IF the Cabinet on wheels and the Flying Rulers ever on the scamper with Mr. Steyn desired to conserve a shred of credit of any sort, it is difficult to see how they could expect it, as every day they were sacrificing human lives in a course that could not be designated even a forlorn hope. To " fight to the bitter end" seemed to these Boer leaders their only path of duty, in which we have a proof of their defective civilization. It is a sort of savage courage. It is said that the British never know when they are beaten, yet we cannot conceive that in an invasion of England, we should think of maintaining a sanguinary, yet futile, struggle, by provincial raids, after the capital and chief cities had laid down the sword.
Our story now assumes a scrappy character, and so far as the fighting is concerned, our interest is chiefly divided between Mr. Steyn's shifting manoeuvres in the corn lands of his late subjects, and De Wet's smart attempts to wreck the Central Railway. This was the status quo on June 20th:— Hammonia, June 18th.—This morning the Boers fired a few shells at our Ficksburg position. The projectiles struck the spur of a hill covering the camp, but did no injury, and after a time firing ceased. The enemy occupy Zout Kop, three miles from Ficksburg, where they have mounted a gun.
Our position is very strong. It is held by General Boyes's Brigade, a battery of artillery, and other troops.
The Boers are in force behind the hill. One of their laagers is at a farm about four miles away.
A Yeomanry patrol went out with two guns. Observing the Boers in the farmhouse they shelled it, whereupon over forty of the enemy scrambled out.
Some of the enemy came within range of our pickets, and endeavoured to get a gun posted on the plateau in order to shell our camp, but they were driven off.
Ex-President Steyn and his Government at Bethlehem are displaying extraordinary energy, and are animating the remnant of the burghers to continue hostilities.
Scheeper's Nek, June 18th.—The seat of the Free State Government is in touch with the commandos.
A force of Transvaalers, estimates, as to the strength of which vary, is on its way to join the Free Staters. They belong to the army which is retiring before General Buller.
In accordance with Lord Roberts's proclamation, Free Staters remaining in the field now become rebels. Mr. Steyn, however, has issued a counterblast, declaring that the country is still an international Sovereign State, with a president and properly constituted Government. He advises the burghers that no notice should be taken of the proclamation generally, and encourages them to stand firm. Nevertheless, the burghers, when they can escape from the commandos, are surrendering daily in small groups at one or other of our camps.
There was great anxiety among farmers in the Lady-brand district on their hearing heavy guns firing near Ficksburg, knowing how mobile the Boers are.
Hunter's advanced column occupied Krugersdorp without opposition on the 18th. Krugersdorp, which is a growing town some twenty-two miles west of Johannesburg, was brought into prominence as the place near which Dr. Jameson and his men surrendered, on January 2nd, 1896. Outside the town is the Paardekraal Monument, which was erected to commemorate the freedom of the Transvaal burghers from British power, after the last war.
Methuen, who was escorting a large convoy to Heilbron, on the 19th, routed a force, under Christian De Wet, who endeavoured to prevent his entering the little town. Methuen had only three casualties.
Baden-Powell left Pretoria on the 20th to return to Rustenburg with instructions as to the settlement of that district, which was quietening down, and this had been materially assisted by the capture on the 19th of two guns by Hutton's Mounted Infantry from a body of the enemy, under Commandant Du Plessis.
The railway and telegraphic communication to Capetown was now completely restored.
Both at Pretoria and Johannesburg the markets were daily becoming more crowded and business-like, though the pickets were maintained and our camps were in the suburbs. In both towns the administration was proceeding satisfactorily. The British naturally repudiate all liability in respect of the issue by the Transvaal of bonds and promissory notes secured on immovable property. All banks, except the Transvaal National, had resumed business, so that stringent regulations were enforced, and no transfer or alienation of securities could be allowed.
The first batch of prisoners had been sent south from Pretoria. Raw gold to the value of £140,000 had been found in the Mint, and National Bank Scrip to the amount of £100,000. The city was well provisioned, and at Johannesburg food was cheaper than before the war.
Courts of Inquiry had taken the evidence of prisoners, and investigated the claims for compensation filed by burghers.
Pretoria, June 20.—The interventions of Mrs. Kruger and Mrs. Botha were unavailing for a time, though the Boer Commander-in-Chief gained the advantage of a respite. That Lord Roberts should share the Presidency with the dear old lady might not make the veteran millionaire campaigner jealous, but it furnished opportunities for the insidious influence of the amiable if martial Irishman and Mrs. Kruger suggested that if her husband and his colleagues were assured that they would not be expatriated they might submit!
It was a singular circumstance for these ladies to be left to the tender mercies of the conquerors, and yet it was an acknowledgment of the high honour of the British.
As details were gathered of the fight with Botha to the east of Pretoria, the more our admiration grew as to the pluck on both sides and the desperate effort each made for the mastery. The Boers never fought better, but they found again the British were more than a match in dauntless daring and fearless intrepidity. Each day for the Dutchmen—
Rose the blood-red rim of Phoebus
On a hopeless dawn— Horrors dread as e'en the grimmest
Realist has drawn.
This a day of blackest letter—
Sons of exiles' sons Slain in hundreds where the rattling,
Screaming railway runs.
Heaped by wain, by spruit, donga
Lay the gory dead, Pioneers who seeking freedom,
Found a yoke instead.
The accounts of a battle naturally vary with the observer's coign of 'vantage; so we add here one by a commanding officer with Ian Hamilton's division.
Early on Monday General French went out to the left with his cavalry, and entered a country which he soon found to be most unsuitable for cavalry operations. He therefore determined to alter his dispositions, and while manoeuvring to do so came under a heavy crossfire from the enemy. The British, finding that they were surrounded, returned the fire vigorously, making a splendid fight, and compelling the Boers to retreat just as our artillery ammunition was exhausted.
On our right flank General Ian Hamilton's division was soon in action. Broadwood's Brigade became involved rather seriously. He was advancing between a string of high kopjes against the enemy in his immediate front, when his men were surprised by a close cross-fire from the Boer snipers, who were concealed in a neighbouring mealie field and along the kopjes. Their numbers increased rapidly, and their rifle fire did much damage among our artillery horses.
Encouraged by the execution of their fire, the Boers advancedi over a rise in the ground to within five or six hundred yards of our force, when they were held in check by our fire. The 12th Lancers, on our right, then charged the enemy's direct front, and the Household Cavalry accompanied the charge against the enemy's right, clearing the mealie field in dashing style.
Captain Egerton Green, of the 12th Lancers, was wounded in the thigh during the charge, and was taken prisoner. He was afterwards heard of as having purchased provisions at a store which he passed. He was then going on well.
The small number of our casualties on the occasion of the charge is extraordinary, considering the short range of our enemy's fire. There were no Transvaalers among the enemy's force, which consisted of Hollanders, colonists, foreign mercenaries, and rebels.
Generals Broadwood and Gordon had moved to turn the left of the Pienaarspoort range on the Saturday. They had considerable chance of success, as they had a start of the Boers, who had taken little precaution to guard their left rear. Unfortunately the operation was stayed on Sunday, owing to negotiations with Botha through his wife, who went out from Pretoria. Botha took advantage of the respite to improve his position, and seized hills which Broadwood would have taken if he had not been restrained by headquarters.
On Sunday evening Botha rudely repudiated the overtures, and on Monday the second phase of Hamilton's turning movement developed. But Botha had recovered his left, and fighting was severe. Broadwood advanced against the kopjes on his front, the mounted infantry protecting his left, and Gordon's Cavalry his right. Perceiving a gap in the enemy's line behind which two guns were firing shrapnel with damaging accuracy, Broadwood determined to attempt to cut this in order to break up the Boers' first line, and reduce their artillery fire, Q Battery galloped for the gap and unlimbered. The Boers, seeing an opportunity, did what they had rarely done before; a large mounted body charged in close formation across the open up to within six hundred yards of the battery, and opened a murderous rifle fire. There was but one way to extricate the guns. It was then we had a repetition of the " Charge of the Light Brigade." The 12th Lancers were ordered into the open in front, where they formed and charged. The enemy did not wait long enough for the squadrons to get really home. They scattered, but ten men were left dead, and several wounded.
The guns were saved, but the cavalry as they rallied came under rifle fire again. However, they had attained their object. Simultaneously another mass of Boers attempted Broadwood's right flank. The Household Cavalry wheeled out from behind a kopje, and charged. The moral effect of the naked steel and the shouting troopers was too much for the enemy, who broke and fled demoralised. A hundred of them ensconced in a kraal evacuated it in sheer terror of the sword. It was a decided cavalry coup. The enemy were scattered and broken, and our mounted infantry came up and held all the positions taken.
General Gordon on the right was not heavily engaged, but was in touch with the enemy all day, the 17th Lancers losing two officers.
Hamilton shelled the enemy out of their main position, and prepared the way for an assault on the morrow. The Boer position consisted of a steep ridge, with a plateau beyond, succeeded by a second position artificially strengthened. The plateau afforded little cover, as there were no stones, and the grass was burnt short.
On the next day under cover of 5-inch and field guns the infantry advanced to the assault at two o'clock. The Derbys were on the right, the City Imperial Volunteers in the centre, and the Sussex Regiment on the left. They seized the plateau under shrapnel and rifle fire. Once on the summit they were received with a murderous fire from ascertained range from the Boer second position. They were enfiladed by a one-pounder Maxim on the right, and swept at short range by shrapnel. It was impossible to advance further, and the 1st Coldstream Guards were pushed up in support, but attempts to bring up artillery aid failed owing to the steepness of the ascent.
For two hours the infantry lay exposed to the commanding fire of all arms. It seemed that we were about to have a repetition of Spion Kop, and that our infantry would be dislodged for want of artillery support.
Casualty succeeded casualty among the prostrate men. Then with a magnificent herculean effort Connolly hauled the 82nd Battery on to the plateau. It was a sight to see, and worthy of immortal song. It unlimbered amid a tornado of concentrated fire, but withstood the blast. Fifteen rounds of its shrapnel at one thousand yards had their effect, the 5-inch guns found the position "of the enemy's quick-firers, and the enemy broke.
The long, extended line of prostrate men who had taken punishment all day leapt to their feet, and a shimmering line of bayonets swept forward to the assault. The Boer position was taken just at nightfall.
The casualties were about a hundred in our infantry. The enemy lost 200 at least, killed, and many more wounded, according to one correspondent who witnessed the combat.
Hence they were glad to fall back before midnight'. On Wednesday the whole force advanced to Elands River Station. Part of Col. De Lisle's corps came upon their retreating waggons, but pursuit was then impossible.
We had now reached the turning point of the campaign. The three days' hard fighting dislodged Botha from the strongest position the enemy ever held, except in Natal. They were ousted with loss just as the news arrived that General Buller had invaded from the southeast, and that De Wet's successes had been checked. The result was the informal armistice between the belligerents in the vicinity of Pretoria from the 15th to the 28th, which some critics condemned. There is however a limit to human endurance.
Early this week, it was thought, we should know whether the Republicans considered it expedient to continue the struggle. De Wet's efforts to turn the tide of fortune came just a week too late. If he had struck before Botha's main base was wrested from him the situation might have been different. Now, with General Buller advancing along the south-east frontier of the Transvaal and General Hunter in the south-west, in a few days the two States would be completely isolated, and then if they chose to continue the struggle we could deal with Botha and De Wet separately and in detail.
The fact that five thousand arms had been surrendered at Pretoria in the last fortnight was proof of the temper of the Transvaalers and of the extent of their stomach for the war.
The situation was as follows:—Colonel de Lisle, having pushed Botha's retreating rear guard, was at Bronkhorst Spruit. The greater part of the main army was resting, and holding Pienaarspoort, the outposts being in touch with Bronkhorst Spruit. General Smith-Dorrien had command of the communications from Pretoria to Kroon-stadt. His brigade, largely augmented by mounted men, kept connection with Lord Methuen.
De Wet made an attempt on Friday upon Zand River bridge, but was driven off, and pursued by Knox. Sir A. Hunter, to whom Cronje has surrendered, was to arrive at Johannesburg shortly.
In a few days the whole of the main army, with the exception of Smith-Dorrien's brigade, was to be relieved of garrison duty, and to co-operate in General Butter's*" advance.
Pretoria had quite settled down under General Maxwell, and Major Maxse was raising a police force of three thousand men from all the colonial corps, which gave them much satisfaction.
Energetic measures were being taken to procure a practically wholesale supply of remounts for the cavalry and mounted infantry, and also of transport animals. There was great loss of horses through disease.
Two hundred remounts from the Remount Establishment, Woolwich, proceeded by special train to Tilbury Dock to embark on the transport Pinemore for South Africa.
At Aldershot the departure of a series of drafts for South Africa was commenced. The Royal Engineers sent forty telegraph linesmen under Lieutenant Jackson for various parts of the Cape, and the Army Service Corps sent 58 non-commissioned officers and men, mostly of the Supply branch, commanded by Lieutenant Thomas, for duty on the lines of communication. During the next week drafts of the Leinsters, Derbyshires, Inniskillings, Royal Lancasters, Durhams, Northumberland Fusiliers, and South Wales Borderers left.
The transport Orient embarked at Southampton, for South Africa, three officers and 350 men of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, one officer and 300 men of the North Staffordshire Regiment, two officers and 106 men of the Second Seaforth Highlanders, one officer and 100 men of the Second East Yorkshire Regiment, one officer and 65 men of the Army Service Corps, and details, bringing the total up to 13 officers and 983 men, a draft of 63 non-commissioned officers and men of the Somerset Light Infantry also left Devonport for South Africa. Thus, while some Volunteers were leaving the front for home, more regulars were taking their place.
At Capetown a large number of civilians were leaving for the Transvaal, railway communication having been re-opened, and there was the prospect of Peace, for which men of business longed and prayed, — Peace, " which hath its victories no less renowned than war,"
The best sign of peace was that burghers were coming in from every quarter to surrender arms. As Lord Roberts's Johannesburg proclamation reached the districts its effect began to be seen. The back of the war was broken, but whether guerilla fighting would continue depended on the action of Generals Botha, Delarey, Lemmer, De Wet, and Lucas Meyer, who met in conference to consider the advisability of continuing resistance or accepting the best terms that the situation offered. The President was reported to be running up and down the line in a demoralised, distracted state. The trouble on the line of communications was due to the desperation of bands of the enemy composed of the more fanatic Boers and of those who hoped for no leniency from us.
Other movements, destined to bring hostilities to a close, were already on foot, as we shall see presently. The enemy in small numbers were still in the hills covering the Lorenzo Marques line, and had fired some shell into General Pole-Carew's camp, which had been moved further off, and another battle was imminent.
Lord Roberts published a complimentary order to the troops as follows:—" The column under Gen. Hamilton marched 400 miles in 45 days, including ten days' halt. They engaged the enemy 28 times. The flying column under Colonel Mahon, which relieved Mafeking, marched at the rate of 15 miles a day for 14 consecutive days, and successfully accomplished their object, despite the determined opposition of the enemy. The newly-raised battalion of City Imperial Volunteers marched 500 miles in 51 days, only once having two consecutive days' halt. They took part in 26 engagements with the enemy."
Now that we were the paymasters of all Government -officials we claimed all State property.
Her Majesty's Government were informed by the High Commissioner for South Africa that the following Government Notice, No. 46, of igoo, had appeared in the "Johannesburg Gazette:"—
All are hereby warned against receiving, negotiating, or in any way dealing with a certain cheque of the Banque Francaise de l'Afrique du Sud, Johannesburg, numbered 001356 for the sum of £40,000 (forty thousand pounds) sterling drawn by A. Gregor and J. Joudan for and on behalf of the said Banque Francaise de l'Afrique du Sud on the National Bank of the South African Republic, Limited, Johannesburg, payable to cash to bearer and dated May 28th, 1900.
Notice is further given that payment of the said cheque has been stopped, and the relative funds in all the said National Bank of the South African Republic, Limited, interdicted by order of the Military Governor, the said amount being the property of her Majesty's Government. (Signed) Colin Mackenzie, Col., Military Governor, June 15th, 1900.
In connection with this matter, which seemed a promising scheme to get some of the Transvaal Bank's funds transferred to friendly hands, the following description of the two banks in question may be interesting:—
The National, or De Nationale, Bank of the South African Republic, Limited, was floated in 1891, under a concession-which gave them enormous advantages over all other banks in the Transvaal. For instance, they had control of the Pretoria Mint, and their bank-notes were made legal tender, and whereas it was necessary for one-third only of their notes, in circulation, to be covered by coin or bullion, the notes issued by all other banks had to be wholly covered in coin, &c.
The Banque Francaise de l'Afrique du Sud, which was apparently one of the mediums for this attempted removal of £40,000, is a Paris bank, which started in 1895 and established a branch in Johannesburg. Their dealings at the Rand during the first years of their existence were not the most fortunate, and as- a result their first dividend was not declared till 1898, when 4 per cent, was paid.
In March last the Transvaal Government commandeered half a million of coin from the banking institutions at Pretoria, the amount being made up as follows: Standard Bank of South Africa, £260,00; Bank of Africa, £80,000; African Banking Corporation, £70,000; Netherlands Bank, £50,000; Natal Bank, £40,000. Most, if not all, of these sums would have been lodged in the National Bank.
Once more let the enemy have his say.
Machadodorp, June 20.—A success in the Free State is reported. Two British convoys were captured, and a locomotive and several trucks containing railway bridge material destroyed at Rhenoster River. Prisoners to the number of 350—300 workmen and 50 military—were taken.
Piet Viljoen reports that 50 miles of railway in the Free State have been destroyed.
Fifteen officers of the Seaforths, the Highland Light Infantry, and the 13th Yeomanry have arrived here as prisoners from the Free State. They will be sent on to Nooitgedrecht with others who are following.
In a skirmish with the British on the 18th inst., 31 troops who were retiring on Volksrust were taken prisoners.
A patrol of nine Hussars was captured yesterday.
There was a small fight at Amersfoort on the 15th inst. The British were defeated. Four were killed, while the burghers' loss was nil.
General Froneman reports that the effect of the lyddite bombs taken on the 7th inst. at Roodeval was so terrible that a hole 20ft. deep and over 100ft. long was made in the ground.
Klerksdorp and Ventersdorp have been abandoned by the burghers.
General Andries Cronje, who is dangerously ill, has been made a prisoner.
[The capture of the 350 military and workmen mentioned in this telegram is the Boer account of the action at Leeuwspruit on the 14th inst., when the construction train was taken. Nothing had been reported of this incident beyond the publication of the names of the missing men, who belonged to the Engineers. Amersfoort is a small village about twenty miles due north of Charles-town.]
Lorenzo Marques, June 21.—An official message from Machadodorp, dated June 19, states that fighting is going on in the Free State, and that the lines of communications are continually being cut by the burghers.
The enemy's camp east of Pretoria has been broken up. The British have retired to Pienaars Poort, leaving outposts at Donkerhoek.
Details to hand regarding the railway "accident" at Malaland, near Komati Poort, show that the bridge was destroyed by dynamite. The driver was killed, the fireman seriously injured, and the guard is missing. One passenger became delirious through injuries to the head. Five other passengers were slightly injured. The official message ends with the announcement that traffic has now been restored.
A report has reached here to the effect that five miles of telegraph wire has been cut between Komati Poort and Kaapmuiden. Consequently communication with Machadodorp is both difficult and expensive. Native runners are employed.
Thirty-eight men of Brabant's Horse, captured at Hammonia, in the Free State, have arrived at Nooitgedrecht.
Small parties of armed Boers who are in Swaziland seeing what they can pick up, have, under the present circumstances, found it advisable to leave at once, otherwise the position might get too warm for them any moment.
The Swazies are mostly in their kraals. The authorities have placed them under their chiefs, who are being well paid for their services. The Swazies are now happy and contented.
Four men have been taken prisoners by British scouts along the Swaziland border.
From an English source came the news that another large parcel of bar-gold had arrived here. It is amazing to note the facilities offered at this port for exporting gold. One firm received £300 commission for conveying a parcel of gold from the train to the steamer. Three hundred unstamped sovereigns, manufactured at Machadodorp, had been offered at 20s. each. Passengers who arrived by the train from Machadodorp had to walk round the broken bridge. Another train was waiting on this side. It is reported that a resident at Komati Poort was arrested and shot by the Boers for blowing up the bridge. It would appear that dynamite was placed on the bridge with a cap attached, and the engine passing exploded it.
Passengers from the Transvaal on the 19th stated that a big fight had taken place at Machadodorp, which the Boers abandoned, retiring to Lydenburg.
Financially the Transvaal Government was now said to be reduced to severe straits. Mr. Kruger was endeavouring to meet the emergency by an issue of Treasury notes, but the people refused to accept them. A proclamation had been published rendering the acceptance of the notes obligatory, and declaring that burghers refusing such payment would be treated as enemies of the State and have their property confiscated!
The flour supply was almost exhausted, and other articles scarce.
But, according to the statement of a passenger, there were eighty truck-loads of munitions of war at Machadodorp.
The following are specimens of the news with which the spirit of the burghers was bolstered up:—It is announced that thirty miles of Free State railway have been destroyed, that the Paris Exhibition is closed, that war has broken out between England and France, and that many hundreds of British prisoners have been captured in the Free State 1
The best news was concerning General Buller, who was advancing with his main force up the railway towards Johannesburg. Covering about ten miles a day, he neared Standerton. He had so far met with no opposition, and many burghers had surrendered their arms to him.
Lists coming in of the casualties in recent engagements related to the march of the Highland brigade from Winburg last month. Lord Roberts reported at the commencement of June that the brigade arrived at Heilbron on May 29, having been opposed more or less the whole way from Ventersburg. The chief fight was at Roode-port, a few miles south of Heilbron. There had been a good deal of fighting in the vicinity since then.
Buller's Headquarters, Zandspruit, June 20th.—Our column reached here to-day.
One hundred and eighty-seven burghers surrendered at Wakkerstroom, and 80 at Volksrust.
Many more of the enemy would have surrendered had our line of march been in a north-easterly direction, so as to afford protection to those who laid down their arms.
As matters stand, many are afraid to deliver up their rifles for fear of reprisals from their own countrymen.
There are still a number of irreconcilables hanging upon our line of march. One typical incident will show the bitter feeling prevailing amongst them. The son of Commandant Woolman proceeded to a Boer commando and strongly advised them to surrender, to save useless bloodshed. He was promptly fired upon by a Boer named Coetzee, the bullet passing through his leg and killing his horse.
Paardekop, June 21.—General Buller, with his main force, arrived here without meeting with the enemy. The presence in this district of such a large British force has had the effect of inducing further submissions of burghers. Paardekop is on the railway, 15 miles from Zandspruit.
The Hollander officials who remain at the stations temporarily are loud in their complaints against the Boers for casting aspersions upon them.
Parties of Boers carrying white flags met the General on the road on their way to deliver up their arms and horses.
General Hildyard joined General Clery at Zahdspruit. The retreating Boers destroyed a fine bridge and cul-. verts some distance a-head, the explosion being heard by our troops. They fired nine shells at Zandspruit bridge, with little effect.
Forty more Boers surrendered to-day.
Kattbosch Spruit, June 22. — Dundonald and 3rd Cavalry Brigade occupied Standerton to-day unopposed. The enemy left yesterday, having blown up the railway bridge and done certain other damage.
The Infantry, who marched 22 miles to-day, are halted for the night at Kattbosch Spruit.
Standerton is 60 miles north of the Natal border.
The march was sometimes through dense grass, showing the fertility of the soil. To relieve the horses the riders walked and rode a mile alternately. The mules were used for the drawing of the munitions and the oxen for the convoy. Each man carried a bottle of water for the day.
Pretoria, June 22. — Ian Hamilton's column reached Springs yesterday, en route for Heidelberg, where it will join hands with Buller's troops, who reached Paardekop yesterday, and will be at Standerton to-morrow, thus opening up communication between Pretoria and Natal, and preventing any joint action between the Transvaalers and the people in the Orange River Colony.
Baden-Powell reports from Rustenburg that he found the leading Boers very pacific and cordial on his journey.
Commandant Steyn and two actively hostile field cornets had been captured during his absence.
Lord Edward Cecil, the Administrator of the Rustenburg district, had up to date collected nearly 3,000 rifles.
The District Commissioner at Kroonstad reports that 341 rifles have been handed in at Wolmaranstad.
Heidelberg is the centre of a little branch of the gold mining industry—a healthy and rising place.
There was another line of communication between Volksrust and Elandsfontein to be guarded, lest it proved a gap to the enemy.
It was a piecemeal surrender generally, against the opposition of a junta of generals well paid to keep the custodian of the bar gold at work minting sovereigns, which ought to have been condemned as counterfeit.
Things became lively when Commandant De Wet started raiding to the south. He somehow discovered that the line from the Vaal right down to Kroonstad was practically unguarded. He thereupon appointed posts of observation, and when the chance offered swooped down upon our line of communications with considerable effect.
In this way he surprised the militia battalion of the Derbyshire Regiment, who were wholly unsuspicious of the vicinity of the enemy until they found themselves attacked by overwhelming numbers. The Derbyshire men made a gallant stand, but the fight was necessarily short, because our men were entirely without guns, and could have been shelled out of existence without necessity for the Boers to come within range of rifles.
After that De Wet destroyed ten miles of railway, cut the telegraph line in several places, and captured a convoy and escort which was on the way to join Ian Hamilton's column. De Wet, by pure mischance, just missed bagging a still larger convoy of 300 waggons which was proceeding along the line of the Vaal River under a small escort.
De Wet's rapid and destructive movements caused a tremendous commotion all along our line of communications. The alarm was general and spreading until Lord Kitchener started south with a mobile force, Simultaneously Methuen got to the south of De Wet and compelled him to fight. The Boers were badly beaten, but they managed to get away with their guns.
Lord Roberts issued a proclamation holding farmers in the immediate vicinity of the railway responsible for any damage done, and menacing them with the destruction of their farms by way of punishment.
The railway and telegraph were of course rapidly repaired, and the line was strongly guarded by Smith-Dorrien's Brigade.
Hammonia, June 19.—There was quite a smart morning's work here to-day. The Boers have been pushing their laagers closer to our lines recently, and last night they established one behind a hill only two miles from pur outposts. They also occupied a farm still nearer to us.
General Rundle thought this was rather too audacious a procedure, and early this morning he sent three guns, with Col. Blair's Yeomanry to teach the Boers a lesson,
The Colonel's Yeomanry is the 4th Battalion, consisting of Stafford, Leicester, Derby, and Bedford Companies.
This movement took the enemy by surprise. Our guns shelled the hill and farm with admirable effect, and the Boers ran for shelter up the valley, leaving several men on the field.
Later on numbers of them attempted to surround the Yeomanry outposts, but our fellows pelted them with long range volleys as they came over the open veldt, causing them to fly for their lives. The gunners then got at them, and shrapnel pitched into a group of Boers, of whom several fell.
The enemy kept out of range for the remainder of the day. Our only casualty was one artillery horse wounded.
From Bulawayo came tidings concerning the native chief Linchwe, who, angered by the repeated raids of the Boers on his cattle, resolved to go to the assistance of his people in the Transvaal, recover the stock, and recoup himself for the damage which had been done. Colonel Plumer and General Baden-Powell had previously only succeeded in keeping Linchwe quiet by warnings and appeals. There was a force at Lobatsi able effectively to suppress him.
The movement to co-operate with the Natal force against any enemy in the south-east of the Transvaal "began on June 19.
At Pretoria special officers were enlisted temporarily to cope with the classification of surrendered burghers.
The Courts of Justice had re-opened, and the general police administration of the place was satisfactory.
There was a little agitation to make Johannesburg the capital. This was resented by the Dutch who have property in the capital, and it was at the least an untimely suggestion.
Pretoria is much inferior to Johannesburg as a town. The neighbourhood is destitute of natural beauty, save the road to the Fountains, three miles off, where are the magnificent springs that supply the town with pure water. A fine view of the place is gained at Signal Hill, to the south, the plateau at the foot of which was the site of the English camp in 1881. Though founded in 1S55, Pretoria, as it stands to-day, is practically of the same era as the Witwatersrand gold discoveries of 1885, whose wealth led to the ambitious architecture of the last ten years. Thus it is true that, in a sense, in taking Pretoria we take what English capital created. In 1889 the Boer Parliament House was a little thatched building—little better than some English barns. The present Government buildings, of Continental style, are very handsome. The Raadzaal or Parliament House, fronts the Church Square—a large bare space, where the ox-drawn waggons outspan when the Boers come up for the Nachtmaal, or religious festival and fair—a curious compound, affording the ministers of the Dutch Church a grand opportunity of giving their country flocks a better idea of the teaching of the Bible, which, it is said, they so much revere, and which has no doubt saved them, in their nomad pastoral life, from sinking down to the level of the black natives. In Church Square is their Cathedral, a plain, heavy, substantial structure, with a large tower, also the new Law Courts, and the Club House (mainly used by Outlanders). Then there are the Post Office, New Market, Public Library, Museum, and Hospital, one or two good sized hotels, used as boarding-houses. The churches include St. Alban's, (R. C), a Jewish synagogue, Wesleyan, Baptist, and the Dopper Church, where Oom Paul used to occupy the pulpit. The streets run downwards from the river Aapies, with other thoroughfares crossing at right angles, and down the sides of each runs a small channel of overflowing water fed by the stream. Pretoria is lit by electric lamps and has electric trams. The inhabitants keep good hours, for Kruger and his colleagues had a hatred of " nacht-loopers." Its cabs are much the same as the English as to construction and fares. For want of sanitary care the town has been the home of malarial and typhoid fever—hence a rigid Medical Officer, with a staff of inspectors, was the first urgent reform pressed upon the consideration of the new Governor.
To resume our diary:—
Potchefstroom, June 12.—After a splendid march by Brigadier-General Mahon's column, this place, the old capital of the Boers, (founded in 1839), was occupied by British troops to-day. The few British residents in the town, as soon as they learned of our near approach, set to work to prepare a welcome for us, with the result that, when our troops marched in they found many houses decorated with bunting, and ladies wearing the British colours, and they heard genuine British cheers. Their enthusiasm was something to remember. Their pent-up feelings were able to find vent without fear of punishment after eight long months of suspense and insults.
As we entered the town the train was about to start for the north. Our troopers headed it off and captured it. Our spoils included eight locomotives and plenty of rolling stock.
The Boer force here submitted en masse, and gave up their arms without demur.
I have been able to secure an interesting interview with ex-President Pretorius here. The capital is named after him, and he had much to do with building up the Republic. He said he had never been in favour of the war—was thoroughly against it, in fact—and told Kruger so. He foresaw all the difficulties, and knew that much ruin would be caused by fighting against Great Britain's might. He thought the war would last three months.
Kruger made a mistake by going to Machadodorp. If he had been in the President's place he would have met Lord Roberts at the Vaal River, and there sought terms. It was no use prolonging the struggle, for there was no doubt as to how it would end.
Mr. Pretorius said the enmity of the Boers would pass with good government. The burghers were now at Great Britain's mercy, and to continue the campaign in the north of the country would be useless. He described the war as a child fighting a man.
At the end of the interview the old man volunteered the information that he was born in the same year as Queen Victoria, whom he said he revered. Marthinus Wessels Pretorius is the son of Andries Pretorius, who defeated the Zulu chief, Dingaan.
Hammonia, Friday.—General Rundle and his staff, with Colonel Maxwell, of the Royal Engineers, rode to Ficksburg to-day, and reconnoitred the Boer position in that district. The General pushed his way well into the Boer lines, and at one time was actually behind a Boer outpost. He found that they held a wide extent of country, but whether in large numbers or not could not be ascertained.
The enemy did not appear to have much artillery, as the only gun located was that on Zautkop, near Ficksburg.
Pretoria, June 19.—Lieut.-General Baden-Powell, with thirty-five mounted men, arrived here at noon yesterday. Lord Roberts rode out to greet him several miles from the town. The General and his men looked very well. Subsequently Lord Roberts met him at the entrance to Pretoria, and escorted him to the Residency. It was a very hearty meeting, and attracted much attention. When discovered in the town, the hero had a good deal of handshaking, and salutes even from the Boers.
Baden-Powell left Mafeking with but 300 men, and had had no fighting on the way hither. Large numbers of Boers surrendered their arms to him. In fact, the whole western district of the Transvaal has abandoned the war.
General Baden - Powell met General Hunter near Klerksdorp. Amongst the prisoners who had surrendered were two sons of President Kruger and two of his nephews, the Eloffs. Mr. Kruger's sons are back in peaceful occupation of their farms.
Col. Plumer and General Hunter are attending to the pacification of the districts west of Pretoria.
Maseru, June 22nd.—A gentleman who has just arrived here from Ficksburg and Hammonia reports that the British forces between Ficksburg and Hibernia and Lindley amount to about 35,000 troops. They are distributed in camps about three miles apart and in thorough communication right through. The Boer lines between Ficksburg and Bethlehem are said to be in great strength. Up to the present the Boers have refused to surrender in Ficksburg and Bethlehem districts.
Paardekop, June 22nd.—Admiral Harris, commanding the Cape Station, having intimated to Buller that the services of the naval contingent lent from H. M. S. Forte were now necessary on their ship, Captain Jones and his gallant bluejackets, together with the Natal Naval Volunteers, are forthwith to leave this army and proceed to Durban.
General Buller, in a special order to the army, says the Naval brigade leave his command amidst the sincere regrets of all ranks and arms. He wishes them a hearty good-bye, and assures them that they carry with them the gratitude and best wishes of their comrades of the Natal Field Force.
Lord Strathcona's Canadian Horse, a splendid corps of 500 troopers, joined General Buller's Force yesterday. All the troops in camp turned out and gave the Canadians a hearty reception.
Lorenzo Marques, June 22nd.—A passenger from the Transvaal declares that on Wednesday he saw about 500 men and 15 officers brought to Novitgedrecht from Rhenoster Spruit, in Orange River Colony. In burgher circles there was much talk of renewed activity in the Colony next month.
Mr. Reitz was reported to have stated that the Boers were in a position to carry on guerilla warfare for three months longer.
Durban, June 23rd.—A despatch from the front brings intelligence of the destruction by fire of a complete British field hospital of eighteen tents. The hospital was in camp near Volksrust, with the nth brigade on the open veldt. The Boers, as they retreated before General Buller, had set fire to the grass, and before any attempt could be made to cope with the conflagration it had assumed enormous proportions, and had spread immense distances over the veldt.
To add to the trouble a brisk wind was blowing, and this drove the flames right down upon the nth brigade. No danger was feared, however, until the fire had got to within about a hundred yards of the hospital tents, and then the Bearer Corps were called out to extinguish the travelling flames by beating the ground in the fashion usually found effective.
Unfortunately a trek waggon was in the way, and the oxen, stricken with panic by the heat, glare, and noise, refused to move an inch. Thus hampered, the fire-beaters were unable to cope with the flames, which then swept unchecked through the hospital, consuming everything in their path—tents, fittings, and stores alike.
At the first signal of danger the wounded had been removed away from the line of fire. Some had to be carried on ambulances by the Bearer Corps, but the majority were able to walk. Had any man been left in the tents certain and horrible death would have overtaken him. As it was several men had narrow escapes.
Many of the wounded had stored their rifles and bandoliers in the tents, and there was a scene of alarming explosions as the flames caught the cartridges.
As soon as news of the disaster reached General Buller he sent out for bullock waggons, and in these the wounded were taken to Volksrust, where accommodation was found for them in the schoolroom of the town.
Vryburg, June 23rd.—The Cape Police find no opposition. The Town Council approve Sir A. Milner's policy for suppressing the rebellion.Maseru, June 23rd.—The resident commissioner in Basutoland has taken stringent measures to stop stock thieving, and the Paramount Chief was assisting; many arrests had been made.