EVIDENCE daily accumulated that the enemy had received reinforcements from men who had surrendered and returned home; as well as by foreigners, hence by the 20th of July they' numbered 16,000.' Pretoria was at that time still their objective, Botha being in command to the north east, Viljoen to the south east, Delary to the north west, and De Wet, after leaving his own locality at Rhenoster, (having recovered his lost column) made towards the last-named. Piet de Wet, on the way, burnt a train.
It was a guerilla fight all over the theatre—it was said, with a view of wearying the Imperial Field Marshal into giving " terms." The Boers often showed appreciation of our generosity, even sending for medical comforts to our camp, at Ficksburg.
To attempt to record the innumerable petty skirmishes becomes a weariness.
On the 23rd, Ian Hamilton, in the general advance, had got 35 miles along the Delagoa Bay line, with a fight at Piennars Poort, when the South Australians suffered the brunt of the fire and lost their Colt machine carriage, so that the ammunition had to be thrown into the river. They were beaten by the pom-pom. Clery moved to Grootspruit, but Rundle, after seven hours fight, could not shift his adversary from Rooikrantz.
A little bit of good luck befel some British scouts on the Swazi border, where they captured Commandant Vondam of Nooitgedacht, with a companion named Scheuble, and killed Cornet Lombard, of Komati Poort, who fired instead of " holding up his hands " when surprised in a Kaffir's kraal.
Dr. Leyds is accused, by those who should know, as the worst adviser Mr. Kruger ever had. The doctor's secretary was with the old President at Watervalonder, before returning to Europe by the steamer Konig on the 30th of July.
Baden Powell reported from Majato Pass, eight miles N. W. of Rustenburg, on July 22nd, that Colonels Airey and Luffington, with only 450 men, drove 1,000 Boers from a very strong position and scattered them with considerable loss. We suffered 6 killed and 19 wounded.
A telegram from Lord Roberts dated from Vander-merwe Railway Station, July 24th, showed that the advance on Middleburg had been resumed, and Bronkhorst Spruit was reached, where the 94th Foot was attacked on December 20th, 1880. The British graves there were now put in good order. The centre of the army was unopposed, but French's cavalry and Hutton's mounted infantry, making a wide detour to the right, came across bodies of the enemy, who were driven back, leaving several dead and wounded behind them, and a good many prisoners. We had one casualty—one killed, Lieut. Ebsworth, 1st Australian Horse. A number of the enemy went north to the bush veldt, which would, in a few weeks become malarial, and the rest trekked mainly towards Machadodorp. They were described as chiefly "the riffraff of Europe," prone to looting.
Mr. Kruger, who was paying his bills with paper money, guaranteeing his creditors that the British Government would be bound to honour his signature, now became more restless, and it was reported' that he would use the carriages which had long been in waiting to convey him, his confederates and entourage (not forgetting the bullion,) to the desolate and almost inaccessible rocks of Lydenburg.
The Boers totally destroyed the big bridge at Bronkhorst Spruit before retiring to Vaal Bank on the 22nd.
When Broadwood came up with De Wet in the hills on the south bank of the Vaal at Vredefort, he found the enemy's strength had increased to 4,000. Five of their waggons were captured and 18 of their men by Broad-wood's dashing column, while De Lisle, on the right, took another waggon and two prisoners. We were once more over matched, and had to retire with a loss to the mounted infantry of one killed and five officers and 28 men wounded.
Lord Roberts, on the 25th, found Balmoral, Botha's late headquarters, deserted, but French and Hutton were engaged six miles southward. Alderson attacking the enemy's right with his mounted infantry and French making a wide turning movement round their left, which threatening their retreat, they bolted, followed sharply by French and Hutton across the Oliphant's River at Naauwpoort.
Buller's communication being threatened, there was a three day's battle at Amerspoort by Gen. Hildyard, in which the enemy were defeated with great loss.
With the closing days of July came news of progress in all parts of the arena. 'Tis true, it still seemed slow to those who thought the war should have ended months before. Our policy was leniency with a view to the lion and the kid lying down together in amicable fellow-citizenship, yet this method was chiefly the cause of the prolongation of the struggle. The overloading and overdriving of cavalry horses broke many down, and for lack of remounts, General French had brigades often as thin as 600 men, sometimes even 300. Then it was a wonder that our British Consul at Lorenzo Marques, with a man-of-war in the "roads," allowed the Portuguese authorities to feed the enemy and keep them supplied with arms and ammunition, under various absurd subterfuges. If the neutrality treaty had been enforced the enemy could not have existed. At length these Kruger-bribed officials were cashiered, and some system of supervision of contraband was insisted upon.
Well, the good news was partly that, after two days' fighting, Sir Archibald Hunter had driven the Boers out of Wit Nek, and with Clements and Paget had got into the Brandwater Basin, Macdonald and B. Hamilton blocking Inguwooni and Golden Gate. The Black Watch, having captured a hill, were assisted by Rimington and Loval's scouts to keep it during a frosty night against the sneaking sniping foe. The Highland Light Infantry were compelled by the booming field pieces of the Boers to relinquish a steep hill above Retief s Nek, where we lost 5 killed of the Highland Light Infantry and 20 wounded; and the 2nd Royal Highlanders having 17 wounded on July 23rd; the next day's casualties were 5 hors de combat. Rundle co-operated by a demonstration against Commando Nek, closing up the southern exit from the Basin. The Sussex Regiment, after a pitiless night's march, joined Hunter in a bold attack on a hill commanding the Nek on the right, which however did not succeed, for the stubborn opponent was strongly entrenched in a natural fortress, as usual, giving no target. The two battalions joined at the junction of the roads to the two Neks, Stabbert's and Reliefs. The 79th Battery R. A., at 5,500 yards, located a belching Krupp in a deep fissure at the foot of rocky Zout Kop, and silenced it for a time; the Leinsters routed the vicious Mauser firers from a Kopje; the Staffordshires defied a blazing Maxim in maintaining the central position at Commando; the brave Scots Guards dared the buzzing bullets in occupying a donga only 1,500 yards from the Mauser volleys on Julys Kraal, with intermittent shells, segment and shrapnel, which even reached the Ficksburg garrison and a radius of ten miles. We could have silenced that spit-fire with lyddite. The Ficksburg Wesleyan Chapel was filled with fever cases.
Hunter then marched into evacuated Fouriesburg, where he found Mrs. Steyn, wife of the ex-President, and one hundred English soldiers imprisoned by C. De Wet, who was now "held up" on some high ridges near Reitzburg, seven miles south of the Vaal; but his younger brother Piet was taken with his followers and convoy near Kroonstad on the 26th.
Then came the reward of Hunter's long and hard-fought investment. After trying by messenger two or three times for terms, General Prinsloo (of whom we had not heard before) surrendered unconditionally at Naauwpoort on the 30th, with about 1,000 Boers, horses, ammunition, stores, &c. That was after the second Nek was captured by the Scots Greys, and the enemy found themselves in a tight corner. It was a second Paardeberg.
By the removal of the four-and-a-half months impasse in that quarter, 40,000 Imperial soldiers were freed for operations elsewhere.
Another item of consolation was the surrender at Bank Station, of the two officers and 23 men taken prisoners on the 19th, when their captors wrecked a train. The released men were taken to Krugersdorp.
Barton, having reconnoitred the railway to Bank Station, (where the train referred to was wrecked,) replenished the scant supplies of Methuen's column on the Potchefstroom railway; and the railway being opened to Heidelberg, our through communication with Natal was restored.
Another piece of good news was that when French and Hutton reached the high ground on the east bank of Oliphant's River on the 25th, they could see the enemy fleeing in disorder towards Middleburg, the road being blocked for miles with horsemen and waggons, their rear only seven miles off. Night was closing in wet, and a fagged army could not reach its prey. It was a terrible experience that night, a strong and bitter east wind driving the torrents of rain into our exposed bivouac. One officer (Lieut. Maclaren,) and three Highlanders, being minus their overcoats, died from exposure, and the mortality among the poor over-wrought and sod-dened mules and oxen was great. The wonder was that any one survived. But hardy Tommy made light of the night-long shiver and with the welcome dawn came up to parade with a smile.
And so we resumed our pursuit of the scattered troops of colonial rebels and hired scum, our painful tramp being through alternate dust and mud; we were blistered by day, frozen by night, with a huge convoy lumbering at our rear (driven by yelling niggers,) sniped at by heroes in rabbit holes and pelted by invisible creusots and pom-poms, the shells, hurtling with a whizz or roar overhead, and now and again with a brief prayer we buried a fallen comrade by the wayside, marking his lonely resting place with a pile of stones; while the chaplains, when they got the chance, tried to brace our courage with the assurance that we were preparing the way of the Lord, the Prince of Peace, and digging the foundations of the Kingdom of Righteousness, Peace and Joy.
Every train to Lorenzo Marques was daily full of scared Transvaalers, and boxes of gold still arrived there from Kruger for shipment to Holland.
General Clery, the tactician, encamped at Vlakfontein on the 26th, and on the way our guides were fired upon, but drove the attackers back. Clery, who belongs to Cork and is related to continental royalty, was taking a conspicuous lead in the advance to liberate our comrades a few miles further on the line.
The military scavengering of the frowsy, skulking villains in Pretoria and Johannesburg was, meanwhile, making for a more wholesome state of society there, and orderly burghers could with reason join in the Te Deums at the English Churches. There were influential Dutchmen who, if they could, would have rendered Mr. Kruger harmless as a prisoner and who regarded him now as the callous enemy of the Transvaal, hindering its peaceable settlement, and sacrificing its interests for his own miserable sordid ends — such men as Mr. Jacobus Smit, (the Chief Inspector of Railways,) Mr. L.. F. de Beers, (Chief Inspector of Offices,) Dr. Scholtz, (the well-known Colonial Physician,) Dr. Sohagan, and Mr. Van Leeuwen, (Judge of the Supreme Court,) who had formed a deputation to try to induce their venerable headman to surrender after his flight from Pretoria with near two millions of gold. The black-bearded, six foot Christian De Wet, said it would be infra dig. to " cave in" before his chief, and Botha's excuse for doggedly persisting in a useless waste of life was that his "honour" was bound up with the defence of his aged master. And so the gruesome carnage lingered on, at a military cost to Great Britain of three millions a day, and the question was gravely asked— Would it be over by the anniversary of the opening?
For there was news of reverses as well. Gen. Buller disappointed in not joining the advance before it reached Middleburg on the 27th, (he having to deal with the enemy at Vlaklaagte station, 10 miles north of Standerton,) and Baden Powell was surrounded by Delarey at Rustenburg. To defend Pretoria against the threatened incursion, Lord Roberts trained back thither the day General French entered Kruger's first retreat, and Pole-Carew gained Brugspruit. Capt. Legatt, with a construction train, was rapidly repairing the line for its use in following the Boers to Machadodorp and onwards.
An expedition burnt nine farms from which our troops were fired upon the previous Tuesday. . Mr. Kruger had run down to Barberton, to the south east of the line, to see his anxious wife and arrange for flight, then he returned to Watervalonder, whither the rolling stock of the railway had been removed on learning of our advance.
Kruger's private secretary having been to Delagoa Bay it was surmised that his Honour might find that exit from his pursuers the best, as the natives of Lyden-burg were not loyal to Krugerism. There were skirmishes between 300 of the burghers and Seccocoeni's kraalmen and the Boers were driven across the Steel Poort River; so, on the other side of the line, the Swazi Queen had repeatedly offered 14,000 dusky warriors to clear Barberton and Komati Poort of all the "brutal Dutchmen," but the Imperial General-in-Chief had requested her to be quiet. That road, however, seemed an unsafe one for the grey-haired fugitive by which to seek the port of embarkation.
The British prisoners at Nooitgedacht were crying out for deliverance from a painful bondage. 75 were sick, mostly from dysentery, and were being attended by doctors of a Russian ambulance.
As General Prinsloo was a sort of Field Marshal over several district commandos, numbering 5,000 men and 17 guns, the surrender of the rest of these men was hoped for and awaited by Generals Hunter and Rundle at their head-quarters on the wild rocky heights known as Slaap-krantz, eight miles south-east of Fouriesburg. The staff and a guard of honour supported the British flag in the midst of the camp. The guard was composed of the 2nd Scots, Yeomanry, Driscoll's Scouts, and Grenfell's Horse, who had all done such splendid service; and the regiments, several thousands strong, formed in double line, about a mile in extent, with a battery of the Eighth Division. The bands of the Leinsters, the pipers of the Scots, and the fifes and drums of the Munsters, with patriotic and lively music, celebrated the submission and cheered the spirits of the vanquished as they rode up and threw down their weapons.
Prinsloo at 9 a.m. rode in unarmed, his aide-de-camp carrying a white flag. He saluted, and the British Generals shook hands with him, cordially inviting him into one of their tents. He is a fine-looking, grey-bearded man, was well dressed, and rode a spirited charger. Afterwards arrived Commandants De Villiers and Crpwther with their burghers, and two Krupp g-pounders.
Next day arrived Commandants Deploy, Potgieter, Joubert, Rouse, and P. J. Fonternel, Lieut. Anderson Staats Artillery), and Commandant Vander Merwe. n all 4,140 names were taken with as many horses; of the three guns given up two belonged to the U Battery R. H. A. Ten waggon loads of ammunition were destroyed as useless and 195,000 rounds of cartridges. The Boer waggons and carts when passing through the Little Caledon Valley extended seven miles. The prisoners were at once sent to the Cape and transported to Ceylon.
Unfortunately Olivier did not feel bound to submit, and with five guns and a commando broke away eastward, being unheard of till the 15th of August, when General Hunter lost three men killed and 40 wounded in an engagement with him near Heilbron.
In a few days after, the slim De Wet (with whom was Mr. Steyn), managed to escape his pursuers once more, and crossed the Vaal.
One result of this flight was said to be that it gave opportunity for bringing up supplies, so that Rundle's force got full rations. According to Mr. A. G. Hales, of the London Daily News (whose statement was mentioned and not contradicted in the House of Commons), they had at times been half-starved while thousands of pounds of foodstuffs were rotting in warehouses at side stations.
The war drew its slow length along and seemed at times at a standstill, yet, as the song says, " We have the money and we have the men." On the 1st of August Parliament passed a Supplementary War Loan Bill which brought up the votes to sixty-one millions for estimates to the end of the previous February. As to men, the Under Secretary of War stated that the aggregate strength of the force in South Africa was 223,500, of whom 189,000 were Imperial troops. He also intimated that it was intended to garrison the country, at the end of the war, with 45,000 men, and that 15,000 others would remain there as colonists.
At the close of the Parliament, on August 8th, the Queen's speech, after referring to the annexation of the Orange Free State, expressed a "trust that this would be the first step towards the union of races under institutions which, while establishing from the outset good and just government for all, may be in time developed so as to secure equal rights and privileges in my South African dominions."
During this dull time, among the exploits of Boer raiders was railway and train-wrecking, and owing to the displacement of rails by them a sad accident occurred at Fredrickstad, 14 miles north of Potchefstroom, by which a supply train was derailed and 13 men of the Shropshire Light Infantry were killed and 39 injured. Smith-Dorrien, who knew of the damage to the line, had told off a patrol to warn any trains, but the warning somehow was not given. A Court of Inquiry investigated the matter.
Whilst French strengthened his position at Middle-burg, and Pole-Carew held the line thither (Paget afterwards garrisoning Waterval), Ian Hamilton's flying column returned through Pretoria and was after the Boers to the south and west of the capital. First he made for Rustenburg, and Lord Kitchener for Rhenoster, the former releasing Baden-Powell, and the latter trying to catch De Wet.
After making good the line of communication, so that stores could be sent up to Johannesburg and Pretoria, where food had been scarce through broken lines, General Buller at last was free to march in the direction of Komati Poort, Botha's base, to cut off supplies and the retreat in that direction—a march of a hundred miles, by way of Ermelo and Barberton.
Botha's wife, singular to say, was among the guests at a dinner party given by Lord Roberts at the Presidency on the 30th of July. She was a Miss Emmet, and belongs to a good Irish family. She was once the belle of the capital, Botha's farm being on the road to Middle-burg. Bobs, an Hibernian, scored a point in so honouring the Boer commander-in-chiefs amiable spouse.
For De Wet to capture British soldiers was absurd and cruel, seeing he was unable to locate them. The remnant of the ioth company of the Royal Engineers, taken by him on June 14th, were put over the Drakensberg, and reached Durban in a sorry plight. When convalescent they were added to the Colonial Mounted Police.
By the occupation of Harrismith by General Downing on August 8th, Olivier's chance of retreat by the Drakensberg seemed cut off. Here 684 Boers had surrendered up to August 19th.
General Knox, who drove the enemy from Rhenoster Kop, north of Kroonstad, on the 2nd of August, had to report the derailment of a train 20 miles south of Kroonstad, where four men were killed and three injured. At the request of Mr. Stowe, the American Consul-General, a passenger on his way to see Lord Roberts, the 40 men taken prisoners were liberated, among them being Colonel Lord Algernon Lennox. The trucks and stores were burnt by order of the notorious Captain Theron.
A sharp lesson was taught the Boers on the road to Vrede where one field cornet, De Lange, had carried off three neutrals against their will. Major Gough, with a detachment of Mounted Infantry and four guns, with two pom-poms, supported by infantry from Standerton, shelled De Lange and 300 Boers, scattering them in all directions, several being killed. His house was burnt and cattle seized. In some cases neutrals where whipped by the Boers, and commandants and others, freed to go home on passes, resumed arms against us. Lord Roberts, in consequence, decided to retain as prisoners all armed Burghers taken in future.
On the 7th of August Buller marched 18 miles—from Paardekop to the village of Amersfoort, which he occupied after ejecting Christian Botha's three district commandos (2,000 men and 10 guns) from the ridges above it with a loss, so far, of two officers and 23 men wounded. It was a running fire all the way. Lord Dundonald's cavalry made a wide detour to the left and the infantry went to the right, advancing in a seven miles front. Two miles from the Boer position the Gordons and King's Royal Rifles encountered the enemy's vanguard, and the struggle lasted from two to half-past five in the evening. It was found that burghers of the Wakkestroom district who surrendered to General Lyt-tleton and then " passed" to their farms, had been arrested as prisoners by the Boer leader because they refused to break their oath to us.
Buller reached Carolina and French's scouts on Aug. 14, being then within 40 miles of Botha's stronghold at Machadodorp, C. Botha joined his brother Louis.
Among our many failures was that of Ian Hamilton to reach Rustenburg in time to capture Delarey, and before Carrington could relieve Col. Hore's brave little garrison of 300 men at Elands River, Delarey with 6,000 men and two Creusots besieged them.
The valiant bushmen had wished for a tight place, and now had to stand a siege while Kitchener came up. In the end they were released with a dozen killed and more wounded.
Having, as we thought, cleared the West Transvaal of militant Dutchmen, it had been denuded of British troops, and now that Delarey, with Grobler, was making a stand there, awaiting De Wet's forces (now augmented to 3,000, with ten guns), it was intended apparently to make the contemplated daring attack on Pretoria. Carrington, over-matched, was driven from Zeerust and retired upon Mafeking, but was ordered back to save Zeerust.
As part of the Boer designs probably was a diabolical but clumsy plot discovered by the Pretorian police on the 7th of August. Lord Roberts put it briefly thus:— "A plot to carry me off discovered. It was clumsily conceived: Ringleaders and all concerned are now under arrest." The intention was said to be to set fire to houses in the west of the capital and in the confusion to seize the arms in the artillery barracks, assassinate the British officers in their quarters, and to carry off the Commander-in-chief to a Boer commando on the hills to the north of the town. The culprits were dealt with by Court Martial. In the trial of Lieut. Hans Cordua the ringleader, (a rather simple young ex-Staats Artilleryman), a letter in cipher was produced to the effect that General Botha had promised him help. Cordua was found guilty and shot. Many culprits were sent out- of the country.
From this conspiracy it was argued by leading English newspapers that the policy of leniency was found to be a mistake in the case of foresworn uncivilised rebels and low caitiff brigands, such as we were now dealing with as irreconcileables, that more stringent measures should be adopted to terminate hostilities by annexing the Transvaal and treating all in arms against the Queen as outlaws, whose property (if they had any) should be confiscated. Lord Roberts issued a more punitive proclamation to deal with such men.
The chasing of De Wet by Generals Kitchener, Methuen, and Smith-Dorrien lasted several days and was of an exciting kind, with occasional rearguard actions. At Schoolplaats, eight miles from Ventersdorp, on the 12th of August, De Wet blew up several of his waggons owing to the loss of oxen and had to leave 30 exhausted horses at a farmhouse. All his prisoners were released except the officers, (what a woful tramp they had had I) and Methuen captured one of his guns, after shelling the main convoy. Just when it was supposed Kitchener had him, the sprinter whisked off once more in the night, as, knowing the road well, darkness was no hindrance to his marching. Our generals, with from 30,000 to 80,000 soldiers, had now been hunting him for four months.
Steering north he had the bravado to summon Baden-Powell to surrender Commando Nek; but, seeing the hopelessness of an attack, he passed on the west towards the unconquered country to the north of Pretoria, followed by B. P. Then joining Delarey the combined commandos, with their convoys in front, hastened eastward with the intention of reaching the camp of their commander-in-chief for what was anticipated as the final stand, against the attack of Buller and French's forces. The Boers knew perfectly our plan of campaign and were adepts in signalling. In this purpose however they were frustrated by the hero of Mafeking.
On the 17th of August Ian Hamilton occupied Oliphant's Nek in the Magaliesberg, capturing two krupp guns, gun limbers and waggons, and Mahon on the Crocodile River took two waggons and seven Boers.
For a time it was annoying to contemplate that the Boer commandos, crossing the Pietersburg line, were likely to get on to the Delagoa railway, with a chance of reaching Botha. But by tremendous marching, averaging seventeen miles a day, Baden-Powell headed off the Von-Moltke hunter, and supported by General Paget, drove him back, succeeding in an engagement at Warm-baths, forty miles north of Pretoria, in capturing 100 British prisoners and 25 Boers, including three officers, and some waggons. De Wet then, with a small com-maado, and abandoning his convoy, rode through the Magaliesberg range by a bridle path, going south: for once he had been checkmated by a night march.
By the 23rd of August De Wet was co-operating with Delarey at Banks Station on the Potchefstroom line, which was blown up.
The identity of this remarkable man De Wet was for a' time under obscurity by correspondents confounding him with the Cambridge B.A. of the same name, a much younger man who was for a time the Pretorian Press Censor at the opening of the war. The " Christiaan" who was such a splendid man of chase was of middle age and middle stature, and was a plain farmer who knew nothing of soldiering beyond sport, like that at Sanaa's Post—a trap into which we blundered most egregiously. His chief scout was a Scotchman, in khaki, known as Jack, who managed to enter our camps with a British pass.
Buller by the 23rd of August had reached the Komati Valley, where General Kitchener (brother of Lord Kitchener) drove off a considerable force of the enemy.
The Boer line of detachments extended from Belfast to Crocodile River, 160 miles, with 4,000 in an entrenched position at Dalmanutha near Machadodorp, and 18 guns had passed through Nooitgedacht in readiness to meet an attack from Komati Poort.
Lord Roberts on August 24th arrived at Wonderfontein, within 22 miles of Machadodorp, Buller being at Leeuwkloof, six miles from Dalmanutha, and French's cavalry (four brigades) on the east of Machadodorp, while Pole-Carew was at Belfast; thus the Boer position was being invested. The enemy occupied the ridges between Belfast and Dalmanutha. On the day before, Buller had an artillery victory over the long range 15-pounder and pom-poms of the Boers. When the pickets were placed for the night, by some mistake two companies of the Liverpool regiment advanced about 1,500 yards into a hollow out of sight of the main body, where they were pelted by Mausers, 10 being shot dead, 45 wounded, and 32 captured. Three other men were killed during the day and several others wounded.
Pole-Carew lost 14 men wounded in occupying Belfast on the 24th. Next day he was joined by Lord Roberts and his staff, our commander-in-chief taking the direction of operations in an attack on the Boer position the day after, extending over a perimeter of nearly thirty miles, and lasting all day.-
Lyttleton's Division, with two brigades of cavalry, under Buller, worked on the south-west of Dalmanutha; French, with two brigades of cavalry, moving north by the west of Belfast, drove the enemy to Lekenoly, on the Belfast-Lydenburg road, and Pole-Carew advanced with the Guards' Brigade of the Eleventh Division in support.
The enemy were in strong force with an enormous power of guns of largest calibre as well as quick-firing, and made a determined stand as was expected. The hilly nature of the country favoured them. The issue of the day was inconclusive, and the penalty we paid was small. The next day, Monday, August 27th, the struggle was resumed and we took Bergendal, about three miles west of Dalmanutha, and considering that we had to cross an open glacis for two or three thousand yards and the determined opposition of the pom-poms and other machinery, our losses were moderate. Twenty dead Boers were found on the field. The Inniskilling Fusiliers and the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade were the attacking party, and the latter suffered most in doubling over the last five hundred yards, making a magnificent bayonet charge on a boulder-strewn kopje surrounded by trees. The Johannesburg police were overthrown, and we made their commandant prisoner. Our pom-poms arid lyddite did great execution for three hours and at the end of the day pelted the runaways.
French advanced to Zwartkopjes on the Lydenburg road, preparing the way for Pole-Carew's movement on Tuesday and then via Elandsfontein they made for Kruger at Waterval Onder.
Lieut-Col. Ridley I.Y., with 250 mounted men and 25 infantry, was reconnoitring at Winburg in the Orange River Colony, when Olivier made his appearance with 1,000 Boers and two guns. Hunter was hurried to Kroonstad, and Bruce Hamilton dashed off thence by train with a brigade. Result: the little force was saved and General Olivier, son of the soil, a free lance, and the victor at Stormberg, was caught, and his three sons, on August 26th, in a donga by a scout of eight men, in a plucky coup.
Baden-Powell, having reached Nylstroom, in the thick veldt of the Pietersburg railway valley, was ordered back to Pretoria, finding no opposition. Grobler's force was squandered, Delarey not to be found, and Steyn had reached brother Kruger, (ready for a sail said some), while Lydenburg was again prepared for the "final" retreat.
Eruptions of hostilities in North Natal and the Brand-water Basin of the Orange River Colony, showed that the Boers were not quite suppressed yet, and guerilla De Wet turned up at Heilbron and then at Winburg, determined to be the last patriot left in the field.
Buller occupied Machadodorp on August 28th and the Boers fled on the Lydenburg road, followed by Dundonald's mounted troops; but the rocky fastnesses beyond Helvetia were no arena for cavalry.
Lord Methuen's force arrived at Mafeking on August 28th to re-equip and were joined by the Elands River garrison who walked in, having lost their horses in the siege at Elands. Theron was rampant south of Johannesburg, and Ladybrand and Ficksburg were now threatened by raiders.
The advance of Lord Roberts was continued on the 29th, when the south African Light Horse, after some slight opposition, entered Waterval Boven, driving a scattered remnant of the enemy through the town, while French's cavalry reached Doornhoek, overlooking Waterval Onder, (eight miles from Machadodorp), encountering only a few parting shots.
Through mist and rain Buller approached Nooitgedacht next day to find that 1,800 British prisoners had been liberated, and were marching towards our camp. It was a sorry spectacle; they were very badly clothed, some half-starved, many scarcely able to walk from weakness and sickness. Doctors with the ambulance hastened forward to pick up and tend the feeblest. A few officers escaped, but most of them had the day before been taken with the fugitive commandos to the entrenched laager at Barberton, (about 40 miles south east) and Kruger Steyn, Botha, Schalk, Meyer, Burger, Viljoen and Dr. Hayman, with officials and a body guard, had gone by train to Nelspruit station (50 miles).
Prisoners had been given up by Grobler and others, so that less than a thousand of our men, it was computed, were now in captivity.
Twenty-one boxes of gold arrived at Lorenzo Marques on August 29th, and specie of the value of £130,000 was sent to Holland by the Crown Prince steamer that day. Eloff, one of Mr. Kruger's grandsons, had charge of fifteen cases of bullion.
Being short of ammunition burghers were required to give up their mausers till a fresh supply was to hand.
By Saturday, the 1st of September, General Buller had reached Badfontein, 17 miles from Lydenburg, whither a commando had hastened from the last battle in order to protect the hoarded supplies there.
The Transvaal was annexed on the 1st of September by proclamation: so ended the chequered history of the South African Republic of nearly seventy years.
But for a while it merely converted the enemy into a rebel, as the fighting was not over by any means.
Plumer, with a small force, mastered Commandant Pretorius east of Pienaars River and took 1,000 cattle, 31 waggons, 26 prisoners and 90 Martini rifles, with the Boer families, which we also had to keep. Major Brooke, R. E. had a victory at Kraai railway station and General Hart at Johannesburg waterworks. There was a skirmish at Rooi Kop, in which we were on the winning side, taking 100 rifles, 40,000 rounds of ammunition, seven prisoners, 350 head of cattle, and three waggon loads of supplies. Plumer was credited with a third victory near Warmbaths, and there was a surrender of a band of men, women and children, with waggons, carts, sheep, and cattle, at the first station east of Pretoria.
Krugersdorp had to be reconquered, as well as Lady-brand, whither Hunter hastened to relieve the garrison against Commandants Fourie, Grobler, Lemmer, Haase-brock, and Theron—the last-named being shot through the head by a pom-pom a few days after.
In a reconnaissance towards the Boer position where the road passes over the mountains overlooking Lydenburg, General Buller found Botha had taken the command of 2,000 Boers, with three Long Toms at the pass. Ian Hamilton was sent with a column on the Belfast-Dielstroom road to turn the enemy's flank, and this necessitated a delay in the advance. Brocklehurst's cavalry brigade joined in the march. The result was the flight of the Boers on September 7th, and our unchallenged occupation of the town which had been described as an impregnable fortress. More than that, when our flag was hoisted at the court house there were British residents ready to salute it with a hearty cheer. As if ashamed of their cowardice the nondescript warriors returned to the heights with some guns, and bombarded the town for two hours, afterwards clearing off. towards Krugerspost and Spitzkop, 15 N. and 22 miles E. distant respectively, whither we followed them with frequent engagements. It was literally a rout, and we captured 300,000 lbs. of supplies and about 300 boxes of ammunition. The road was execrably rough—a geologic chaos of rocks and chasms, so that the cattle employed had an awful time of it. We occupied Machberg on the 7th, and next day Klipgat, capturing goods, ammunition, and gun tackle, and halted at Spitzkop to accept surrenders and receive supplies.
With General French marching on Barberton (where Mrs. Kruger was reported to be too ill to travel), ex-President Kruger felt his quarters at Nelspruit insecure, and he retreated by the only way open—to Delagoa Bay, with a large staff of satellites in his pay, including Secretary Reitz with the Government archives, his deputy Piet Grobler, and Auditor-General Marais. In two special trains these refugees arrived at a seaside station and reached the Bay by boat, driving to the house of Mr. Potts, the Transvaal consul, over which hung the republic's flag. £1,500,000 sterling was deposited in the local banks, and while the exiled Hollander officials, numbering sixty, lived in luxury at hotels, 3,000 Transvaal refugees, including widows and orphans, were left to starve in the streets unless befriended by the British and Portuguese. As to the loot and State documents, a movement was set on foot at Cape Town and at Johannesburg for steps to be taken to recover the same or compensation. In the Cape Parliament on Sept. 24th the Premier, Sir Gordon Sprigg, declared " Kruger is not only a capitalist but a thief."
Owing to representations from the British Government Mr. Kruger had to remove to the house of the Portuguese Governor, (where he was forbidden to see anyone) until he left the port. The story was invented that Mr. Kruger had resigned his post for six months, leaving the "keys of office" with Mr. Schalk Burger (a neophyte and nobody), to get the Powers of Europe to intervene for " autonomy for the States under the Queen's sovereignty," which everybody knew was impossible. So the much-worried old man, with failing eyesight, as a prisoner in reality, awaited a Dutch man-of-war to convey him and his servants to Amsterdam, to which the British Government offered no objection.
Major-General Baden-Powell was appointed as head of the Transvaal Police, and the guerilla desperados still afflicting various parts of the country were now criminals to be run down by a mounted constabulary, with the aid of the military.
Lord Roberts issued a proclamation in English and Dutch calling upon all burghers in arms to cease hostilities, seeing its futility and the trouble it inflicted upon the country. 15,000 Boers were captives till there was peace.
Louis Botha (on the score of ill-health) handed over his command to Ben Viljoen, who moved from Hector Spruit (two stations from Komati Poort),—whence Mr. Steyn had suddenly descended on his mercenaries at Nelspruit to quell a riot—with 3,000 men and 30 guns—the remains of the recognised Boer army, who went northward towards the Selati district, accompanied by Mr. Reitz, who had returned as Mr. Steyn's comrade.
Trouble was feared from Boers and Irish-Americans fleeing into Portuguese territory, hence large troops of Portuguese soldiers arrived to keep the peace.
The disruption of the enemy was seen at Barberton, where we seized the fortress and depot with valuable stores, waggons, 43 locomotives and rolling stock, besides cattle and 100 Boers, with slight opposition, and liberated the Britishers in prison. Similar seizures were made in other places, as many as 28,000 head of cattle and sheep being taken in a few days, besides horses, rifles, and ammunition. In fact our advance was unopposed. Nelspruit being occupied on Sept. 17th by Stephenson's brigade, and Kaap Muiden on the 19th; then on to Komati Poort and the border of Portuguese territory. About 2,000 Boers and 700 Irish-Americans and rebel Cape-colonists preferred surrendering to the Portuguese after blowing up their Long-Toms and destroying much of their stores. Thirteen guns, more or less damaged, were found in the Crocodile River. On the Selati railway eight miles of rolling stock was taken. Viljoen and C. Botha, with a small following, trekked across.the Sabie River northward.
To facilitate submission Lord Roberts issued a proclamation that those who surrendered would not be sent out of the country.
A number of Boer officials sailed from Delagoa on Sept. 26th for Holland.
Colonial troops were now sent home, followed by volunteer battalions, like the London City Imperials, in due course.
In the last week of September happened the first serious casualty to a transport. We lost 930 horses by the foundering of the " Suffolk " off Klipper Point en route to Port Elizabeth, but the men on board were picked up by the " Lake Erie."
While Kruger was at Lorenzo Marques that place was not a pleasant one to live in. Though the surrendered warriors — many of them gaunt, unkempt, ragged villains, were safe in barracks, till shipped off to Europe at Kruger's expense, the influx of people of various nationalities from the Transvaal made food dear, and increased the bad reputation of the port for disorder owing to free trade in intoxicants and the habit of associating drink with business, so that it was a common thing to see men inebriated before noon.
Our troops on the border were now being fed by the British Consul at the Bay. Objection could not be taken to this by any one after the free use of the port by the Boers. If we had stopped the importation there of armaments and stores for the Transvaal a year before, the war could not have lasted six months.
Kruger's lodgings were at Reuben Point, in the elevated residential part of the town, faced on three sides by the sea, while the old portion of the town is on the low land on the north side of the magnificent bay, which, as the port of the Transvaal, it is thought Great Britain will acquire.
Kruger, it was asserted, blamed Steyn for not submitting after the British occupation of Machadodorp, and if the latter's subsequent conduct is explained by a hope of intervention through the General Election in the United Kingdom, he must have been more gullable than his comrade, who now virtually laid down his arms, for the election, albeit it criticised freely the mismanagement of the war and our unpreparedness for it, in no instance, worth mentioning, showed a constituency's opinion adverse to annexation and British supremacy. The only point in dispute was, which party should be entrusted with the settlement of the new South African colonies, and this matter resolved itself into the question —should there be an immediate representative government, and if so, what should be the franchise. It is true, some Ministerialists asserted that the Liberals, if they had a majority, would reinstate the Republics, or give them independence under our suzerainty (as the Boers now wanted,) but this was merely electioneering claptrap.
Another reason given for Steyn's continued resistance (with the sanction of Kruger's coterie) was the hope that if Mr. Bryan was elected President of the United States, on Nov. 6th, he would use his influence with great Britain on behalf of the Boers. The grounds for this supposition were alleged to be the large sums of Boer money sent to help Bryan and buy American sympathy. Mr. C. E. Macrum, when U. S. Consul at Pretoria, had received £15,000; Mr. Webster Davis (a U.S. Under Secretary of State,) £25,000, and Mr. Montagu White, Consul in London for the Transvaal Republic, £200,000 for this purpose. It was with Macrum that Mr. Hollis, U. S. Consul at Lorenzo Marques, intrigued for the reception of provisions for the Boers during the war, so that the Secretary of the United States sent his own son, Mr. A. S. Hay, to supercede the latter, a tool of Reitz.
Anyhow, with the progress of October came an eruption of hostilities, in various parts. Mr. Kruger, at an early hour on the 19th, embarked secretly on board the Dutch cruiser Gelderland, accompanied by Mr. ElofF (a grandson-in-law,) Dr. Heymann and Mr. Bredell, his secretary, and sailed the next day for Europe.
Dr. Leyds arranged for the Peace Delegates (Messrs. Wolmarans, Wessels and Co.,) and the Refugee Transvaal State officials, to receive Mr. Kruger at Marseilles, with a view to a " triumphal procession" to Brussels, which was a foolish and futile attempt to influence the British Government and a breach of faith with the Dutch Government.