THE next night saw a wonderful change in the capital. The Boers who had nailed tin sheets over the front of their shops to protect them from siege or loot, now resumed business, and hobnobbed with the captors. The second night was still more marvellous. The Scotch pipers and drummers entertained the citizens to an open-air concert in the market square, singing popular songs at intervals, and the people were delighted. The air was balmy, the moon bright, in a turquoise sky, and the avenues of trees helped to make up a scene of tranquil beauty [Bloemfontein became the base for our general advance on Pretoria under the command of Lord Roberts.
But soon there was another transformation, for by the end of the month troops, horses, and stores began to pour into the camp by rail and road from the Cape in large numbers, until the village was surrounded for many miles with white tents, lines of guns, and army waggons. One result of this sudden influx of population was that the prices of ordinary shop goods went up amazingly.
A month after occupation there were 2,000 cases in the hospital at Bloemfontein, mostly typhoid fever. The climate was found so good that the place was used for a base hospital for the State, and among those who assisted here, as elsewhere with the British forces, were chaplains and nurses of the Salvation Army, which had many adherents in the khaki lines. They had relief shelters at Kimberley, Ladysmith, and Capetown, and their services were acknowledged by the commanding officers. When opportunity offered Salvationists in khaki held services on the veldt, and prayer meetings in camp were well attended.
We have the statement of Sir Wm. MacCormac, chief consulting surgeon at the seat of war, that in no previous war has so much been done for the wounded and the sick, and that only 4 per cent of the wounded have died. At Jacobsdal the hospital arrangements were in the hands of the German Red Cross "Society, who used two churches, a school, and four cottages. There was such a rush of fashionable ladies to the hospitals as nurses—ladies who were incompetent for the work, and some of whom, it was said, went out " for the amusement of the thing," that Sir A. Milner had publicly to protest against the craze.
Death of Joubert.
The Commandant-General of the Transvaal, the Hon. Pietrus Jacobus Joubert, the illustrious Boer soldier and statesman, (who won alike the esteem of friends and foes, of whom, when he was lying on his death-bed, his latest antagonist, Sir George White, declared that he was a soldier and a gentleman, and a brave and honourable opponent), died at Pretoria on Tuesday evening, Mar. 27, inflammation of the kidneys being assigned as the cause of death. Although the Boer leaders tried to conceal everything that might damp the ardour of their followers, it had been known since the early stages of the campaign that the most trusted of the Federal Generals was in a precarious state of health, and that he only appeared in the field at intervals, the practical command being in the hands of Botha, Schalk Burgher, and other less renowned warriors.
General Joubert was in his sixty-ninth year, having been born a British subject at Cango, in Cape Colony. His parents were poor, and he was early left an orphan. Joubert, however, was a youth of manliness and self-reliance, and he set about making a living by trading. Having accumulated a little money and followed the fortunes of his emigrant kinsmen in their trek northwards, he bought a little land in the Wakkerstroom district, in the south-east of the Transvaal, and established himself as a stock farmer. By dint of rare ability, he rapidly extended his interests, and soon became a large landed proprietor, with a very comfortable fortune in hard cash. He first entered the Volksraad as member for the Wakkerstroom district, and after filling various minor offices, he was appointed State Attorney in 1867. When the storm burst which brought about the annexation of the Transvaal by Sir Theophilus Shepstone, Joubert, who had always been a keen hater of the British, began to assert himself, and he speedily became the leader of the insurrection. To his success as tradesman, farmer, law agent, and politician, he now added a still more conspicuous triumph as military strategist. His conduct of the war has been generally recognised as masterly and far-seeing, even by his foes. Since that eventful epoch he was, after President Kruger, the chief personage in the Republic. He was twice a candidate for the Presidency, running his friend and colleague Mr. Kruger very hard.
Louis Botha became the new Boer Commandant General, and was soon in evidence on the border of Natal Colony, where his predecessor had chiefly operated in person. Botha was the youngest Boer commandant, being only 36 years of age. A native of Greytown, Natal, he joined Lucas Meyer in raiding Zululand, and founding the new Republic. He got one of the best farms in the district. Without military training, he is courageous, and a good statistician. He is the best Vecht-General after Cronje, with more dash and initiative than Joubert. He has a firm, fierce look, and is close and retiring in his manners.
Gen. Schalk Burgher took Joubert's place as Vice-President of the Transvaal. Formerly a Mining Commissioner, he is considered a Progressive, and was once supported by the Outlanders against Kruger.
The Boers did not intend to let the Imperial forces around the capital long enjoy their new quarters in peace. There was a fight at Warrenton on Mar. 27—(a place 45 miles north of Kimberley), where Lord Methuen operated successfully. Fauresmith was occupied by Clements, and Karee Siding, on the railway, about 21 miles from Bloemfontein, was taken with a loss of 182 killed and wounded. French, who removed from Thaba N'chu, 25 miles off, to the head-quarters near the capital, sent out patrols, who reported 200 waggons of the enemy as going northward. There was afterwards (March 31) a skirmish with the enemy, who seized and destroyed the waterworks, 18 miles from the capital, (which has, however, another reservoir), and being greatly outnumbered Col. Broad-wood's columns lost seven guns. The concealed enemy fired upon our gunners in a drift, and our casualties were 350 and the loss of 100 waggons of provisions. It was a disastrous rout.
Col. Pilcher occupied Ladybrand, and captured the Llandrost, and at Jagersfontein we had a hearty reception from the English, who hoisted the Union Jack.
Generals Grobler and Olivier, with their Boer regiments, had escaped towards Kroonstad.
Another misfortune overtook our arms on April 3, a little to the east of Bethanie railway station, (35 miles from Bloemfontein), when three companies of the Royal Irish Rifles, and two companies of the 9th Regt. Mounted Infantry (500 in all) surrendered to a superior force after a severe struggle. As a set-off to this came the news that Lord Methuen, at a place nine miles S.E. of Boshof, on the next day, surrounded General Villebois (a Frenchman who was in the Franco-Prussian war) who, with seven others, was killed. We lost Capt. Boyle (brother of Lady Tennyson) and three others, killed, and seven wounded.
It was a four hours' fight in which the Yeomanry, Kimberley Mounted Corps, and 4th Battery R.F.A. were engaged. We also took 54 prisoners, together with 60 horses and baggage.
It was the need of horses and winter clothing that chiefly kept Lord Roberts from beginning the second part of the campaign, besides which the weary warriors, all tattered and torn, could do with a pause for recuperation. In addition to this, there was the railway line of communication with the coast to secure before the enormous stores necessary could be brought up.
It has been stated that no fewer than 1,474 horses were either shot or left behind sick in five days on French's march to Kimberley, and that hundreds were lost in the pursuit of Cronje afterwards. British horses are much fleeter than the bony Boer pony, but they cannot stand the great heat and heavy rains of the tropics, especially on forced marches.
Reinforcements were, however, soon to hand. On April 3rd, 2,000 troops arrived at Capetown in addition to some previously on the scene, with 800 horses for the Imperial Yeomanry, and on the 8th and 9th, 3,200 more troops were landing, while 6,000 horses were then afloat as remounts. Several thousand horses from stud-farms in the country were also bought to make good the unavoidable waste in horse flesh, calculated at 5,000 a month. In seven months 42,241 horses and 41,643 mules were sent out as remounts.
In April, Sir F. Carrington's troops landed at Beira, a small port in Portuguese territory, at the eastern terminus of the railway which runs 212 miles to New Umtali on the border of Rhodesia, whence a march of 250 miles would gain Bulawayo, from which there is a railway to Mafeking. Carrington's column was made up of Mounted Yeomanry (sharp shooters and rough-riders) and Colonials (Australian Bushmen). The allied Presidents gravely informed Portugal that they should consider this an hostile act on their part, and yet the Boers had made free use of the Portuguese Delagoa Bay for landing soldiers and war material. The new column was not long in reaching the front to co-operate in the final victory.
While the Commander-in-Chief was for a time halting, his staff were daily kept on the alert by the enemy who seemed disposed to challenge his occupation of Bloemfontein by cutting off his communications by rail, and several raids were made in places previously occupied by the British, as at Reddersburg, (where Boers who had taken the oath of allegiance were afterwards given the choice of serving with the Staters or being shot,) and thus the yellow flag at times took the place of the Union Jack.
Here and there a Boer was shot by his compatriots when found loyal to the British, and the disarmament of the Free Staters was thus hindered as much as possible. The Boers often played a crafty game, surrendering an old musket and hiding their mauser, or pretending to surrender to save their farms when they were willing to aid their own commanders if fortune favoured them.
For the protection of burghers subject to annoyance after signing the peace declaration a mounted police was organised.
General Gatacre, who lost 670 men captured at Stormberg in December and was ordered to relieve Reddersburg on April 5th (when he was 60 miles away), but arrived too late, so that the Boers captured 500 of our men, now left the field for home under a cloud.
General Clements, on his way from Norvals Pont, received the submission of 2,000 burghers, but the enemy continued active in the south. One commando was on the Orange River near Aliwal North, and another attacked Wepener, where, on the gth, we lost 11 killed and 41 wounded.
Altogether the first week in April was a bad one. We just about held our ground except at Reddersburg, but we had lost a thousand men and seven guns, with provisions and other stores.
The arrival of the third Division under Gen. Cherm-side at Reddersburg, 40 miles north-east of Wepener, was timely, and General Rundle, with his division of 10,000 men, was now at Springfontein, 60 miles from Bloemfontein, while Sir Archibald Hunter, with Hart's Irish Brigade, Dublin Fusiliers, Connaught Rangers, and a regiment of Light Infantry was hurrying up from Durban to assist in the advance.
When Good Friday arrived public interest was centred on Lord Roberts, as the next great forward movement was felt to be imminent.
In Passion Week Kruger ventured to a Raad meeting at Brandfort though our forces were in the neighbourhood, and what should be the next Boer move in consequence became a curious speculation. A reconnoitring party from Kitchener's forces at Doornspruit got within six miles of Brandfort, and could see the Boer laager with some 2,000 men. They captured four spies in a farm, and were nearly out-flanked by 50 of the enemy who had been hidden behind a farm building. Patrolling in all directions round Bloemfontein was now an important feature, and when out with some of the Royal Irish young Lord Rosslyn, a smart war correspondent, was taken prisoner with the rest and sent to Kroonstad. Among our captures was Coetze, a British subject, in charge of a rebel commando at Burghersdorp, who was sent to Capetown with others.
The Boer camp at Leenwkop, to the south east of Bloemfontein, was now 1,000 strong, and in consequence of their laager on the border of Basutoland, the Paramount chief Lerothodi was allowed by the British authorities to form a police 3,000 strong for the protection of their land. In this way the burghers were hedged in and their only escape was northward. Our loss there in the four days to April 13th, was 18 killed and 132 wounded, and after this, though General Brabant's horse had been in peril, the enemy seemed to despair of success at that point, meanwhile our reinforcements were gathering at Rouxville, close by.
There had been a threat at the beginning of the war, it is said, that colonial prisoners would be punished, and in consequence of complaints, Lord Roberts asked his Honour President Kruger to see to it that all his prisoners were treated with the same humanity and kindness as was shown by the British to all captives alike. At the same time six and a half tons of presents for British prisoners had reached Pretoria, to be distributed by the American consul, Mr. Hay, on our behalf; just as we have handed over to the St. Helena prisoners gifts sent by their friends. Cronje and his wife, with a few members of his staff, arrived at that rock-fortress on April 14th, the first-named in good humour. Colonel Schiel, his comrade, and two others, were found to be intriguing with a Dutch cruiser in the harbour to effect their escape, in consequence of which they were marched to the High Knoll citadel. Other prisoners shortly after joined them.
During six weeks of comparative suspended animation on our part, Dr. Leyds, the Transvaal European agent, conducted a deputation of Transvaal Cabinet Ministers to Holland and Germany and then to America, with the view of getting the,Powers of Europe, as well as of the United States, to use their influence with Great Britain on behalf of the independence of the two Republics; but this effort was in keeping with the puerile and futile policy that had brought about the war. The doctor informed some French shareholders that the Boers respected private property, and yet the Transvaal State Engineer, according to report, confessed to orders from the State Secretary to blow up three of the Johannesburg mines; which however was not done.
The scenes of carnage, havoc, and strife in Natal and the Free State were visited by war correspondents in search of " copy" when the campaign halted. The number of horses and oxen left dead and dying on the battlefield provided good times for innumerable ghoulish vultures, who literally emptied the carcases in some cases, and to swarms of mosquitos, flies, locusts and other insects.
Some broken down cattle were found grazing on the road from Bloemfontein to Kimberley, and not even a black nigger to loot them. But where a quantity of oats had escaped the fire intended to destroy some abandoned stores, an enterprising business man from Kimberley, had appropriated them as derelict, while in another part, two hillocks of compressed hay and oats were being fired by some men of the Warwickshire Regiment, lest they fell into the enemy's hands. Another abandoned pile was a thousand boxes of biscuits; and yet, within 70 miles our men and horses had been on half rations.
In a three days' drive of 100 miles, hundreds upon hundreds of dead and dying horses were seen by Mr. Julian Ralph—a heart-breaking, ghastly scene. Twenty-four hours after the battle of Driefontein, a number of wounded horses were found lying on the ground, dying of pain and exhaustion, and now and then a noble steed would lift its head and send after the visitor such a pitiful, pleading look as haunted him; and there was not even a friendly rifle to put the suffering creatures out of their misery.
The stench both from dead cattle and deserted Boer trenches was enough to breed an epidemic.
The debris of a battle and the refuse of a camp would make the fortune of an industrious marine stone dealer, under favourable conditions as to transport—broken waggons, a litter of empty tin boxes, shells, torn garments, pots and kettles, liquor bottles, torn love letters— these told the tale of the grim junk of war.
Lord Roberts, inspecting some troops at Capetown, had told them that war consisted of ninety-nine percent of fatigue and one per cent of fighting. That has been a true description of this campaign; and every British Soldier, writing home, has told of the miseries of marching in the desert, with alternate sandstorms, rain, cold nights, and burning sun, sleeping in the open by the month without changing clothes or washing, with hard biscuits for rations and impure river water to drink, and still they were healthy as a rule.
As April advanced there was a fortnight's persistent rain which filled the empty watercourses, which was a blessing, but rendered the muddy roads almost impassable to heavy 'transport waggons, and this accounted for the slow progress of the columns centring on Bloemfontein for new developments.
A remarkable despatch from the Commander-in-Chief published in the London " Gazette" by the authority of the War Office, on April 18, created much surprise in the public mind as wholly inopportune and calculated to do mischief. It was written in February, and laid the blame for mishaps at Spion Kop on Sir Redvers Buller, Sir Charles Warren, and Col. Thorneycroft. In military circles the publication was condemned as mischievous and uncalled for, however correct the judgment might be, but even this was questioned—thus friction was engendered when there should be unity and confidence. As a result Sir C, Warren was made governor of Griqualand West, where the Boers were very unsettled, and for which previous experience fitted him.
It was a significant admission of inferiority that the Boers for a whole six weeks should content themselves with small trifling guerilla exploits, capturing a straggling trooper, sniping at patrols, or throwing a shell now and again at our Wepener, camp. They were massing at the points which .they thought we should take in our advance to Pretoria—a matter in which they were likely to be at fault as when they fortified themselves on a road we did not oblige them by taking in our march from Kimberley to Bloemfontein.
There were two departments of administration in which Major General Pretyman, as military governor of the Free State, occupied the resting time of the army. There were bridges to repair, temporary ones to erect, and there were taxes to collect, besides, .which the mounted police had much to do to restore peace where the .Dutch.'farmers wished to' be loyal to the Queen though threatened, with spoliation and death by their fellow-countrymen still in arms.
The presence of women in laagers and-trenches is not according to English taste; yet If is perhaps capable of a patriotic explanation. The only Scotch correspondent with the Boers, in a letter extolling their Cromwellian characteristics, informed us that there were 500 Dutch amazonians, duly trained in artillery practice in the forts of Pretoria, (which, he said, was being rendered almost impregnable by fortifications and heavy guns), while nearly every woman there, between 18 and 40 years of age, was armed and exercising at rifle ranges 1 ,
Among the slain Boers were found some women in men's attire, and it was alleged that it was female burghers who were guilty of killing our wounded on the battlefield.
It is natural that pastors of churches should support the politics of their supporters; at anyrate it was so in this war. The Cape rebels were, it is alleged, instigated, by their spiritual advisers, and these gentlemen found themselves amenable to martial law.
In 25 days General Settle's cavalry covered nearly 400 miles from Orange River station to Upington, arriving at Carnarvon on April 13th. He arrested the Rev. Mr. Schroeder and 150 other traitors about 72 miles from Upington at the end of March, while at Burgherskprp the Rev. L. Vorster was apprehended for treason. He had preached at various Boer laagers on the duty of supporting their republican brethren. Lieut. Colonel Hughes took eleven persons in arms and disarmed 100 more. The enemy was beaten by Orpen's Horse at Koegaspont near Drackoentler on April 12th. This little force was very useful in surprising rebellious agriculturalists and giving them the choice of surrender or a trial at Capetown for treason, when terms of imprisonment from three to five years were inflicted.
On Tuesday, April 22nd, an explosion took place at Begbie's foundry at Johannesburg which was used as a Boer arsenal. It was suggested that it was the work of some Englishmen (of course) who had made a tunnel from a house on the other side of the street, and used a large quantity of nitroglycerine for the purpose. Seventeen men (Italians and Austrians) were reported killed and 70 wounded. Everything within 50 yards of the explosion was destroyed. The foundry, which originally cost ^"20,000 and belonged to a company, had been commandeered by the Boers for the manufacture of shells. ^100,000 had been spent in plant and machinery. Mr. Wm. Begbie, a Scotchman, son of the founder, was arrested on the charge that he had caused the explosion to avenge the commandeering. In consequence of this affair foreigners were ordered out of the district at once. In the end the disaster was attributed to an accident.Among the incidents at this time was that of the Boers at Fourteen Streams, where the railway crosses the Vaal, commencing to shell Warrenton, about 30 miles to the north of Kimberley. General Paget, getting close at night in two armoured trains, gave them a surprise visit in the dawn of Wednesday, April 25th, and his eight guns gave a quintet, including a 40-pounder and a pom-pom, their quietus after a four hours discussion. Then at night we withdrew safely. Majors Butcher and Montgomery commanded the batteries and the entrenched Munsters protected our flanks.