THE whole of the enemy's force, under the command of Cronje, was now in flight. The suddenness of our appearance seems to have astounded the enemy, and thrown them into a state of panic. All their positions were hurriedly evacuated, and the big gun at Magersfontein and Kimberley left.
Cronje moved his transport, consisting of several hundred waggons, along the bank of the kopje north of the Modder towards Koffyfontein.
Their transport got past our mounted infantry, but owing to weariness had to stop.' Our artillery immediately opened fire on it.
The main body of the Boer force kept up a running fire the whole day, vainly trying to escape. Each time their advance guard moved on our mounted infantry galloped round and checked them. We never attempted to storm their main position, contenting ourselves by trying to check them.
Four of our divisions, with 15,000 mounted men and seventy guns, made a long turning march of eighty miles, all keeping in touch. An average rate of twelve miles a day was maintained by the infantry, and twenty-three by the cavalry, with enough transport following to feed all sufficiently.
Each division had been engaged. The cavalry did wonders, moving rapidly from point to point, seizing the drifts, which were essential to an advance, before the enemy were aware of their presence.
Our route was as follows: All the different sections of the Army started from Orange River, Enslin, and Modder River, passing consecutively through Ramdam and spreading out to the Riet River to Dekiel's and Waterval Drifts. They closed again on Wegdral, and from here the cavalry seized the drifts on the Modder.
The Sixth Division did the march direct from Waterval to Draiput, a distance of twenty-three miles. The Ninth Division followed to Klip Drift, and the Seventh Division seized Jacobsdal.
At three o'clock on the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 27, (Majuba Day) our camp at Paardeberg was awakened by the continued rattle of musketry fire. When day broke the news came that the Canadians were building a trench within 80 yards of the enemy, who were firing at fifty yards range. The Canadians gallantly worked forward, and occupied the edge of the Boer trenches along the river, entirely enfilading the rest. Then, with the exception of an occasional solitary shot, there followed a complete cessation of firing on all sides. Our men wondered what had happened.
Suddenly the regiment stationed on the crest of the hill, first perceiving the white flag, burst into cheers, and the news rapidly spread that Cronje had surrendered. Shortly afterwards a note arrived for Lord Roberts, stating that General Cronje had unconditionally surrendered. General Pretyman was thereupon sent to take his surrender. At about 7 a.m. a small group was perceived crossing the plain towards the British headquarters, which received the intimation that Cronje was arriving.
Lord Roberts, walking to the front of the modest cart in which he sleeps, ordered a guard of Seaforth Highlanders to make a line. As the group of horsemen approached nearer, it was seen that on the right of General Pretyman rode an elderly man clad in a rough short overcoat. This was the redoubtable Cronje, his face almost burnt black and his' curly hair tinged with grey.
General Cronje's face was absolutely impassive. It betrayed not a single sign of emotion. Lord Roberts and his staff stood awaiting him. General Pretyman, addressing the Commander-in-Chief, said: "Commandant Cronje, sir." General Cronje touched his hat, and the salute was . returned by Lord Roberts.
The whole group then dismounted, and Lord Roberts, stepping forward, shook hands with the Boer Commandant.
" You have made a gallant defence, sir," was the first salutation of the British Commander-in-Chief to the conquered leader, who was then politely ushered into Lord Roberts's quarters, where he was entertained with food and refreshment.
It was an exciting, memorable scene. On the railway were enormous transports of British supplies, and near by long, lumbering army waggons with strings of 16 oxen, coming in with stores. When Cronje the redoubtable, the hero of so many battles, came forward, the Coldstream Guards and the Scots escorted his tag-rag, bob-tail following, (some of the men on horseback carrying cooking utensils) into the British encampment. Cronje had been losing men for a week, as they saw the game was up, and only 3,800 gave themselves up (including a number of high military officers). In the rear came conveyances of many primitive kinds, filled with sick, women, children, and supplies.
The British officers invited the fallen leader to a champagne supper, but he preferred a table laid outside a tent, set apart for himself, and there he "finished" a ham, and having received a cigar, coolly asked for a second. He was described as a thick-set, middle sized, lumpy man, with an iron-grey beard, who wore an ordinary serge suit, brown boots, and a wide hat, with a leather band round it, and he carried a whip of raw hide. His wife, who looked sad and submissive, was shabbily dressed.Next day Cronje left in charge of Major General Pretyman and an escort, for St. Helena, there to remain till the end of hostilities, and with him went Colonel Schiel and a thousand prisoners. The women and children were sent home.