In attempting to chronicle the events which surround the surrender of Johannesburg, the mind involuntarily pauses, and a picture, which reminds one of the fairy-tales of one's childhood, is called up in imagination.
In 1886 Johannesburg could only boast of a few tin shanties—the beginnings of a mining camp; fourteen years later the British troops marched through the streets of a modern city. And what has been the history of these fourteen years?
In the history of the older European nations development and progress are slow, and social and economic cause and effect can be traced with almost scientific accuracy. In Johannesburg, however, ordinary human agencies do not seem to have been at work. The man who has the leisure at his disposal to ascertain the true facts of that period before the war, would present to the world a history so interesting and fascinating that he would be accused of having indulged in fiction in his narrative of events. It would be out of place in this book, however, to enter into these historical events, and we must confine ourselves to the details of the period with which this story deals.
Ever since the beginning of the war it was the intention of the Republican Government to defend both Pretoria and Johannesburg, and had the outbreak of the war not been precipitated, and the necessary cannon ordered from France arrived in time, this would have been done. Even after the fall of Bloemfontein the idea was not entirely abandoned, and Commandant Krause was instructed to provision the Johannesburg Fort and make other necessary preparations. A promise was made that several cannon would be left at Johannesburg by the Boers during their retreat. It was hoped that such defence would retard the British advance and enable the Boers to recover from the panic which had seized them ever since the surrender of Cronjé at Paardeberg.
When, however, General Botha on Tuesday, May 29th, 1900, passed through Johannesburg, Commandant Krause was ordered to abandon the defence of the town, to distribute all provisions collected amongst the families of the men on commando, and to get rid of all men capable of fighting. These orders were promptly carried out.
On the following day, Wednesday, May 30th, between ten and eleven in the morning, Major Francis Davis appeared with a flag of truce and requested to see Dr. Krause.
At the time the Commandant was at the fort attending to General Grobelaar and about 500 men who were retreating in the direction of Pretoria. During the day bodies of armed burghers were continually passing through the town.
On arrival at his office Dr. Krause found Major Davis in the company of two old Johannesburg residents. The latter were dressed in mufti. Both these men had taken an active part in the agitation which preceded the war.
Major Davis in soldierly manner addressed Dr. Krause by saying that he was commanded by Lord Roberts to demand the immediate and unconditional surrender of the town, in the name of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.
Dr. Krause's reply was very short: "No, sir, not immediately and not unconditionally."
Major Davis thereupon said that Lord Roberts had also expressed a desire that the Commandant should grant him an interview, at which the matter could be discussed. Dr. Krause assented to this proposition.
What the Boers wanted was delay—and if Commandant Krause could delay the forward advance of the British troops a great advantage would be gained.
Lord Roberts was encamped just above the Victoria Lake, close to Germiston. On arrival at the camp Dr. Krause was met by Lord Roberts on the verandah of the house occupied by him and his staff.
A private interview then took place between the two officers, at which the terms of surrender of Johannesburg were agreed upon, and which will be found in the letter set out hereunder.
The chief reason for an armistice advanced by the Boer Commandant was that if the British were at once to enter the town, street-fighting would undoubtedly take place, as the many armed burghers passing through the town would only obey the orders of their own respective Commandants and Field-cornets. Such street-fighting would be a serious menace to the women and children and to the other peaceful citizens of the town. Lord Roberts agreed to this, adding that he had once, in Afghanistan, experienced street-fighting and would not like to see it again.
Another incident of this interview is worth recording, viz. the protest made by Dr. Krause at the presence of the two civilians who accompanied Major Davis. Lord Roberts asked for the reason of this protest, and was informed that, according to the view of the people in Johannesburg, these men, through the part they played in the mendacious political agitation which was carried on prior to the war, were partly responsible for the war, and further that he (Dr. Krause) had in his possession a warrant for the arrest of one of these men for high treason, issued prior to the commencement of hostilities, and consequently their presence in the town was looked upon with a great deal of disfavour and resentment.
Lord Roberts expressed his regret, and said that these men had accompanied his officer only because he was told that they would be excellent guides, knowing the locality and the officials.
The terms of surrender were agreed to, including an armistice of twenty-four hours. This delay undoubtedly helped to save the Republican forces from utter destruction and certainly enabled General Botha and the other Boer officers to retreat with their men beyond Pretoria and to collect their scattered forces.
Dr. Krause returned to Johannesburg after this interview and immediately set about making the necessary arrangements to carry out his part of the bargain. A Proclamation was issued, calling upon all armed burghers and other capable men to leave the town; all officials were ordered to be in readiness the next day at the respective offices, for the purpose of handing over their administration to their successors.
Early the next morning Mr. William Shawe, the Deputy Sheriff, was dispatched to Lord Roberts, with a formal letter, confirming the terms of surrender agreed to at the above interview. This historical document is, I believe, here printed for the first time and reads as follows:
"May 30th, 1900.
"Commander-in-Chief of Her
"Majesty's troops in South Africa.
"Referring to the verbal interview I had with Your Lordship this morning, with reference to the surrender of the town, Johannesburg, I now wish to confirm the following in writing:
"(a) That all officials and other Government employees will be treated with the necessary respect and consideration. On their behalf I can give Your Lordship the assurance, that until the surrender is complete, everything will be done by them to facilitate Your Lordship's work, in so far as their honour allows.
"(b) With reference to the protection of women and children (including the women and children of Burghers on Commando),—that these persons will not be molested by the troops,—Your Lordship having already given the necessary instructions in this connection.
"(c) That property will be protected, also forage, except in so far as military requirements necessitate it.
"(d) That as regards the 13,000 Kaffirs still on the mines, the necessary precautions will be taken by Your Lordship:—in this respect the Special Mine Police corps, till now under my command, will render Your Lordship all assistance.
"(e) Enclosed I send Your Lordship a copy of a notice distributed by me, which speaks for itself, and from which Your Lordship will learn that all fighting and armed burghers have been ordered to leave the town at once.
"(f) It grieves me to have to inform Your Lordship, that notwithstanding our arrangement, that no armed men would enter the town till to-morrow at 10 o'clock, several armed persons entered the town (evidently without Your Lordship's knowledge, and contrary to instructions), and several of whom are under arrest; one who attempted to disarm a burgher was wounded, and is at present in the hospital here.
"Finally, I must request Your Lordship not to enter the town with too great a force (for reasons already communicated to Your Lordship). I shall send some one who will conduct Your Lordship personally (or the officer in command) to the Government offices to there carry out and complete the necessary formalities of handing over the town. All chief and other officials have been notified by me of this arrangement, and they have been ordered to hold themselves in readiness to hand over their offices to the persons appointed thereto.
"I have the honour to be,
"(Signed) F.E.T. KRAUSE.
"Acting Special Commandant."
On the morning of May 31st, 1900, the sun rose in his bright winter splendour—the sky was blue, and not a cloud appeared upon the horizon. Mother Nature seemed to emphasise the darkness and bitterness in the hearts of the staunch and free Republicans by her dazzling brightness. The new era had dawned, heralding the victory of the invading forces and giving practical proof of the old adage, "Might is right."
At about 10 o'clock Commandant Krause received a message from Lord Roberts announcing his presence on the outskirts of the town (at Denver) and expressing a desire that the Commandant should personally come and meet and conduct him to the Government offices, there to hand over the "keys" of the city. This request was complied with. The British were then seen entering the town, headed by Lord Roberts, Lord Kitchener, and Commandant Krause. On arrival at the Government offices the different officials were presented to Lord Roberts, who requested them to remain in office until they were relieved of their duties by an English officer.
The surrender of the Golden City was an accomplished fact!
In conclusion, and as a contrast to this terrible period for the Republicans, I may here be permitted to publish a letter written by Lord Roberts to Dr. Krause, which will show in what manner the Golden City was previously administrated and afterwards handed over to the British troops on May 31st, 1900.
"June 2nd, 1900.
"Dear Dr. Krause,
"I desire to express to you how fully I appreciate the valuable assistance you have afforded me in connection with the entry into this town of the force under my command.
"I recognise that you have had DIFFICULTIES OF NO ORDINARY NATURE TO CONTEND WITH OF LATE, and any weakness in the administration of the town and suburbs at such a juncture would doubtless have been taken full advantage of by the disorderly element which necessarily exists in an important mining community. THANKS TO YOUR ENERGY AND VIGILANCE, ORDER AND TRANQUILLITY HAVE BEEN PRESERVED, and I congratulate you heartily on the result of your labours.
"Permit me also to tender to you my personal thanks for the great courtesy you have shown me since I first had the pleasure of meeting you.
"Believe me to be,