
Orders had been given to the 19th Brigade (Smith-Dorrien's) to
proceed to Krugersdorp, and thence to make their way north. The
Scottish Yeomanry and a section of the 78th R.F.A. accompanied
them. The idea seems to have been that they would be able to drive
north any Boers in that district, who would then find the garrison
of Uitval's Nek at their rear. The advance was checked, however, at
a place called Dolverkrantz, which was strongly held by Boer
riflemen. The two guns were insufficiently protected, and the enemy
got within short range of them, killing or wounding many of the
gunners. The lieutenant in charge, Mr. A.J. Turner, the famous
Essex cricketer, worked the gun with his own hands until he also
fell wounded in three places. The situation was now very serious,
and became more so when news was flashed of the disaster at
Uitval's Nek, and they were ordered to retire. They could not
retire and abandon the guns, yet the fire was so hot that it was
impossible to remove them. Gallant attempts were made by volunteers
from the Gordons--Captain Younger and other brave men throwing away
their lives in the vain effort to reach and to limber up the guns.
At last, under the cover of night, the teams were harnessed and the
two field-pieces successfully removed, while the Boers who rushed
in to seize them were scattered by a volley. The losses in the
action were thirty-six and the gain nothing. Decidedly July 11th
was not a lucky day for the British arms.

It was well known to Botha that every train from the south was
bringing horses for Lord Roberts's army, and that it had become
increasingly difficult for De Wet and his men to hinder their
arrival. The last horse must win, and the Empire had the world on
which to draw. Any movement which the Boers would make must be made
at once, for already both the cavalry and the mounted infantry were
rapidly coming back to their full strength once more. This
consideration must have urged Botha to deliver an attack on July
16th, which had some success at first, but was afterwards beaten
off with heavy loss to the enemy. The fighting fell principally
upon Pole-Carew and Hutton, the corps chiefly engaged being the
Royal Irish Fusiliers, the New Zealanders, the Shropshires, and the
Canadian Mounted Infantry. The enemy tried repeatedly to assault
the position, but were beaten back each time with a loss of nearly
a hundred killed and wounded. The British loss was about sixty, and
included two gallant young Canadian officers, Borden and Birch, the
former being the only son of the minister of militia. So ended the
last attempt made by Botha upon the British positions round
Pretoria. The end of the war was not yet, but already its futility
was abundantly evident. This had become more apparent since the
junction of Hamilton and of Buller had cut off the Transvaal army
from that of the Free State. Unable to send their prisoners away,
and also unable to feed them, the Freestaters were compelled to
deliver up in Natal the prisoners whom they had taken at Lindley
and Roodeval. These men, a ragged and starving battalion, emerged
at Ladysmith, having made their way through Van Reenen's Pass. It
is a singular fact that no parole appears on these and similar
occasions to have been exacted by the Boers.

Lord Roberts, having remounted a large part of his cavalry, was
ready now to advance eastward and give Botha battle. The first town
of any consequence along the Delagoa Railway is Middelburg, some
seventy miles from the capital. This became the British objective,
and the forces of Mahon and Hamilton on the north, of Pole-Carew in
the centre, and of French and Hutton to the south, all converged
upon it. There was no serious resistance, though the weather was
abominable, and on July 27th the town was in the hands of the
invaders. From that date until the final advance to the eastward
French held this advanced post, while Pole-Carew guarded the
railway line. Rumours of trouble in the west had convinced Roberts
that it was not yet time to push his advantage to the east, and he
recalled Ian Hamilton's force to act for a time upon the other side
of the seat of the war. This excellent little army, consisting of
Mahon's and Pilcher's mounted infantry, M battery R.H.A., the
Elswick battery, two 5-inch and two 4.7 guns, with the Berkshires,
the Border Regiment, the Argyle and Sutherlands, and the Scottish
Borderers, put in as much hard work in marching and in fighting as
any body of troops in the whole campaign.

The renewal of the war in the west had begun some weeks before, but
was much accelerated by the transference of De la Rey and his
burghers to that side. There is no district in the Transvaal which
is better worth fighting for, for it is a fair country side,
studded with farmhouses and green with orange-groves, with many
clear streams running through it. The first sign of activity
appears to have been on July 7th, when a commando with guns
appeared upon the hills above Rustenburg. Hanbury Tracy, commandant
of Rustenburg, was suddenly confronted with a summons to surrender.
He had only 120 men and one gun, but he showed a bold front.
Colonel Houldsworth, at the first whisper of danger, had started
from Zeerust with a small force of Australian bushmen, and arrived
at Rustenburg in time to drive the enemy away in a very spirited
action. On the evening of July 8th Baden-Powell took over the
command, the garrison being reinforced by Plumer's command.

The Boer commando was still in existence, however, and it was
reinforced and reinvigorated by De la Rey's success at Uitval's
Nek. On July 18th they began to close in upon Rustenburg again, and
a small skirmish took place between them and the Australians.
Methuen's division, which had been doing very arduous service in
the north of the Free State during the last six weeks, now received
orders to proceed into the Transvaal and to pass northwards through
the disturbed districts en route for Rustenburg, which appeared to
be the storm centre. The division was transported by train from
Kroonstad to Krugersdorp, and advanced on the evening of July 18th
upon its mission, through a bare and fire-blackened country. On the
19th Lord Methuen manoeuvred the Boers out of a strong position,
with little loss to either side. On the 21st he forced his way
through Olifant's Nek, in the Magaliesberg range, and so
established communication with Baden-Powell, whose valiant bushmen,
under Colonel Airey, had held their own in a severe conflict near
Magato Pass, in which they lost six killed, nineteen wounded, and
nearly two hundred horses. The fortunate arrival of Captain
FitzClarence with the Protectorate Regiment helped on this occasion
to avert a disaster. The force, only 300 strong, without guns, had
walked into an ugly ambuscade, and only the tenacity and resource
of the men enabled them ever to extricate themselves.

Although Methuen came within reach of Rustenburg, he did not
actually join hands with Baden-Powell. No doubt he saw and heard
enough to convince him that that astute soldier was very well able
to take care of himself. Learning of the existence of a Boer force
in his rear, Methuen turned, and on July 29th he was back at
Frederickstad on the Potchefstroom to Krugersdorp railway. The
sudden change in his plans was caused doubtless by the desire to
head off De Wet in case he should cross the Vaal River. Lord
Roberts was still anxious to clear the neighbourhood of Rustenburg
entirely of the enemy; and he therefore, since Methuen was needed
to complete the cordon round De Wet, recalled Hamilton's force from
the east and despatched it, as already described, to the west of

Before going into the details of the great De Wet hunt, in which
Methuen's force was to be engaged, I shall follow Hamilton's
division across, and give some account of their services. On August
1st he set out from Pretoria for Rustenburg. On that day and on the
next he had brisk skirmishes which brought him successfully through
the Magaliesberg range with a loss of forty wounded, mostly of the
Berkshires. On the 5th of August he had made his way to Rustenburg
and drove off the investing force. A smaller siege had been going
on to westward, where at Elands River another Mafeking man, Colonel
Hore, had been held up by the burghers. For some days it was
feared, and even officially announced, that the garrison had
surrendered. It was known that an attempt by Carrington to relieve
the place on August 5th had been beaten back, and that the state of
the country appeared so threatening that he had been compelled, or
had imagined himself to be compelled, to retreat as far as
Mafeking, evacuating Zeerust and Otto's Hoop, abandoning the
considerable stores which were collected at those places. In spite
of all these sinister indications the garrison was still holding
its own, and on August 16th it was relieved by Lord Kitchener.

This stand at Brakfontein on the Elands River appears to have been
one of the very finest deeds of arms of the war. The Australians
have been so split up during the campaign, that though their valour
and efficiency were universally recognised, they had no single
exploit which they could call their own. But now they can point to
Elands River as proudly as the Canadians can to Paardeberg. They
were 500 in number, Victorians, New South Welshmen, and
Queenslanders, the latter the larger unit, with a corps of
Rhodesians. Under Hore were Major Hopper of the Rhodesians, and
Major Toubridge of the Queenslanders. Two thousand five hundred
Boers surrounded them, and most favourable terms of surrender were
offered and scouted. Six guns were trained upon them, and during 11
days 1800 shells fell within their lines. The river was half a mile
off, and every drop of water for man or beast had to come from
there. Nearly all their horses and 75 of the men were killed or
wounded. With extraordinary energy and ingenuity the little band
dug shelters which are said to have exceeded in depth and
efficiency any which the Boers have devised. Neither the repulse of
Carrington, nor the jamming of their only gun, nor the death of the
gallant Annett, was sufficient to dishearten them. They were sworn
to die before the white flag should wave above them. And so fortune
yielded, as fortune will when brave men set their teeth, and
Broadwood's troopers, filled with wonder and admiration, rode into
the lines of the reduced and emaciated but indomitable garrison.
When the ballad-makers of Australia seek for a subject, let them
turn to Elands River, for there was no finer resistance in the war.
They will not grudge a place in their record to the 130 gallant
Rhodesians who shared with them the honours and the dangers of the

On August 7th Ian Hamilton abandoned Rustenburg, taking
Baden-Powell and his men with him. It was obviously unwise to
scatter the British forces too widely by attempting to garrison
every single town. For the instant the whole interest of the war
centred upon De Wet and his dash into the Transvaal. One or two
minor events, however, which cannot be fitted into any continuous
narrative may be here introduced.

One of these was the action at Faber's Put, by which Sir Charles
Warren crushed the rebellion in Griqualand. In that sparsely
inhabited country of vast distances it was a most difficult task to
bring the revolt to a decisive ending. This Sir Charles Warren,
with his special local knowledge and interest, was able to do, and
the success is doubly welcome as bringing additional honour to a
man who, whatever view one may take of his action at Spion Kop, has
grown grey in the service of the Empire. With a column consisting
mainly of colonials and of yeomanry he had followed the rebels up
to a point within twelve miles of Douglas. Here at the end of May
they turned upon him and delivered a fierce night attack, so sudden
and so strongly pressed that much credit is due both to General and
to troops for having repelled it. The camp was attacked on all
sides in the early dawn. The greater part of the horses were
stampeded by the firing, and the enemy's riflemen were found to be
at very close quarters. For an hour the action was warm, but at the
end of that time the Boers fled, leaving a number of dead behind
them. The troops engaged in this very creditable action, which
might have tried the steadiness of veterans, were four hundred of
the Duke of Edinburgh's volunteers, some of Paget's horse and of
the 8th Regiment Imperial Yeomanry, four Canadian guns, and
twenty-five of Warren's Scouts. Their losses were eighteen killed
and thirty wounded. Colonel Spence, of the volunteers, died at the
head of his regiment. A few days before, on May 27th, Colonel Adye
had won a small engagement at Kheis, some distance to the westward,
and the effect of the two actions was to put an end to open
resistance. On June 20th De Villiers, the Boer leader, finally
surrendered to Sir Charles Warren, handing over two hundred and
twenty men with stores, rifles, and ammunition. The last sparks had
for the time been stamped out in the colony.

There remain to be mentioned those attacks upon trains and upon the
railway which had spread from the Free State to the Transvaal. On
July 19th a train was wrecked on the way from Potchefstroom to
Krugersdorp without serious injury to the passengers. On July 31st,
however, the same thing occurred with more murderous effect, the
train running at full speed off the metals. Thirteen of the
Shropshires were killed and thirty-seven injured in this deplorable
affair, which cost us more than many an important engagement. On
August 2nd a train coming up from Bloemfontein was derailed by
Sarel Theron and his gang some miles south of Kroonstad.
Thirty-five trucks of stores were burned, and six of the passengers
(unarmed convalescent soldiers) were killed or wounded. A body of
mounted infantry followed up the Boers, who numbered eighty, and
succeeded in killing and wounding several of them.

On July 21st the Boers made a determined attack upon the railhead
at a point thirteen miles east of Heidelberg, where over a hundred
Royal Engineers were engaged upon a bridge. They were protected by
three hundred Dublin Fusiliers under Major English. For some hours
the little party was hard pressed by the burghers, who had two
field-pieces and a pom-pom. They could make no impression, however,
upon the steady Irish infantry, and after some hours the arrival of
General Hart with reinforcements scattered the assailants, who
succeeded in getting their guns away in safety.

At the beginning of August it must be confessed that the general
situation in the Transvaal was not reassuring. Springs near
Johannesburg had in some inexplicable way, without fighting, fallen
into the hands of the enemy. Klerksdorp, an important place in the
south-west, had also been reoccupied, and a handful of men who
garrisoned it had been made prisoners without resistance.
Rustenburg was about to be abandoned, and the British were known to
be falling back from Zeerust and Otto's Hoop, concentrating upon
Mafeking. The sequel proved however, that there was no cause for
uneasiness in all this. Lord Roberts was concentrating his strength
upon those objects which were vital, and letting the others drift
for a time. At present the two obviously important things were to
hunt down De Wet and to scatter the main Boer army under Botha. The
latter enterprise must wait upon the former, so for a fortnight all
operations were in abeyance while the flying columns of the British
endeavoured to run down their extremely active and energetic

At the end of July De Wet had taken refuge in some exceedingly
difficult country near Reitzburg, seven miles south of the Vaal
River. The operations were proceeding vigorously at that time
against the main army at Fouriesberg, and sufficient troops could
not be spared to attack him, but he was closely observed by
Kitchener and Broadwood with a force of cavalry and mounted
infantry. With the surrender of Prinsloo a large army was
disengaged, and it was obvious that if De Wet remained where he was
he must soon be surrounded. On the other hand, there was no place
of refuge to the south of him. With great audacity he determined to
make a dash for the Transvaal, in the hope of joining hands with De
la Rey's force, or else of making his way across the north of
Pretoria, and so reaching Botha's army. President Steyn went with
him, and a most singular experience it must have been for him to be
harried like a mad dog through the country in which he had once
been an honoured guest. De Wet's force was exceedingly mobile, each
man having a led horse, and the ammunition being carried in light
Cape carts.

In the first week of August the British began to thicken round his
lurking-place, and De Wet knew that it was time for him to go. He
made a great show of fortifying a position, but it was only a ruse
to deceive those who watched him. Travelling as lightly as
possible, he made a dash on August 7th at the drift which bears his
own name, and so won his way across the Vaal River, Kitchener
thundering at his heels with his cavalry and mounted infantry.
Methuen's force was at that time at Potchefstroom, and instant
orders had been sent to him to block the drifts upon the northern
side. It was found as he approached the river that the vanguard of
the enemy was already across and that it was holding the spurs of
the hills which would cover the crossing of their comrades. By the
dash of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and the exertions of the
artillery ridge after ridge was carried, but before evening De Wet
with supreme skill had got his convoy across, and had broken away,
first to the eastward and then to the north. On the 9th Methuen was
in touch with him again, and the two savage little armies, Methuen
worrying at the haunch, and De Wet snapping back over his shoulder,
swept northward over the huge plains. Wherever there was ridge or
kopje the Boer riflemen staved off the eager pursuers. Where the
ground lay flat and clear the British guns thundered onwards and
fired into the lines of wagons. Mile after mile the running fight
was sustained, but the other British columns, Broadwood's men and
Kitchener's men, had for some reason not come up. Methuen alone was
numerically inferior to the men he was chasing, but he held on with
admirable energy and spirit. The Boers were hustled off the kopjes
from which they tried to cover their rear. Twenty men of the
Yorkshire Yeomanry carried one hill with the bayonet, though only
twelve of them were left to reach the top.

De Wet trekked onwards during the night of the 9th, shedding wagons
and stores as he went. He was able to replace some of his exhausted
beasts from the farmhouses which he passed. Methuen on the morning
of the 10th struck away to the west, sending messages back to
Broadwood and Kitchener in the rear that they should bear to the
east, and so nurse the Boer column between them. At the same time
he sent on a messenger, who unfortunately never arrived, to warn
Smith-Dorrien at Bank Station to throw himself across De Wet's
path. On the 11th it was realised that De Wet had succeeded, in
spite of great exertions upon the part of Smith-Dorrien's infantry,
in crossing the railway line, and that he had left all his pursuers
to the south of him. But across his front lay the Magaliesberg
range. There are only three passes, the Magato Pass, Olifant's Nek,
and Commando Nek. It was understood that all three were held by
British troops. It was obvious, therefore, that if Methuen could
advance in such a way as to cut De Wet off from slipping through to
the west he would be unable to get away. Broadwood and Kitchener
would be behind him, and Pretoria, with the main British army, to
the east.

Methuen continued to act with great energy and judgment. At three
A.M. on the 12th be started from Fredericstadt, and by 5 P.M. on
Tuesday he had done eighty miles in sixty hours. The force which
accompanied him was all mounted, 1200 of the Colonial Division (1st
Brabant's, Cape Mounted Rifles, Kaffrarian Rifles, and Border
Horse), and the Yeomanry with ten guns. Douglas with the infantry
was to follow behind, and these brave fellows covered sixty-six
miles in seventy-six hours in their eagerness to be in time. No men
could have made greater efforts than did those of Methuen, for
there was not one who did not appreciate the importance of the
issue and long to come to close quarters with the wily leader who
had baffled us so long.

On the 12th Methuen's van again overtook De Wet's rear, and the old
game of rearguard riflemen on one side, and a pushing artillery on
the other, was once more resumed. All day the Boers streamed over
the veld with the guns and the horsemen at their heels. A shot from
the 78th battery struck one of De Wet's guns, which was abandoned
and captured. Many stores were taken and much more, with the wagons
which contained them, burned by the Boers. Fighting incessantly,
both armies traversed thirty-five miles of ground that day.

It was fully understood that Olifant's Nek was held by the British,
so Methuen felt that if he could block the Magato Pass all would be
well. He therefore left De Wet's direct track, knowing that other
British forces were behind him, and he continued his swift advance
until he had reached the desired position. It really appeared that
at last the elusive raider was in a corner. But, alas for fallen
hopes, and alas for the wasted efforts of gallant men! Olifant's
Nek had been abandoned and De Wet had passed safely through it into
the plains beyond, where De la Rey's force was still in possession.
In vain Methuen's weary column forced the Magato Pass and descended
into Rustenburg. The enemy was in a safe country once more. Whose
the fault, or whether there was a fault at all, it is for the
future to determine. At least unalloyed praise can be given to the
Boer leader for the admirable way in which he had extricated
himself from so many dangers. On the 17th., moving along the
northern side of the mountains, he appeared at Commando Nek on the
Little Crocodile River, where he summoned Baden-Powell to
surrender, and received some chaff in reply from that light-hearted
commander. Then, swinging to the eastward, he endeavoured to cross
to the north of Pretoria. On the 19th he was heard of at Hebron.
Baden-Powell and Paget had, however, already barred this path, and
De Wet, having sent Steyn on with a small escort, turned back to
the Free State. On the 22nd it was reported that, with only a
handful of his followers, he had crossed the Magaliesberg range by
a bridlepath and was riding southwards. Lord Roberts was at last
free to turn his undivided attention upon Botha.

Two Boer plots had been discovered during the first half of August,
the one in Pretoria and the other in Johannesburg, each having for
its object a rising against the British in the town. Of these the
former, which was the more serious, involving as it did the
kidnapping of Lord Roberts, was broken up by the arrest of the
deviser, Hans Cordua, a German lieutenant in the Transvaal
Artillery. On its merits it is unlikely that the crime would have
been met by the extreme penalty, especially as it was a question
whether the agent provocateur had not played a part. But the
repeated breaches of parole, by which our prisoners of one day were
in the field against us on the next, called imperatively for an
example, and it was probably rather for his broken faith than for
his hare-brained scheme that Cordua died. At the same time it is
impossible not to feel sorrow for this idealist of twenty-three who
died for a cause which was not his own. He was shot in the garden
of Pretoria Gaol upon August 24th. A fresh and more stringent
proclamation from Lord Roberts showed that the British Commander
was losing his patience in the face of the wholesale return of
paroled men to the field, and announced that such perfidy would in
future be severely punished. It was notorious that the same men had
been taken and released more than once. One man killed in action
was found to have nine signed passes in his pocket. It was against
such abuses that the extra severity of the British was aimed.



The time had now come for the great combined movement which was to
sweep the main Boer army off the line of the Delagoa railway, cut
its source of supplies, and follow it into that remote and
mountainous Lydenburg district which had always been proclaimed as
the last refuge of the burghers. Before entering upon this most
difficult of all his advances Lord Roberts waited until the cavalry
and mounted infantry were well mounted again. Then, when all was
ready, the first step in this last stage of the regular campaign
was taken by General Buller, who moved his army of Natal veterans
off the railway line and advanced to a position from which he could
threaten the flank and rear of Botha if he held his ground against
Lord Roberts. Buller's cavalry had been reinforced by the arrival
of Strathcona's Horse, a fine body of Canadian troopers, whose
services had been presented to the nation by the public-spirited
nobleman whose name they bore. They were distinguished by their
fine physique, and by the lassoes, cowboy stirrups, and large spurs
of the North-Western plains.

It was in the first week of July that Clery joined hands with the
Heidelberg garrison, while Coke with the 10th Brigade cleared the
right flank of the railway by an expedition as far as Amersfoort.
On July 6th the Natal communications were restored, and on the 7th
Buller was able to come through to Pretoria and confer with the
Commander-in-Chief. A Boer force with heavy guns still hung about
the line, and several small skirmishes were fought between
Vlakfontein and Greylingstad in order to drive it away. By the
middle of July the immediate vicinity of the railway was clear save
for some small marauding parties who endeavoured to tamper with the
rails and the bridges. Up to the end of the month the whole of the
Natal army remained strung along the line of communications from
Heidelberg to Standerton, waiting for the collection of forage and
transport to enable them to march north against Botha's position.

On August 8th Buller's troops advanced to the north-east from
Paardekop, pushing a weak Boer force with five guns in front of
them. At the cost of twenty-five wounded, principally of the 60th
Rifles, the enemy was cleared off, and the town of Amersfoort was
occupied. On the 13th, moving on the same line, and meeting with
very slight opposition, Buller took possession of Ermelo. His
advance was having a good effect upon the district, for on the 12th
the Standerton commando, which numbered 182 men, surrendered to
Clery. On the 15th, still skirmishing, Buller's men were at
Twyfelaar, and had taken possession of Carolina. Here and there a
distant horseman riding over the olive-coloured hills showed how
closely and incessantly he was watched; but, save for a little
sniping upon his flanks, there was no fighting. He was coming now
within touch of French's cavalry, operating from Middelburg, and on
the 14th heliographic communication was established with Gordon's

Buller's column had come nearer to its friends, but it was also
nearer to the main body of Boers who were waiting in that very
rugged piece of country which lies between Belfast in the west and
Machadodorp in the east. From this rocky stronghold they had thrown
out mobile bodies to harass the British advance from the south, and
every day brought Buller into closer touch with these advance
guards of the enemy. On August 21st he had moved eight miles nearer
to Belfast, French operating upon his left flank. Here he found the
Boers in considerable numbers, but he pushed them northward with
his cavalry, mounted infantry, and artillery, losing between thirty
and forty killed and wounded, the greater part from the ranks of
the 18th Hussars and the Gordon Highlanders. This march brought him
within fifteen miles of Belfast, which lay due north of him. At the
same time Pole-Carew with the central column of Lord Roberts's
force had advanced along the railway line, and on August 24th he
occupied Belfast with little resistance. He found, however, that
the enemy were holding the formidable ridges which lie between that
place and Dalmanutha, and that they showed every sign of giving
battle, presenting a firm front to Buller on the south as well as
to Roberts's army on the west.

On the 23rd some successes attended their efforts to check the
advance from the south. During the day Buller had advanced
steadily, though under incessant fire. The evening found him only
six miles to the south of Dalmanutha, the centre of the Boer
position. By some misfortune, however, after dark two companies of
the Liverpool Regiment found themselves isolated from their
comrades and exposed to a very heavy fire. They had pushed forward
too far, and were very near to being surrounded and destroyed.
There were fifty-six casualties in their ranks, and thirty-two,
including their wounded captain, were taken. The total losses in
the day were 121.

On August 25th it was evident that important events were at hand,
for on that date Lord Roberts arrived at Belfast and held a
conference with Buller, French, and Pole-Carew. The general
communicated his plans to his three lieutenants, and on the 26th
and following days the fruits of the interview were seen in a
succession of rapid manoeuvres which drove the Boers out of this,
the strongest position which they had held since they left the
banks of the Tugela.

The advance of Lord Roberts was made, as his wont is, with two
widespread wings, and a central body to connect them. Such a
movement leaves the enemy in doubt as to which flank will really be
attacked, while if he denudes his centre in order to strengthen
both flanks there is the chance of a frontal advance which might
cut him in two. French with two cavalry brigades formed the left
advance, Pole-Carew the centre, and Buller the right, the whole
operations extending over thirty miles of infamous country. It is
probable that Lord Roberts had reckoned that the Boer right was
likely to be their strongest position, since if it were turned it
would cut off their retreat upon Lydenburg, so his own main attack
was directed upon their left. This was carried out by General
Buller on August 26th and 27th.

On the first day the movement upon Buller's part consisted in a
very deliberate reconnaissance of and closing in upon the enemy's
position, his troops bivouacking upon the ground which they had
won. On the second, finding that all further progress was barred by
the strong ridge of Bergendal, he prepared his attack carefully
with artillery and then let loose his infantry upon it. It was a
gallant feat of arms upon either side. The Boer position was held
by a detachment of the Johannesburg Police, who may have been
bullies in peace, but were certainly heroes in war. The fire of
sixty guns was concentrated for a couple of hours upon a position
only a few hundred yards in diameter. In this infernal fire, which
left the rocks yellow with lyddite, the survivors still waited
grimly for the advance of the infantry. No finer defence was made
in the war. The attack was carried out across an open glacis by the
2nd Rifle Brigade and by the Inniskilling Fusiliers, the men of
Pieter's Hill. Through a deadly fire the gallant infantry swept
over the position, though Metcalfe, the brave colonel of the
Rifles, with eight other officers, and seventy men were killed or
wounded. Lysley, Steward, and Campbell were all killed in leading
their companies, but they could not have met their deaths upon an
occasion more honourable to their battalion. Great credit must also
be given to A and B companies of the Inniskilling Fusiliers, who
were actually the first over the Boer position. The cessation of
the artillery fire was admirably timed. It was sustained up to the
last possible instant. 'As it was,' said the captain of the leading
company, 'a 94-pound shell burst about thirty yards in front of the
right of our lot. The smell of the lyddite was awful.' A pom-pom
and twenty prisoners, including the commander of the police, were
the trophies of the day. An outwork of the Boer position had been
carried, and the rumour of defeat and disaster had already spread
through their ranks. Braver men than the burghers have never lived,
but they had reached the limits of human endurance, and a long
experience of defeat in the field had weakened their nerve and
lessened their morale. They were no longer men of the same fibre as
those who had crept up to the trenches of Spion Kop, or faced the
lean warriors of Ladysmith on that grim January morning at Caesar's
Camp. Dutch tenacity would not allow them to surrender, and yet
they realised how hopeless was the fight in which they were
engaged. Nearly fifteen thousand of their best men were prisoners,
ten thousand at the least had returned to their farms and taken the
oath. Another ten had been killed, wounded, or incapacitated. Most
of the European mercenaries had left; they held only the ultimate
corner of their own country, they had lost their grip upon the
railway line, and their supply of stores and of ammunition was
dwindling. To such a pass had eleven months of war reduced that
formidable army who had so confidently advanced to the conquest of
South Africa.

While Buller had established himself firmly upon the left of the
Boer position, Pole-Carew had moved forward to the north of the
railway line, and French had advanced as far as Swart Kopjes upon
the Boer right. These operations on August 26th and 27th were met
with some resistance, and entailed a loss of forty or fifty killed
and wounded; but it soon became evident that the punishment which
they had received at Bergendal had taken the fight out of the
Boers, and that this formidable position was to be abandoned as the
others had been. On the 28th the burghers were retreating, and
Machadodorp, where Kruger had sat so long in his railway carriage,
protesting that he would eventually move west and not east, was
occupied by Buller. French, moving on a more northerly route,
entered Watervalonder with his cavalry upon the same date, driving
a small Boer force before him. Amid rain and mist the British
columns were pushing rapidly forwards, but still the burghers held
together, and still their artillery was uncaptured. The retirement
was swift, but it was not yet a rout.

On the 30th the British cavalry were within touch of Nooitgedacht,
and saw a glad sight in a long trail of ragged men who were
hurrying in their direction along the railway line. They were the
British prisoners, eighteen hundred in number, half of whom had
been brought from Waterval when Pretoria was captured, while the
other half represented the men who had been sent from the south by
De Wet, or from the west by De la Rey. Much allowance must be made
for the treatment of prisoners by a belligerent who is himself
short of food, but nothing can excuse the harshness which the Boers
showed to the Colonials who fell into their power, or the callous
neglect of the sick prisoners at Waterval. It is a humiliating but
an interesting fact that from first to last no fewer than seven
thousand of our men passed into their power, all of whom were now
recovered save some sixty officers, who had been carried off by
them in their flight.

On September 1st Lord Roberts showed his sense of the decisive
nature of these recent operations by publishing the proclamation
which had been issued as early as July 4th, by which the Transvaal
became a portion of the British Empire. On the same day General
Buller, who had ceased to advance to the east and retraced his
steps as far as Helvetia, began his northerly movement in the
direction of Lydenburg, which is nearly fifty miles to the north of
the railway line. On that date his force made a march of fourteen
miles, which brought them over the Crocodile River to Badfontein.
Here, on September 2nd, Buller found that the indomitable Botha was
still turning back upon him, for he was faced by so heavy a shell
fire, coming from so formidable a position, that he had to be
content to wait in front of it until some other column should
outflank it. The days of unnecessary frontal attacks were for ever
over, and his force, though ready for anything which might be asked
of it, had gone through a good deal in the recent operations. Since
August 21st they had been under fire almost every day, and their
losses, though never great on any one occasion, amounted in the
aggregate during that time to 365. They had crossed the Tugela,
they had relieved Ladysmith, they had forced Laing's Nek, and now
it was to them that the honour had fallen of following the enemy
into this last fastness. Whatever criticism may be directed against
some episodes in the Natal campaign, it must never be forgotten
that to Buller and to his men have fallen some of the hardest tasks
of the war, and that these tasks have always in the end been
successfully carried out. The controversy about the unfortunate
message to White, and the memory of the abandoned guns at Colenso,
must not lead us to the injustice of ignoring all that is to be set
to the credit account.

On September 3rd Lord Roberts, finding how strong a position faced
Buller, despatched Ian Hamilton with a force to turn it upon the
right. Brocklehurst's brigade of cavalry joined Hamilton in his
advance. On the 4th he was within signalling distance of Buller,
and on the right rear of the Boer position. The occupation of a
mountain called Zwaggenhoek would establish Hamilton firmly, and
the difficult task of seizing it at night was committed to Colonel
Douglas and his fine regiment of Royal Scots. It was Spion Kop over
again, but with a happier ending. At break of day the Boers
discovered that their position had been rendered untenable and
withdrew, leaving the road to Lydenburg clear to Buller. Hamilton
and he occupied the town upon the 6th. The Boers had split into two
parties, the larger one with the guns falling back upon Kruger's
Post, and the others retiring to Pilgrim's Rest. Amid cloud-girt
peaks and hardly passable ravines the two long-enduring armies
still wrestled for the final mastery.

To the north-east of Lydenburg, between that town and Spitzkop,
there is a formidable ridge called the Mauchberg, and here again
the enemy were found to be standing at bay. They were even better
than their word, for they had always said that they would make
their last stand at Lydenburg, and now they were making one beyond
it. But the resistance was weakening. Even this fine position could
not be held against the rush of the three regiments, the Devons,
the Royal Irish, and the Royal Scots, who were let loose upon it.
The artillery supported the attack admirably. 'They did nobly,'
said one who led the advance. 'It is impossible to overrate the
value of their support. They ceased also exactly at the right
moment. One more shell would have hit us.' Mountain mists saved the
defeated burghers from a close pursuit, but the hills were carried.
The British losses on this day, September 8th, were thirteen killed
and twenty-five wounded; but of these thirty-eight no less than
half were accounted for by one of those strange malignant freaks
which can neither be foreseen nor prevented. A shrapnel shell,
fired at an incredible distance, burst right over the Volunteer
Company of the Gordons who were marching in column. Nineteen men
fell, but it is worth recording that, smitten so suddenly and so
terribly, the gallant Volunteers continued to advance as steadily
as before this misfortune befell them. On the 9th Buller was still
pushing forward to Spitzkop, his guns and the 1st Rifles
overpowering a weak rearguard resistance of the Boers. On the 10th
he had reached Klipgat, which is halfway between the Mauchberg and
Spitzkop. So close was the pursuit that the Boers, as they streamed
through the passes, flung thirteen of their ammunition wagons over
the cliffs to prevent them from falling into the hands of the
British horsemen. At one period it looked as if the gallant Boer
guns had waited too long in covering the retreat of the burghers.
Strathcona's Horse pressed closely upon them. The situation was
saved by the extreme coolness and audacity of the Boer gunners.
'When the cavalry were barely half a mile behind the rear gun' says
an eye-witness 'and we regarded its capture as certain, the LEADING
Long Tom deliberately turned to bay and opened with case shot at
the pursuers streaming down the hill in single file over the head
of his brother gun. It was a magnificent coup, and perfectly
successful. The cavalry had to retire, leaving a few men wounded,
and by the time our heavy guns had arrived both Long Toms had got
clean away.' But the Boer riflemen would no longer stand.
Demoralised after their magnificent struggle of eleven months the
burghers were now a beaten and disorderly rabble flying wildly to
the eastward, and only held together by the knowledge that in their
desperate situation there was more comfort and safety in numbers.
The war seemed to be swiftly approaching its close. On the 15th
Buller occupied Spitzkop in the north, capturing a quantity of
stores, while on the 14th French took Barberton in the south,
releasing all the remaining British prisoners and taking possession
of forty locomotives, which do not appear to have been injured by
the enemy. Meanwhile Pole-Carew had worked along the railway line,
and had occupied Kaapmuiden, which was the junction where the
Barberton line joins that to Lourenco Marques. Ian Hamilton's
force, after the taking of Lydenburg and the action which followed,
turned back, leaving Buller to go his own way, and reached
Komatipoort on September 24th, having marched since September 9th
without a halt through a most difficult country.

On September 11th an incident had occurred which must have shown
the most credulous believer in Boer prowess that their cause was
indeed lost. On that date Paul Kruger, a refugee from the country
which he had ruined, arrived at Lourenco Marques, abandoning his
beaten commandos and his deluded burghers. How much had happened
since those distant days when as a little herdsboy he had walked
behind the bullocks on the great northward trek. How piteous this
ending to all his strivings and his plottings! A life which might
have closed amid the reverence of a nation and the admiration of
the world was destined to finish in exile, impotent and
undignified. Strange thoughts must have come to him during those
hours of flight, memories of his virile and turbulent youth, of the
first settlement of those great lands, of wild wars where his hand
was heavy upon the natives, of the triumphant days of the war of
independence, when England seemed to recoil from the rifles of the
burghers. And then the years of prosperity, the years when the
simple farmer found himself among the great ones of the earth, his
name a household word in Europe, his State rich and powerful, his
coffers filled with the spoil of the poor drudges who worked so
hard and paid taxes so readily. Those were his great days, the days
when he hardened his heart against their appeals for justice and
looked beyond his own borders to his kinsmen in the hope of a South
Africa which should be all his own. And now what had come of it
all? A handful of faithful attendants, and a fugitive old man,
clutching in his flight at his papers and his moneybags. The last
of the old-world Puritans, he departed poring over his well-thumbed
Bible, and proclaiming that the troubles of his country arose, not
from his own narrow and corrupt administration, but from some
departure on the part of his fellow burghers from the stricter
tenets of the dopper sect. So Paul Kruger passed away from the
country which he had loved and ruined.

Whilst the main army of Botha had been hustled out of their
position at Machadodorp and scattered at Lydenburg and at
Barberton, a number of other isolated events had occurred at
different points of the seat of war, each of which deserves some
mention. The chief of these was a sudden revival of the war in the
Orange River Colony, where the band of Olivier was still wandering
in the north-eastern districts. Hunter, moving northwards after the
capitulation of Prinsloo at Fouriesburg, came into contact on
August 15th with this force near Heilbron, and had forty
casualties, mainly of the Highland Light Infantry, in a brisk
engagement. For a time the British seemed to have completely lost
touch with Olivier, who suddenly on August 24th struck at a small
detachment consisting almost entirely of Queenstown Rifle
Volunteers under Colonel Ridley, who were reconnoitring near
Winburg. The Colonial troopers made a gallant defence. Throwing
themselves into the farmhouse of Helpmakaar, and occupying every
post of vantage around it, they held off more than a thousand
assailants, in spite of the three guns which the latter brought to
bear upon them. A hundred and thirty-two rounds were fired at the
house, but the garrison still refused to surrender. Troopers who
had been present at Wepener declared that the smaller action was
the warmer of the two. Finally on the morning of the third day a
relief force arrived upon the scene, and the enemy dispersed. The
British losses were thirty-two killed and wounded. Nothing daunted
by his failure, Olivier turned upon the town of Winburg and
attempted to regain it, but was defeated again and scattered, he
and his three sons being taken. The result was due to the gallantry
and craft of a handful of the Queenstown Volunteers, who laid an
ambuscade in a donga, and disarmed the Boers as they passed, after
the pattern of Sanna's Post. By this action one of the most daring
and resourceful of the Dutch leaders fell into the hands of the
British. It is a pity that his record is stained by his
dishonourable conduct in breaking the compact made on the occasion
of the capture of Prinsloo. But for British magnanimity a drumhead
court-martial should have taken the place of the hospitality of the
Ceylon planters.

On September 2nd another commando of Free State Boers under Fourie
emerged from the mountain country on the Basuto border, and fell
upon Ladybrand, which was held by a feeble garrison consisting of
one company of the Worcester regiment and forty-three men of the
Wiltshire Yeomanry. The Boers, who had several guns with them,
appear to have been the same force which had been repulsed at
Winburg. Major White, a gallant marine, whose fighting qualities do
not seem to have deteriorated with his distance from salt water,
had arranged his defences upon a hill, after the Wepener model, and
held his own most stoutly. So great was the disparity of the forces
that for days acute anxiety was felt lest another of those
humiliating surrenders should interrupt the record of victories,
and encourage the Boers to further resistance. The point was
distant, and it was some time before relief could reach them. But
the dusky chiefs, who from their native mountains looked down on
the military drama which was played so close to their frontier,
were again, as on the Jammersberg, to see the Boer attack beaten
back by the constancy of the British defence. The thin line of
soldiers, 150 of them covering a mile and a half of ground, endured
a heavy shell and rifle fire with unshaken resolution, repulsed
every attempt of the burghers, and held the flag flying until
relieved by the forces under White and Bruce Hamilton. In this
march to the relief Hamilton's infantry covered eighty miles in
four and a half days. Lean and hard, inured to warfare, and far
from every temptation of wine or women, the British troops at this
stage of the campaign were in such training, and marched so
splendidly, that the infantry was often very little slower than the
cavalry. Methuen's fine performance in pursuit of De Wet, where
Douglas's infantry did sixty-six miles in seventy-five hours, the
City Imperial Volunteers covering 224 miles in fourteen days, with
a single forced march of thirty miles in seventeen hours, the
Shropshires forty-three miles in thirty-two hours, the forty-five
miles in twenty-five hours of the Essex Regiment, Bruce Hamilton's
march recorded above, and many other fine efforts serve to show the
spirit and endurance of the troops.

In spite of the defeat at Winburg and the repulse at Ladybrand,
there still remained a fair number of broken and desperate men in
the Free State who held out among the difficult country of the
east. A party of these came across in the middle of September and
endeavoured to cut the railway near Brandfort. They were pursued
and broken up by Macdonald, who, much aided in his operations by
the band of scouts which Lord Lovat had brought with him from
Scotland, took several prisoners and a large number of wagons and
of oxen. A party of these Boers attacked a small post of sixteen
Yeomanry under Lieutenant Slater at Bultfontein, but were held at
bay until relief came from Brandfort.

At two other points the Boer and British forces were in contact
during these operations. One was to the immediate north of
Pretoria, where Grobler's commando was faced by Paget's brigade. On
August 18th the Boers were forced with some loss out of Hornies
Nek, which is ten miles to the north of the capital. On the 22nd a
more important skirmish took place at Pienaar's River, in the same
direction, between Baden-Powell's men, who had come thither in
pursuit of De Wet, and Grobler's band. The advance guards of the
two forces galloped into each other, and for once Boer and Briton
looked down the muzzles of each other's rifles. The gallant
Rhodesian Regiment, which had done such splendid service during the
war, suffered most heavily. Colonel Spreckley and four others were
killed, and six or seven wounded. The Boers were broken, however,
and fled, leaving twenty-five prisoners to the victors.
Baden-Powell and Paget pushed forwards as far as Nylstroom, but
finding themselves in wild and profitless country they returned
towards Pretoria, and established the British northern posts at a
place called Warm Baths. Here Paget commanded, while Baden-Powell
shortly afterwards went down to Cape Town to make arrangements for
taking over the police force of the conquered countries, and to
receive the enthusiastic welcome of his colonial fellow-countrymen.
Plumer, with a small force operating from Warm Baths, scattered a
Boer commando on September 1st, capturing a few prisoners and a
considerable quantity of munitions of war. On the 5th there was
another skirmish in the same neighbourhood, during which the enemy
attacked a kopje held by a company of Munster Fusiliers, and was
driven off with loss. Many thousands of cattle were captured by the
British in this part of the field of operations, and were sent into
Pretoria, whence they helped to supply the army in the east.

There was still considerable effervescence in the western districts
of the Transvaal, and a mounted detachment met with fierce
opposition at the end of August on their journey from Zeerust to
Krugersdorp. Methuen, after his unsuccessful chase of De Wet, had
gone as far as Zeerust, and had then taken his force on to Mafeking
to refit. Before leaving Zeerust, however, he had despatched
Colonel Little to Pretoria with a column which consisted of his own
third cavalry brigade, 1st Brabant's, the Kaffrarian Rifles, R
battery of Horse Artillery, and four Colonial guns. They were
acting as guard to a very large convoy of 'returned empties.' The
district which they had to traverse is one of the most fertile in
the Transvaal, a land of clear streams and of orange groves. But
the farmers are numerous and aggressive, and the column, which was
900 strong, could clear all resistance from its front, but found it
impossible to brush off the snipers upon its flanks and rear.
Shortly after their start the column was deprived of the services
of its gallant leader, Colonel Little, who was shot while riding
with his advance scouts. Colonel Dalgety took over the command.
Numerous desultory attacks culminated in a fierce skirmish at
Quaggafontein on August 31st, in which the column had sixty
casualties. The event might have been serious, as De la Rey's main
force appears to have been concentrated upon the British
detachment, the brunt of the action falling upon the Kaffrarian
Rifles. By a rapid movement the column was able to extricate itself
and win its way safely to Krugersdorp, but it narrowly escaped out
of the wolf's jaws, and as it emerged into the open country De la
Rey's guns were seen galloping for the pass which they had just
come through. This force was sent south to Kroonstad to refit.

Lord Methuen's army, after its long marches and arduous work,
arrived at Mafeking on August 28th for the purpose of refitting.
Since his departure from Boshof on May 14th his men had been
marching with hardly a rest, and he had during that time fought
fourteen engagements. He was off upon the war-path once more, with
fresh horses and renewed energy, on September 8th, and on the 9th,
with the co-operation of General Douglas, he scattered a Boer force
at Malopo, capturing thirty prisoners and a great quantity of
stores. On the 14th he ran down a convoy and regained one of the
Colenso guns and much ammunition. On the 20th he again made large
captures. If in the early phases of the war the Boers had given
Paul Methuen some evil hours, he was certainly getting his own back
again. At the same time Clements was despatched from Pretoria with
a small mobile force for the purpose of clearing the Rustenburg and
Krugersdorp districts, which had always been storm centres. These
two forces, of Methuen and of Clements, moved through the country,
sweeping the scattered Boer bands before them, and hunting them
down until they dispersed. At Kekepoort and at Hekspoort Clements
fought successful skirmishes, losing at the latter action
Lieutenant Stanley of the Yeomanry, the Somersetshire cricketer,
who showed, as so many have done, how close is the connection
between the good sportsman and the good soldier. On the 12th
Douglas took thirty-nine prisoners near Lichtenburg. On the 18th
Rundle captured a gun at Bronkhorstfontein. Hart at Potchefstroom,
Hildyard in the Utrecht district, Macdonald in the Orange River
Colony, everywhere the British Generals were busily stamping out
the remaining embers of what had been so terrible a conflagration.

Much trouble but no great damage was inflicted upon the British
during this last stage of the war by the incessant attacks upon the
lines of railway by roving bands of Boers. The actual interruption
of traffic was of little consequence, for the assiduous Sappers
with their gangs of Basuto labourers were always at hand to repair
the break. But the loss of stores, and occasionally of lives, was
more serious. Hardly a day passed that the stokers and drivers were
not made targets of by snipers among the kopjes, and occasionally a
train was entirely destroyed. [Footnote: It is to be earnestly
hoped that those in authority will see that these men obtain the
medal and any other reward which can mark our sense of their
faithful service. One of them in the Orange River Colony, after
narrating to me his many hairbreadth escapes, prophesied bitterly
that the memory of his services would pass with the need for them.]
Chief among these raiders was the wild Theron, who led a band which
contained men of all nations--the same gang who had already, as
narrated, held up a train in the Orange River Colony. On August
31st he derailed another at Flip River to the south of
Johannesburg, blowing up the engine and burning thirteen trucks.
Almost at the same time a train was captured near Kroonstad, which
appeared to indicate that the great De Wet was back in his old
hunting-grounds. On the same day the line was cut at Standerton. A
few days later, however, the impunity with which these feats had
been performed was broken, for in a similar venture near
Krugersdorp the dashing Theron and several of his associates lost
their lives.

Two other small actions performed at this period of the war demand
a passing notice. One was a smart engagement near Kraai Railway
Station, in which Major Broke of the Sappers with a hundred men
attacked a superior Boer force upon a kopje and drove them off with
loss--a feat which it is safe to say he could not have accomplished
six months earlier. The other was the fine defence made by 125 of
the Canadian Mounted Rifles, who, while guarding the railway, were
attacked by a considerable Boer force with two guns. They proved
once more, as Ladybrand and Elands River had shown, that with
provisions, cartridges, and brains, the smallest force can
successfully hold its own if it confines itself to the defensive.

And now the Boer cause appeared to be visibly tottering to its
fall. The flight of the President had accelerated that process of
disintegration which had already set in. Schalk Burger had assumed
the office of Vice-President, and the notorious Ben Viljoen had
become first lieutenant of Louis Botha in maintaining the struggle.
Lord Roberts had issued an extremely judicious proclamation, in
which he pointed out the uselessness of further resistance,
declared that guerilla warfare would be ruthlessly suppressed, and
informed the burghers that no fewer than fifteen thousand of their
fellow-countrymen were in his hands as prisoners, and that none of
these could he released until the last rifle had been laid down.
From all sides in the third week of September the British forces
were converging on Komatipoort, the frontier town. Already wild
figures, stained and tattered after nearly a year of warfare, were
walking the streets of Lourenco Marques, gazed at with wonder and
some distrust by the Portuguese inhabitants. The exiled burghers
moodily pacing the streets saw their exiled President seated in his
corner of the Governor's verandah, the well-known curved pipe still
dangling from his mouth, the Bible by his chair. Day by day the
number of these refugees increased. On September 17th special
trains were arriving crammed with the homeless burghers, and with
the mercenaries of many nations--French, German, Irish-American,
and Russian--all anxious to make their way home. By the 19th no
fewer than seven hundred had passed over.

At dawn on September 22nd a half-hearted attempt was made by the
commando of Erasmus to attack Elands River Station, but it was
beaten back by the garrison. While it was going on Paget fell upon
the camp which Erasmus had left behind him, and captured his
stores. From all over the country, from Plumer's Bushmen, from
Barton at Krugersdorp, from the Colonials at Heilbron, from
Clements on the west, came the same reports of dwindling resistance
and of the abandoning of cattle, arms, and ammunition.

On September 24th came the last chapter in this phase of the
campaign in the Eastern Transvaal, when at eight in the morning
Pole-Carew and his Guardsmen occupied Komatipoort. They had made
desperate marches, one of them through thick bush, where they went
for nineteen miles without water, but nothing could shake the
cheery gallantry of the men. To them fell the honour, an honour
well deserved by their splendid work throughout the whole campaign,
of entering and occupying the ultimate eastern point which the
Boers could hold. Resistance had been threatened and prepared for,
but the grim silent advance of that veteran infantry took the heart
out of the defence. With hardly a shot fired the town was occupied.
The bridge which would enable the troops to receive their supplies
from Lourenco Marques was still intact. General Pienaar and the
greater part of his force, amounting to over two thousand men, had
crossed the frontier and had been taken down to Delagoa Bay, where
they met the respect and attention which brave men in misfortune
deserve. Small bands had slipped away to the north and the south,
but they were insignificant in numbers and depressed in spirit. For
the time it seemed that the campaign was over, but the result
showed that there was greater vitality in the resistance of the
burghers and less validity in their oaths than any one had

One find of the utmost importance was made at Komatipoort, and at
Hector Spruit on the Crocodile River. That excellent artillery
which had fought so gallant a fight against our own more numerous
guns, was found destroyed and abandoned. Pole-Carew at Komatipoort
got one Long Tom (96-pound) Creusot, and one smaller gun. Ian
Hamilton at Hector Spruit found the remains of many guns, which
included two of our horse artillery twelve-pounders, two large
Creusot guns, two Krupps, one Vickers-Maxim quick firer, two
pompoms and four mountain guns.



It had been hoped that the dispersal of the main Boer army, the
capture of its guns and the expulsion of many both of the burghers
and of the foreign mercenaries, would have marked the end of the
war. These expectations were, however, disappointed, and South
Africa was destined to be afflicted and the British Empire
disturbed by a useless guerilla campaign. After the great and
dramatic events which characterised the earlier phases of the
struggle between the Briton and the Boer for the mastery of South
Africa it is somewhat of the nature of an anticlimax to turn one's
attention to those scattered operations which prolonged the
resistance for a turbulent year at the expense of the lives of many
brave men on either side. These raids and skirmishes, which had
their origin rather in the hope of vengeance than of victory,
inflicted much loss and misery upon the country, but, although we
may deplore the desperate resolution which bids brave men prefer
death to subjugation, it is not for us, the countrymen of Hereward
or Wallace, to condemn it.

In one important respect these numerous, though trivial, conflicts
differed from the battles in the earlier stages of the war. The
British had learned their lesson so thoroughly that they often
turned the tables upon their instructors. Again and again the
surprise was effected, not by the nation of hunters, but by those
rooineks whose want of cunning and of veld-craft had for so long
been a subject of derision and merriment. A year of the kopje and
the donga had altered all that. And in the proportion of casualties
another very marked change had occurred. Time was when in battle
after battle a tenth would have been a liberal estimate for the
losses of the Boers compared with those of the Briton. So it was at
Stormberg; so it was at Colenso; so it may have been at
Magersfontein. But in this last stage of the war the balance was
rather in favour of the British. It may have been because they were
now frequently acting on the defensive, or it may have been from an
improvement in their fire, or it may have come from the more
desperate mood of the burghers, but in any case the fact remains
that every encounter diminished the small reserves of the Boers
rather than the ample forces of their opponents.

One other change had come over the war, which caused more distress
and searchings of conscience among some of the people of Great
Britain than the darkest hours of their misfortunes. This lay in
the increased bitterness of the struggle, and in those more
strenuous measures which the British commanders felt themselves
entitled and compelled to adopt. Nothing could exceed the lenity of
Lord Roberts's early proclamations in the Free State. But, as the
months went on and the struggle still continued, the war assumed a
harsher aspect. Every farmhouse represented a possible fort, and a
probable depot for the enemy. The extreme measure of burning them
down was only carried out after a definite offence, such as
affording cover for snipers, or as a deterrent to railway wreckers,
but in either case it is evident that the women or children who
were usually the sole occupants of the farm could not by their own
unaided exertions prevent the line from being cut or the riflemen
from firing. It is even probable that the Boers may have committed
these deeds in the vicinity of houses the destruction of which they
would least regret. Thus, on humanitarian grounds there were strong
arguments against this policy of destruction being pushed too far,
and the political reasons were even stronger, since a homeless man
is necessarily the last man to settle down, and a burned-out family
the last to become contented British citizens. On the other hand,
the impatience of the army towards what they regarded as the abuses
of lenity was very great, and they argued that the war would be
endless if the women in the farm were allowed always to supply the
sniper on the kopje. The irregular and brigand-like fashion in
which the struggle was carried out had exasperated the soldiers,
and though there were few cases of individual outrage or
unauthorised destruction, the general orders were applied with some
harshness, and repressive measures were taken which warfare may
justify but which civilisation must deplore.

After the dispersal of the main army at Komatipoort there remained
a considerable number of men in arms, some of them irreconcilable
burghers, some of them foreign adventurers, and some of them Cape
rebels, to whom British arms were less terrible than British law.
These men, who were still well armed and well mounted, spread
themselves over the country, and acted with such energy that they
gave the impression of a large force. They made their way into the
settled districts, and brought fresh hope and fresh disaster to
many who had imagined that the war had passed for ever away from
them. Under compulsion from their irreconcilable countrymen, a
large number of the farmers broke their parole, mounted the horses
which British leniency had left with them, and threw themselves
once more into the struggle, adding their honour to the other
sacrifices which they had made for their country. In any account of
the continual brushes between these scattered bands and the British
forces, there must be such a similarity in procedure and result,
that it would be hard for the writer and intolerable for the reader
if they were set forth in detail. As a general statement it may be
said that during the months to come there was no British garrison
in any one of the numerous posts in the Transvaal, and in that
portion of the Orange River Colony which lies east of the railway,
which was not surrounded by prowling riflemen, there was no convoy
sent to supply those garrisons which was not liable to be attacked
upon the road, and there was no train upon any one of the three
lines which might not find a rail up and a hundred raiders covering
it with their Mausers. With some two thousand miles of railroad to
guard, so many garrisons to provide, and an escort to be furnished
to every convoy, there remained out of the large body of British
troops in the country only a moderate force who were available for
actual operations. This force was distributed in different
districts scattered over a wide extent of country, and it was
evident that while each was strong enough to suppress local
resistance, still at any moment a concentration of the Boer
scattered forces upon a single British column might place the
latter in a serious position. The distribution of the British in
October and November was roughly as follows. Methuen was in the
Rustenburg district, Barton at Krugersdorp and operating down the
line to Klerksdorp, Settle was in the West, Paget at Pienaar's
River, Clements in the Magaliesberg, Hart at Potchefstroom,
Lyttelton at Middelburg, Smith-Dorrien at Belfast, W. Kitchener at
Lydenburg, French in the Eastern Transvaal, Hunter, Rundle,
Brabant, and Bruce Hamilton in the Orange River Colony. Each of
these forces was occupied in the same sort of work, breaking up
small bodies of the enemy, hunting for arms, bringing in refugees,
collecting supplies, and rounding up cattle. Some, however, were
confronted with organised resistance and some were not. A short
account may be given in turn of each separate column.

I would treat first the operations of General Barton, because they
form the best introduction to that narrative of the doings of
Christian De Wet to which this chapter will be devoted.

The most severe operations during the month of October fell to the
lot of this British General, who, with some of the faithful
fusiliers whom he had led from the first days in Natal, was
covering the line from Krugersdorp to Klerksdorp. It is a long
stretch, and one which, as the result shows, is as much within
striking distance of the Orange Free Staters as of the men of the
Transvaal. Upon October 5th Barton left Krugersdorp with a force
which consisted of the Scots and Welsh Fusiliers, five hundred
mounted men, the 78th R.F.A., three pom-poms, and a 4.7 naval gun.
For a fortnight, as the small army moved slowly down the line of
the railroad, their progress was one continual skirmish. On October
6th they brushed the enemy aside in an action in which the
volunteer company of the Scots Fusiliers gained the applause of
their veteran comrades. On the 8th and 9th there was sharp
skirmishing, the brunt of which on the latter date fell upon the
Welsh Fusiliers, who had three officers and eleven men injured. The
commandos of Douthwaite, Liebenberg, and Van der Merwe seem to have
been occupied in harassing the column during their progress through
the Gatsrand range. On the 15th the desultory sniping freshened
again into a skirmish in which the honours and the victory belonged
mainly to the Welshmen and to that very keen and efficient body,
the Scottish Yeomanry. Six Boers were left dead upon the ground. On
October 17th the column reached Frederickstad, where it halted. On
that date six of Marshall's Horse were cut off while collecting
supplies. The same evening three hundred of the Imperial Light
Horse came in from Krugersdorp.

Up to this date the Boer forces which dogged the column had been
annoying but not seriously aggressive. On the 19th, however,
affairs took an unexpected turn. The British scouts rode in to
report a huge dust cloud whirling swiftly northwards from the
direction of the Vaal River--soon plainly visible to all, and
showing as it drew nearer the hazy outline of a long column of
mounted men. The dark coats of the riders, and possibly the speed
of their advance, showed that they were Boers, and soon it was
rumoured that it was no other than Christian De Wet with his merry
men, who, with characteristic audacity, had ridden back into the
Transvaal in the hope of overwhelming Barton's column.

It is some time since we have seen anything of this energetic
gentleman with the tinted glasses, but as the narrative will be
much occupied with him in the future a few words are needed to
connect him with the past. It has been already told how he escaped
through the net which caught so many of his countrymen at the time
of the surrender of Prinsloo, and how he was chased at furious
speed from the Vaal River to the mountains of Magaliesberg. Here he
eluded his pursuers, separated from Steyn, who desired to go east
to confer with Kruger, and by the end of August was back again in
his favourite recruiting ground in the north of the Orange River
Colony. Here for nearly two months he had lain very quiet,
refitting and reassembling his scattered force, until now, ready
for action once more, and fired by the hope of cutting off an
isolated British force, he rode swiftly northwards with two
thousand men under that rolling cloud which had been spied by the
watchers of Frederickstad.

The problem before him was a more serious one, however, than any
which he had ever undertaken, for this was no isolated regiment or
ill-manned post, but a complete little field force very ready to do
battle with him. De Wet's burghers, as they arrived, sprang from
their ponies and went into action in their usual invisible but
effective fashion, covered by the fire of several guns. The
soldiers had thrown up lines of sangars, however, and were able,
though exposed to a very heavy fire coming from several directions,
to hold their own until nightfall, when the defences were made more
secure. On the 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, and 24th the cordon of the
attack was drawn gradually closer, the Boers entirely surrounding
the British force, and it was evident that they were feeling round
for a point at which an assault might be delivered.

The position of the defenders upon the morning of October 25th was
as follows. The Scots Fusiliers were holding a ridge to the south.
General Barton with the rest of his forces occupied a hill some
distance off. Between the two was a valley down which ran the line,
and also the spruit upon which the British depended for their water
supply. On each side of the line were ditches, and at dawn on this
seventh day of the investment it was found that these had been
occupied by snipers during the night, and that it was impossible to
water the animals. One of two things must follow. Either the force
must shift its position or it must drive these men out of their
cover. No fire could do it, as they lay in perfect safety. They
must be turned out at the point of the bayonet.

About noon several companies of Scots and Welsh Fusiliers advanced
from different directions in very extended order upon the ditches.
Captain Baillie's company of the former regiment first attracted
the fire of the burghers. Wounded twice the brave officer staggered
on until a third bullet struck him dead. Six of his men were found
lying beside him. The other companies were exposed in their turn to
a severe fire, but rushing onwards they closed rapidly in upon the
ditches. There have been few finer infantry advances during the
war, for the veld was perfectly flat and the fire terrific. A mile
of ground was crossed by the fusiliers. Three gallant
officers--Dick, Elliot, and Best--went down; but the rush of the
men was irresistible. At the edge of the ditches the supports
overtook the firing line, and they all surged into the trenches
together. Then it was seen how perilous was the situation of the
Boer snipers. They had placed themselves between the upper and the
nether millstone. There was no escape for them save across the
open. It says much for their courage that they took that perilous
choice rather than wave the white flag, which would have ensured
their safety.

The scene which followed has not often been paralleled. About a
hundred and fifty burghers rushed out of the ditches, streaming
across the veld upon foot to the spot where their horses had been
secreted. Rifles, pom-poms, and shrapnel played upon them during
this terrible race. 'A black running mob carrying coats, blankets,
boots, rifles, &c., was seen to rise as if from nowhere and rush as
fast as they could, dropping the various things they carried as
they ran.' One of their survivors has described how awful was that
wild blind flight, through a dust-cloud thrown up by the shells.
For a mile the veld was dotted with those who had fallen.
Thirty-six were found dead, thirty were wounded, and thirty more
gave themselves up as prisoners. Some were so demoralised that they
rushed into the hospital and surrendered to the British doctor. The
Imperial Light Horse were for some reason slow to charge. Had they
done so at once, many eye-witnesses agree that not a fugitive
should have escaped. On the other hand, the officer in command may
have feared that in doing so he might mask the fire of the British

One incident in the action caused some comment at the time. A small
party of Imperial Light Horse, gallantly led by Captain Yockney of
B Squadron, came to close quarters with a group of Boers. Five of
the enemy having held up their hands Yockney passed them and pushed
on against their comrades. On this the prisoners seized their
rifles once more and fired upon their captors. A fierce fight
ensued with only a few feet between the muzzles of the rifles.
Three Boers were shot dead, five wounded, and eight taken. Of these
eight three were shot next day by order of court-martial for having
resumed their weapons after surrender, while two others were
acquitted. The death of these men in cold blood is to be deplored,
but it is difficult to see how any rules of civilised warfare can
be maintained if a flagrant breach of them is not promptly and
sternly punished.

On receiving this severe blow De Wet promptly raised the investment
and hastened to regain his favourite haunts. Considerable
reinforcements had reached Barton upon the same day, including the
Dublins, the Essex, Strathcona's Horse, and the Elswick Battery,
with some very welcome supplies of ammunition. As Barton had now
more than a thousand mounted men of most excellent quality it is
difficult to imagine why he did not pursue his defeated enemy. He
seems to have underrated the effect which he had produced, for
instead of instantly assuming the offensive he busied himself in
strengthening his defences. Yet the British losses in the whole
operations had not exceeded one hundred, so that there does not
appear to have been any reason why the force should be crippled. As
Barton was in direct and constant telegraphic communication with
Pretoria, it is possible that he was acting under superior orders
in the course which he adopted.

It was not destined, however, that De Wet should be allowed to
escape with his usual impunity. On the 27th, two days after his
retreat from Frederickstad he was overtaken--stumbled upon by pure
chance apparently--by the mounted infantry and cavalry of Charles
Knox and De Lisle. The Boers, a great disorganised cloud of
horsemen, swept swiftly along the northern bank of the Vaal,
seeking for a place to cross, while the British rode furiously
after them, spraying them with shrapnel at every opportunity.
Darkness and a violent storm gave De Wet his opportunity to cross,
but the closeness of the pursuit compelled him to abandon two of
his guns, one of them a Krupp and the other one of the British
twelve-pounders of Sanna's Post, which, to the delight of the
gunners, was regained by that very U battery to which it belonged.

Once across the river and back in his own country De Wet, having
placed seventy miles between himself and his pursuers, took it for
granted that he was out of their reach, and halted near the village
of Bothaville to refit. But the British were hard upon his track,
and for once they were able to catch this indefatigable man
unawares. Yet their knowledge of his position seems to have been
most hazy, and on the very day before that on which they found him,
General Charles Knox, with the main body of the force, turned
north, and was out of the subsequent action. De Lisle's mounted
troops also turned north, but fortunately not entirely out of call.
To the third and smallest body of mounted men, that under Le
Gallais, fell the honour of the action which I am about to

It is possible that the move northwards of Charles Knox and of De
Lisle had the effect of a most elaborate stratagem, since it
persuaded the Boer scouts that the British were retiring. So indeed
they were, save only the small force of Le Gallais, which seems to
have taken one last cast round to the south before giving up the
pursuit. In the grey of the morning of November 6th, Major Lean
with forty men of the 5th Mounted Infantry came upon three weary
Boers sleeping upon the veld. Having secured the men, and realising
that they were an outpost, Lean pushed on, and topping a rise some
hundreds of yards further, he and his men saw a remarkable scene.
There before them stretched the camp of the Boers, the men
sleeping, the horses grazing, the guns parked, and the wagons

There was little time for consideration. The Kaffir drivers were
already afoot and strolling out for their horses, or lighting the
fires for their masters' coffee. With splendid decision, although
he had but forty men to oppose to over a thousand, Lean sent back
for reinforcements and opened fire upon the camp. In an instant it
was buzzing like an overturned hive. Up sprang the sleepers, rushed
for their horses, and galloped away across the veld, leaving their
guns and wagons behind. A few stalwarts remained, however, and
their numbers were increased by those whose horses had stampeded,
and who were, therefore, unable to get away. They occupied an
enclosed kraal and a farmhouse in front of the British, whence they
opened a sharp fire. At the same time a number of the Boers who had
ridden away came back again, having realised how weak their
assailants were, and worked round the British flanks upon either

Le Gallais, with his men, had come up, but the British force was
still far inferior to that which it was attacking. A section of U
battery was able to unlimber, and open fire at four hundred yards
from the Boer position. The British made no attempt to attack, but
contented themselves with holding on to the position from which
they could prevent the Boer guns from being removed. The burghers
tried desperately to drive off the stubborn fringe of riflemen. A
small stone shed in the possession of the British was the centre of
the Boer fire, and it was within its walls that Ross of the Durhams
was horribly wounded by an explosive ball, and that the brave
Jerseyman, Le Gallais, was killed. Before his fall he had
despatched his staff officer, Major Hickie, to hurry up men from
the rear.

On the fall of Ross and Le Gallais the command fell upon Major
Taylor of U battery. The position at that time was sufficiently
alarming. The Boers were working round each flank in considerable
numbers, and they maintained a heavy fire from a stone enclosure in
the centre. The British forces actually engaged were insignificant,
consisting of forty men of the 5th Mounted Infantry, and two guns
in the centre, forty-six men of the 17th and 18th Imperial Yeomanry
upon the right, and 105 of the 8th Mounted Infantry on the left or
191 rifles in all. The flanks of this tiny force had to extend to
half a mile to hold off the Boer flank attack, but they were
heartened in their resistance by the knowledge that their comrades
were hastening to their assistance. Taylor, realising that a great
effort must be made to tide over the crisis, sent a messenger back
with orders that the convoy should be parked, and every available
man sent up to strengthen the right flank, which was the weakest.
The enemy got close on to one of the guns, and swept down the whole
detachment, but a handful of the Suffolk Mounted Infantry under
Lieutenant Peebles most gallantly held them off from it. For an
hour the pressure was extreme. Then two companies of the 7th
Mounted Infantry came up, and were thrown on to each flank. Shortly
afterwards Major Welch, with two more companies of the same corps,
arrived, and the tide began slowly to turn. The Boers were
themselves outflanked by the extension of the British line and were
forced to fall back. At half-past eight De Lisle, whose force had
trotted and galloped for twelve miles, arrived with several
companies of Australians, and the success of the day was assured.
The smoke of the Prussian guns at Waterloo was not a more welcome
sight than the dust of De Lisle's horsemen. But the question now
was whether the Boers, who were in the walled inclosure and farm
which formed their centre, would manage to escape. The place was
shelled, but here, as often before, it was found how useless a
weapon is shrapnel against buildings. There was nothing for it but
to storm it, and a grim little storming party of fifty men, half
British, half Australian, was actually waiting with fixed bayonets
for the whistle which was to be their signal, when the white flag
flew out from the farm, and all was over. Warned by many a tragic
experience the British still lay low in spite of the flag. 'Come
out! come out!' they shouted. Eighty-two unwounded Boers filed out
of the enclosure, and the total number of prisoners came to 114,
while between twenty and thirty Boers were killed. Six guns, a
pom-pom, and 1000 head of cattle were the prizes of the victors.

This excellent little action showed that the British mounted
infantry had reached a point of efficiency at which they were quite
able to match the Boers at their own game. For hours they held them
with an inferior force, and finally, when the numbers became equal,
were able to drive them off and capture their guns. The credit is
largely due to Major Lean for his prompt initiative on discovering
their laager, and to Major Taylor for his handling of the force
during a very critical time. Above all, it was due to the dead
leader, Le Gallais, who had infected every man under him with his
own spirit of reckless daring. 'If I die, tell my mother that I die
happy, as we got the guns,' said he, with his failing breath. The
British total losses were twelve killed (four officers) and
thirty-three wounded (seven officers). Major Welch, a soldier of
great promise, much beloved by his men, was one of the slain.
Following closely after the repulse at Frederickstad this action
was a heavy blow to De Wet. At last, the British were beginning to
take something off the score which they owed the bold raider, but
there was to be many an item on either side before the long
reckoning should be closed. The Boers, with De Wet, fled south,
where it was not long before they showed that they were still a
military force with which we had to reckon.

In defiance of chronology it may perhaps make a clearer narrative
if I continue at once with the movements of De Wet from the time
that he lost his guns at Bothaville, and then come back to the
consideration of the campaign in the Transvaal, and to a short
account of those scattered and disconnected actions which break the
continuity of the story. Before following De Wet, however, it is
necessary to say something of the general state of the Orange River
Colony and of some military developments which had occurred there.
Under the wise and conciliatory rule of General Pretyman the
farmers in the south and west were settling down, and for the time
it looked as if a large district was finally pacified. The mild
taxation was cheerfully paid, schools were reopened, and a peace
party made itself apparent, with Fraser and Piet de Wet, the
brother of Christian, among its strongest advocates.

Apart from the operations of De Wet there appeared to be no large
force in the field in the Orange River Colony, but early in October
of 1900 a small but very mobile and efficient Boer force skirted
the eastern outposts of the British, struck the southern line of
communications, and then came up the western flank, attacking,
where an attack was possible, each of the isolated and weakly
garrisoned townlets to which it came, and recruiting its strength
from a district which had been hardly touched by the ravages of
war, and which by its prosperity alone might have proved the
amenity of British military rule. This force seems to have skirted
Wepener without attacking a place of such evil omen to their cause.
Their subsequent movements are readily traced by a sequence of
military events.

On October 1st Rouxville was threatened. On the 9th an outpost of
the Cheshire Militia was taken and the railway cut for a few hours
in the neighbourhood of Bethulie. A week later the Boer riders were
dotting the country round Phillipolis, Springfontein and
Jagersfontein, the latter town being occupied upon October 16th,
while the garrison held out upon the nearest kopje. The town was
retaken from the enemy by King Hall and his men, who were Seaforth
Highlanders and police. There was fierce fighting in the streets,
and from twenty to thirty of each side were killed or wounded.
Fauresmith was attacked on October 19th, but was also in the very
safe hands of the Seaforths, who held it against a severe assault.
Phillipolis was continually attacked between the 18th and the 24th,
but made a most notable defence, which was conducted by Gostling,
the resident magistrate, with forty civilians. For a week this band
of stalwarts held their own against 600 Boers, and were finally
relieved by a force from the railway. All the operations were not,
however, as successful as these three defences. On October 24th a
party of cavalry details belonging to many regiments were snapped
up in an ambuscade. On the next day Jacobsdal was attacked, with
considerable loss to the British. The place was entered in the
night, and the enemy occupied the houses which surrounded the
square. The garrison, consisting of about sixty men of the Capetown
Highlanders, had encamped in the square, and were helpless when
fire was opened upon them in the morning. There was practically no
resistance, and yet for hours a murderous fire was kept up upon the
tents in which they cowered, so that the affair seems not to have
been far removed from murder. Two-thirds of the little force were
killed or wounded. The number of the assailants does not appear to
have been great, and they vanished upon the appearance of a
relieving force from Modder River.

After the disaster at Jacobsdal the enemy appeared on November 1st
near Kimberley and captured a small convoy. The country round was
disturbed, and Settle was sent south with a column to pacify it. In
this way we can trace this small cyclone from its origin in the old
storm centre in the north-east of the Orange River Colony, sweeping
round the whole country, striking one post after another, and
finally blowing out at the corresponding point upon the other side
of the seat of war.

We have last seen De Wet upon November 6th, when he fled south from
Bothaville, leaving his guns but not his courage behind him.
Trekking across the line, and for a wonder gathering up no train as
he passed, he made for that part of the eastern Orange River Colony
which had been reoccupied by his countrymen. Here, in the
neighbourhood of Thabanchu, he was able to join other forces,
probably the commandos of Haasbroek and Fourie, which still
retained some guns. At the head of a considerable force he attacked
the British garrison of Dewetsdorp, a town some forty miles to the
south-east of Bloemfontein.

It was on November 18th that De Wet assailed the place, and it fell
upon the 24th, after a defence which appears to have been a very
creditable one. Several small British columns were moving in the
south-east of the Colony, but none of them arrived in time to avert
the disaster, which is the more inexplicable as the town is within
one day's ride of Bloemfontein. The place is a village hemmed in
upon its western side by a semicircle of steep rocky hills broken
in the centre by a gully. The position was a very extended one, and
had the fatal weakness that the loss of any portion of it meant the
loss of it all. The garrison consisted of one company of Highland
Light Infantry on the southern horn of the semicircle, three
companies of the 2nd Gloucester Regiment on the northern and
central part, with two guns of the 68th battery. Some of the Royal
Irish Mounted Infantry and a handful of police made up the total of
the defenders to something over four hundred, Major Massy in

The attack developed at that end of the ridge which was held by the
company of Highlanders. Every night the Boer riflemen drew in
closer, and every morning found the position more desperate. On the
20th the water supply of the garrison was cut, though a little was
still brought up by volunteers during the night. The thirst in the
sultry trenches was terrible, but the garrison still, with black
lips and parched tongues, held on to their lines. On the 22nd the
attack had made such progress that the post had by the Highlanders
became untenable, and had to be withdrawn. It was occupied next
morning by the Boers, and the whole ridge was at their mercy. Out
of eighteen men who served one of the British guns sixteen were
killed or wounded, and the last rounds were fired by the
sergeant-farrier, who carried, loaded, and fired all by himself.
All day the soldiers held out, but the thirst was in itself enough
to justify if not to compel a surrender. At half-past five the
garrison laid down their arms, having lost about sixty killed or
wounded. There does not, as far as one can learn, seem to have been
any attempt to injure the two guns which fell into the hands of the
enemy. De Wet himself was one of the first to ride into the British
trenches, and the prisoners gazed with interest at the short strong
figure, with the dark tail coat and the square-topped bowler hat,
of the most famous of the Boer leaders.

British columns were converging, however, from several quarters,
and De Wet had to be at once on the move. On the 26th Dewetsdorp
was reoccupied by General Charles Knox with fifteen hundred men. De
Wet had two days' start, but so swift was Knox that on the 27th he
had run him down at Vaalbank, where he shelled his camp. De Wet
broke away, however, and trekking south for eighteen hours without
a halt, shook off the pursuit. He had with him at this time nearly
8000 men with several guns under Haasbroek, Fourie, Philip Botha,
and Steyn. It was his declared intention to invade Cape Colony with
his train of weary footsore prisoners, and the laurels of
Dewetsdorp still green upon him. He was much aided in all his plans
by that mistaken leniency which had refused to recognise that a
horse is in that country as much a weapon as a rifle, and had left
great numbers upon the farms with which he could replace his
useless animals. So numerous were they that many of the Boers had
two or three for their own use. It is not too much to say that our
weak treatment of the question of horses will come to be recognised
as the one great blot upon the conduct of the war, and that our
undue and fantastic scruples have prolonged hostilities for months,
and cost the country many lives and many millions of pounds.

De Wet's plan for the invasion of the Colony was not yet destined
to be realised, for a tenacious man had set himself to frustrate
it. Several small but mobile British columns, those of Pilcher, of
Barker, and of Herbert, under the supreme direction of Charles
Knox, were working desperately to head him off. In torrents of rain
which turned every spruit into a river and every road into a
quagmire, the British horsemen stuck manfully to their work. De Wet
had hurried south, crossed the Caledon River, and made for
Odendaal's Drift. But Knox, after the skirmish at Vaalbank, had
trekked swiftly south to Bethulie, and was now ready with three
mobile columns and a network of scouts and patrols to strike in any
direction. For a few days he had lost touch, but his arrangements
were such that he must recover it if the Boers either crossed the
railroad or approached the river. On December 2nd he had authentic
information that De Wet was crossing the Caledon, and in an instant
the British columns were all off at full cry once more, sweeping
over the country with a front of fifteen miles. On the 3rd and 4th,
in spite of frightful weather, the two little armies of horsemen
struggled on, fetlock-deep in mud, with the rain lashing their
faces. At night without cover, drenched and bitterly cold, the
troopers threw themselves down on the sodden veld to snatch a few
hours' sleep before renewing the interminable pursuit. The drift
over the Caledon flowed deep and strong, but the Boer had passed
and the Briton must pass also. Thirty guns took to the water,
diving completely under the coffee-coloured surface, to reappear
glistening upon the southern bank. Everywhere there were signs of
the passage of the enemy. A litter of crippled or dying horses
marked their track, and a Krupp gun was found abandoned by the
drift. The Dewetsdorp prisoners, too, had been set loose, and began
to stumble and stagger back to their countrymen, their boots worn
off, and their putties wrapped round their bleeding feet. It is
painful to add that they had been treated with a personal violence
and a brutality in marked contrast to the elaborate hospitality
shown by the British Government to its involuntary guests.

On December 6th De Wet had at last reached the Orange River a clear
day in front of his pursuers. But it was only to find that his
labours had been in vain. At Odendaal, where he had hoped to cross,
the river was in spate, the British flag waved from a post upon the
further side, and a strong force of expectant Guardsmen eagerly
awaited him there. Instantly recognising that the game was up, the
Boer leader doubled back for the north and safety. At Rouxville he
hesitated as to whether he should snap up the small garrison, but
the commandant, Rundle, showed a bold face, and De Wet passed on to
the Coomassie Bridge over the Caledon. The small post there refused
to be bluffed into a surrender, and the Boers, still dropping their
horses fast, passed on, and got over the drift at Amsterdam, their
rearguard being hardly across before Knox had also reached the

On the 10th the British were in touch again near Helvetia, where
there was a rearguard skirmish. On the 11th both parties rode
through Reddersberg, a few hours separating them. The Boers in
their cross-country trekking go, as one of their prisoners
observed, 'slap-bang at everything,' and as they are past-masters
in the art of ox and mule driving, and have such a knowledge of the
country that they can trek as well by night as by day, it says much
for the energy of Knox and his men that he was able for a fortnight
to keep in close touch with them.

It became evident now that there was not much chance of overtaking
the main body of the burghers, and an attempt was therefore made to
interpose a fresh force who might head them off. A line of posts
existed between Thabanchu and Ladybrand, and Colonel Thorneycroft
was stationed there with a movable column. It was Knox's plan
therefore to prevent the Boers from breaking to the west and to
head them towards the Basuto border. A small column under Parsons
had been sent by Hunter from Bloemfontein, and pushed in upon the
flank of De Wet, who had on the 12th got back to Dewetsdorp. Again
the pursuit became warm, but De Wet's time was not yet come. He
headed for Springhaan Nek, about fifteen miles east of Thabanchu.
This pass is about four miles broad, with a British fort upon
either side of it. There was only one way to safety, for Knox's
mounted infantrymen and lancers were already dotting the southern
skyline. Without hesitation the whole Boer force, now some 2500
strong, galloped at full speed in open order through the Nek,
braving the long range fire of riflemen and guns. The tactics were
those of French in his ride to Kimberley, and the success was as
complete. De Wet's force passed through the last barrier which had
been held against him, and vanished into the mountainous country
round Ficksburg, where it could safely rest and refit.

The result then of these bustling operations had been that De Wet
and his force survived, but that he had failed in his purpose of
invading the Colony, and had dropped some five hundred horses, two
guns, and about a hundred of his men. Haasbroek's commando had been
detached by De Wet to make a feint at another pass while he made
his way through the Springhaan. Parsons's force followed Haasbroek
up and engaged him, but under cover of night he was able to get
away and to join his leader to the north of Thabanchu. On December
13th, this, the second great chase after De Wet, may be said to
have closed.



Leaving De Wet in the Ficksburg mountains, where he lurked until
after the opening of the New Year, the story of the scattered
operations in the Transvaal may now be carried down to the same
point--a story comprising many skirmishes and one considerable
engagement, but so devoid of any central thread that it is
difficult to know how to approach it. From Lichtenburg to Komati, a
distance of four hundred miles, there was sporadic warfare
everywhere, attacks upon scattered posts, usually beaten off but
occasionally successful, attacks upon convoys, attacks upon railway
trains, attacks upon anything and everything which could harass the
invaders. Each General in his own district had his own work of
repression to perform, and so we had best trace the doings of each
up to the end of the year 1900.

Lord Methuen after his pursuit of De Wet in August had gone to
Mafeking to refit. From that point, with a force which contained a
large proportion of yeomanry and of Australian bushmen, he
conducted a long series of operations in the difficult and
important district which lies between Rustenburg, Lichtenburg, and
Zeerust. Several strong and mobile Boer commandos with guns moved
about in it, and an energetic though not very deadly warfare raged
between Lemmer, Snyman, and De la Rey on the one side, and the
troops of Methuen, Douglas, Broadwood, and Lord Errol upon the
other. Methuen moved about incessantly through the broken country,
winning small skirmishes and suffering the indignity of continual
sniping. From time to time he captured stores, wagons, and small
bodies of prisoners. Early in October he and Douglas had successes.
On the 15th Broadwood was engaged. On the 20th there was a convoy
action. On the 25th Methuen had a success and twenty-eight
prisoners. On November 9th he surprised Snyman and took thirty
prisoners. On the 10th he got a pom-pom. Early in this month
Douglas separated from Methuen, and marched south from Zeerust
through Ventersdorp to Klerksdorp, passing over a country which had
been hardly touched before, and arriving at his goal with much
cattle and some prisoners. Towards the end of the month a
considerable stock of provisions were conveyed to Zeerust, and a
garrison left to hold that town so as to release Methuen's column
for service elsewhere.

Hart's sphere of action was originally round Potchefstroom. On
September 9th he made a fine forced march to surprise this town,
which had been left some time before with an entirely inadequate
garrison to fall into the hands of the enemy. His infantry covered
thirty-six and his cavalry fifty-four miles in fifteen hours. The
operation was a complete success, the town with eighty Boers
falling into his hands with little opposition. On September 30th
Hart returned to Krugersdorp, where, save for one skirmish upon the
Gatsrand on November 22nd, he appears to have had no actual
fighting to do during the remainder of the year.

After the clearing of the eastern border of the Transvaal by the
movement of Pole-Carew along the railway line, and of Buller aided
by Ian Hamilton in the mountainous country to the north of it,
there were no operations of importance in this district. A guard
was kept upon the frontier to prevent the return of refugees and
the smuggling of ammunition, while General Kitchener, the brother
of the Sirdar, broke up a few small Boer laagers in the
neighbourhood of Lydenburg. Smith-Dorrien guarded the line at
Belfast, and on two occasions, November 1st and November 6th, he
made aggressive movements against the enemy. The first, which was a
surprise executed in concert with Colonel Spens of the Shropshires,
was frustrated by a severe blizzard, which prevented the troops
from pushing home their success. The second was a two days'
expedition, which met with a spirited opposition, and demands a
fuller notice.

This was made from Belfast, and the force, which consisted of about
fourteen hundred men, advanced south to the Komati River. The
infantry were Suffolks and Shropshires, the cavalry Canadians and
5th Lancers, with two Canadian guns and four of the 84th battery.
All day the Boer snipers clung to the column, as they had done to
French's cavalry in the same district. Mere route marches without a
very definite and adequate objective appear to be rather
exasperating than overawing, for so long as the column is moving
onwards the most timid farmer may be tempted into long-range fire
from the flanks or rear. The river was reached and the Boers driven
from a position which they had taken up, but their signal fires
brought mounted riflemen from every farm, and the retreat of the
troops was pressed as they returned to Belfast. There was all the
material for a South African Lexington. The most difficult of
military operations, the covering of a detachment from a numerous
and aggressive enemy, was admirably carried out by the Canadian
gunners and dragoons under the command of Colonel Lessard. So
severe was the pressure that sixteen of the latter were for a time
in the hands of the enemy, who attempted something in the nature of
a charge upon the steadfast rearguard. The movement was repulsed,
and the total Boer loss would appear to have been considerable,
since two of their leaders, Commandant Henry Prinsloo and General
Joachim Fourie, were killed, while General Johann Grobler was
wounded. If the rank and file suffered in proportion the losses
must have been severe. The British casualties in the two days
amounted to eight killed and thirty wounded, a small total when the
arduous nature of the service is considered. The Canadians and the
Shropshires seem to have borne off the honours of these trying

In the second week of October, General French, with three brigades
of cavalry (Dickson's, Gordon's, and Mahon's), started for a
cross-country ride from Machadodorp. Three brigades may seem an
imposing force, but the actual numbers did not exceed two strong
regiments, or about 1500 sabres in all. A wing of the Suffolk
Regiment went with them. On October 13th Mahon's brigade met with a
sharp resistance, and lost ten killed and twenty-nine wounded. On
the 14th the force entered Carolina. On the 16th they lost six
killed and twenty wounded, and from the day that they started until
they reached Heidelberg on the 27th there was never a day that they
could shake themselves clear of their attendant snipers. The total
losses of the force were about ninety killed and wounded, but they
brought in sixty prisoners and a large quantity of cattle and
stores. The march had at least the effect of making it clear that
the passage of a column of troops encumbered with baggage through a
hostile country is an inefficient means for quelling a popular
resistance. Light and mobile parties acting from a central depot
were in future to be employed, with greater hopes of success.

Some appreciable proportion of the British losses during this phase
of the war arose from railway accidents caused by the persistent
tampering with the lines. In the first ten days of October there
were four such mishaps, in which two Sappers, twenty-three of the
Guards (Coldstreams), and eighteen of the 66th battery were killed
or wounded. On the last occasion, which occurred on October 10th
near Vlakfontein, the reinforcements who came to aid the sufferers
were themselves waylaid, and lost twenty, mostly of the Rifle
Brigade, killed, wounded, or prisoners. Hardly a day elapsed that
the line was not cut at some point. The bringing of supplies was
complicated by the fact that the Boer women and children were
coming more and more into refugee camps, where they had to be fed
by the British, and the strange spectacle was frequently seen of
Boer snipers killing or wounding the drivers and stokers of the
very trains which were bringing up food upon which Boer families
were dependent for their lives. Considering that these tactics were
continued for over a year, and that they resulted in the death or
mutilation of many hundreds of British officers and men, it is
really inexplicable that the British authorities did not employ the

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