Location of the Boer generals—Kitchener's "sweeping movements"—Close call for President Steyn—Kitchener banishes all Boer leaders—"Mr. Dooley" on Kitchener's "Rules of War"—"Murdered" peace envoy comes to life—British eight at Graspan under cover of Boer women—Steyn replies to Kitchener's proclamation—"Your jurisdiction extends only as far as your Excellency's cannon can reach"—Lotter captured—Kitchener's "bag"—Brilliant British victory over young girls—Victories for De la Rey, Botha, Smuts, Kritzinger, and Gkoblaar—Zulus employed by British in defense of Fort Prospect and Itala—The "movables" of a British mobile column—The British "bloody assizes"—Lotter hanged—Scheepers captured in hospital—De Wet killed again—Buller talks too much and is removed—canon gore on concentration Camps—Chamberlain's comparison of British and German soldiers enrages Germans—Botha's slashing victory at Brakenlaagte—Cooked reports of British War Office—Miss Hobhouse tells truth about concentration camps—Is forcibly deported—Kritzinger captured—Haasbroek killed—How De Wet "laid in" his Christmas supplies.
July 1-31.—The diary of events during this month might he summarized in a sentence: large "sweeping" movements by Kitchener's many columns, in the Transvaal, Free State, and Cape Colony; with the double object of cornering commandoes and capturing Stock; with very little success against the armed Boers, but with considerable results in the seizure of cattle, horses, and wagons. The Federal Commandants played a watching and waiting game. The winter season urges such a plan upon leaders, whose men are neither too well fed nor too warmly clad; men, also, who have, in most cases, been fighting with their officers almost incessantly since October, 1899. The grass, too, drinks deeply of the winter rains in South Africa, and crops have to be sown and looked to in places where the non-combatants have all been swept into the concentration camps. Boer plans, therefore, called for the splitting up of commandoes into small laagers, and for the distribution of men over wide areas in the avoidance of conflicts with the big battalions of the enemy.
The chief Boer Commandants were located as follows for their winter campaign: in the extreme east of the Transvaal (north of the Krokodil River, and thence northwestward, through the Lydenburg regions, on to Pietersburg), General Viljoen and Commandant Muller had their laagers distributed. Westward, and north of Middelburg, Colonel Trichardt (a native of Middelburg, and head of the Transvaal Artillery in the earlier stages of the war) formed a connecting link between Viljoen, on the one hand, and the northern commandoes in the Olifants River districts on the other. Southeastward, on the Swaziland border, General Tobias Smuts was in connection with Viljoen's left, with the Delagoa Bay railway and its English posts in between. South of Smuts, Commandant Groblaar extended the broken line of Boer resistance on to Christian Botha and Commandant Opperman, south of Standerton; while the Commandant-General and his brother-in-law, General Cherrie Emmet, were holding the extreme southeastern angle of the Transvaal, in between Natal and Zululand.
In the western Transvaal, De la Rey remained almost inactive in the country between Rustenburg and Lichtenburg. His able lieutenant, General Beyers, formed a slender link from Warmbad, northeastward, with Trichardt and Muller, while Commandants Kemp, Smuts, Liebenberg, Van Heerden, and others were in their usual sphere of activity and observation, west of the Magaliesberg Hills, and on the north bank of the Vaal as far as Wolmaranstad.
In the Free State, General De Wet was in his own country, in the northeast, but revealed himself very little in action during this time. His principal Commandants, Froneman, Nel, Haasbroek, Alberts, Strydum, Van Niekirk, with George Brand who had returned from Cape Colony, carried the chain of defensive observation south to the borders of Cape Colony, with big breaks in the line. In the west of the Free State, small bodies under Baden-horst, Erasmus, De Villiers, Van Zyl, Kolbe, and Conroy operated from the Hoopstad district across into Griqualand, while Myburg, Van den Berg, and others did the same from the Boshof region south to the Orange River.
In Cape Colony the situation was one which would best be described as of varying uniformity. Malan and Fouche were in the eastern districts, pursued in the usual way by troops who failed to drive them back to the Free State. In the center regions, Kritzinger remained in command until Attorney-General Smuts (now military general) left De la Rey's commandoes and assumed the direction of the campaign hitherto carried on by Kritzinger. Commandants Scheepers, Lotter, Smit, Latigan, Marais, and others formed links with widely-divided gaps across the colony with Hertzog in the far western regions of the Cape.
Against these dispositions of Boer forces, Kitchener continued his plan of "sweeping" columns, along with the further erection of blockhouses for the protection of railways and the corralling of commandoes within certain areas. In Cape Colony General French had the chief direction of such forces and operations as the continued presence of the invading Boers demanded.
The fighting for the month began in a dozen small encounters in Cape Colony between the invading bands and their assailants. There were few casualties on either side; the Boers evading planned attacks, as if they were well informed of the movements of French's forces.
On the 4th, at Naboomspruit, some of Beyers' men blew up a train carrying British troops north from Pretoria to Pietersburg, killing nine of their enemies. On the 12th a British post south of the Vaal, on the line to Kroonstad, was stormed and taken by a force probably under Alberts and Strydum. An old seven-pound gun was also taken, and there were a dozen British casualties. Ben Viljoen attacked and demolished a blockhouse, about the same time, in his eastern district, but did not carry off the defenders.
On the 13th, General Broadwood, who was engaged in " sweeping" the northeastern Free State district around the town of Reitz, doubled back on his march during the night-time by a circuitous route, and succeeded in surprising President Steyn and members of his Government who had come into the place in the wake of the English column; believing that Broadwood was passing in a direct march north to Heilbron. There were only a few burghers with the President, and the surprise was so complete that he escaped half-dressed, according to the English reports, while Generals A. Cronje (of Winburg) and Wessels, Mr. Steyn's brother-in-law, and about thirty other persons were captured. Some State papers and a sum of money also fell into English hands.
General Andries Cronje has a good record in the war. He fought in the Natal campaign with De Wet, and was with him in the battles of Reitfontein and Nicholson's Nek. He also campaigned with De Wet when he was transferred from Natal to join General P. Cronje's forces at Magersfontein, and was one of the many officers who tried, in vain, to induce his more illustrious namesake to cross the Modder River, to the south, after commencing his retreat on Bloemfontein, and join forces with De Wet and Philip Botha before Roberts' legions could have time to bar the way to the Free State capital.
General Wessels had the command of the Free State forces in front of Kimberley for a couple of months after the war began, but, on finding that younger and more capable men were required for the task of handling large commandoes, he patriotically requested to be relieved of his responsibility, and was superseded. These captures are of little importance from a military point of view, as both generals had ceased to participate in active operations.
Some of the papers found by Broadwood were subsequently published by the English, and revealed a divergence of view between President Steyn and State Secretary Reitz on the question of sending delegates to Europe to consult with President Kruger how best to open up negotiations for peace. Reitz, Botha, and Viljoen appeared (according to what purported to be a translation of a letter from Reitz to Steyn) to favor this course, in the month of May, while the Free State President was vehemently opposed to all further negotiations, and in favor of continuing the struggle against an Empire which they had humiliated before the great Powers and had punished so severely for its crime. He pleaded passionately against any surrender to a foe who knew not what honor or a loyalty to treaties meant, and called upon the leaders of the sister Republic to fight on for independence, and to trust to God and to the chance fortunes of some European complication which might aid them against the enemy. Events had already shown that this stern stand of this strong man was approved by President Kruger, and determined the question at issue.
On the 15th one of General French's columns surprised Commandant Scheepers' laager near Aberdeen, in Cape Colony, and captured thirty men, Scheepers barely escaping.
The day following this event Commandant Fouche attacked and defeated a British post near Aliwal North, killing and wounding twenty-four.
On the 20th Mrs. Kruger, wife of the Transvaal President, died in Pretoria, after a three days' illness.
During the latter half of this month the following events were reported:
A party of British were ambushed near Petrusburg, Orange Free State. Sixteen "missing." Boer force probably under Myburg. Lord Kitchener sent this despatch from Pretoria, on the 23rd:
" A train from Cape Town, with 113 details and stores, was held up, captured and burned, eight miles north of Beaufort West (Cape Colony), on the morning of the 21st. Casualties: Three killed aid 18 wounded.
"French reports that Crabbe, with 300 men, was attacked in the mountains, near Craddock, by Kritzinger at dawn. The horses stampeded. An all-day fight followed. Crabbe fell back on Mortimer."
On the same date as the mishap to the Cape Town train, a Boer commando under General Tobias Smuts attacked the British and native garrison at Bremersdorp, in Swaziland, and captured the place after a determined resistance. The fight was reported to have lasted eight hours, the British ultimately retreating, and being followed by the Boers. The British troops were a detachment of Steinacher's Horse, and a number of Swazi allies. The enemy lost ten killed and thirty missing, not counting their Swazi comrades. The Boer casualties were reported as " heavy " by the usual Kaffir informants.
A son of the late General Philip Botha, Captain Charles Botha, and two Field Cornets were reported killed in a fight between patrols near Tafel Kop, in the Free State, only a few miles from where young Botha's home stood before it was burned.
A Parliamentary paper issued in London, July 24, gives the number of Boers in concentration camps as 14,622 men, 24,711 women, and 43,075 children. There were also 23,489 Kaffirs similarly detained.
A battle which continued for a whole day was fought at Nqutu, on the Zululand border, between a small commando under General Emmet, and a body of 200 Hussars under Colonel Henderson. The British narrowly escaped the loss of a field battery. The Boers charged the enemy's position repeatedly, and ultimately forced him to retreat.
A fight between General Walter Kitchener and General Ben Viljoen, northeast of Middelburg, is said to have resulted in the capture by the former of a pom-pom (previously taken from the English), 20 wagons of provisions, and 32 prisoners.
August 1-7.—English reports from Cape Colony say that numbers of the Boer invaders are being gradually driven north to the Orange River by General French's columns. Judge Hertzog is located at Fauresmith, in the south of the Free State. If this news is correct, he has returned after a six months' campaign in British territory, during which time he has fought dozens of engagements, and traversed hundreds of miles of the enemy's country, from whence he has sent large supplies of horses to De Wet.
Lord Kitchener issued a proclamation on the 7th, which ends:
" Now therefore I, Lord Kitchener, &c, under instructions from his Majesty's Government, proclaim and make known as follows:
" All Commandants, Field Cornets, and leaders of armed bands, being burghers of the late Republics, still engaged in resisting his Majesty's forces, whether in the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal or in any other portion of his Majesty's South African Dominions, and all members of the Governments of the late Orange Free State and the late South African Republic, shall, unless they surrender before 15th of September next, be permanently banished from South Africa; the cost of the maintenance of the families of all burghers in the field who shall not have surrendered by the 15th of September shall be recoverable from such burghers, and shall be a charge upon their property movable and immovable in the two Colonies."
This fulmination cannot reasonably be expected to frighten into submission the people to whom it is addressed, any more than they have been convinced of their defeat by the dozens of a similar kind already printed and circulated. The Boers cannot well reply in kind, as they (presumably) have no printing presses, but they will probably continue to offer all possible resistance to foes who have burned their homes, imprisoned their wives and children in concentration camps, and who are candid enough to say that they will not allow the leaders of the Boer nation to live, after the war, in their own country. When all is lost except honor, men will still fight against an enemy who knows neither honor nor magnanimity in his methods of warfare. It becomes a sacred duty to the cause of liberty to do so.
Mr. Dooley's comments upon Lord Kitchener's military proclamations and abuse of his Boer antagonists reflected non-English opinion about this period, on the British conduct of the war:
" Lord Kitchener wrote th' notice. He's a good writer. ' Ladies an' gintlemen,' he says, ' this war as a war is now over. Ye may not know it, but it's so. Ye've broke th' rules an' we give th' fight to ourselves on a foul. Th' first principle in a war again England is that th' inimy shall wear r-red or piirple coats with black marks f'r to indicate th' location iv vital organs be day an' a locomotive headlight be night. They shall thin gather within aisy range an' at th' wurrud " fire " shall fall down dead. Anny remainin' standin' aftherward will be considered as spies. Shootin' back is not allowed be th' rules an' is severely discountenanced be our ladin' military authorities. Anny attimpt at eoncealmint is threachery. Th' scand'lous habit iv pluggin' our gallant sojers fr'm behind rocks an' trees is a breach iv internaytional law. Bethreatin' whin pur-sooed is wan iv our copyrighted manoovers an' all infringmints will be prosecuted. At a wurrud fr'm us th' war is over an' we own .ye're counthry."
A " blockhouse " near Brandfort, Orange Free State, was rushed by a party of Boers (on the 7th) and captured after severe fighting. British loss: Seven killed and a number wounded. The Boers 'were probably led by Commandant Alberts.
Near the Sabi River, in the northeast Transvaal, twenty-five 33 men of a British mounted force were ambushed and captured. This is in the Viljoen-Muller district.
August 8-15.—Lord Kitchener reports that Andreas Wessels, the " peace" envoy whom De Wet had " shot" on the 12th of January last, has reached Kroonstad, not from the other world, but from Heilbron. It was the " murdering " of Wessels and Morgendall by the Free State Commandant-General, as truthfully described by Reuter and other Jingo news agencies, which caused the war press of London to denounce De Wet as " a murderer and ruffian," and to call for his summary punishment—when taken.
An engagement between Colonel Corringe and Commandant Kritzinger took place near Steynsburg, in the Stormberg district of Cape Colony. The Boers wrere reported beaten and several prisoners taken. Commandant Erasmus was reported mortally wounded in the engagement.
Vanrhynsdorp in the west Cape Colony was taken- by Commandant Maritz on the 7th of this month, and the British driven out.
August 16-31.—Fifty of French's scouts were attacked and captured near Bethesda, Free State, by Commandant Haasbroek. The British surrendered to the usual " superior" forces of the Boers with, however, only one man killed and three wounded.
A Boer laager near Bronkhorstspruit (40 miles east of Pretoria) was attacked by a British force, who were driven off with a loss of twenty men in killed and wounded. Boer loss heavy, as usual, and their force superior, as always happens when a " mishap" occurs to the other side.
The London " Gazette " published a long despatch from Lord Kitchener in which he gives detailed reports of British operations from May to July. He accounts for a large number of Boers who were killed or captured, and devotes several paragraphs to a vigorous abuse of those of his foes who will persist in fighting for their country's liberty. He estimated the number of Boers still in the field, including those operating in Cape Colony, at 13,500.
He remarked, incidentally, that numbers of the Imperial Yeomanry who had been recently recruited in England, and forwarded to the seat of war, were found unable to ride or shoot on reaching their destination. On a shipload of these returned warriors reaching England later they were described as "street loafers and disease-ridden rapscallions," by a Jingo newspaper.
About the 20th Commandant Kritzinger was reported to have crossed the Orange River " with 100 followers." It is an English report, and nothing is said about what has happened to the balance of a commando which was frequently referred to as being 800 or 1,000 strong, when inflicting a " mishap " upon the British. Probably the balance of his men were Cape Volunteers who have scattered to their homes for rest after a six months' hot campaign.
General De la Rey, apparently well informed of the situation in Cape Colony, sent (Attorney-General) General Smuts with a body of 300 men to reenforce Kritzinger's commando. Smuts rode from
: near Potchefstroom with his small flying column in the rear of the huge sweeping movement which Lord Kitchener was having carried out at this time, and which extended almost across the Free State from east to west. Smuts' task was to ride south for 200 miles, and cross into Cape Colony while columns under Generals Hart, Knox, and Pilcher and Colonels Thorneycroft, Lord Basing, Rawlinson, Damant, and Murray were on his route, and liable to reach the Orange River before him. It was a task worthy of General De Wet, and was as successfully carried through as if the great Free Stater was in the saddle.
General Smuts formed a junction with Kritzinger in the southeastern corner of the Free State, close to Basutoland, and the latter then passed over the river again, with the men brought down from De la Rey's forces by Smuts. After this splendid bit of work, Smuts wheeled round, and made north by the Basutoland frontier, pursued by a few of the British columns. He obtained some more men in the Wepener district, doubled back past his pursuers, and rode over the Orange River into the Aliwal North district of Cape Colony by the end of the month.
Lord Kitchener reports as follows, from August 24-31:
"Pretoria, 25 August. " Sworn evidence has been brought to my notice by General Elliot that on 6th of June Lieutenant Mair, of the New South Wales Artillery, and Privates Harvey and Blunt were shot down at Graspan, near Reitz, after they had surrendered.
" I have forwarded to Steyn and Botha copies of these statements."
In prompt response to this message the British War Secretary cabled Kitchener:
" We understand you have as yet received no satisfactory assurances respecting the murder of our wounded at Vlakfontein.
" In view of the occurrences reported in your telegram of 25th inst., we are of opinion that you should notify by proclamation that I the members of any commando by which such an outrage may be I committed who may be captured and after trial proved to have I been present on such an occasion, will be held guilty whether they actually committed the deed or not; that the leader of the commando will be sentenced to death, and other members of the commando punished by death or less sentence, according to the degree of their complicity."
The allegation in Lord Kitchener's despatch is made over two months after the event is said to have happened; a circumstance which does not greatly tend to corroborate the facts. Similar charges were made in connection with the battle of Vlakfontein, and, tho the War Secretary repeats them in the above revengeful message, no evidence has been produced to substantiate charges which numbers of British soldiers have voluntarily declared to be unfounded.
The Boer version of the affair of the 6th of June puts quite another complexion upon the shooting of the British officer. If this statement of the ease is true, Lord Kitchener's indignation is somewhat uncalled for. The story is told in the Dutch and German press, as follows:
" In a recent number of the ' Deutsche Wochenzeitung in den Niederlanden' appeared a statement made by Mrs. Cremer 66 years old a cousin of the late Minister for the Colonies of Holland. This lady, her daughter, and her daughter-in-law, had been removed from Graspan to the concentration camp at Kroonstad. Her eldest son, when Commandant of the Senekal commando, was killed near Thaba N'chu, and two others are prisoners of war in Ceylon. Three days after her arrival in the concentration camp at Kroonstad old Mrs. Cremer died, in consequence of the terror to which she had been exposed at Graspan. Her death, however, is no obstacle to the investigation of the truth of this affair, as all the women and children who, at that time were subjected to the same treatment, confirm the truth of the account, and may be found in the camp at Kroonstad, says the correspondent of the 'Deutsche Wochenzeitung.' The account, translated, runs thus:
"' On the 6th of June, near Graspan, in the neighborhood of Reitz, the Boers attacked the English transport, among whom were Mrs. Cremer and other Boer women and children. When some Englishmen had been wounded, and the Boers came nearer, the women were ordered to come down from the wagons and place themselves before the soldiers, who would then shoot at the approaching Boers from under their arms: There was also a soldier who fired from under the arm of Mrs. Cremer. The bullets of the Boers killed eight women and two children. When the Boers perceived this, they ceased firing, they roared like ferocious animals, ran at the circle of Englishmen with the butt-end of their guns, and, as if they were mad dogs, struck down the Tommies. But before this happened some twenty Boers at least had been killed by the English soldiers. The Boers wanted to take the wagons with the women along with them, but when they saw that a large British force was drawing near they contented themselves with carrying off the trek oxen. They left alone the wagons with the women and children; the others were burned. In the hand-to-hand fight between the English soldiers and the Boers, one, Geradus Muller, was killed on the English side. He was a Free Stater who had served as guide to the English. His two brothers fell on the Boer side. The father of these persons felt deeply the shame brought upon him by his son Geradus.'"
The German weekly exclaims in connection with this case, that if the brother officers of the officer in command of those troops do not demand his shoulder-knots to be torn off, the fact will be an everlasting shame to the British colors.
In its number of the 12th of October, the " Nieuwe Botter-damsche Courant" says that 'from an ex-prisoner, now staying in the Netherlands, they have received a confirmation of the account published by the " Deutsche Wochenzeitung" of the crime committed by the English at Graspan, in the Orange Free State, on the Boer women and children. This ex-prisoner also, heard from the late Mrs. Cremer herself this account in the very same words, which at the time was confirmed by her fellow-prisoners who had been present when the crime was committed.
Lord Kitchener has cabled from Pretoria news of the following mishap:
" Three officers and sixty-five men who were sent north of Ladybrand (Orange Free State), on the right of Elliot's columns, were surrounded on unfavorable ground and captured by a superior force. One man was killed and four were wounded. The prisoners were released. Am holding an inquiry."
This British force was composed of the Black Watch who were so badly cut up at Magersfontein. The attack in this instance was led by De Wet in person, and was the only action in which he has taken part since June. Kitchener likewise reported that he had received " a long, argumentative statement from Mr. Steyn" in reply to the last proclamation of the English Commander-in-Chief.
It is a long statement, truly, but it was the only occasion which this truly great leader has availed of since war was declared for the vindication of himself and his heroic little State for their self-sacrificing resolution to meet a possible Sedan for their country and liberty rather than desert the sister Republic in her life or death struggle against the British Empire.
The letter was as follows:
" 15th August, 1901. " Your Excellency,—I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of 6th of August, 1901, enclosing the proclamation of even date. The not unfriendly tone of your letter encourages me to reply somewhat at length to your Excellency's writing. I have noted that not only by you in your letter, but also by responsible statesmen on your side, it is affirmed that the declaration of war by the South African Republic and the invasion of British territory were the cause of the war. I hardly consider it necessary to remind you that in 1895, when the South African Republic was unarmed and at peace, trusting that her neighbors were civilized nations, an unexpected attack was made on her from British territory. I consider it unnecessary to point out to you that when this foolish undertaking (which could only have been undertaken by a man who had become insane through his vanity) failed, and all fell into the hands of the South African Republic, the Government of the South African Republic, relying on the sense of justice of the English nation, handed over all the persons taken prisoners by them, and deserving of death according to international law, to her Majesty's Government. I do not consider it necessary to point out to you that when a just judge sentenced the leaders of the expedition to imprisonment the principal men were not kept in prison till they had served their time, but were released on some trivial cause or other before the expiration of their term. I do not wish to remind your Excellency that when a Parliamentary Commission was appointed to examine into the cause and reason of the above-mentioned expedition that Commission, instead of examining into the case, kept back certain evidence, and when the Commission, in spite of the great influence which was brought to bear on them during the Session, found the chief conspirators and Mr. Rhodes guilty and reported them as such to the Parliament, Mr. Chamberlain, who was one of the members of the Commission, defended Mr. Rhodes in direct opposition to his own report. Your Excellency must admit that the South African Republic, like the civilized world, had the perfect right to come to the conclusion that the Jameson Raid, which we at first thought had been undertaken by irresponsible persons, was not unknown to her Majesty's Government, at least not to all of them. I do not wish to remind you that since that time not only has no reasonable compensation been paid out to the South African Republic, as was promised at that time, but she has been constantly bothered with despatches and threats concerning her internal government. I need not remind your Excellency how outside influence was also made use of in getting up petitions to her Majesty concerning alleged grievances, in order to give her Majesty's Government the desired opportunity for meddling with the internal policy of the South African Republic.
" When in the course of 1899 troops were massed on the borders not only of the South African Republic, but also of the hitherto friendly Orange Free State, and when it became evident to the South African Republic that the English did not desire the removal of the grievances, which are now declared on all hands never to have existed, but the destruction of the independence of the above-named Republics, she desired the British Government to withdraw the troops from her borders, and to have all disputes settled by arbitration. This happened three weeks after the British Government had issued its ultimatum, and about a month after the Government of the Orange Free State had received a telegram from the High Commissioner asking her to remain neutral, thereby distinctly proving that the British Government was determined to wage war against the South African Republic. This telegram was sent to the Orange Free State, tho it was well known that the Orange Free State had entered into a defensive treaty with the South African Republic in 1897. When the South African Republic decided to guard her borders against the enemy who lay there in the vicinity, I was obliged to take one of the most painful steps to me—viz., to break the ties of friendship which existed between us and the British Government, and to be true to our treaty and stand by the South African Republic. That we were perfectly justified in our belief that the British Government was firmly resolved to wipe out the two Republics has been proved distinctly since the war broke out. It has not only been proved by documents which have fallen into our hands, from which it is distinctly evident that since 1896 (that is, since the Jameson Raid) the British Government was firmly resolved to invade both Republics; but only lately it was acknowledged by Lord Lansdowne that he had, as early as June, 1899, discussed with Lord Wolseley, then Commander-in-Chief of her Majesty's forces, as to the best time for invading the two Republics. Your Excellency will thus see that we did not draw the sword, but that we only pushed away the sword that was already laid at our throats. We only acted in self-defense, one of the holiest rights of man, in order to maintain our existence; and for that reason I consider, with all due reverence, that we have the right to trust in a righteous God.
" I further note that your Excellency again refers to the impossibility of intervention by some foreign Power or other, and you make it appear that we are only continuing the struggle in the hope of this intervention. With your Excellency's permission, I wish to explain clearly our position as regards intervention. It is this. We have hoped, and still hope, that the moral feeling of the civilized world would oppose the crime that England is perpetrating here in South Africa—viz., that she is trying to destroy the existence of a young nation—yet we were always fully determined, if that hope was not destined to be realized, to exert our utmost power in opposition, with firm confidence in a merciful God, and 'that is still our unchangeable resolve to-day.
" I also note that your Excellency takes it for granted that our struggle is hopeless. I do not know on what grounds you base this opinion; but let us compare for a moment our mutual conditions at the present time and a year ago, after the surrender of General' Prinsloo. A year ago, the Cape Colony was altogether peaceful and free from our commandoes; the Orange Free State was almost wholly in your hands, not only the principal towns, railways, and other villages, but also the whole country except where Commandant Haasbroek was with his commandoes. In the South African Republic it was the same; it was almost altogether in your hands, except where General De la Rey was with his commandoes, and where General Botha was with his, far in the Boschveld. At present the Cape Colony is, so to say, covered by our commandoes, and they are in temporary possession of the greater part of the Cape Colony, where they move about as they wish and where they are joined by many of our kindred and others, who thus oppose themselves to the gross injustice carried on against the Republics. I willingly admit that in the Orange Free State your Excellency is in possession of the capital, the railway, and a few villages not situated on the railway line, but this is all that you possess. The whole Orange Free State, with the exception of the above, is in our possession, and in almost all the chief towns we have appointed Landrosts, or where the town is not in our possession we have Landrosts in the districts so that order and peace are maintained by us and not by your Excellency. In the Transvaal this is also the case. There, too, Landrosts, etc., are appointed by that Government and provision made for the maintenance of order and peace. If your Excellency will permit me, your jurisdiction extends only as far as your Excellency's cannon can reach.
" If your Excellency views the Republics from a military standpoint, then you must acknowledge that during the last year, in spite of the overwhelming force brought against us, our cause has progressed wonderfully, and there can be no talk of hopelessness, so that if your proclamation is based on this it has now less right to exist than a year ago. Now, as regards the 35,000 men whom your Excellency asserts to have in your hands, it is impossible for me to say anything about them as regards number. This, however, I wish to say, that except those men who either have been misled from their duty to their Government by your predecessor's proclamations, or who have gone over to the enemy on account of a spirit of treachery, or for other reasons, and who, thank God, are comparatively few in number, the remainder consists of those who have been honestly taken prisoners, and are still held as such, and old and sickly men and young boys who were not yet fit for service, and who were taken by force from their farms by your Excellency's troops and confined in camps against their will. It cannot, therefore, be expected of us to believe in earnest that the persons falling under these last two heads are living there in peace of their own free will. I can in truth affirm that, except the prisoners of war and the few who have gone aver to the enemy, the great majority of the fighting burghers are still in arms. As regards the few who have gone over to the enemy (which hardly ever happens now), I can only say that we do not stand alone in that respect, for history teaches us that in all wars for independence, as the American war, for instance, there have been such, and we can only try to go on without them. As regards the 74,000 women and children, who, according to your Excellency, are being maintained in the camps, it seems to me that your Excellency does not know in what a barbarous way these poor defenseless people were torn from their homes by your forces, while all their property and goods were destroyed; so that these poor innocent victims of the war, at the approach of a hostile force, would flee in all weathers, at all hours of the day or night, from place to place, in order not to fall into their hands. ... To say that they are in camps of their own free will is altogether opposed to the facts, and to assert that these women were brought to the camps because the Boers refused to provide for their families (as the Minister for War is said to have done recently in the Parliament), is a slander which wounds us less than the slanderer.
" As regards the proclamation itself, I can assure your Excellency that for myself it will make no difference to me in the fulfilment of my duty, such as my conscience and the enemy dictate, faithfully to the end. Our country is ruined, our homes and goods destroyed, our cattle carried off or killed in thousands, our women and children captured, insulted, and carried into captivity by soldiers and low Kaffirs, and hundreds of them have already sacrificed their lives for the liberty of their fatherland. Shall we, can we now draw back from doing our duty, when our persons are threatened with banishment? Shall we now break our faith with the hundreds of dead and prisoners who, relying on our fidelity, willingly gave their lives and their liberty for the fatherland? Or shall we become untrue to our trust in a righteous God, who has hitherto preserved us in such a wonderful manner? I am convinced that if we were to act thus we would be despised, not only by your Excellency and every other honest man, but also by ourselves. I will conclude with assuring you that no one is more anxious than myself to see peace restored, and I am therefore prepared to meet your Excellency at any time in order to discuss terms with you whereby peace may be brought about. But that you may not be misled I must repeat that no peace will be acceptable to us in which the independence of the two Republics and the interests of our Cape Colony brothers who have joined us are not maintained. If it is a crime to fight in self-defense, and if such crime must be punished, then I think that his Majesty's Government ought to be satisfied with the destruction of the country, the chastisement of women and children, and the general misery which has been caused by this war. It is in your Excellency's power, more than in that of any other man, to make an end to this war, and by so doing to restore this unhappy part of the country to its former prosperity.
" We ask for no magnanimity; we only demand justice.
" I enclose a translation of this writing, so that your Excellency may not be prevented from understanding the exact contents of
my letter through a wrong translation, as was recently the case with a letter which I wrote to the Government of the S. A. Republic, and which fell into your hands at Reitz, and was published by you, but in such a way that we hardly recognized it, for not only was it quite wrongly translated in some places, but sentences were added which I have never written, and other parts were left out altogether, so that quite a wrong interpretation was given to the letter. I have the honor to be, your Excellency's obedient servant,
" (Signed) M. T. Steyn,
" State President of the Orange Free State."
A British convoy, west of Kimberley, in charge of Imperial Yeomanry was attacked and captured by Commandant Conroy on the 28th, when 9 of the English were killed and 23 wounded.
De la Rey had a running fight with Lord Methuen's rear-guard north of Klerksdorp, as the titled Guardsman was moving on that town with another " sweeping " of wagons and cattle, on the 31st.
September 1-30.—The passing of the winter and the resentment caused by Lord Kitchener's outlawry decrees roused the Boer Commandants to renewed activity in September. The enemy had played all the havoc possible with whatever property in crops, cattle, or homesteads had previously escaped the work of his columns during June, July, and August. They had taken away even the Kaffirs' cattle, and destroyed their mealie crops so as to devastate completely the Transvaal and Free State, and it was over this howling wilderness of ruin that the now slender commandoes were once again to engage the British whenever a chance for a blow presented itself.
Early in the month a provision train was destroyed within twenty miles of Pretoria, with 9 killed and 17 wounded of the enemy. From the Free State and Cape Colony reports of casual encounters increased, and the published casualty lists showed that the Boers were not wasting much of their ammunition.
On the 5th, Commandant Lotter with 130 men was attacked by a large British force, and was taken after as plucky a fight as a brave man ever made. He lost 19. killed, and had over 50 wounded before his small commando gave in. Last month a British force, not much less in number than Lotter's, held up their hands to De Wet on losing one man killed and four wounded; a circumstance which induced Lord Kitchener to order an immediate inquiry. Lotter was surprised early in the morning, and was so overmatched in numbers and guns that the enemy only had 20 casualties in the unequal encounter. This is the first really effective blow struck by General French at the second Boer invasion of Cape Colony. It will naturally tend to discourage recruiting for the commandoes in this district of the Cape.
Lord Kitchener in sending his usual weekly despatch to the War Office, spoke of the enemy still facing his legions as follows:
"Pretoria, 9th September.
" Since 2nd of September columns have again got good results. Total bag, including all separately reported, being G81, composed of 67 Boers killed, 67 wounded, 384 prisoners, 163 surrenders, also 179 rifles, 65,211 rounds small-arm ammunition, 371 wagons, 3,400 horses, 9,000 cattle, and various other stocks captured."
" Total bag!" This chivalrous language recalls that of the officers who boasted of their " pig-sticking " at Elandslaagte, when relating the daring feats of the Lancers who had killed wounded and surrendered Boers. One searches in vain throughout the records of the whole war to find a word or a phrase on the part of a Boer Commandant, in speaking of the British, that can be called brutal. But, the Boer generals are Christians and gentlemen.
Colonel Scobell, who defeated Lotter, has been promptly promoted. He fought and won his victory with six men to one.
The first casualty lists published by the War Office after Kitchener's last " bag " speak of fighting at fifteen different places, between the 2nd and the 9th. Death, too, has its " bags " of British, as well as the Commander-in-Chief his complement of Boers and cattle.
On the 11th inst. the following brilliant British victory was duly recorded:
" Cradock, 11th September. " Nine girls, aged between 15 and 20, and one married woman, have been charged here with harboring the King's enemies and supplying them with food and other things, on the occasion of the Boer invasion of Maraisburg. Two were discharged, but the others were sentenced to thirty days' imprisonment.—Reuter."
This achievement for British law and arms could only be suitably i dealt with in the language of the inimitable Dooley.
At the end of last month De la Rey was in touch with Lord Methuen's column west of Klerksdorp, one of the most " swept" districts of the Transvaal. The valiant Lichtenburger had a running fight with Methuen north to the Marico River in which the English admit their loss to be some 40 men in killed and wounded. More will probably be found in the next casualty list. Previous to this encounter with De la Rey, Methuen's was one of six columns engaged in a carefully planned attempt to capture the hero of Vlakfontein, General Kemp, who was again near his old haunts, at Olifant's Nek. The six columns laboriously hemmed in Kemp. He succeeded in passing by Lord Methuen in the nighttime, and got away leaving some carts and wagons, and losing a few prisoners.
General Botha, who had been hovering near the Natal border, in the locality of his own home, in August fell upon a British force under Major Gough which was engaged in " sweeping " the Utrecht regions. He employed the invariable and successful Boer tactics of showing a small section of his force ahead of the enemy, so as to invite a pursuit, planting another body where they would be on the flank of the advancing Tommies. Gough was equal to the occasion, and on reaching the point where his adversary wished him to be, he was attacked in front and flank and was easily defeated; losing some 15 killed, 25 wounded, and two guns; when 1 150 more put up their hands.
This fight occurred the day following the date (15th of September) which was the limit in time mentioned in Kitchener's proclamation of August 7 for the outlawry of those Boer leaders who I would not surrender.
Scheeper's Nek, where Botha won this victory, is some 30 miles I north of Dundee (in Natal), in the Utrecht district, which adjoins 1 the Vryheid, where Botha's home was located.
On the same date, General Smuts rushed the 17th Lancers who formed part of several columns by which he was surrounded at -Elands River, near Tarkastad, due south of Stormberg, in Cape Colony. The gallant ex-Attorney-General led the dash in upon • the Lancer side of the ring; he and his men shooting their way through, killing 25, and wounding 30 of their foes in the encounter.
On the 18th, the day following the mishap to the Lancers, a patrol with two guns of the noted " U" Battery were surrounded and captured a few miles south of Sannas Post; the place where Do Wet won his great victory shortly after the fall of Bloemfontein. This same "U" Battery figured in General Broadwood's disaster on that occasion; these being the only guns which were saved by the retreating English force on that day.
The Boers numbered 200 in this latest " mishap," according to the English report, and the English 137 Mounted Infantry, with the battery service. The Boers had no guns, so that the advantage in fighting equipment was decidedly on the side of the British. The Boer officers who took the surrender of the Lancers were Com-mandants Ackerman and Coetzee.
On the 21st Commandant Kritzinger finding himself in a similar position to that from which General Smuts snatched a victory on the 16th, repeated his exploit and rushed a body of Lovat's Scouts, in the Zastron district, on the Basutoland border. The attack was made in the dark and was characterized by great pluck on the part of the Boers, who rode into the British camp and took the enemy's fifteen-pound gun.
Counting the English casualties, as reported by the British themselves, from September 15th to the 22nd—the week immediately following Lord Kitchener's date of threatened penal consequences for those Boers who should prolong the war—the Boers seem to have responded by killing GO, wounding 133, and capturing 341 of Lord Kitchener's troops; not omitting the still more damaging blow where men with no guns captured 6 from their foe-men.
On the 26th of September, Commandant Groblaar attacked a British entrenched position at Fort Prospect, inside the Zulu-land border, which was stoutly defended by a mixed force of Durham artillery, with two guns, and Zulus. The Boers had no artillery, and were consequently at a disadvantage with the British and Zulus entrenched behind well-prepared sangars. The attack was discontinued after several hours' duration. Captain C. A. Bowley, in reporting the affair to his superior officer, said (South African Despatches, Cd. 695, p. 64): "About this time (10 a.m.) a party of Zululand Native Police gallantly led by Sergeant Gumbi, broke through and reenforced me."
General Lytleton, in forwarding Captain Bowley's report to Lord Kitchener, " recommended Sergeant Gumbi, Zululand Police, for such reward as is deemed suitable."
The assault on Fort Prospect by Commandant Groblaar was , made to synchronize with a more important attack by General Christian Botha upon an entrenched English force at Itala Mount, also inside the Zululand border. The garrison at Itala consisted of some 400 troops, including the artillery service of three guns, and Colonel Chapman, of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, was in command.
The attack by a portion of Botha's commando took the form of a midnight surprise, with the obvious intention of thereby avoiding the enemy's guns; the Boers having no artillery with which to cope with that of their adversaries.
The strength of the attacking force on this position and that of Fort Prospect has been greatly exaggerated in the English reports. Commandant Groblaar had no more than 150 men, while Christian Botha's commando at the time numbered less than 500. Commandant-General Louis Botha, said to have led the attack, was not within a dozen miles of the scene of action at the time. He was engaged in watching with another portion of his commando for a possible intervention by General Bruce Hamilton's division, which had followed in the wake of the Boer column since the defeat of Major Gough at Bloed River. The assault on Fort Prospect was a tactical maneuver of Botha's to confuse the enemy's larger forces moving in the locality where the simultaneous blows were planned. These forces consisted of Generals Bruce Hamilton's and Clement's columns, under the direction of General Lytleton, and the two engagements on the 26th were fought virtually within a circle formed by English troops. Louis Botha was in observation of the movements of these columns on a hill some twelve or fifteen miles away, while his brother was carrying out the attack on the fortified garrison at Itala.
The surprise at midnight was not completely successful; the enemy being well on the alert, while the position was found to be much stronger than was expected. In Colonel Chapman's report of the fight to Lord Kitchener (published by him in his despatch of the 8th of October, 1901) there is the following account of the defense which was made:
" At twelve midnight, 25th and 26th, rapid fire was heard from the advance post on the top of the Itala (held by Lieutenants Lefroy and Kane with 80 men), and continued for about fifteen minutes, when it suddenly ceased for half hour. It then recommenced and continued for half hour, when all firing from the top ceased. A verbal report was received about 2 a.m. from this post that they had been surrounded by about 500, who rushed it, and that all were either killed or taken prisoners. This was true to a great degree, but many men refused to surrender, escaped down the south side of the mountain and fought it out the whole day, doing considerable execution, from the number of dead Boers found on that side.
" The action was now general all round the camp, the fire terrific, and continued without cessation till 4 a.m.; the Boers during this phase charged close up to the trenches; many dead were picked.
up two and three yards from them; at 4 a.m. the fire suddenly ceased. At dawn, 6 a.m., thinking the Boers had cleared, the native scouts were ordered out to clear up the situation, and Lieutenant Fielding, Royal Army Medical Corps, proceeded up the hill to look for wounded; suddenly the fire broke out with increased energy and continued from that time till 7.30 p.m. (19 hours). Lieutenant Fielding could not return, and was detained by the Boers. . . . The night was very bright, there being a nearly full moon, and the guns, coming into action during the first phase, and making excellent practise on the kopjes 1,100 yards north and ridge 3,400 yards north, materially helped to keep down the fire. At dawn, when the attack recommenced, they continued to fire for half hour, when they became the target for every rifle, so I ordered them to cease and the men to take cover."
Colonel Chapman's forces suffered so severely that he retreated at midnight on the 27th, leaving his wounded and dead behind, with a burying party of unarmed men.
Armed Zulus were freely employed in the defense of Itala, as at Fort Prospect. Colonel Chapman says of these auxiliaries in his report (South African Despatches, Cd. 695, p. 62):
" I sent out native scouts to reconnoiter; they reported that all Boers had cleared. . . . The native scouts, employed by me under Guide Collins, brought in early, ample, and accurate information. During my stay in Zululand, they have been constantly in the Boer laagers, and it is to their being able to so quickly transmit information that we were quite prepared when the attack began."
And it is the very officer who writes thus, who also (five lines above this grateful acknowledgment of the services of his Zulu allies), says: "The Boers shot harmless natives." Spies in Boer camps, and armed scouts fighting inside British garrisons, are "harmless natives," to shoot whom is an outrage in this highly Intelligent British officer's opinion!
The British losses in the engagement amounted to over 120 men put out of action, not counting Zulus. The Boer losses were, on Kaffir authority, said to be heavy.
The battle of Fort Itala was a victory for General Christian Botha, as Colonel Chapman retired under cover of midnight, leaving his wounded behind. Chapman's charges that the Boers had stripped and robbed the dead and wounded were prompted by the chagrin of defeat, and were absolutely untrue. It is to the soldierly credit of numerous British officers and men that many of them have risen above this kind of feeling, and have frequently repaired, in manly terms, the injury done to the character of their Boer foe-men by men of narrower and meaner minds. In this instance Lieutenant Fielding, of the British Ambulance, bore this testimony:
" Nothing could exceed the kindness and courtesy of General Christian Botha to the wounded. It was only his presence and influence which restrained his burghers from robbing the wounded, and on several occasions he struck burghers for trying to do so." — (Cd. 965, p. 03.)
And it is the same officer, Colonel Chapman, who penned the above calumnies against his victors, that, in the same despatch, sends on and countersigns the refutation of these unsoldierly imputations by the officer of the Army Medical Corps whose duty it was to attend to the wounded who had been left by Chapman to the care of his enemies!
Following up their victory on the 2Gth, the Boers under Christian Botha captured a large convoy on its way to Fort Prospect.
In the fight at Itala the English reports say the Boers had three Commandants killed, Opperman, Potgieter, and Scholz.
On the 30th of September, after these series of British mishaps had again reminded the British public of the " ended" war, the London " Globe," a paper claiming to be the organ of the ultra Imperialist Jingoes, represented Lord Roberts' successor in South Africa as having issued army orders to his troops containing the following exquisite comment upon unnecessary impedimenta to English mobility:
" The Commander-in-Chief in South Africa desires to impress upon officers in command of mobile columns that the object of such commands is mobility. He has learned that such forces have carried about with them furniture, kitchen ranges, pianos, and harmoniums, which nullify that object. He orders that these articles must be handed over at the nearest stores."
It is not always safe to accept a Continental version of British action in this war as an unbiased statement. When sympathy is markedly on the weak side there is, inevitably, a prejudiced sentiment against the stronger power in the fight. On the other hand, the English have shown themselves, in the mirror of their press, to be almost incapable (with a few very honorable exceptions) of writing fairly of their foes. Truth has, therefore, to walk cautiously when searching for facts as they occurred, instead of accepting them as represented. A Pretoria correspondent of the Vienna " Pester Lloyd " related a story the other day which is not without many an actual parallel in the records of a war waged between 35,000 farmers and 250,000 British soldiers The statement is, that when the town of Willowmore in the south-center of Cape Colony was attacked a few weeks ago by the Boers, it was held by 400 Cape Town, or other Cape Colony, volunteers. The attacking force, 23 strong, rode into the place, attacked and killed seven of the defenders, whereupon the 393 survivors fled into the houses and there remained; refusing a challenge from the invaders to come out and ¦fight.
General De la Rey followed Louis Botha in offering the English a stern reply to Lord Kitchener's proclamation. He had been hovering on the flanks of Methuen's march to Zeerust in the early part of September, and succeeded in inflicting some punishment upon him. Colonel Kekewich, the defender of Kimberley, was in command of a column which was engaged with Methuen's in " sweeping " operations in De la Rey's country, north of Lichtenburg. This column was 1,000 strong, including the service of three guns and a pom-pom section. They were in camp on the banks of the Selous River, between Rustenburg and Zeerust, at a place called Moedwill, on the 29th of September.
At dawn the following morning, De la Rey drove in the pickets west of the river, and rushed a number of his men up the bed of the stream passing the left of the enemy, which rested on a drift. Having lodged a body of burghers there, practically out of reach of Kekewich's guns, he attacked the other extreme of the enemy's camp from the northwest, and poured in some deadly volleys before the English artillery could be brought to play against him. Manifestly De la Rey's plan was to surprise the camp in the early morning from the bed of the river, and to rush the guns before the light would enable Kekewich to organize a proper defense, but the attack was not well timed, and the force at De la Rey's disposal was not sufficiently strong to carry his plan through. He made a furious onslaught on his foes, as usual, and put close upon 200 of them out of action; Kekewich's losses being 4 officers killed, and 23 wounded, including himself; 51 men killed, and 115 wounded. The action only continued for an hour and a half, and when the Boers drew off, not a single dead or wounded man of De la Rey's was found on the field. The English reports about " heavy Boer losses " were the usual liberal estimates of the foes they hoped they had accounted for in the fight.
In Lord Kitchener's despatch of the 8th of October he pays the following tribute to the determined character of De la Rey's attack:
" To give some idea of the severity of the fire to which the troops were subjected it may be mentioned that three pickets were practically annihilated, and that out of a party of twelve men of the Derbyshire Regiment which was guarding a drift, eight men were killed and four wounded."
October 1-7.—The situation in Cape Colony has changed; commandoes which were said last month to be retreating north are now reported advancing south again; General Smuts being near Sheldon, Meyburg and Fouche in the Transkei, Scheepers in the south-center still, Malan in the De Aar regions, and Marais, Smit, and Theron in the extreme southwest.
The capture of a British post at Gun Hill near Ladysmith, and the appearance of Boer patrols on the Drakensbergs, along with the continuance of the Cape Colony invasion, give the public an idea of the wide extent of the Boer resistance, as the third year of the war commences.
The English are sweeping everything before them—in the Court-Martial trials. Here there are no Boer ambushes to fear. Several more rebels have been hung or shot, in the customary British manner; frequently on the evidence of Kaffirs; all with the laudable intention of inviting Dutchmen to be loyal to the authority which employs the hangman as one of the most ancient institutions of English rule.
Mr. Broeksma, a former Public Prosecutor of the Transvaal Republic, was tried in Pretoria on a charge of receiving treasonable documents from Dr. Leyds in Brussels. He was shot.
October 8-15.—English press opinion developed into a strong criticism of Lord Kitchener and his methods as a result of the three or four striking Boer victories reported during the last week in September. Significance was added to these " mishaps," coming as they did after the expiry of the date on which the English generalissimo's proclamation had fixed the outlawry of those Boer officers and officials who should still persist in fighting for their country. An uneasy feeling was also manifest at strange rumors which asserted that numbers of " missing" British Tommies had joined the Boer commandoes. The Jingo press clamored for martial law for the whole of Cape Colony. This demand was speedily responded to, and the seaport cities of Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and East London are now placed, with the country districts, under military men. Two years ago to-day, October 11, 1901, Sir Alfred Milner and Mr. Chamberlain precipitated war for the alleged purpose of giving " fuller freedom," and other blessings reputed to be known to British rule, to the Boer Republics. On the second anniversary of the still prosecuted war, the English colony of the Cape finds itself deprived of all civil liberty, and placed under the despotic rule of martial law, by Mr. Chamberlain, still Colonial Secretary, and Sir Alfred Milner, promoted to he a Lord.
A small body of Kitchener's Scouts were ambushed by a Boer force near Heilbron, Orange Free State, on the 11th. Heilbron lies within the De Wet sphere of operations.
Commandant Lotter, who was captured in September, as related, was hung at Middelburg, Cape Colony, on the 11th. He had made a gallant defense in his last stand against forces six times his strength, and was only taken after fifty per cent, of his small command were put out of action. He was, in every sense, a brave and gallant soldier on the side of freedom, and hence his execution, like a common criminal, at the hands of English law.
Commenting upon this and other court-martial crimes perpetrated under Lord Kitchener's orders, several German and Austrian papers denounced the British general as " a hangman."
The leading residents of Middelburg, Dutch and British, were ordered to attend the execution by the military authorities. This doing to death, in this shameful way, of a foeman who had so often beaten his enemies in open fight, and who had signalized himself in many an engagement as a chivalrous soldier, was one more added to the thousand disgraceful acts of the British in this war.
In the Ladysmith district, south Cape Colony, Commandant Scheepers has also been captured. He was, it appears, suffering from enteric fever and appendicitis for some time, and was taken while riding in a cart behind his men. The fate meted out to Lotter [will, of course, be that of Scheepers too.
He is still under 25 years of age. With a band of other young men, which seldom exceeded 300 in number, he has inflicted numberless small " mishaps " upon the minor class of British and Colonial officers in charge of troops greatly outnumbering his commando. He has humiliated the English military caste in this way, and exhibited its patent incompetency in the field. Herein lies his chief crime. Charges of holding up and burning trains are as absurd when made against subordinate Boer officers, engaged in regular warfare, as if they were made against Botha or De la Rey. But all this will avail him nothing with the Power which executed Robert Emmet, and would have shot or hung George Washington 'had he been captured like Scheepers.
October 16-31.—A Boer commando 500 strong, under Marais, Smit, Theron, and Louw, has succeeded in reaching the seacoast, at Saldhana Bay, a distance of some eighty miles northwest from the capital of Cape Colony. This force approached the sea through the rich grazing country of the Berg River Valley, and it is believed they have obtained many recruits and much supplies from the 1 people in Hopefield district. The nearest point of railway communication with Cape Town is at Malmesbury, about equal distance | between Hopefield and Cape Town.
Humors from German sources allege that two squadrons of British Lancers have deserted into Rhodesia, and that this act is symptomatic of the discontent now prevailing among the British troops, I owing to the hardships and the interminable aspect of the war.
After Botha's sharp blows at the British in Zululand, he was followed up in the usual way by the columns under General Lytleton. For the space of a week the public were led to believe he could not escape the forces in pursuit of him. He is now said to be in the mountainous region of Piet Retief, between his own country (Vryheid) and Swaziland, while the columns are somewhere else.
General De Wet has been killed again. The death, however, is not believed to be very serious, as he has recovered from at least six similar mishaps inflicted upon him by Jingo news recorders. The news of this latest killing of the great Commandant comes from Natal.
Over 500 Boers were reported killed and captured (74 killed) by the various English columns from the 21st to the 28th of this month, with 400 rifles and 8,000 cattle taken.
General Buller was relieved of his recently appointed command of the First Army Corps by the Secretary for War on the 22nd of October, for a speech delivered on the 10th inst., at a lunch given in his honor by the King's Royal Rifles. His appointment to this command had evoked very strong protests from several Jingo organs, on account of his record in the Tugela campaign against General Botha, and for his alleged message to General White advising the surrender of the Ladysmith garrison after the battle of Colenso. This criticism angered the general, and provoked him to indulge in the after-dinner effusion which has caused the War Office to remove him from the post so recently conferred upon him. The whole bungling business of the promotion and the degradation of the first British Commander-in-Chief of the war within so brief a space of time has provoked comments in the press of other countries not complimentary to the English, their military, and their cabinet ministers.
On the 28th De la Rey and Kemp defeated a column of Methuen's command under Von Donop, which was employed in burning farms and crops in the Marico River district, in the northwestern Transvaal. The British were nearing a spruit when they were assailed by a body of 300 Boers under Commandants Kemp and Oosthuizen. While the head of the British column was thus engaged, De la Rey with the bulk of his force rode at the flank and rear of the enemy, inflicting severe punishment upon him, and carrying off a number of wagons. The fight lasted only half an hour, but the English losses amounted to 2 officers and 26 men killed, and 5 officers and 50 men wounded. The British report stated that 40 Boers were killed, including Commandant Oosthuizen.
The fight took place at Kleinfontein, the Boers retiring westward after the engagement. The reported loss of 40 killed, with no account of the number wounded, was probably a Methuen or a Kaffir exaggeration.
Canon Gore (since made Bishop of Winchester by Lord Salisbury) wrote a letter to the " Times " of the 28th inst. on the subject of infant mortality in the Concentration Camps. The following extract needs no accompanying comment:
" Hitherto the conscience of the country has been actively or passively as a whole supporting the war; but, unless I am very much mistaken, it must peremptorily require that immediate steps, however costly—whether by the speedy introduction of suitable nourishment into the camps in sufficient abundance, or by the removal of the camps to the sea—be taken to obviate this unexampled and horrible death rate among the children for whose protection we have, by a policy which may have been mistaken, but is, at any rate, not now reversible, made ourselves responsible. Otherwise I believe the honor of our country will contract a stain which we shall not be able to obliterate, and the whole Christian conscience of the country will be outraged and alienated."
The total English losses in killed, wounded, deaths from disease, "invalided home," and missing, for the month of October—the third October of the war—amounted to 98 officers and 2,471 men.
November 1-7.—The German press has violently denounced Mr. Chamberlain's speech at Edinburgh (in which he asserted that the British army in South Africa had conducted the war at least as humanely as the Germans had behaved in the Franco-German conflict) as containing " an unheard of calumny " against the German army. Indignation meetings have been called for to protest against the insult leveled at the whole Germanic Empire in comparing its soldiers with those employed by England in South Africa.
A report from Berlin asserts that 6,000 horses have been seized by Boers at a British remount station some five hours' journey by rail from Cape Town. Xo allusion to this " mishap " has appeared in the English press.
On this date Lord Kitchener reported a " severe attack" upon Colonel Benson's column at Brakenlaagte, about midway between Standerton, on the Johannesburg-Natal line, and Middelburg, on the Pretoria-Delagoa Bay railway. The place lies east of a lino of blockhouses running north from Greylingstadt to Balmoral. No district in the Transvaal has been so frequently " occupied," "cleared," and "swept" by British troops during the past year. The attacking force was commanded by General Louis Botha in person and led by his brother, General Christian Botha. The English version of the fight puts the assailants of Benson at about 1,000, while pro-Boer accounts in the Continental press gave an estimate of 500.
Lord Kitchener permitted the actual facts to appear in graduated instalments. In the first report the Boers had been favored by a fog; in the next, by rain; while in a later version, derived from other sources, the burghers rode in at a spur-gallop upon and literally over the British, shooting them right and left from their saddles. The enemy's casualties were also minimized in the earlier accounts. They were put down at 214 killed and wounded. Inthe final reports the actual numbers were found to be 15 officers, including Colonel Benson, killed, and 17 wounded, with a total of 86 officers and men killed, and 216 wounded; 302 casualties in all. This, however, does not include the armed Kaffir scouts who were part of Benson's force, fought with the English, and also paid for doing so in killed and wounded.
The British column, which consisted of four or five detachments with six guns, had been operating in the Bethel district of the southeastern Transvaal for some weeks in further devastating that section of the country. On the 22nd of October Benson attacked a Boer laager, and captured some 40 prisoners. On the 25th his rear-guard was in turn attacked by a force under Commandant Groblaar, who was beaten off, with results not recorded. Manifestly these attentions to Benson's column were part of a concerted scheme of attack planned by General Botha, who, on learning of the exact strength and locality of the British, rode a distance of 60 miles from the border of Zululand with 300 men under his brother's command, and united his force with Groblaar's, with the object of striking at the enemy on the first favorable opportunity. This chance came early in the morning of the 29th ult. as the British were encamped at Brakenlaagte.
Botha had disposed of his force in such a manner as to, allow Benson to pass between the Boer lines and to halt for the night. The British rear-guard with two guns occupied a ridge some two miles from the enemy's main laager, and it was upon this body that Christian Botha fell with resistless force. With 300 men he rode at a gallop on the British in the most dashing manner, bearing down all resistance. Colonel Benson and other of the enemy's officers were near the guns and fought valiantly to save them, but they were all shot down, and the two fifteen-pounders were taken by the victors. After killing and wrounding 300 of his foes, Botha wheeled off with his triumph and trophies and was lost to all' the field-glasses of the remaining British officers when the morning sun lit up the veldt and revealed the deserted country eastward towards Ermelo and Lake Chrissie.
What lent great significance to this slashing victory of Botha's was the fact that three British columns, each as large as Benson's, under Colonel Plumer, General Walter Kitchener (brother of the Commander-in-Chief), and General Bruce Hamilton were each and all in pursuit of the Boer Commandant-General when this " mis-hap" occurred. The British public had been regularly informed for the last two months of Botha's " narrow escapes " from these columns; of his being " hunted," " surprised," and of " the capture of his hat and revolver " on one occasion. During this period, as a matter of fact, he had fought Major' Gough and taken three guns and over 100 men; had seen his lieutenants successfully assail Forts Prospect and Itala in Zululand; had captured two convoys of Bruce Hamilton's; fought and beat a body of troops in the Vryheid district, and surprised and overwhelmed the gallant Benson on the 29th of October, as detailed, with a force inferior to any single one of the enemy's columns, and without a single gun.
On the 31st of December the following letter relating to this victory of Botha's, and dealing with the alleged " great losses " inflicted on the burghers in the battle, appeared in the London "Daily News":
" Sir,—In further proof (if proof were needed) of the way 'cooked' accounts of the war are served out to the gullible British public by the War Office and Jingo press, I enclose a letter to hand this day from a relative in the South African Constabulary. The underlined portion (which you may like to quote) speaks for itself.
" I am, sir, faithfully yours,
" John Burnham.
"' We aren't far from where Colonel Benson and his staff got cut up. An account of it in the papers has reached us this mail, and it says the enemy lost heavily. I think they lost fifteen; it wasn't more than twenty at the most, and our losses were over a hundred and fifty. It was a desperate affair indeed. They keep you in the dark in England of how the war is being carried on. It's a very poor account of it indeed of that fight.'"
November 8-15.—The Privy Council of England this day dismissed the appeal addressed to it by a Cape Colonist against arrest and imprisonment under martial law, which were held to be justifiable by the Colonial courts. Mr. Frederic Harrison (in an address delivered in Newton Hall, London, a few days subsequently) dealt with this decision of the Privy Council as follows:
" No more outrageous prostitution of justice, no more insolent defiance of accepted and recognized law, had occurred in English courts since the time of Jeffreys and Scroggs, and the other apostate creatures of Stuart tyranny, than were to be found in the dicta of the Lord Chancellor of England. Mr. Marais, a British subject, living at Paarl, in Cape Colony, was arrested, with others, thirty miles or so from Cape Town, in a district where no war or insurrection existed, was carried to Beaufort West, 300 miles away, and had been kept in gaol ever since without trial or formal charge. He appealed from the Supreme Court at Cape Town to the Privy
Council here, which declined even to hear his case or ask why he was imprisoned; and he (Mr. Harrison) presumed that if the soldiers were to shoot or torture Mr. Marais, the Privy Council, by their decision, would say that it was no affair of theirs, and that they would not even inquire what had been done."—" Daily News," November 11, 1901.
One more evil act and precedent added to the thousand and one evil actions already put down to England's account through this calamitous war.
Miss Emily Hobhouse, niece of Lord Hobhouse, who visited several of the concentration camps in South Africa in the early part of this year, and published her impressions in England, was yesterday prevented from landing in Cape Town. She was ultimately removed, by force, to another ship, and compelled to return to England. This is a decided victory for Lord Milner.
De Wet appears again in the northeastern region of the Orange Free State with a number of followers. This is the first movement of the Free State Commandant-General since his latest death at the hands of Reuter.
A British convoy on the way from Lambert's Bay to Clanwilliam (Cape Colony) has been ambushed and captured, by Commandant Maritz, at Bevendam.
November 16-23.—De Wet with some 400 men attacked the rear-guard of Colonel Byng's column while carrying off stock near Heilbron (0. F. S.). The fight continued for two hours, after which the Boers drew off. Twelve English casualties.
On the 16th of November, the British press published a despatch from Reuter of a letter from Middelburg, Cape Colony, dated October 25, which contained this account of some British Colonial fighting:
" On the 13th inst. about 200 men of Smuts' commando, under Van der Venter, Karsten, and Botha, attacked a post at Doornbosch, near Somerset East, held by about 50 men of the Somerset:, District Mounted Troops. Captain Thornton, of the Cape Police, with 130 men of the same District Mounted Troops, went to the j relief of the place, but were unable to prevent its surrender after a very feeble resistance. In his report Captain Thornton states that he took up a fairly strong position and was confident of holding his own, but the men under him having fired off most of their ammunition when the enemy was over 2,000 yards away, refused to fight on the nearer approach of the Boers, saying they would be shot if they did, and incontinently surrendered, only one man being slightly wounded.
" Thus, 180 men with rifles and 190 horses fell into the hands of the enemy. From the above account it will be seen at once that the surrender must have been intentional, for it is inconceivable that 180 men would surrender a strong position to an equal force with practically no resistance unless by prearrangement."
November 24-30.—A report of the " capture of Boer Commandant " by Colonel Rimington a few days ago turns out to have omitted a slight matter of fact relating to the capture, at the same time, of 100 British by Commandant Groblaar. The affair occurred near Villiersdorp. Groblaar, of General Botha's force, was retiring before Rimington's column when he encountered Major Fisher and 100 men whom he took with him, after some fighting. Commandant Buys was wounded and left behind, and so fell into Rimington's hands. The English were subsequently released. Major Fisher was dangerously wounded in the encounter.
Commandant Joubert, of George Brand's commando, was wounded and captured in a fight in the southeast of the Free State with a section of General Knox's forces. Some forty more Boers were also taken on the same occasion.
The British losses during the month of November, according to the War Office report, were: Officers killed, 24; men, 193; died of disease, 236 (officers and men); accidental deaths, 45; missing and prisoners, 77; wounded, 435; sent home as invalids, 3,242. Total of the enemy put out of action for the month, 4,252.
December 1-7.—Particulars of General De Wet's recent attack upon a column under Colonel Wilson, near Heilbron, and of how Colonel Rimington rescued Wilson and " outwitted" the Boer general, show that the British had a narrow escape from a serious mishap. Wilson left Heilbron with his column (strength not given), and found himself attacked when clear of the town. He was pursued in a running fight for three days, the distance covered by his force being only fourteen miles in that time. He was finally compelled to stand when finding Boers in front as well as behind him. He heliographed to Colonel Rimington, who was north of the Vaal River, for help, and that officer started at once to his rescue. He covered over thirty miles in his rescue ride, and succeeded in joining his men to Wilson's. It was found necessary, however, to turn the united column back to Heilbron, and to fight all the way for the protection of the convoy with Wilson's force, which appears to have been the main object of De Wet's attentions. Rimington had to abandon two of his wagons to the Boer forces, but succeeded, by the ruse of lighting misleading fires during the night, in escaping from his pursuers. No information is given of the losses in killed or wounded on either side.
December 8-15.—A body of Colonial Constabulary raided the village of Bothaville and carried off a dozen prisoners. They were pursued, the prisoners rescued, and the constabulary driven back across the Valsch River. Bothaville is in the northwest of the Free State, on the Transvaal border, where De Wet suffered a severe " mishap " in November, 1900.
General Bruce Hamilton reports an attack upon and the capture of another Boer laager in the Ermelo district, at a place called Witkraans. Sixteen Boers were killed and seventy armed prisoners were taken; among them being Field Cornet Badenhorst of Box-burg; a noted officer who fought with General Botha during the Tugela campaign. One of the guns captured by the Boers at Brakenlaagte was retaken in this surprise of Piet Viljoen's force.
Another report, from Zululand, says that General Louis Botha was severely wounded in an engagement at Luneberg, being shot through the left leg below the knee, and narrowly escaped capture by crawling into the bush. Eighty Boer prisoners are said to have been taken on the same occasion.
December 10-23.—Commandant Kritzinger in attempting with a force of 150 men to cross the De Aar-Naauwpoort railway, between Hanover and Taaibosch (Cape Colony), was fired upon from a blockhouse. The Commandant and his men retired, five being wounded. Kritzinger returned under fire again to carry off one of his wounded men, when he was hit and so severely wounded that he was taken prisoner, together with his five wounded companions.
Kritzinger is a citizen of the Orange Free State aged about twenty-seven. He has been the most successful of the numerous Commandants who invaded the Cape Colony in retaliation for the farm-burning, and looting measures resorted to by the British after the enemy's occupation of Pretoria. More detailed references are made to him in previous entries in this diary.
The trial of Commandant Scheepers for "murder," etc., commenced at Graaff Beinet, Cape Colony, on the 18th of December. There were thirty charges made against him. One charge, " that he had made war on the enemies of the Boer Republics " would include all the others. According to reports sent to the German press his trial was forced on while he was suffering severe illness. This indecent haste to gratify the revengeful feeling of the Capo loyalists is worthy of those whose volunteers he had so frequently whipped in the field.
Becent meetings between Botha, De Wet, and other Boer generals, believed to have taken place in the southeast of the Transvaal for the purpose of discussing " terms of surrender," are now reported to have been convened for the consideration of a renewed plan of campaign.
Major McMicking, while marching with 100 men near Vredefort, Orange Free State, was attacked by a Boer force, and driven back over the railway. He escaped under cover of the night.
President Steyn, writing to a friend in Germany, speaks of the struggle and of his hopes in the same undaunted spirit with which he has carried on the conflict for independence since Mr. Kruger's departure from South Africa:
" The situation is uncommonly favorable to the Boers. The certainty reigns everywhere that the war can never end successfully for the British. Neither he nor other commanders think of giving up even an inch of territory, much less their full independence. It was to be expected that the war, even if it came to an end for the present, would be carried on for generations, for in the Transvaal there was gold under every stone, and the English would never rest till they had got possession of it all. He is ready to fight to the end, but not, as was believed a year ago, to the bitter end, but to a happy one."
Commandant Cherrie Emmet, - brother-in-law of Commandant General Botha, has been for some time past in charge of a section of the old Vryheid commando which figured so conspicuously in General Lukas Meyer's forces during the early months of the war. Commandant Emmet is about 30 years old, tall and athletically built. It was he and Commandant Pohlman of the Johannesburg Police who brought in the ten Armstrong guns which were taken at Colenso.
On Dingaan's Day (December 10) President Steyn, General De Wet, and the Boer forces in the northeast of the Free State, assembled at Kaffir Kop, near Lindley. Patriotic speeches were made and all counsels of surrender to the enemy were denounced and repudiated. This region has been overrun by British sweeping columns at least a dozen times, and is at present more or less " enclosed " by lines of blockhouses.
Commandant Haasbroek was killed in an engagement on the 16th of December, as he was leading a company of 40 men in an attack upon a column of the enemy under Major Marshall, near Senekal, Orange Free State. The Commandant had left the main body of the Boers under Celliers and Latigan, some three miles behind, and was intent upon making a diverting attack on a section of Marshall's force to cover a surprise assault by Celliers on the English column. He was killed by a bullet in the head. On learning of the death of their leader his commando retreated. Haasbroek was one of De Wet's most capable lieutenants.
In the eastern Transvaal, near Berginderlyn, 200 British, engaged in searching and wrecking farms, were surprised and overwhelmed by a force of 300 Ermelo burghers under Commandant Britz. The report says " the casualties were severe." The Boers are credited with having charged with determination. Subsequent accounts of this action say that 3 officers and 5 men were killed, with 2 officers and 30 men wounded. A " number" of Major Bridgeford's companies were reported captured.
Colonel Park was attacked at Elandspruit (north Transvaal) by a small body of patroling Boers under Commandant Muller having a pom-pom. They were driven off after several hours of fighting, leaving 8 killed and 3 wounded. Park's loss was admitted to be 1 killed, and G officers and 18 other men wounded.
According to a letter from Kimberley in the " Standard " of this date, Kuruman, in Bechuanaland, was attacked and looted by a Boer force a few weeks ago. No allusion to or account of this " mishap " has been made in any of Lord Kitchener's daily or weekly reports to the British War Office.
After celebrating Dingaan's Day at Kaffir Kop in company with President Steyn, General De Wet appears to have moved southeastward and crossed the road leading from Harrismith to Bethlehem. A line of blockhouses was being constructed along this road by the English, and two or three of the enemy's columns were operating in the district.
On the 18th, one of these columns, under the command of Colonel Dartnell, ran up against De Wet's force, south of the Bethlehem road, some thirty or forty miles west of Harrismith, in a hilly region. Particulars of the encounter were not published, but as it was acknowledged in the British press that Dartnell and his Light Horse " retired towards the Elands River," it may be reasonably assumed that the English were forced to retreat in the direction of their base.
December 24-31.—Three successive and apparently successful attacks by Boer forces are reported on the 24th. Colonel Damant, operating with Colonel Rimington, was surprised by a force of 800 Boers at Tafelkop, about midway between Vrede and Frankfort, in the northeast of the Free State. The Boers were led by M. Botha (probably a son of the late General Philip Botha, whose home was in the Vrede district) and rushed a kopje on which the English column had taken position. The British were overwhelmed and lost a gun. Damant went to the rescue of the position with a single company, almost every one of whom was wounded, including the officer in command. This bravery enabled other British forces to operate on the flank of the attacking Boers, while Colonel Bimington's arrival with another column caused Botha and his men to retire, but with two captured guns. The English casualties were given as 22 killed, and the same number wounded. Another British column, composed mainly of Yeomen, about 500 strong, under Colonel Firman, was encamped on Christmas Eve on a kopje at Tweefontein, guarding the Bethlehem end of the blockhouse line. This kopje was an isolated hill, the southern side being very steep, with the northern side sloping gradually to the level of the veldt. The Yeomen were in charge of considerable stores for the blockhouses, and had a gun and a pom-pom.
Manifestly De Wet required these stores for Christmas. He appears to have'remained in the region south of the Bethlehem-Harrismith road, in among the spurs of the Eoodebergen hills, since his brush with Dartnell, waiting for his quarry. He selected Christmas Eve for his swoop, and at two in the morning of the 24th his men, in bare feet, scaled the precipitous southern side of the hill, dashed in upon the sleeping camp, and overwhelmed the Yeomen. On climbing to the top of the kopje they had rushed the pickets, wrenched the rifles from their hands, and then swept resistlessly through the laager bayoneting many of their enemies with the weapons they had seized on gaining the summit of the hill.
The English were under the command of Major Williams of the South Staffordshire regiment, in the temporary absence of Colonel Firman. Williams was killed, along with six other officers, in attempting to rally their men to meet the Boer surprise attack. Eight other officers were wounded in the fight. The total English casualties amounted to 63 killed, 55 wounded, and 246 surrenders. De Wet virtually captured the whole camp, its defenders, and stores; including the gun, pom-pom, and ammunition; and having, in this characteristic manner, despatched a " mishap "-Christmas greeting to England, moved off with his force, " pursued " as usual by the columns, new and old, by which he has been followed during the last eighteen months.So ended the year 1901 with the great general of the Free State still signalizing himself as ever in a brilliant display of the finest fighting qualities.