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Title: With the Boer Forces
Author: Hillegas, Howard C.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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WITH
THE BOER FORCES

BY

HOWARD C. HILLEGAS


AUTHOR OF "OOM PAUL'S PEOPLE," AND CORRESPONDENT OF
"THE NEW YORK WORLD"


WITH TWENTY-THREE ILLUSTRATIONS AND A PLAN


METHUEN & CO.
36 ESSEX STREET W.C.
LONDON
1900


[Illustration: COMMANDANT-GENERAL LOUIS BOTHA]



PREFACE


In the following pages I have endeavoured to present an accurate picture
of the Boers in war-time. My duties as a newspaper correspondent carried
me to the Boer side, and herein I depict all that I saw. Some parts of my
narrative may not be pleasing to the British reader; others may offend the
sensibilities of the Boer sympathisers. I have written truthfully, but
with a kindly spirit and with the intention of presenting an unbiased
account of the struggle as it was unfolded to the view from the Boer side.
I shall be criticised, no doubt, for extolling certain virtues of the
Boers, but it must be noticed that their shortcomings are not neglected in
these lines.

In referring to Boer deeds of bravery I do not mean to insinuate that all
British soldiers were cowards any more than I mean to imply that all Boers
were brave, but any man who has been with armies will acknowledge that
bravery is not the exclusive property of the peoples of one nation. The
Boers themselves had thousands of examples of the bravery of their
opponents, and it was not an extraordinary matter to hear burghers express
their admiration of deeds of valour by the soldiers of the Queen. The
burghers, it may be added, were not bitter enemies of the British soldiers,
and upon hundreds of occasions they displayed the most friendly feeling
toward members of the Imperial forces. The Boer respected the British
soldier's ability, but the same respect was not vouchsafed to the British
officer, and it was not unreasonable that a burgher should form such an
opinion of the leaders of his enemy, for the mistakes of many of the
British officers were so frequent and costly that the most unmilitary man
could easily discern them. On that account the Boers' respect for the
British soldier was not without its mixture of pity.

There are those who will assert that there was no goodness in the Boers and
that they conducted the war unfairly, but I shall make no attempt to deny
any of the statements on those subjects. My sympathies were with the Boers,
but they were not so strong that I should tell untruths in order to whiten
the Boer character. There were thieves among them--I had a horse and a pair
of field-glasses stolen from me on my first journey to the front--but that
does not prove that all the Boers were wicked. I spent many weeks with
them, in their laagers, commandos, and homes, and I have none but the
happiest recollections of my sojourn in the Boer country. The generals and
burghers, from the late Commandant-General Joubert to the veriest Takhaar,
were extremely courteous and agreeable to me, and I have nothing but praise
for their actions. In all my experiences with them I never saw one maltreat
a prisoner or a wounded man, but, on the contrary, I observed many of their
acts of kindness and mercy to their opponents.

I have sought to eliminate everything which might have had a bearing on
the causes of the war, and in that I think I have succeeded. In my former
book, dealing with the Boers in peaceful times, I gave my impressions of
the political affairs of the country, and a closer study of the subject
has not caused me to alter my opinions. Three years before the war began,
I wrote what has been almost verified since--

    "The Boers will be able to resist and to prolong the campaign for
    perhaps eight months or a year, but they will finally be obliterated
    from among the nations of the earth. It will cost the British Empire
    much treasure and many lives, but it will satisfy those who caused it,
    the South African politicians and speculators."

The first part of the prediction has been realised, but at the present
time there is no indication that the Boer nation will be extinguished so
completely or so suddenly, unless the leaders of the burghers yield to
their enemy's forces before all their powers and means of resistance have
been exhausted. If they will continue to fight as men who struggle for the
continued existence of their country and government should fight, and as
they have declared they will go on with the war, then it will be three
times eight months or three times a year before peace comes to South
Africa. Presidents Kruger and Steyn have declared that they will continue
the struggle for three years, and longer if necessary. De Wet will never
yield as long as he has fifty burghers in his commando, and Botha will
fight until every British soldier has been driven from South African soil.
Hundreds of the burghers have made even firmer resolutions to continue the
war until their cause is crowned with victory. There may be some among
them who fought and are fighting because they despise Britons and British
rule, but the vast majority are on commando because they firmly believe
that Great Britain is attempting to take their country and their
government from them by the process of theft which we enlightened
Anglo-Saxons of America and England are wont to style "benevolent
assimilation." They feel that they have the right to govern their country
in accordance with their own ideas of justice and equality, and,
naturally, they will continue to fight until they are victorious, or might
asserts itself over their conception of right. If they have the power to
make Great Britain feel that their cause is just, as our forefathers in
America did a hundred years ago, then the Boers have vindicated themselves
and their actions in their own eyes and in the eyes of the world. If they
lack in the patriotism which men who fight for the life of their country
usually possess, then the Boers of South Africa will be exterminated from
among the nations of the world and no one will offer any sympathy to them.

We Anglo-Saxons of America and Great Britain have a habit of calling our
enemies by names which would arouse the fighting blood of the most
peaceable individual, and when there is a Venezuelan question to be
discussed we do not hesitate to practice this custom, born of our
blood-alliance, by making each other the subjects of the vituperative
attacks. During the Spanish-American war we made most uncomplimentary
remarks concerning our short-lived enemy, and more recently we have been
emphasising the vices of our _protégés_, the Filipinos, with a scornful
disregard of their virtues. The Boers, however, have had a greater burden
to bear. They have had cast at them the shafts of British vituperation and
the lyddite of American venom. In a few instances the lyddite was far more
harrowing than the shafts, and in the vast majority of instances both were
born of ignorance. There are unclean, uncouth, and unregenerate Boers, and
I doubt whether any one will stultify himself by declaring that there are
none such of Britons and Americans. I have been among the Boers in times
of peace and in times of war, and I have always failed to see that they
were in any degree lower than the men of like rank or occupation in
America or England. The farmers in Rustenburg probably never saw a dress
suit or a _décolleté_ gown, but there are innumerable regions in America
and Great Britain where similarly dense ignorance prevails. I have been in
scores of American and British homes which were not more spotlessly clean
than some of the houses on the veld in which it was my pleasure to find a
night's entertainment, and nowhere, except in my own home, have I ever
been treated with more courtesy than that which was extended to me, a
perfect stranger, in scores of daub and wattle cottages in the Free State
and the Transvaal. I will not declare that every Boer is a saint, or that
every one is a model of cleanliness or virtue, but I make bold to say that
the majority of the Boers are not a fraction less moral, cleanly, or
virtuous than the majority of Americans or Englishmen, albeit they may be
less progressive and less handsome in appearance than we imagine ourselves
to be.

As I have stated, the politics of the war has found no part in the
following pages, and an honest effort has been made to give an impartial
account of the proceedings as they unfolded themselves before the eyes of
an American. The struggle is one which was brought about by the
politicians, but it will probably be ended by the layman who wields a
sword, and who knows nothing of the intricacies of diplomacy. The Boers
desire to gain nothing but their countries' independence; the British have
naught to lose except thousands of valuable lives if they continue in
their determination to erase the two nations. Unless the Boers soon decide
to end the war voluntarily, the real struggle will only begin when the
Imperial forces enter the mountainous region in the north-eastern part of
the Transvaal, and then General Lucas Meyer's prophecy that the bones of
one hundred thousand British soldiers will lay bleaching on the South
African veld before the British are victorious may be more than realised.

One word more. The English public is generous, and will not forget that
the Boers are fighting in the noblest of all causes--the independence of
their country. If Englishmen will for a moment place themselves in the
position of the Boers, if they will imagine their own country overrun by
hordes of foreign soldiers, their own inferior forces gradually driven
back to the wilds of Wales and Scotland, they will be able to picture to
themselves the feelings of the men whom they are hunting to death. Would
Englishmen in these circumstances give up the struggle? They would not;
they would fight to the end.

                                                    HOWARD C. HILLEGAS.
NEW YORK CITY,
    August 1, 1900.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER I.

THE WAY TO THE BOER COUNTRY

The Blockade at Delagoa Bay--Lorenzo Marques in war-time--Portuguese
tax-raising methods--The way to the Transvaal--Koomatipoort, the Boer
threshold--The low-veld or fever country--Old-time battlefields--The Boer
capital and its scenes--The city of peace and its inhabitants.


CHAPTER II.

FROM FARM TO BATTLEFIELD

The old-time lions and lion-hunters and the modern types--Lion-hunting
expeditions of the Boers--The conference between the hunters and the
lions--The great lion-hunt of 1899-1900--Departure to the hunting-grounds.


CHAPTER III.

COMPOSITION OF THE ARMY

Burghers, not soldiers--Home-sickness in the laagers--Boys in
commandos--The Penkop Regiment--Great-grandfathers in battles--The Takhaar
burghers--Boers' unfitness for soldiering--Their uniforms--Comfort in the
laagers--Prayers and religious fervour in the army.


CHAPTER IV.

THE ARMY ORGANISATION

The election of officers--Influences which assert themselves--Civil
officials the leaders in war--The Krijgsraad and its verdicts--Lack of
discipline among the burghers--Generals calling for volunteers to go into
battle--Boers' scouting and intelligence departments.


CHAPTER V.

THE BOER MILITARY SYSTEM

The disparity between the forces--A national and natural system of
fighting--Every burgher a general--The Boers' mobility--The retreat of the
three generals from Cape Colony--Difference in Boer and British
equipment--Boer courage exemplified.


CHAPTER VI.

THE BOERS IN BATTLE

Fighting against forces numerically superior--The battle at
Sannaspost--The trek towards the enemy--The scenes along the route--The
night trek--Finding the enemy, and the disposition of the forces in the
spruit and on the hills--The dawn of day and the preparation for
battle--The Commandant-General fires the first shot--The battle in
detail--Friend and foe sing "Soldiers of the Queen."


CHAPTER VII.

THE GENERALS OF THE WAR

Farmer-generals who were without military experience--A few who studied
military matters--Leaders chosen by the Volksraad--Operating in familiar
territory--Joubert's part in the campaign--His failure in Natal--His death
and its influence--General Cronje, the Lion of Pochefstroom, and his
career--General Botha and his work as successor of Joubert--Generals
Meyer, De Wet, and De la Rey, with narratives concerning each.


CHAPTER VIII.

THE WAR PRESIDENTS

The Boers' real leader in peace and in war--Bismarck's opinion of
Kruger--The President's duties in Pretoria--His visits to the laagers and
the influence he exerted over the disheartened burghers--His oration over
Joubert's body--His opinion of the British, and of those whom he blamed
for the war--His departure from Pretoria--President Steyn and his work
during the war.


CHAPTER IX.

FOREIGNERS IN THE WAR

The soldier of fortune in every war--The fascination which attracts men to
fight--The Boers' view of foreigners--The influx of foreigners into the
Boer country in search of loot, commissions, fame, and experience--Few
foreigners were of great assistance--The oath of allegiance--Number of
foreigners in the Boer army--The various legions and their careers.


CHAPTER X.

BOER WOMEN IN THE WAR

Boer women's glorious heritage--Their part in the political arena before
the war--Urged the men to fight for their independence--Assisting their
embarrassed government in furnishing supplies to the army--Helping the
poor, the wounded, and the prisoners--Sending relatives back to the
ranks--Women taking part in battles--Asking the Government for permission
to fight.


CHAPTER XI.

INCIDENTS OF THE WAR

Amusing tales told and retold by the burghers--Boy-burghers at
Magersfontein capture Highlanders' rifles--The Takhaar at Colenso, who
belonged to "Rhodes' Uncivilised Boer Regiment"--Photographers in
battle--The heliographers at the Tugela amusing themselves--Joubert's
story of the Irishman who wanted to be sent to Pretoria--The value of
credentials in warfare as shown by an American burgher's escapade--The
amusing flight after the fall of Bloemfontein.


APPENDIX.

THE STRENGTH OF THE BOER ARMY



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


COMMANDANT-GENERAL LOUIS BOTHA
(_Photograph by R. Steger, Pretoria._)


GENERAL LUCAS J. MEYER
  (_Photograph by Leo Weinthal, Pretoria._)


BATTLEFIELD OF COLENSO, DECEMBER 15, 1899
  (_Photograph by R. Steger, Pretoria._)


BOERS WATCHING THE FIGHT AT DUNDEE
  (_Photograph by Reginald Sheppard, Pretoria._)


ELECTING A FIELD-CORNET
  (_Photograph by the Author._)


KRIJGSRAAD, NEAR THABA N'CHU
  (_Photograph by the Author._)


BOER COMMANDANTS READING MESSAGE FROM BRITISH OFFICERS AFTER THE BATTLE OF
DUNDEE
  (_Photograph by Reginald Sheppard._)


GENERAL GROBLER
  (_Photograph by the Author._)


SPION KOP, WHERE BOERS CHARGED UP THE HILLSIDE
  (_Photograph by Reginald Sheppard._)


PLAN OF BATTLEFIELD OF SANNASPOST
  (_Drawn by the Author under supervision of General Christian De Wet._)


VILLAGE AND MOUNTAIN OF THABA N'CHU
  (_Photograph by the Author._)


THE AUTHOR, AND A BASUTO PONY WHICH ASSISTED IN THE FIGHT AT SANNASPOST
  (_Photograph by T.F. Millard, New York._)


CALLING FOR VOLUNTEERS TO MAN CAPTURED CANNON AFTER SANNASPOST
  (_Photograph by the Author._)


COMMANDANT-GENERAL CHRISTIAN H. DE WET
  (_With Facsimile of his Signature._)


GENERAL PETER DE WET
  (_Photograph by the Author._)


GENERAL JOHN DE LA REY
  (_Photograph by the Author._)


PRESIDENT KRUGER ADDRESSING AMERICAN VOLUNTEERS
  (_Photograph by R. Steger._)


BATTLEFIELD OF ELANDSLAAGTE
  (_Photograph by Van Hoepen._)


COLONEL JOHN E. BLAKE, OF THE IRISH BRIGADE
  (_Photograph by Leo Weinthal._)


MRS. GENERAL LUCAS J. MEYER
  (_Photograph by Leo Weinthal._)


MRS. OTTO KRANTZ, A BOER AMAZON
  (_Photograph by R. Steger._)


MRS. COMMANDANT-GENERAL LOUIS BOTHA
  (_Photograph by Leo Weinthal, Pretoria._)


GENERAL HENDRIK SNYMAN


FIRST BRITISH PRISONERS OF WAR CAPTURED NEAR DUNDEE
  (_Photograph by Reginald Sheppard._)



CHAPTER I

THE WAY TO THE BOER COUNTRY


Immediately after war was declared between Great Britain and the Boers of
the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, the two South African republics
became ostracised, in a great measure, from the rest of the civilised
world. The cables and the great ocean steamship lines, which connected
South Africa with Europe and America, were owned by British companies, and
naturally they were employed by the British Government for its own
purposes. Nothing which might in any way benefit the Boers was allowed to
pass over these lines and, so far as it was possible, the British
Government attempted to isolate the republics so that the outside world
could have no communication of any sort with them. With the exception of a
small strip of coast-land on the Indian ocean, the two republics were
completely surrounded by British territory, and consequently it was not a
difficult matter for the great Empire to curtail the liberties of the
Boers to as great an extent as it was pleasing to the men who conducted
the campaign. The small strip of coast-land, however, was the property of
a neutral nation, and, therefore, could not be used for British purposes
of stifling the Boer countries, but the nation which "rules the waves"
exhausted every means to make the Boers' air-hole as small as possible by
placing a number of warships outside the entrance of Delagoa Bay, and by
establishing a blockade of the port of Lorenzo Marques.

Lorenzo Marques, in itself, was valueless to the Boers, for it had always
been nothing more than a vampire feeding upon the Transvaal, but as an
outlet to the sea and as a haven for foreign ships bearing men, arms, and
encouragement it was invaluable. In the hands of the Boers Delagoa Bay
would have been worse than useless, for the warships could have taken
possession of it and sealed it tightly on the first day of the war, but as
a Portuguese possession it was the only friend that the Boers were able to
find during their long period of need. Without it, the Boers would have
been unable to hold any intercourse with foreign countries, no envoys
could have been despatched, no volunteers could have entered the country,
and they would have been ignorant of the opinion of the world--a factor in
the brave resistance against their enemy which was by no means
infinitesimal. Delagoa Bay was the Boers' one window through which they
could look at the world, and through which the world could watch the brave
struggle of the farmer-citizens of the veld-republics.

The Portuguese authorities at Delagoa Bay long ago established a
reputation for adroitness in extracting revenues whenever and wherever it
was possible to find a stranger within their gates, but the war afforded
them such excellent opportunities as they had never enjoyed before. Being
the gate of the Boer country was a humanitarian privilege, but it also was
a remunerative business, and never since Vasco de Gama discovered the port
were so many choice facilities afforded for increasing the revenue of the
colony. Nor was the Latin's mind wanting in concocting schemes for filling
the Portuguese coffers when the laws were lax on the subject, for it was
the simplest arrangement to frame a regulation suitable for every new
condition that arose. The Portuguese were willing to be the medium between
the Boers and the people of other parts of the earth, but they asked for
and received a large percentage of the profits.

When the mines of the Johannesburg gold district were closed down, and the
Portuguese heard that they would no longer receive a compulsory
contribution of four shillings from every native who crossed the border to
work in the mines, the officials felt uneasy on account of the great
decrease in the amount of public revenues, but it did not worry them for
any great length of time. They met the situation by imposing a tax of
eight shillings upon every one of the thousands of natives who returned
from the mines to their homes in Portuguese territory. About the same time
the Uitlanders from the Transvaal reached Lorenzo Marques, and, in order
to calm the Portuguese mind, every one of the thousands of men and women
who took part in that exodus was compelled to pay a transit tax, ranging
from eight shillings to a sovereign, according to the size of the tip
tendered to the official.

When the van of the foreign volunteers reached the port there was a new
situation to be dealt with, and again the principle of "When in doubt
impose a tax" was satisfactorily employed. Men who had just arrived in
steamers, and who had never seen Portuguese territory, were obliged to
secure a certificate, indicating that they had not been inhabitants of the
local jail during the preceding six months; a certificate from the
consular representative of their country, showing that they possessed good
characters; another from the Governor-General to show that they did not
purpose going into the Transvaal to carry arms; a fourth from the local
Transvaal consul to indicate that he held no objections to the traveller's
desire to enter the Boer country; and one or two other passports equally
weighty in their bearing on the subject were necessary before a person was
able to leave the town. Each one of these certificates was to be secured
only upon the payment of a certain number of thousand reis and at an
additional expenditure of time and nervous energy, for none of the
officials could speak a word of any language except Portuguese, and all
the applicants were men of other nationalities and tongues. The
expenditure in connection with the certificates was more than a sovereign
for every person, and as there were thousands of travellers into the Boer
countries while the war continued the revenues of the Government were
correspondingly great. To crown it all, the Portuguese imposed the same
tax upon all travellers who came into the country from the Transvaal with
the intention of sailing to other ports. The Government could not be
charged with favouritism in the matter of taxation, for every man, woman,
and child who stepped on Portuguese soil was similarly treated. There was
no charge for entering the country, but the jail yawned for him who
refused to pay when leaving it.

Not unlike the patriots in Cape Town and Durban, the hotel and shopkeepers
of Lorenzo Marques took advantage of the presence of many strangers and
made extraordinary efforts to secure the residue of the money which did
not fall into the coffers of the Government. At the Cardoza Hotel, the
only establishment worthy of the name, a tax of a sovereign was levied for
sleeping on a bare floor; drivers of street cabs scorned any amount less
than a golden sovereign for carrying one passenger to the consulates;
lemonades were two shillings each at the kiosks; and physicians charged
three pounds a call when travellers remained in the town several days and
contracted the deadly coast-fever. At the Custom House duties of ten
shillings were levied upon foreign flags, unless the officer was liberally
tipped, in which event it was not necessary to open the luggage. It was a
veritable harvest for every one who chose to take advantage of the
opportunities offered, and there were but few who did not make the
foreigners their victims.

The blockade by the British warships placed a premium upon dishonesty, and
of those who gained most by it the majority were British subjects. The
vessels which succeeded in passing the blockading warships were invariably
consigned to Englishmen, and without exception these were unpatriotic
enough to sell the supplies to agents employed by the Transvaal
Government. Just as Britons sold guns and ammunition to the Boers before
the war, these men of the same nation made exorbitant profits on supplies
which were necessary to the burgher army. Lorenzo Marques was filled with
men who were taking advantage of the state of affairs to grow wealthy by
means which were not legitimate, and the leaders in almost every
enterprise of that nature were British subjects, although there were not a
few Germans, Americans, and Frenchmen who succeeded in making the fortunes
they deserved for remaining in such a horrible pest-hole as Lorenzo
Marques.

The railroad from Lorenzo Marques to Ressana Garcia, at the Transvaal
border, was interesting only from the fact that it was more historical
than comfortable for travelling purposes. As the train passed through the
dry, dusty, and uninteresting country, which was even too poor and
unhealthy for the blacks, the mind speculated upon the proposition whether
the Swiss judges who decided the litigation concerning the road would have
spent ten years in making a decision if they had been compelled to conduct
their deliberation within sight of the railway. The land adjoining the
railroad was level, well timbered and well watered, and the vast tracts of
fine grass give the impression that it might be an excellent country for
farming, but it was in the belt known as the fever district, and white men
avoided it as they would a cholera-infested city. Shortly before the train
arrived at the English river several lofty white-stone pyramids on either
side of the railway were passed, and the Transvaal was reached. A long
iron bridge spanning the river was crossed, and the train reached the
first station in the Boer country, Koomatipoort.

Courteous Boer officials entered the train and requested the passengers to
disembark with all their luggage, for the purpose of custom-examination.
No gratuities were accepted there, as at Lorenzo Marques, and nothing
escaped the vigilance of the bearded inspectors. Trunks and luggage were
carefully scrutinised, letters read line by line and word for word;
revolvers and ammunition promptly confiscated if not declared; and even
the clothing of the passengers was faithfully examined. Passports were
closely investigated, and, when all appeared to be thoroughly
satisfactory, a white cross was chalked on the boots of the passengers,
and they were free to proceed farther inland. The field-cornet of the
district was one of the few Boers at the station, and he performed the
duties of his office by introducing himself to certain passengers whom he
believed to be foreign volunteers, and offering them gratuitous railway
tickets to Pretoria. No effort was made to conceal the fact that the
volunteers were welcome in the country, and nothing was left undone to
make the foreigners realise that their presence was appreciated.

After Koomatipoort was passed the train crept slowly into the mountainous
district, where huge peaks pierced the clouds and gigantic boulders
overhung the tracks. Narrow defiles stretched away in all directions and
the sounds of cataracts in the Crocodile River flowing alongside the iron
path drowned the roar of the train. Flowering, vari-coloured plants, huge
cacti, and thick tropical vegetation lined the banks of the river, and
occasionally the thatched roof of a negro's hut peered out over the
undergrowth, to indicate that a few human beings chose that wild region
for their abode. Hour after hour the train crept along narrow ledges up
the mountains' sides, then dashed down declines and out upon small level
plains which, with their surrounding and towering eminences, had the
appearance of vast green bowls. In that impregnable region lay the small
town of Machadodorp, which, later, became the capital of the Transvaal. A
few houses of corrugated iron, a pretty railway-station, and much scenery,
serves as a worthy description of the town at the junction of the purposed
railway to the gold-fields of Lydenberg.

After a journey of twelve hours through the fever country the train
reached the western limit of that belt and rested for the night in a
small, green, cup-shaped valley bearing the descriptive name of Waterval
Onder--"under the waterfall." The weary passengers found more corrugated
iron buildings and the best hotel in South Africa. The host, Monsieur
Mathis, a French Boer, and his excellent establishment came as a breath of
fresh air to a stifling traveller on the desert, and long will they live
in the memories of the thousands of persons who journeyed over the
railroad during the war. After the monotonous fare of an east-coast
steamer and the mythical meals of a Lorenzo Marques hotel, the roast
venison, the fresh milk and eggs of Mathis were as welcome as the odour of
the roses that filled the valley.

The beginning of the second day's journey was characterised by a ride up
and along the sides of a magnificent gorge through which the waters of the
Crocodile River rushed from the lofty plateau of the high veld to the
wildernesses of the fever country and filled that miniature South African
Switzerland with myriads of rainbows. A long, curved, and inclined tunnel
near the top of the mountain led to the undulating plains of the
Transvaal--a marvellously rapid transition from a region filled with
nature's wildest panoramas to one that contained not even a tree or rock
or cliff to relieve the monotony of the landscape. On the one side of this
natural boundary line was an immense territory every square mile of which
contained mountain passes which a handful of Boers could hold against an
invading army; on the other side there was hardly a rock behind which a
burgher rifleman could conceal himself. Here herds of cattle and flocks of
sheep, instead of wild beasts, sped away from the roar of the train; here
there was the daub and wattle cottage of the farmer instead of the
thatched hut of the native savage.

Small towns of corrugated iron and mud-brick homes and shops appeared at
long intervals on the veld; grass-fires displayed the presence of the Boer
farmer with his herds, and the long ox-teams slowly rolling over the plain
signified that not all the peaceful pursuits of a small people at war with
a great nation had been abandoned. The coal-mines at Belfast, with their
towering stacks and clouds of smoke, gave the first evidence of the
country's wondrous underground wealth, and then farther on in the journey
came the small city of Middleburg with its slate-coloured corrugated iron
roofs in marked contrast to the green veld grass surrounding it. There
appeared armed and bandoliered Boers, prepared to join their countrymen in
the field, with wounded friends and sad-faced women to bid farewell to
them. While the train lay waiting at the station small commandos of
burghers came dashing through the dusty streets, bustled their horses into
trucks at the rear end of the passenger train, and in a few moments they
were mingling with the foreign volunteers in the coaches. Grey-haired
Boers gravely bade adieu to their wives and children, lovers embraced
their weeping sweethearts, and the train moved on toward Pretoria and the
battlefields where these men were to risk their lives for the life of
their country.

Historic ground, where Briton and Boer had fought before, came in view.
Bronkhorst Spruit, where a British commander led more than one hundred of
his men to death in 1880, lay to the left of the road in a little wooded
ravine. Farther on toward Pretoria appeared rocky kopjes, where afterwards
the Boers, retreating from the capital city, gathered their disheartened
forces, and resisted the advance of the enemy. Eerste Fabriken was a
hamlet hardly large enough to make an impression upon the memory, but it
marked a battlefield where the burghers fought desperately. Children were
then gathering peaches from the trees, whose roots drank the blood of
heroes months afterwards. Several miles farther on were the hills on the
outskirts of Pretoria, where, in the war of 1881, the Boer laagers sent
forth men to encompass the city and to prevent the British besieged in it
from escaping. It was ground hallowed in Boer history since the early
voortrekkers crossed the ridges of the Magaliesberg and sought protection
from the savage hordes of Moselekatse in the fertile valley of the Aapjes
River.

Pretoria in war-time was most peaceful. In the days before the
commencement of hostilities it was a city of peace as contrasted with the
metropolis, Johannesburg, and its warring citizens, but when cannon were
roaring on the frontier, Pretoria itself seemed to escape even the echoes.
After the first commandos had departed the city streets were deserted, and
only women and children gathered at the bulletin boards to learn the fate
of the burgher armies. The stoeps of houses and cottages were deserted of
the bearded yeomanry, and the halls of the Government buildings resounded
only with the tread of those who were not old or strong enough to bear
arms. The long ox-waggons which in former times were so common in the
streets were not so frequently to be seen, but whenever one of them rolled
toward the market square, it was a Boer woman who cracked the raw-hide
whip over the heads of the oxen. Pretoria was the same quaint city as of
old, but it lacked the men who were its most distinguishing feature. The
black-garbed Volksraad members, the officials, and the old retired
farmers, who were wont to discuss politics on the stoeps of the capitol
and the Transvaal Hotel were absent. Inquiries concerning them could be
addressed only to women and children, and the replies invariably were:
"They are on commando," or, "They were killed in battle."

The scenes of activity in the city were few in number, and they were
chiefly in connection with the arrival of foreign volunteers and the
transit of burgher commandos on the way to the field. The Grand Hotel and
the Transvaal Hotel, the latter of which was conducted by the Government
for the temporary entertainment of the volunteers, were constantly filled
with throngs of foreigners, comprising soldiers of fortune, Red Cross
delegations, visitors, correspondents, and contractors, and almost every
language except that of the Boers could be heard in the corridors.
Occasionally a Boer burgher on leave of absence from the front appeared at
the hotels for a respite from army rations, or to attend the funeral of a
comrade in arms, but the foreigners were always predominant. Across the
street, in the War Department, there were busy scenes when the volunteers
applied for their equipments, and frequently there were stormy actions
when the European tastes of the men were offended by the equipment offered
by the Department officials. Men who desired swords and artistic
paraphernalia for themselves and their horses felt slighted when the scant
but serviceable equipment of a Boer burgher was offered to them, but
sulking could not remedy the matter, and usually they were content to
accept whatever was given to them. Former officers in European armies,
noblemen and even professional men were constantly arriving in the city,
and all seemed to be of the same opinion that commissions in the Boer army
could be had for the asking. Some of these had their minds disabused with
good grace, and went to the field as common burghers; others sulked for
several weeks, but finally joined a commando, and a few returned to their
homes without having heard the report of a gun. For those who chose to
remain behind and enjoy the peacefulness of Pretoria, there was always
enough of novelty and excitement among the foreigners to compensate partly
for missing the events in the field.

The army contractors make their presence felt in all countries which are
engaged in war, and Pretoria was filled with them. They were in the
railway trains running to and from Lorenzo Marques; in the hotel
corridors, in all the Government departments, and everywhere in the city.
A few of the naturalised Boers, who were most denunciatory of the British
before the war and urged their fellow-countrymen to resort to arms,
succeeded in evading the call to the field and were most energetic in
supplying bread and supplies to the Government. Nor was their patriotism
dimmed by many reverses of the army, and they selfishly demanded that the
war should be continued indefinitely. Europeans and Americans who partook
of the protection of the Government in times of peace, were transformed by
war into grasping, insinuating contractors who revelled in the country's
misfortune. Englishmen, unworthy of the name, enriched themselves by
furnishing sinews of war to their country's enemy, and in order to secure
greater wealth sought to prolong the war by cheering disheartened Boers
and expressing faith in their final success. The chambers of the
Government building were filled with men who had horses, waggons, flour,
forage and clothing to offer at exorbitant prices, and in thousands of
instances the embarrassed Government was obliged to pay whatever sums were
demanded. Hand-in-hand with the contractors were the speculators who were
taking advantage of the absence of the leading officials to secure
valuable concessions, mining claims, and even gold mines. Before the war,
when hordes of speculators and concession-seekers thronged the city, the
scene was pathetic enough, but when all shrewd Raad members were at the
front and unable to guard their country's interests the picture was dark
and pitiful.

Pretoria seemed to have but one mood during the war. It was never deeply
despondent nor gay. There was a sort of funereal atmosphere throughout the
city, whether its residents were rejoicing over a Spion Kop or suffering
from the dejection of a Paardeberg. It was the same grim throng of old
men, women, and children who watched the processions of prisoners of war
and attended the funerals at the quaint little Dutch church in the centre
of the city. The finest victories of the army never changed the appearance
of the city nor the mood of its inhabitants. There were no parades nor
shouting when a victory was announced, and there was the same stoical
indifference when the news of a bitter defeat was received. A victory was
celebrated in the Dutch church by the singing of psalms, and a defeat by
the offering of prayers for the success of the army.

The thousands of British subjects who were allowed to remain in the
Transvaal, being of a less phlegmatic race, were not so calm when a
victory of their nation's army was announced, and when the news of
Cronje's surrender reached them they celebrated the event with almost as
much gusto as if they had not been in the enemy's country. A fancy dress
ball was held in Johannesburg in honour of the event, and a champagne
dinner was given within a few yards of the Government buildings in
Pretoria, but a few days later all the celebrants were transported across
the border by order of the Government.

One of the pathetic features of Pretoria was the Boers' expression of
faith in foreign mediation or intervention. At the outset of hostilities
it seemed unreasonable that any European nation or America would risk a
war with Great Britain for the purpose of assisting the Boers, yet there
was hardly one burgher who did not cling steadfastly to the opinion that
the war would be ended in such a manner. The idea had evidently been
rooted in their mind that Russia would take advantage of Great Britain's
entanglement in South Africa to occupy Herat and Northern India, and when
a newspaper item to that effect appeared it was gravely presumed to
indicate the beginning of the end. Some over-zealous Irishmen assured the
Boers that, in the event of a South African war, their fellow-countrymen
in the United States would invade Canada and involve Great Britain in an
imbroglio over the Atlantic in order to save British America. For a few
weeks the chimera buoyed up the Boers, but when nothing more than an
occasional newspaper rumour was heard concerning it the rising in Ashanti
was then looked upon as being the hoped-for boon. The departure of the
three delegates to Europe and America was an encouraging sign to them, and
it was firmly believed that they would be able to induce France, Russia,
or America to offer mediation or intervention. The two Boer newspapers,
the Pretoria _Volksstem_ and the Johannesburg _Standard and Diggers'
News_, dwelt at length upon every favourable token of foreign assistance,
however trifling, and attempted to strengthen hopes which at hardly any
time seemed capable of realisation. It was not until after the war had
been in progress for more than six months that the Boers saw the futility
of placing faith in foreign aid, and afterwards they fought like stronger
men.

The consuls who represented the foreign Governments at Pretoria, and
through whom the Boers made representations for peace, were an
exceptionally able body of men, and their duties were as varied as they
were arduous. The French and German consuls were busied with the care of
the vast mining interests of their countrymen, besides the partial
guardianship of the hundreds of French and German volunteers in the Boer
army. They were called upon to entertain noblemen as well as bankrupts; to
bandage wounds and to bury the dead; to find lost relatives and to care
for widows and orphans. In times of peace the duties of a consul in
Pretoria were not light, but during hostilities they were tenfold heavier.
To the American consul, Adelbert S. Hay, and his associate, John G.
Coolidge, fell more work than to all the others combined. Besides caring
for the American interests in the country, Consul Hay was charged with the
guardianship of the six thousand British prisoners of war in the city as
well as with the care of the financial interests of British citizens.
Every one of the thousands of letters to and from the prisoners was
examined in the American Consulate so that they might carry with them no
breach of neutrality; almost twenty thousand pounds, as well as tons of
luxuries, were distributed by him to the prisoners; while the letters and
cablegrams concerning the health and whereabouts of soldiers which reached
him every week were far in excess of the number of communications which
arrived at the Consulate in a year of peaceful times. Consul Hay was in
good favour with the Boer Government notwithstanding his earnest efforts
to perform his duties with regard to the British prisoners and interests,
and of the many consuls who have represented the United States in South
Africa none performed his duties more intelligently or with more credit to
his country.

One of the most interesting and important events in Pretoria before the
British occupation of the city was the meeting of the Volksraads on May
7th. It was a gathering of the warriors who survived the war which they
themselves had brought about seven months before, and, although the enemy
to whom they had thrown down the gauntlet was at their gates, they were as
resolute and determined as on that October day when they voted to pit the
Boer farmer against the British lion. The seats of many of those who took
part in that memorable meeting were filled with palms and evergreens to
mark the patriots' deaths, but the vierkleur and the cause remained to
spur the living. Generals, commandants, and burghers, no longer in the
grimy costumes of the battlefield, but in the black garb of the
legislator, filled the circles of chairs; bandoliered burghers, consuls
and military attachés in spectacular uniform, business men, and women with
tear-stained cheeks filled the auditorium; while on the official benches
were the heads of departments and the Executive Council, State Secretary
Reitz and General Schalk Burger. The Chairman of the Raad, General Lucas
Meyer, fresh from the battlefield, attracted the attention of the throng
by announcing the arrival of the President. Spectators, Raad members,
officials, all rose to their feet, and Paul Kruger, the Lion of
Rustenberg, the Afrikander captain, entered the Chamber and occupied a
seat of honour.

[Illustration: GENERAL LUCAS J. MEYER]

Grave affairs occupied the attention of the country and there were many
pressing matters to be adjusted, was the burden of the meeting, but the
most important work was the defence of the country, and all the members
were as a unit that their proper places were to be found with the burghers
in the field. There was no talk of ending the war, or of surrender; the
President leading in the proposition to continue hostilities until a
conclusion successful to the Boer cause was attained. "Shall we lose
courage?" he demanded. "Never! Never!! Never!!!" and then added
reverently: "May the people and the officers, animated and inspired by a
Higher Power, realising their duty, not only to those brave ones who have
already sacrificed their lives for their Fatherland, but also to posterity
that expects a free country, continue and persevere in this war to the
end." With these words of their aged chieftain engraved on their hearts to
strengthen their resolution the members of the Volksraads doffed the garb
of legislators and returned to their commandos to inspire them with new
zeal and determination.

After that memorable meeting of the Volksraads Pretoria again assumed the
appearance of a city of peace, but the rapid approach of the forces of the
enemy soon transformed it into a scene of desperation and panic. Men with
drawn faces dashed through the city to assist their hard-pressed
countrymen in the field; tearful women with children on their arms filled
the churches with their moans and prayers; deserters fleeing homeward
exaggerated fresh disasters and increased the tension of the
populace--tears and terror prevailed almost everywhere. Railway stations
were filled with throngs intent on escaping from the coming disaster,
commandos of breathless and blood-stained burghers entered the city, and
soon the voice of the conquerors' cannon reverberated among the hills and
valleys of the capital. Above the noise and din of the threatened city
rose the calm assurance of Paul Kruger: "Have good cheer, God will be with
our people in the end."



CHAPTER II

FROM FARM TO BATTLEFIELD


In the olden days, before men with strange languages and customs entered
their country and disturbed the serenity of their life, the Boers were
accustomed to make annual trips to the north in search of game, and to
exterminate the lions which periodically attacked their flocks and herds.
It was customary for relatives to form parties, and these trekked with
their long ox-waggons far into the northern Transvaal, and oftentimes into
the wilderness beyond the Zambesi. Women and children accompanied the
expeditions and remained behind in the ox-waggons while the men rode away
into the bush to search for buck, giraffe, and lion. Hardy men and women
these were who braved the dangers of wild beasts and the terrors of the
fever country, yet these treks to the north were as certain annual
functions as the Nachtmaals in the churches. Men who went into the wild
bush to hunt for the lions, which had been their only unconquerable enemy
for years, learned to know no fear, and with their wives and children
formed as hardy a race as virgin soil ever produced. With these pioneers
it was not a matter of great pride to have shot a lion, but it was
considered a disgrace to have missed one. To husband their sparse supplies
of ammunition was their chief object, and to waste a shot by missing the
target was to become the subject of good-natured derision and ridicule.
Fathers, sons, and grandsons entered the bush together, and when there was
a lion or other wild beast to be stalked the amateur hunter was initiated
into the mysteries of backwoodsmanship by his experienced elders.
Consequently the Boers became a nation of proficient lion-hunters, and
efficiently ridded their country of the pest which continually threatened
their safety, the safety of their families and that of their possessions
of live-stock.

In later years, when the foreigner who bought his farms and searched for
the wealth hidden on them became so numerous that the Boer appeared to be
an unwelcome guest in his own house, the old-time lion-hunter had
foundation for believing that a new enemy had suddenly arisen. The Boer
attempted to placate the new enemy by means which failed. Afterward a bold
but unsuccessful inroad was made into the country for the purpose of
relieving him of the necessity of ruling it. Thereupon the old-time
lion-fighting spirit arose within the Boer, and he began to prepare for
future hunting expeditions. He stocked his arsenals with the best guns and
ammunition the world produced, and he secured instructors to teach him the
most modern and approved methods of fighting the new-style lion. He
erected forts and stockades in which he might take refuge in the event
that the lions should prove too strong and numerous, and he made laws and
regulations so that there might be no delay when the proper moment arrived
for attacking the enemy. While these matters were being perfected further
efforts were made to conciliate the enemy, but they proved futile, and it
became evident that the farmer and the lion of 1899 were as implacable
enemies as the farmer and lion of 1850. The lion of 1899 believed his
cause to be as just as did the lion of half a century before, while the
farmer felt that the lion, having been created by Nature, had a just claim
upon Nature and her works for support, but desired that sustenance should
be sought from other parts of Nature's stores. He insisted, moreover, if
the lion wished to remain on the plantation that he should not question
the farmer's ownership nor assume that the lion was an animal of a higher
and finer grade than the farmer.

A meeting between the representatives of the lions and the farmers led to
no better understanding; in fact when, several days afterward, all the
farmers gathered at the historic Paardekraal monument, they were
unanimously of the opinion that the lion should be driven out of the
country, or at least subdued to such an extent that peace might come and
remain. Not since the days of 1877, when, at the same spot, each Boer,
holding a stone above his head, vowed to shed his last drop of blood in
defence of his country, was the community of farmers so indignant and
excited. The aged President himself, fresh from the conference with the
lions, urged his countrymen to prevent a conflict but to fight valiantly
for their independence and rights if the necessity arose. Piet Joubert,
who bore marks of a former conflict with the enemy, wept as he narrated
the efforts which had been made to pacify the lions, and finally expressed
the belief that every farmer in the country would yield his life's blood
rather than surrender the rights for which their fathers had bled and
died. When other leaders had spoken, the picturesque custom of renewing
the oath of fealty to the country's flag was observed, as it had been
every fifth year since the days of Majuba Hill. Ten thousand farmers
uncovered their heads, raised their eyes toward the sky and repeated the
Boer oath:--

    "In the presence of God Almighty, who searcheth the hearts of
        men, from our homes in the Transvaal we have journeyed to
        meet again, Free burghers, we ask His mercy and trust in
        His grace and bind ourselves and our children in a solemn
        oath to be faithful to one another and to stand by one
        another in repelling our enemy with our last drop of
        life-blood. So truly help us, God Almighty."

Ten thousand voices then joined in singing the national anthem and a
psalm, and the memorable meeting at this fount of patriotism was closed
with a prayer and a benediction.

After this meeting it was uncertain for some months which should attack
first; both were preparing as rapidly as possible for the conflict, and
the advantage seemed to lie with the one who would strike first. The
leaders of the lions seemed to have forgotten that they had lion-hunters
as their opponents, and the farmers neglected to take into account the
fact that the lion tribe was exceedingly numerous and spread over the
whole earth. When the leading farmers met in conclave at Pretoria and
heard the demands of the lions they laughed at them, sent an ultimatum in
reply, and started for the frontier to join those of their countrymen who
had gone there days before to watch that no body of lions should make
another surreptitious attack upon their country. Another community of
farmers living to the south, who had also been harassed by the lions for
many years and felt that their future safety lay in the subjugation of the
lion tribe, joined their neighbours in arms and went forth with them to
the greatest lion-hunt that South Africa has ever had.

The enemy and all other men called it war, but to the Boers it was merely
a hunt for lions such as they had engaged in oftentimes before.

The old Boer farmer hardly needed the proclamation from Pretoria to tell
him that there was to be a lion-hunt, and that he should prepare for it
immediately. He had known that the hunt was inevitable long before October
11, 1899, and he had made preparations for it months and even years
before. When the official notification from the Commandant-General reached
him through the field-cornet of the district in which he lived, he was
prepared in a few minutes to start for the frontier where the British
lions were to be found. The new Mauser rifle, which the Government had
given him a year or two before, was freshly oiled and its working order
inspected. The bandolier, filled with bright new cartridges, was swung
over his shoulder, and then, after putting a Testament into his coat
pocket, he was ready to proceed. He despised a uniform of any kind as
smacking of anti-republican ideas and likely to attract the attention of
the enemy. The same corduroy or mole-skin trousers, dark coat,
wide-brimmed hat, and home-made shoes which he was accustomed to wear in
every-day life on the farm were good enough for a hunting expedition, and
he needed and yearned for nothing better. A uniform would have caused him
to feel uneasy and out of place, and when lions were the game he wanted to
be thoroughly comfortable so that his arm and aim might be steady. His
vrouw, who was filling a linen sack with bread, biltong, and coffee to be
consumed on his journey to the hunting grounds, may have taken the
opportunity while he was cleaning his rifle to sew a rosette of the
vierkleur of the Republic on his hat, or, remembering the custom observed
in the old-time wars against the natives, may have found the fluffy brown
tail of a meerkatz and fixed it on the upturned brim of his grimy hat.
When these few preparations were concluded the Kafir servant brought his
master's horse and fixed to the front of the saddle a small roll
containing a blanket and a mackintosh. To another part of the saddle he
strapped a small black kettle to be used for the preparation of the
lion-hunter's only luxury, coffee, and then the list of impedimenta was
complete. The horseman who brought the summons to go to the frontier had
hardly reached the neighbouring farmhouse when the Boer lion-hunter,
uniformed, outfitted, and armed, was on his horse's back and ready for any
duty at any place. With a rifle, bandolier, and a horse the Boer felt as
if he were among kindred spirits, and nothing more was necessary to
complete his temporal happiness. The horse is a part of the Boer hunter,
and he might as well have gone to the frontier without a rifle as to go in
the capacity of a foot soldier. The Boer is the modern Centaur, and
therein is found an explanation for part of his success in hunting.

When once the Boer left his home he became an army unto himself. He needed
no one to care for himself and his horse, nor were the leaders of the army
obliged to issue myriads of orders for his guidance. He had learned long
before that he should meet the other hunters of his ward at a certain spot
in case there was a call to arms, and thither he went as rapidly as his
pony could carry him. When he arrived at the meeting-place he found all
his neighbours and friends gathered in groups and discussing the
situation. Certain ones of them had brought with them big white-tented
ox-waggons for conveying ammunition, commissariat stores, and such extra
luggage as some might wish to carry; and these were sent ahead as soon as
the field-cornet, the military leader of the ward, learned that all his
men had arrived from their homes. The individual hunters then formed what
was called a commando, whether it consisted of fifteen or fifty men, and
proceeded in a body to a second pre-arranged meeting-place, where all the
ward-commandos of a certain district were asked to congregate. When all
these commandos had arrived in one locality, they fell under the authority
of the commandant who had been elected to that post by the burghers at the
preceding election. This official had received his orders directly from
the Commandant-General, and but little time was consumed in disseminating
them to the burghers through the various field-cornets. After all the
ward-commandos had arrived, the district-commando was set in motion toward
that part of the frontier where its services were required; and a most
unwarlike spectacle it presented as it rolled along over the muddy,
slippery veld. In the van were the huge, lumbering waggons with hordes of
hullabalooing natives cracking their long raw-hide whips and urging the
sleek, long-horned oxen forward through the mud. Following the
waggon-train came the cavalcade of armed lion-hunters, grim and
determined-looking enough from a distance, but most peaceful and
inoffensive when once they understood the stranger's motives. No order or
discipline was visible in the commando on the march, and if the rifles and
bandoliers had not appeared so prominently it might readily have been
mistaken for a party of Nachtmaal celebrants on the way to Pretoria. Now
and then some youths emerged from the crowd and indulged in an impromptu
horse-race, only to return and receive a chiding from their elders for
wasting their horses' strength unnecessarily. Occasionally the keen eyes
of a rider spied a buck in the distance, and then several of the
lion-hunters sped obliquely off the track and replenished the commando
larder with much smaller game than was the object of their expedition.

If the commando came from a district far from the frontier, it proceeded
to the railway station nearest to the central meeting-place, and then
embarked for the front. No extraordinary preparations were necessary for
the embarking of a large commando, nor was much time lost before the
hunters were speeding towards their destination. Every man placed his own
horse in a cattle-car, his saddle, bridle, and haversack in the
passenger-coach, and then assisted in hoisting the cumbersome ox-waggons
on flat-top trucks. There were no specially deputised men to entrain the
horses, others to load the waggons, and still others to be subtracted from
the fighting strength of the nation by attending to such detail duties as
require the services of hundreds of men in other armies.

After the burghers were entrained and the long commando train was set in
motion the most fatiguing part of the campaign was before them. To ride on
a South African railway is a disagreeable duty in times of peace, but in
war-times, when trains were long and overcrowded, and the rate of progress
never higher than fifteen miles an hour, then all other campaigning duties
were pleasurable enjoyments. The majority of burghers, unaccustomed to
journeying in railway trains, relished the innovation and managed to make
merry even though six of them, together with all their saddles and
personal luggage, were crowded into one compartment. The singing of hymns
occupied much of their time on the journey, and when they tired of this
they played practical jokes upon one another and amused themselves by
leaning out of the windows and jeering at the men who were guarding the
railway bridges and culverts. At the stations they grasped their
coffee-pots and rushed to the locomotive to secure hot water with which to
prepare their beverage. It seldom happened that any Boer going to the
front carried any liquor with him and, although the delays and vexations
of the journey were sufficiently irritating to serve as an excuse,
drunkenness practically never occurred. Genuine good-fellowship prevailed
among them, and no quarrelling was to be observed. It seemed as if every
one of them was striving to live the ideal life portrayed in the Testament
which they read assiduously scores of times every day. Whether a train was
delayed an hour at a siding or whether it stopped so suddenly that all
were thrown from their seats, there was no profane language, but usually
jesting and joking instead. Little discomforts which would cause an
ordinary American or European soldier to use volumes of profanity were
passed by without notice or comment by these psalm-singing Boers, and
inconveniences of greater moment, like the disarrangement of the
commissariat along the route, caused only slight remonstrances from them.
An angry man was as rarely seen as one who cursed, and more rare than
either was an intoxicated one.

Few of the men were given to boasting of the valour they would display in
warfare or of their abilities in marksmanship. They had no battle-cry of
revenge like "Remember the _Maine!_" or "Avenge Majuba!" except it was the
motto: "For God, Country, and Independence!" which many bore on the bands
of their hats and on the stocks of their rifles. Very occasionally one
boasted of the superiority of the Boer, and still more rarely would one be
heard to set three months as the limit required to conquer the British
army. The name of Jameson, the raider, was frequently heard, but always in
a manner which might have led one unacquainted with recent Transvaal
history to believe that he was a patron-saint of the Republic. It was not
a cry of "Remember Jameson" for the wrongs he committed but rather a plea
to honour him for having placed the Republic on its guard against the
dangers which they believed threatened it from beyond its borders. It was
frequently suggested, when his name was mentioned, that after the war a
monument should be erected to him because he had given them warning and
that they had profited by the warning to the extent that they had armed
themselves thoroughly. Seldom was any boasting concerning the number of
the enemy that would fall to Boer bullets; instead there was a tone of
sorrow when they spoke of the soldiers of the Queen who would die on the
field of battle while fighting for a cause concerning the justice or
injustice of which the British soldier could not speak.

After the commando-train reached its destination the burghers again took
charge of their own horses and conveyances, and in even less time than it
required to place them on the train they were unloaded and ready to
proceed to the point where the generals needed their assistance. The Boer
was always considerate of his horse, and it became a custom to delay for
several hours after leaving the train, in order that the animals might
feed and recover from the fatigues of the journey before starting out on a
trek over the veld. After the horses had been given an opportunity to
rest, the order to "upsaddle" came from the commandant, and then the
procession, with the ox-waggons in the van, was again formed. The regular
army order was then established, scouts were sent ahead to determine the
location of the enemy, and the officers for the first time appeared to
lead their men in concerted action against the opposing forces. To call
the Boer force an army was to add unwarranted elasticity to the word, for
it had but one quality in common with such armed forces as Americans or
Europeans are accustomed to call by that name. The Boer army fought with
guns and gunpowder, but it had no discipline, no drills, no forms, no
standards, and not even a roll-call. It was an enlarged edition of the
hunting parties which a quarter-century ago went into the Zoutpansberg in
search of game--it was a massive aggregation of lion-hunters.



CHAPTER III

THE COMPOSITION OF THE BOER ARMY


A visitor in one of the laagers in Natal once spoke of a Boer burgher as a
"soldier." A Boer from the Wakkerstroom district interrupted his speech
and said there were no Boer soldiers. "If you want us to understand
concerning whom you are talking," he continued, "you must call us burghers
or farmers. Only the English have soldiers." It was so with all the Boers;
none understood the term soldier as applying to anybody except their
enemy, while many considered it an insult to be called a soldier, as it
implied, to a certain extent, that they were fighting for hire. In times
of peace the citizen of the Boer republics was called a burgher, and when
he took up arms and went to war he received no special title to
distinguish him from the man who remained at home. "My burghers," Paul
Kruger was wont to call them before the war, and when they came forth from
battle they were content when he said, "My burghers are doing well." The
Boers were proud of their citizenship, and when their country was in
danger they went forth as private citizens and not as bold warriors to
protect it.

There was a law in the two republics which made it incumbent upon all
burghers between the ages of sixteen and sixty to join a commando and to
go to war when it was necessary. There was no law, however, which
prevented a man, of whatever youthfulness or age, to assist in the defence
of his country, and in consequence the Boer commandos contained almost the
entire male population between the ages of thirteen and eighty years. In
peaceful times the Boer farmer rarely travelled away from his home unless
he was accompanied by his family, and he would have felt the pangs of
homesickness if he had not been continually surrounded by his wife and
children. When the war began it was not an easy matter for the burgher to
leave his home for an indefinite period, and in order that he might not be
lonely he took with him all his sons who were strong enough to carry
rifles. The Boer youth develops into manhood early in life in the mild
South African climate, and the boy of twelve and thirteen years is the
equal in physical development of the American or European youth of sixteen
or seventeen. He was accustomed to live on the open veld and hunting with
his elders, and, when he saw that all his former companions were going to
war, he begged for permission to accompany the commando. The Boer boy of
twelve does not wear knickerbocker trousers as the youth of like age in
many other countries, but he is clothed exactly like his father, and,
being almost as tall, his youthful appearance is not so noticeable when he
is among a large number of his countrymen. Scores of boys not more than
twelve years were in the laagers in Natal, and hundreds of less age than
the minimum prescribed by the military law were in every commando in the
country. When Ladysmith was still besieged one youth of eleven years was
conspicuous in the Standerton laager. He seemed to be a mere child, yet he
had the patriotism of ten men. He followed his father everywhere, whether
into battle or to the spring for water.

[Illustration: BATTLEFIELD OF COLENSO, DECEMBER 15, 1899
 1 GENERAL LOUIS BOTHA'S COMMANDO
 2 BOKSBURG COMMANDO
 3 COLENSO
 4 KRUGERSDORP COMMANDO
 5 WAKKERSTROM COMMANDO
 6 ERMELO COMMANDO
 7 SWAZILAND POLICE
 8 ERMELO COMMANDO
 9 BRITISH CAMP, CHIEVELY
10 TUGELA RIVER]

"When my father is injured or killed, I will take his rifle," was his
excuse for being away from home. When General De Wet captured seven cannon
from the enemy at the battle of Sannaspost two of the volunteers to
operate them were boys aged respectively fourteen and fifteen years.
Pieter J. Henning, of the Potchefstroom commando, who was injured in the
battle of Scholtznek on December 11th, was less than fifteen years old,
yet his valour in battle was as conspicuous as that of any of the burghers
who took part in the engagement. Teunis H.C. Mulder, of the Pretoria
commando, celebrated his sixteenth birthday only a few days before he was
twice wounded at Ladysmith on November 9th, and Willem François Joubert, a
relative of the Commandant-General, was only fifteen years old when he was
wounded at Ladysmith on October 30th. At the battle of Koedoesrand,
fifteen-year-old Pieter de Jager, of the Bethlehem commando, was seriously
injured by a shell while he was conveying his injured father from the
field. With the army of General Cronje captured at Paardeberg were no less
than a hundred burghers who had not reached the sixteenth year, and among
those who escaped from the laager in the river-bed were two Bloemfontein
boys named Roux, aged twelve and fourteen years. At Colenso a Wakkerstroom
youth of twelve years captured three English scouts and compelled them to
march ahead of him to the commandant's tent. During one of the lulls in
the fighting at Magersfontein a burgher of fifteen years crept up to
within twenty yards of three British soldiers and shouted "Hands up!"
Thinking that there were other Boers in the vicinity the men dropped their
guns and became prisoners of the boy, who took them to General De la Rey's
tent. When the General asked the boy how he secured the prisoners the lad
replied, nonchalantly, "Oh, I surrounded them." These youths who
accompanied the commando were known as the "Penkop Regiment"--a regiment
composed of school children--and in their connection an amusing story has
been current in the Boer country ever since the war of 1881, when large
numbers of children less than fifteen years old went with their fathers to
battle. The story is that after the fight at Majuba Hill, while the peace
negotiations were in progress, Sir Evelyn Wood, the Commander of the
British forces, asked General Joubert to see the famous Penkop
Regiment. The Boer General gave an order that the regiment should be drawn
up in a line before his tent, and when this had been done General Joubert
led General Wood into the open and introduced him to the corps. Sir Evelyn
was sceptical for some time, and imagined that General Joubert was joking,
but when it was explained to him that the youths really were the
much-vaunted Penkop Regiment he advised them to return to their
school-books.

When a man has reached the age of sixty it may be assumed that he has
outlived his usefulness as a soldier; but not so with the Boer. There was
not one man, but hundreds, who had passed the Biblical threescore years
and ten but were fighting valiantly in defence of their country.
Grey-haired men who, in another country, might be expected to be found at
their homes reading the accounts of their grandsons' deeds in the war,
went out on scouting duty and scaled hills with almost as much alacrity as
the burghers only half their age. Men who could boast of being
grandfathers were innumerable, and in almost any laager there could be
seen father, sons, and grandsons, all fighting with equal vigour and
enthusiasm. Paul Kruger is seventy-five years old, but there were many of
his burghers several years older than he who went to the frontier with
their commandos and remained there for several months at a time. A
great-grandfather serving in the capacity of a private soldier, may appear
like a mythical tale, but there were several such. Old Jan van der
Westhuizen, of the Middleberg laager, was active and enthusiastic at
eighty-two years, and felt more than proud of four great-grand-children.
Piet Kruger, a relative of the President, and four years his senior, was
an active participant in every battle in which the Rustenburg commando was
engaged while it was in Natal, and he never once referred to the fact that
he fought in the 1881 war and in the attack upon Jameson's men. Four of
Kruger's sons shared the same tent and fare with him, and ten of his
grandsons were burghers in different commandos. Jan C. ven [Transcriber's
note: sic] Tander, of Boshof, exceeded the maximum of the military age
by eight years, but he was early in the field, and was seriously wounded
at the battle of Scholtznek on December 11th. General Joubert himself
was almost seventy years old but as far as physical activity was
concerned there were a score of burghers in his commando, each from five
to ten years older, who exhibited more energy in one battle than he did
during the entire Natal campaign. The hundreds of bridges and culverts
along the railway lines in the Transvaal, the Orange Free State, and
Upper Natal were guarded day and night by Boers more than sixty years
old, who had volunteered to do the work in order that younger men might
be sent to localities where their services might be more necessary.
Other old Boers and cripples attended to the commissariat arrangements
along the railways, conducted commissariat waggons, gathered forage for
the horses at the front, and arranged the thousands of details which
are necessary to the well-being and comfort of every army, however
simple its organisation.

Among the Boers were many burghers who had assisted Great Britain in her
former wars in South Africa--men who had fought under the British flag,
but were now fighting against it. Colonel Ignace Ferreira, a member of one
of the oldest Boer families, fought under Lord Wolseley in the Zulu war,
and had the Order of the Commander of the Bath conferred upon him by the
Queen. Colonel Ferreira was at the head of a commando at Mafeking. Paul
Dietzch, the military secretary of General Meyer, fought under the British
flag in the Gaika and several other native wars.

It was not only the extremely old and the extremely young who went to war;
it was a transfer of the entire population of the two Republics to the
frontiers, and no condition or position was sufficient excuse to remain
behind. The professional man of Pretoria and Johannesburg was in a laager
which was adjacent to a laager of farthest-back veld-farmers. Lawyers and
physicians, photographers and grocers, speculators and sextons, judges and
schoolmasters, schoolboys and barkeepers--all who were burghers locked
their desks and offices and journeyed to the front. Even clergymen closed
their houses of worship in the towns and remained among the commandos to
pray and preach for those who did the fighting. The members of the
Volksraads, who brought on the war by their ultimatum, were among the
first in the field, and foremost in attacking the soldiers of their enemy.
Students in European universities, who hastened home when war-clouds were
gathering, went shoulder to shoulder into battle with the backwoodsman,
the Boer takhaar. There was no pride among them; no class distinction
which prevented a farmer from speaking to a millionaire. A graduate of
Cambridge had as his boon companion for five months a farmer who thought
the earth a square, and imagined the United States to be a political
division of Australia.

[Illustration: BOERS WATCHING THE FIGHT AT DUNDEE]

The Boer who was bred in a city or town good-naturedly referred to his
country cousin as a "takhaar"--a man with grizzly beard and unkempt hair.
It was a good descriptive term, and the takhaar was not offended when it
was applied to him. The takhaar was the modern type of the old voortrekker
Boer who, almost a hundred years ago, trekked north from Cape Colony, and
after overcoming thousands of difficulties settled in the present Boer
country. He was a religious, big-hearted countryman of the kind who would
suspect a stranger until he proved himself worthy of trust. After that
period was passed the takhaar would walk the veld in order that you might
ride his horse. If he could not speak your language he would repeat a
dozen times such words as he knew, meanwhile offering to you coffee,
mutton, bread, and all the best that his laager larder afforded. He
offered to exchange a pipe-load of tobacco with you, and when that
occurred you could take it for granted that he was your friend for life.
The takhaar was the man who went to the frontiers on his own
responsibility weeks before the ultimatum was sent, and watched day and
night lest the enemy might trample a rod beyond the bounds. He was the man
who stopped Jameson, who climbed Majuba, and who fought the natives. The
takhaar was the Boer before gold brought restlessness into the country,
and he was proud of his title. The fighting ability of the takhaar is best
illustrated by repeating an incident which occurred after the battle of
Dundee when a large number of Hussars were captured. One of the Hussar
officers asked for the name of the regiment he had been fighting against.
A fun-loving Boer replied that the Boers had no regiments; that their men
were divided into three brigades--the Afrikanders, the Boers, and the
Takhaars--a distinction which carried with it but a slight difference.
"The Afrikander brigade," the Boer explained, "is fighting now. They fight
like demons. When they are killed, then the Boers take the field. The
Boers fight about twice as well and hard as the Afrikanders. As soon as
all the Boers are killed, then come the takhaars, and they would rather
fight than eat." The officer remained silent for a moment, then sighed and
said, "Well, if that is correct, then our job is bigger than I thought it
was."

The ideal Boer is a man with a bearded face and a flowing moustache, and
in order to appear idyllic almost every Boer burgher, who was not thus
favoured before war was began, engaged in the peaceful process of growing
a beard. Young men who, in times of peace, detested hirsute adornments of
the face allowed their beards and moustaches to grow, and after a month or
two it was almost impossible to find one burgher who was without a growth
of hair on his face. The wearing of a beard was almost equal to a badge of
Boer citizenship, and for the time being every Boer was a takhaar in
appearance if not in fact. The adoption of beards was not so much fancy as
it was a matter of discretion. The Boer was aware of the fact that few of
the enemy wore beards, and so it was thought quite ingenious for all
burghers to wear facial adornments of that kind in order that friend and
foe might be distinguished more readily at a distance.

Notwithstanding their ability to fight when it is necessary, it is
doubtful whether twenty per cent of the Boer burghers in the commandos
would be accepted for service in any continental or American army. The
rigid physical examinations of many of the armies would debar thousands
from becoming regular soldiers. There were men in the Boer forces who had
only one arm, some with only one leg, others with only one eye; some were
almost totally blind, while others would have felt happy if they could
have heard the reports of their rifles. Men who were suffering from
various kinds of illnesses, and who should have been in a physician's
care, were to be seen in every laager. Men who wore spectacles were
numerous, while those who suffered from diseases which debar a man from a
regular army were without number. The high percentage of men unfit for
military duty was not due to the Boer's unhealthfulness, for he is as
healthy as farmers are in other parts of the earth. Take the entire male
population of any district in Europe and America and compare the
individuals with the standard required by army rules, and the result will
not differ greatly from the result of the Boer examination. If all the
youths and old men, the sick and maimed, could have been eliminated from
the Boer forces, eighty per cent, would probably have been found to be a
low estimate of the number thus subtracted from the total force. It would
have been heartrending to many a continental or American general to see
the unmilitary appearance of the Boer burgher, and in what manner an army
of children, great-grandfathers, invalids, and blind men, with a handful
of good men to leaven it, could be of any service whatever would have been
quite beyond his conception. It was such a mixed force that a Russian
officer, who at the outset of the war entered the Transvaal to fight,
became disgusted with its unmilitary appearance and returned to his own
country.

The accoutrement of the Boer burgher was none the less incongruous than
the physical appearance of the majority of them, although no expensive
uniform and trappings could have been of more practical value. The men of
the Pretoria and Johannesburg commandos had the unique honor of going to
the war in uniforms specially made for the purpose, but there was no
regulation or law which compelled them to wear certain kinds of clothing.
When these commandos went to the frontier several days before the actual
warfare had begun they were clothed in khaki-coloured cloth of almost the
same description as that worn by the soldiers whom they intended to fight.
These two commandos were composed of town-folk who had absorbed many of
the customs and habits of the foreigners who were in the country, and they
felt that it would be more warlike if they should wear uniforms made
specially for camp and field. The old Boers of the towns and the takhaars
looked askance at the youth of Pretoria and Johannesburg in their
uniforms, and shook their heads at the innovation as smacking too much of
an anti-republican spirit.

Like Cincinnatus, the majority of the old Boers went directly from their
farms to the battlefields, and they wore the same clothing in the laagers
as they used when shearing their sheep or herding their cattle. When they
started for the frontier the Boer farmers arranged matters so that they
might be comfortable while the campaign continued. Many, it is true,
dashed away from home at the first call to arms and carried with them,
besides a rifle and bandolier, nothing but a mackintosh, blanket, and
haversack of food. The majority of them, however, were solicitous of their
future comfort and loaded themselves down with all kinds of luggage. Some
went to the frontier with the big, four-wheeled ox-waggons and in these
they conveyed cooking utensils, trunks, boxes with food and flour,
mattresses, and even stoves. The Rustenburg farmers were specially
solicitous about their comfort, and those patriotic old takhaars
practically moved their families and household furniture to the camps.
Some of the burghers took two or three horses each in order that there
might be no delay or annoyance in case of misfortune by death or accident,
and frequently a burgher could be seen who had one horse for himself,
another for his camp utensils and extra clothing, and a third and fourth
for native servants who cooked his meals and watched the horses while they
grazed.

Without his horse the Boer would be of little account as a fighting man,
and those magnificent little ponies deserve almost as much credit for such
success as attended the campaign as their riders. If some South African
does not frame a eulogy of the little beasts it will not be because they
do not deserve it. The horse was half the Centaur and quite the life of
him. Small and wiry, he was able to jog along fifty and sixty miles a day
for several days in succession, and when the occasion demanded it, he was
able to attain a rate of speed that equalled that of the ordinary South
African railway train which, however, makes no claims to lightning-like
velocity. He bore all kinds of weather, was not liable to sickness except
in one season of the year, and he was able to work two and even three days
without more than a blade of grass. He was able to thrive on the grass of
the veld, and when winter killed that product he needed but a few bundles
of forage a day to keep him in good condition. He climbed rocky
mountain-sides as readily as a buck, and never wandered from a path by
darkest night. He drank and apparently relished the murky water of
mud-pools and needed but little attention with the currycomb and brush.
He was trained to obey the slightest turn of the reins, and a slight
whistle brought him to a full stop. When his master left him and went
forward into battle the Boer pony remained in the exact position where he
was placed, and when perchance a shell or bullet ended his existence, then
the Boer paid a tribute to the value of his dead servant by refusing to
continue the fight and by beating a hasty retreat.

In the early part of the campaign in Natal the laagers were filled with
ox-waggons, and, in the absence of tents which were sadly wanted during
that season of heavy rains, they stood in great stead to the burghers. The
rear half of the waggons were tented with an arched roof, as all the
trek-waggons are, and under these shelters the burghers lived. Many of the
burghers who left their ox-waggons at home took small, light, four-wheeled
carriages, locally called spiders, or the huge two-wheelers or Cape-carts
so serviceable and common throughout the country. These were readily
transformed into tents, and made excellent sleeping accommodations by
night and transport-waggons for the luggage when the commandos moved from
one place to another. When a rapid march was contemplated all the heavy
waggons were left behind in charge of native servants with which every
burgher was provided.

It was quite in keeping with their other ideas of personal comfort for
many Boer burghers to carry a coloured parasol or an umbrella to protect
them from the rays of the sun, and it was not considered beneath their
dignity to wear a woman's shawl around their shoulders or head when the
morning air was chilly. At first sight of these unique spectacles the
stranger in the Boer country felt amused, but if he cared to smile at
every unmilitary scene he would have had little time for other things. It
was a republican army composed of republicans, and anything that smacked
of the opposite was abhorred. There were no flags or insignia of any kind
to lead the burghers on. What mottoes there were that expressed their
cause were embroidered on the bands of their slouch-hats and cut on the
stocks of their rifles. "For God and Freedom," "For Freedom, Land, and
People," and "For God, Country, and Justice," were among the sentiments
which some of the burghers carried into battle on their hats and rifles.
Others had vierkleur ribbons as bands for their hats, while many carried
on the upturned brim of their hats miniatures containing the photographs
of the Presidents.

Aside from the dangers arising from a contact with the enemy and the
heart-burns resulting from a long absence from his home, the Boer
burgher's experiences at the front were not arduous. First and foremost he
had a horse and rifle, and with these he was always more or less happy. He
had fresh meat provided to him daily, and he had native servants to
prepare and serve his meals for him. He was under no discipline whatever,
and he could be his own master at all times. He generally had his sons or
brothers with him in the same laager, and to a Boer there was always much
joy in this. He could go on picket duty and have a brush with the enemy
whenever he felt inclined to do so, or he could remain in his laager and
never have a glimpse of the enemy. Every two months he was entitled to a
ten days' leave of absence to visit his home, and at other times during
the first five months of the war, his wife and children were allowed to
visit him in his laager. If he was stationed along the northern or western
frontiers of the Transvaal he was in the game country, and he was able to
go on buck-shooting expeditions as frequently as he cared. He was not
compelled to rise at a certain hour in the morning, and he could go to bed
whenever he wished. There was no drill, no roll-calls, nor any of the
thousands of petty details which the soldiers of even the Portuguese army
are compelled to perform. As a result of a special law there was no work
on Sundays or Church-holidays unless the enemy brought it about, and then,
if he was a stickler for the observance of the Sabbath, he was not
compelled to move a muscle. The Boer burgher could eat, sleep, or fight
whenever he wished, and inasmuch as he was a law unto himself, there was
no one who could compel him to change his habits. It was an ideal
idle-man's mode of living and the foreign volunteers who had leaves of
absence from their own armies made the most of their holiday, but in that
respect they did not surpass their companion, the Boer burgher.

The most conspicuous feature of the Boer forces was the equality of the
officers and the men, and the entire absence of any assumption of
superiority by the leaders of the burghers. None of the generals or
commandants wore any uniform of a distinctive type, and it was one of the
most difficult problems to distinguish an officer from the burghers. All
the officers, from the Commandant-General down to the corporal, carried
rifles and bandoliers, and all wore the ordinary garb of a civilian, so
that there was nothing to indicate the man's military standing. The
officers associated with their men every hour of the day, and, in most
instances, were able to call the majority of them by their Christian
names. With one or two exceptions, all the generals were farmers before
the war started, and consequently they were unable to assume any great
degree of superiority over their farmer-burghers if they had wished to do
so. General Meyer pitched quoits with his men, General Botha swapped
tobacco with any one of his burghers, and General Smuts and one of his
officers held the whist championship of their laager. Rarely a burgher
touched his hat before speaking to an officer, but he invariably shook
hands with him at meeting and parting. It is a Boer custom to shake hands
with friends or strangers, and whenever a general visited a laager
adjoining his own, the hand-shaking reminded one of the President's public
reception days at Washington. When General Joubert went from camp to camp
he greeted all the burghers who came near him with a grasp of the hand,
and it was the same with all the other generals and officers. Whenever
Presidents Kruger and Steyn went to the commandos, they held out their
right hands to all the burghers who approached them, and one might have
imagined that every Boer was personally acquainted with every other one in
the republics. It was the same with strangers who visited the laagers, and
many a sore wrist testified to the Boer's republicanism. Some one called
it the "hand-shaking army," and it was a most descriptive title. Many of
the burghers could not restrain from exercising their habit, and shook
hands with British prisoners, much to the astonishment of the captured.

Another striking feature of life in the Boer laagers was the deep
religious feeling which manifested itself in a thousand different ways. It
is an easy matter for an irreligious person to scoff at men who pass
through a campaign with prayer and hymn-singing, and it is just as easy to
laugh at the man who reads his Testament at intervals of shooting at the
enemy. The Boer was a religious man always, and when he went to war he
placed as much faith in prayer and in his Testament as in his rifle. He
believed that his cause was just, and that the Lord would favour those
fighting for a righteous cause in a righteous spirit. On October 11th,
before the burghers crossed the frontier at Laing's Nek, a religious
service was conducted. Every burgher in the commandos knelt on the ground
and uttered a prayer for the success and the speedy ending of the
campaign. Hymns were sung, and for a full hour the hills, whereon almost
twenty years before many of the same burghers sang and prayed after the
victory at Majuba, were resounding with the religious and patriotic songs
of men going forward to kill and to be killed. In their laagers the Boers
had religious services at daybreak and after sunset every day, whether
they were near to the enemy or far away. At first the novelty of being
awakened early in the morning by the voices of a large commando of
burghers was not conducive to a religious feeling in the mind of the
stranger, but a short stay in the laagers caused anger to turn to
admiration. After sunset the burghers again gathered in groups around
camp-fires, and made the countryside re-echo with the sound of their deep,
bass voices united in Dutch hymns and psalms of praise and thanksgiving.

Whether they ate a big meal from a well-equipped table, or whether they
leaped from their horses to make a hasty meal of biltong and bread, they
reverently bowed their heads and asked a blessing before and after eating.
Before they went into battle they gathered around their general and were
led in prayer by the man who afterwards led them against the enemy. When
the battle was concluded, and whether the field was won or lost, prayers
were offered to the God of battles. In the reports which generals and
commandants made to the war departments, victories and defeats were
invariably ascribed to the will of God, and such phrases as "All the glory
belongs to the Lord of Hosts who led us," and "God gave us the victory,"
and "Divine favour guided our footsteps," were frequent. When one is a
stranger of the Boers and unacquainted with the simple faith which they
place in Divine guidance, these religious manifestations may appear
inopportune in warfare, but it is necessary to observe the Boer burgher in
all his various actions and emotions to know that he is sincere in his
religious beliefs and that he endeavours to be a Christian in deed as well
as in word.

The Boer army, like Cromwell's troopers, could fight as well as pray, but
in reality it was not a fighting organisation in the sense that warfare
was agreeable to the burghers. The Boer proved that he could fight when
there was a necessity for it, but to the great majority of them it was
heartrending to slay their fellow human beings. The Boer's hand was better
adapted to the stem of a pipe than to the stock of an army rifle, and he
would rather have been engaged in the former peaceful pursuit had he not
believed that it was a holy war in which he was engaged. That he was not
eager for fighting was displayed in a hundred different ways. He loved his
home more than the laagers at the front, and he took advantage of every
opportunity to return to his home and family. He lusted not for battle,
and he seldom engaged in one unless he firmly believed that success
depended partly upon his individual presence. He did not go into battle
because he had the lust of blood, for he abhorred the slaughter of men,
and it was not an extraordinary spectacle to see a Boer weeping beside the
corpse of a British soldier. On the field, after the Spion Kop battle,
where Boer guns did their greatest execution, there were scores of
bare-headed Boers who deplored the war, and amidst ejaculations of "Poor
Tommy," and "This useless slaughter," brushed away the tears that rolled
down over their brown cheeks and beards. Never a Boer was seen to exult
over a victory. They might say "That is good" when they heard of a Spion
Kop or a Magersfontein, but never a shout or any other of the ordinary
methods of expressing joy. The foreigners in the army frequently were
beside themselves with joy after victories, but the Boers looked stolidly
on and never took any part in the demonstrations.



CHAPTER IV

THE ARMY ORGANISATION


When the Boer goes on a lion-hunting expedition he must be thoroughly
acquainted with the game country; he must be experienced in the use of the
rifle, and he must know how to protect himself against the attacks of the
enemy. When he is thus equipped and he abandons lion-hunting for the more
strenuous life of war the Boer is a formidable enemy, for he has combined
in him the qualities of a general as well as the powers of a private
soldier. In lion-hunting the harm of having too many men in authority is
not so fatal to the success of the expedition as it is in real warfare,
where the enemy may have less generals but a larger force of men who will
obey their commands. All the successes of the Boer army were the result of
the fact that every burgher was a general, and to the same cause may be
attributed almost every defeat. Whenever this army of generals combined
and agreed to do a certain work it was successful, but it was unsuccessful
whenever the generals disagreed. If the opportunity had given birth to a
man who would have been accepted as general of the generals--a man was
needed who could introduce discipline and training into the rudimentary
military system of the country--the chances of the Boer success would have
been far greater.

The leaders of the Boer army were elected by a vote of the people in the
same manner in which they chose their presidents and civil officials. Age,
ability, and military experience did not have any bearing on the subject
except in so far as they influenced the mind of the individual voter.
Family influences, party affiliations, and religion had a strong bearing
on the result of the elections, and, as is frequently the case with civil
authorities in other countries, the men with the best military minds and
experience were not always chosen. It was as a result of this system that
General Joubert was at the head of the army when a younger, more
energetic, and more warlike man should have been Commandant-General. At
the last election for Commandant-General, Joubert, a Progressive, also
received the support of the Conservatives, so that two years later he
might not be a candidate for the Presidency against Paul Kruger. In the
same manner the commandants of the districts and the field-cornets of the
wards were chosen, and in the majority of the cases no thought was taken
of their military ability at the time of the election. The voters of a
ward, the lowest political division in the country, elected their
field-cornet more with a view of having him administer the laws in times
of peace than with the idea of having him lead them into a battle, and in
like manner the election of a commandant for a district, which generally
consisted of five wards, was more of a victory for his popularity in peace
than for his presumed bravery in war. The Boer system of electing military
leaders by vote of the people may have had certain advantages, but it had
the negative advantage of effacing all traces of authority between
officers and men. The burgher who had assisted in electing his
field-cornet felt that that official owed him a certain amount of
gratitude for having voted for him, and obeyed his orders or disobeyed
them whenever he chose to do so. The field-cornet represented authority
over his men, but of real authority there was none. The commandants were
presumed to have authority over the field-cornets and the generals over
the commandants, but whether the authority was of any value could not be
ascertained until after the will of those in lower rank was discovered. By
this extraordinary process it happened that every burgher was a general
and that no general was greater than a burgher.

[Illustration: ELECTING A FIELD-CORNET]

The military officers of the Boers, with the exception of the
Commandant-General, were the same men who ruled the country in times of
peace. War suddenly transformed pruning-hooks into swords, and
conservators of peace into leaders of armies. The head of the army was the
Commandant-General, who was invested with full power to direct operations
and lead men.

Directly under his authority were the Assistant Commandant-Generals, five
of whom were appointed by the Volksraad a short time before the beginning
of hostilities. Then in rank were those who were called Vecht-Generals, or
fighting generals, in order to distinguish them from the
Assistant-Generals. Then followed the Commandants, the leaders of the
field-cornets of one district, whose rank was about that of colonels. The
field-cornets, who were in command of the men of a ward, were under the
authority of a commandant, and ranked on a par with majors. The burghers
of every ward were subdivided into squads of about twenty-five men under
the authority of a corporal, whose rank was equal to that of a lieutenant.
There were no corps, brigades, regiments, and companies to call for
hundreds of officers; it was merely a commando, whether it had ten men or
ten thousand, and neither the subdivision nor the augmentation of a force
affected the list of officers in any way. Nor would such a multiplication
of officers weaken the fighting strength of a force, for every officer,
from Commandant-General to corporal, carried and used a rifle in every
battle.

When the officers had their men on the field, and desired to make a
forward movement or an attack on the enemy, it was necessary to hold a
Krijgsraad, or council of war, and this was conducted in such a novel way
that the most unmilitary burgher's voice bore almost as much weight as
that of the Commandant-General. Every officer, from corporal to
Commandant-General, was a member of the Krijgsraad, and when a plan was
favoured by the majority of those present at the council it became a law.
The result of a Krijgsraad meeting did not necessarily imply that it was
the plan favoured by the best military minds at the council, for it was
possible and legal for the opinions of sixteen corporals to be adopted
although fifteen generals and commandants opposed the plan with all their
might. That there ever was such a result is problematical, but there were
many Krijgsraads at which the opinion of the best and most experienced
officers were cast aside by the votes of field-cornets and corporals. It
undoubtedly was a representative way of adopting the will of the people,
but it frequently was exceedingly costly. At the Krijgsraad in Natal which
determined to abandon the positions along the Tugela, and retire north of
Ladysmith the project was bitterly opposed by the generals who had done
the bravest and best fighting in the colony, but the votes of the
corporals, field-cornets, and commandants outnumbered theirs, and there
was nothing for the generals to do but to retire and allow Ladysmith to be
relieved. At Mafeking scores of Krijgsraad were held for the purpose of
arriving at a determination to storm the town, but invariably the
field-cornets and corporals out-voted the commandants and generals and
refused to risk the lives of their men in such a hazardous attack. Even
the oft-repeated commands of the Commandant-General to storm Mafeking were
treated with contempt by the majority of the Krijgsraad who constituted
the highest military authority in the country so far as they and their
actions were concerned. When there happened to be a deadlock in the
balloting at a Krijgsraad it was more than once the case that the vote of
the Commandant-General counted for less than the voice of a burgher. In
one of the minor Krijgsraads in Natal there was a tie in the voting, which
was ended when an old burgher called his corporal aside and influenced him
to change his vote. The Commandant-General himself had not been able to
change the result of the voting, but the old burgher who had no connection
with the council of war practically determined the result of the meeting.

The Krijgsraad was the supreme military authority in the country, and its
resolutions were the law, all its infractions being punishable by fines.
The minority of a Krijgsraad was obliged to assist in executing the plans
of the majority, however impracticable or distasteful they might have been
to those whose opinions did not prevail. There were innumerable instances
where generals and commandants attended a Krijgsraad and afterward acted
quite contrary to the resolution adopted by the council. In any other army
such action would have been called disobedience of orders, with the
corresponding punishment, but in the Boer army it amounted to little
beyond personal animosity. According to Boer military law an officer
offending in such a manner should have been arraigned before the
Krijgsraad and tried by his fellow officers, but such occurrences were
extremely rare.

One of the few instances where a man was arraigned before a Krijgsraad for
dereliction of duty was after the enemy succeeded in damaging one of the
"Long Tom's" around Ladysmith.

The artillery officer who was in charge of the gun when the dynamite was
exploded in its muzzle was convicted of neglect of duty and was disgraced
before the army. After the battle of Belmont Vecht-General Jacob Prinsloo,
of the Free State, was court-martialled for cowardice and was reduced to
the rank of burgher. It was Prinsloo's first battle, and he was thoroughly
frightened. When some of his men came up to him and asked him for
directions to repel the advancing British force Prinsloo trembled, rubbed
his hands, and replied: "God only knows; I don't," and fled with all his
men at his heels.

Two instances where commandants acted contrary to the decisions of
Krijgsraad were the costly disobedience of General Erasmus, at Dundee, and
the still more costly mistake of Commandant Buis at Hlangwe. When the
Boers invaded Natal and determined to attack the British forces then
stationed at the town of Dundee, it was decided at a Krijgsraad that
General Lucas Meyer should attack from the east and south, and General
Erasmus from the north. General Meyer occupied Talana Hill, east of
Dundee, and a kopje south of the town, and attacked General Penn-Symons's
forces at daybreak. General Erasmus and the Pretoria commando, with field
pieces and a "Long Tom," occupied Impati Mountain on the north, but when
the time arrived for him to assist in the attack on the enemy several
hundred yards below him he would not allow one shot to be fired. As a
result of the miscarriage of plans General Meyer was compelled to retire
from Talana Hill in the afternoon, while the British force was enabled to
escape southward into Ladysmith. If General Erasmus had followed the
decision of the Krijgsraad, and had assisted in the attack, there is
hardly any doubt that the entire force of the enemy would have been
captured. Even more disastrous was the disobedience of Commandant Buis, of
the Heidelberg commando, who was ordered to occupy a certain point on the
Boschrand, called Hlangwe, about February 19th. The British had tried for
several weeks to drive the Boers from the Boschrand, but all their
attempts proved fruitless. A certain commando had been holding Hlangwe for
a long time, and Commandant Buis was ordered to take his commando and
relieve the others by night. Instead of going to Hlangwe immediately that
night he bivouacked in a small nek near by, intending to occupy the
position early the following morning. During the night the British
discovered that the point was unoccupied and placed a strong force
there. In this manner the British wedge was forced into the Boschrand, and
shortly afterwards the Boers were obliged to retreat across the Tugela and
secure positions on the north bank of the stream. Of less serious
consequence was General De la Rey's refusal to carry out a decision he
himself had assisted in framing. It was at Brandfort, in the Free State,
several weeks after Bloemfontein was occupied, and all the Boer generals
in the vicinity met in Krijgsraad and voted to make a concerted attack
upon the British force at Tafelkop, midway between Bloemfontein and
Brandfort. Generals Smuts and Botha made a long night trek to the
positions from which they were to attack the enemy at daybreak. It had
been arranged that General De la Rey's commando should open the attack
from another point, and that no operations should begin until after he had
given a certain signal. The signal was never given, and, after waiting for
it several hours, the other generals returned to Brandfort only to find
that General De la Rey had not even moved from his laager.

When the lower ranks of officers--the field-cornets and
corporals--disobeyed the mandates of the Krijgsraads, displayed cowardice
or misbehaved in any other manner, the burghers under their command were
able to impeach them and elect other officers to fill the vacancies. The
corporals were elected by the burghers after war was begun, and they held
their posts only so long as their behaviour met with the favour of those
who placed them in authority. During the first three months of the war
innumerable changes of that nature were made, and not infrequently was it
the case that a corporal was unceremoniously dismissed because he had
offended one of his men who happened to wield much influence over his
fellows in the commando. Personal popularity had much to do with the
tenure of office, but personal bravery was not allowed to go unrewarded,
and it happened several times in the laagers along the Tugela that a
corporal resigned his rank so that one of his friends who had
distinguished himself in a battle might have his work recognised and
appreciated.

However independent and irresponsible the Boer officer may have been, he
was a man in irons compared with the Boer burgher. The burgher was bound
by no laws except such as he made for himself. There was a State law which
compelled him to join a commando and to accompany it to the front, or in
default of that law to pay a small fine. As soon as he was "on commando,"
as he called it, he became his own master and could laugh at Mr. Atkins
across the way who was obliged to be constantly attending to various camp
duties when not actively engaged. No general, no act of Volksraad could
compel him to do any duty if he felt uninclined to perform it, and there
was no power on earth which could compel him to move out of his tent if he
did not desire to go. In the majority of countries a man may volunteer to
join the army but when once he is a soldier he is compelled to fight, but
in the Boer country the man was compelled to join the army, but he was not
obliged to fight unless he volunteered to do so. There were hundreds of
men in the Natal laagers who never engaged in one battle and never fired a
shot in the first six months of the war. Again, there were hundreds of men
who took part in almost every one of the battles, whether their commando
was engaged or not, but they joined the fighting voluntarily and not
because they were compelled to do so.

When a Krijgsraad determined to make or resist an attack it was decided by
the officers at the meeting how many men were needed for the work.
Immediately after the meeting the officers returned to their commandos,
and, after explaining to their burghers the nature and object of the
expedition, asked for volunteers. The officer could not call upon certain
men and order them to take part in the purposed proceedings he could only
ask them to volunteer their services. It happened at times that an entire
commando of several hundred men volunteered to do the work asked of them,
but just as often it happened that only from one-tenth to one-twentieth of
the burghers expressed their willingness to accompany the expedition.
Several days after the Spion Kop battle General Botha called for four
hundred volunteers to assist in resisting an attack that it was feared
would be made. There were almost ten thousand men in the environs of
Ladysmith at that time, but it was with the utmost difficulty that the
four hundred men could be gathered. Two hundred men came from one
commando, one hundred and fifty-three from another, twenty-eight from a
third, fifteen from another, and five from another made a total of four
hundred and one men--one more than was called for.

When Commandant-General Joubert, at his Hoofd--or head-laager at
Modderspruit, received an urgent request for reinforcements he was not
able to order one of the commandos that was in laager near him to go to
the assistance of the fighting burghers; he could only make a request of
the different commandants and field-cornets to ask their men to volunteer
for the service. If the men refused to go, then naturally the
reinforcements could not be sent, and those who were in dire need of
assistance had the alternative of continuing the struggle alone or of
yielding a position to the enemy. The relief of Ladysmith was due to the
fact that Generals Botha, Erasmus, and Meyer could not receive
reinforcements from Commandant-General Joubert, who was north of Ladysmith
with almost ten thousand men. Botha, Meyer, and Erasmus had been fighting
for almost a week without a day's intermission, and their two thousand men
were utterly exhausted when Joubert was asked to send reinforcements, or
even men enough to relieve those from fighting for a day or two, but a
Krijgsraad had decided that the entire army should retreat to the
Biggarsberg, and Joubert could not, or at least would not, send any
burghers to the Tugela, with the result that Botha was compelled to
retreat and abandon positions which could have been held indefinitely if
there had been military discipline in the commandos. It was not always the
case that commandants and generals were obliged to go begging for
volunteers, and there were innumerable times when every man of a commando
did the work assigned to him without a murmur.

During the Natal campaign the force was so large, and the work seemed so
comparatively easy that the majority of the burghers never went to the
firing line, but when British successes in the Free State placed the Boers
on the defensive it was not so easy to remain behind in the laagers and
allow others more willing to engage in the fighting. General Cronje was
able to induce a much larger percentage of his men to fight than
Commandant-General Joubert, but the reasons for this were that he was much
firmer with his men and that he moved from one place to another more
frequently than Joubert. Towards the end of General Cronje's campaign all
his men were willing to enter a battle, but that was because they realised
that they must fight, and in that there was much that was lacking in the
Natal army. When a Boer realised that he must fight or lose his life or a
battle, he would fight as few other men were able to fight, but when he
imagined that his presence at the firing line was not imperative he chose
to remain in laager.

[Illustration: KRIJGSRAAD, NEAR THABA N'CHU]

There were hundreds of burghers who took part in almost every battle in
Natal, and these were the individuals who understood the frame of mind of
some of their countrymen, and determined that they must take upon
themselves the responsibilities of fighting and winning battles. Among
those who were most forward in fighting were the Johannesburg police, the
much-despised "Zarps" of peaceful times; the Pretoria commando, and the
younger men of other commandos. There were many old Boers who left their
laagers whenever they heard the report of a gun, but the ages of the great
majority of those who were killed or injured were between seventeen and
thirty years. After the British captured Bloemfontein, and the memorable
Krijgsraad at Kroonstad determined that guerilla warfare should be
followed thereafter, it was not an easy matter for a burgher to remain
behind in the laagers, for the majority of the ox-waggons and other camp
paraphernalia was sent home and laager life was not so attractive as
before. Commandos remained at one place only a short time, and there was
almost a daily opportunity for a brush with the enemy. The war had been
going on for six months, but many of the men had their first taste of
actual war as late as that, and, after the first battle had been safely
passed through, the following ones were thought of little consequence.
When General Christian De Wet began his campaign in the eastern part of
the Free State there were hardly enough men left in the laagers to guard
them properly when battles were in progress, and in the battles at
Sannaspost, Moester's Hoek, and Wepener probably ninety-nine per cent. of
his men took part in every battle. In Natal the real fighting spirit was
lacking from the majority of the men, or Commandant-General Joubert might
never have been wiped aside from the path to Durban; but months afterward,
when the burgher learned that his services were actually needed, and that,
if he did not fight, he was liable to be captured and sent to St. Helena,
he polished his Mauser and fought as hard and well as he was able.

The same carelessness or indifference which manifested itself throughout
the early part of the Natal campaign with regard to the necessity of
assisting in the fighting was evident in that all-important part of an
army's work, the guarding of the laagers. The Boers did not have sentries
or outposts as they are understood in trained armies, but they had what
was called a "Brandwacht," or fire-guard, which consisted of a hundred men
or more who were supposed to take positions at a certain distance from the
laagers, and remain there until daybreak. These men were volunteers
secured by the corporal, who was responsible to his field-cornet for a
certain number of men every night. It was never made compulsory upon any
one to go on Brandwacht, but the duty was not considered irksome, and
there were always as many volunteers as were required for the work.

The men on Brandwacht carried with them blankets, pipes, and kettles, and,
after reaching the point which they were to occupy during the night, they
tethered their horse to one of their feet and made themselves comfortable
with pipe and coffee. When the enemy was known to be near by the
Brandwacht kept awake, as a matter of personal safety, but when there
seemed to be no danger of attack he fastened his blankets around his body
and, using his saddle for a pillow, slept until the sun rose. There was a
mild punishment for those who slept while on this duty, and occasionally
the burgher found in the morning that some one had extracted the bolt of
his rifle during the night. When the corporal produced the bolt as
evidence against him in the morning and sentenced him to carry a stone or
a box of biscuits on his head the burgher might decline to be punished,
and no one could say aught against his determination.

The Boer scouts, or spies as they called them, received their finest
tribute from Sir George White, the British Commander at Ladysmith. In a
speech which he delivered at Cape Town, Sir George said--

"All through this campaign, from the first day the Boers crossed the
frontier to the relief of Ladysmith, I and others who have been in command
near me, have been hampered by their excellent system of intelligence, for
which I give them all credit. I wish to goodness that they had neglected
it, for I could not move a gun, even if I did not give the order till
midnight, but they knew it by daylight next morning. And they had their
agents, who gave them their intelligence through thick and thin. I locked
up everybody who I thought could go and tell, but somehow or other the
intelligence went on."

The Boer was an effective scout because he was familiar with the country,
and because his eyes were far better than those of any of the men against
whom he was pitted. The South African atmosphere is extraordinarily clear,
and every person has a long range of vision, but the Boer, who was
accustomed to the climatic conditions, could distinguish between Boer and
Briton where the stranger could barely see a moving object. Field-glasses
were almost valueless to Boer scouts, and few of them were carried by any
one except the generals and commandants, who secured them from the War
Department before the beginning of the war. There was no distinct branch
of the army whose exclusive duty it was to scout, and there was even
greater lack of organisation in the matter of securing information
concerning the movements of the enemy than in the other departments of the
army's work. When a general or commandant felt that it was necessary to
secure accurate information concerning the enemy's strength and
whereabouts he asked for volunteers to do the work. Frequently, during the
Natal campaign, no scouting was done for days, and the generals were
absolutely ignorant of everything in connection with the enemy. Later in
the campaign several scouting corps composed of foreign volunteers were
organised, and thereafter the Boers depended wholly upon the information
they secured. There was no regulation which forbade burghers from leaving
the laagers at any time, or from proceeding in any direction, and much of
the information that reached the generals was obtained from these rovers
over the veld. It was extremely difficult for a man who did not have the
appearance of a burgher to ride over the veld for more than a mile without
being hailed by a Boer who seemed to have risen out of the earth
unnoticed. "Where are you going?" or "Where are you coming from?" were his
invariable salutations, and if the stranger was unable to give a
satisfactory reply or show proper passports he was commanded, "Hands up."
The burghers were constantly on the alert when they were on the veld,
whether they were merely wandering about, leaving for home, or returning
to the laager, and as soon as they secured any information which they
believed was valuable they dashed away to the nearest telegraph or
heliograph station, and reported it to their general or commandant. In
addition to this valuable attribute the Boers had the advantage of being
among white and black friends who could assist them in a hundred different
ways in securing information concerning the enemy, and all these
circumstances combined to warrant General White's estimate of the Boers'
intelligence department, which, notwithstanding its efficiency, was more
or less chimerical.

In no department or branch of the army was there any military discipline
or system, except in the two small bodies of men known as the State
Artillery of the Transvaal and the State Artillery of the Free State.
These organisations were in existence many years before the war was begun,
and had regular drills and practice which were maintained when they were
at the front. The Johannesburg Police also had a form of discipline which,
however, was not strict enough to prevent the men from becoming mutinous
when they imagined that they had fought the whole war themselves, and
wanted to have a vacation in order that they might visit their homes. The
only vestige of real military discipline that was to be found in the
entire Boer army was that which was maintained by Field-Cornet A.L.
Thring, of the Kroonstad commando, who had a roll-call and inspection of
rifles every morning. This extraordinary procedure was not relished by the
burghers, who made an indignant protest to General Christian De Wet. The
general upheld the field-cornet's action, and told the men that if all the
officers had instituted similar methods more success might have attended
the army's operations.

With the exception of the instances cited, every man was a disciplinary
law unto himself, and when he transgressed that law no one would punish
him but his conscience. There were laws on the subject of obedience in the
army, and each had penalties attached to it, but it was extremely rare
that a burgher was punished. When he endured discipline he did it because
he cared to do so, and not because he feared those who had authority over
him. He was deeply religious, and he felt that in being obedient he was
finding favour in the eyes of the Providence that favoured his cause. It
was as much his religion as his ability to aim unerringly that made the
Boer a good soldier. If the Boer army had been composed of an irreligious,
undisciplined body of men, instead of the psalm-singing farmers, it would
have been conquered by itself. The religion of the Boers was their
discipline.



CHAPTER V

THE BOER MILITARY SYSTEM


The disparity between the British and Boer armies seemed to be so great at
the time the war was begun that the patriotic Englishman could hardly be
blamed for asserting that the struggle would be of only a month's
duration. On the one side was an army every branch of which was highly
developed and specialised and kept in constant practice by many wars waged
under widely different conditions. Back of it was a great nation, with
millions of men and unlimited resources to draw upon. At the head of the
army were men who had the theory and practice of warfare as few leaders of
other armies had had the opportunities of securing them. Opposed to this
army was practically an aggregation of farmers, hastily summoned together
and utterly without discipline or training. They were unable to replace
with another a single fallen burgher and prevented from adding by
importation to their stock of ammunition a single rifle or a single pound
of powder. At the head were farmers who, perhaps, did not know that there
existed a theory of warfare and much less knew how recent wars were fought
and won. The means by which thirty thousand farmers of no military
training were enabled to withstand the opposition of several hundred
thousand well-trained soldiers for the greater part of a year must be
attributed to the military system which gave such a marvellous advantage.
Such success as attended the Boer army was undoubtedly the success of its
system of warfare against that of the British.

[Illustration: BOER COMMANDANTS READING MESSAGE FROM BRITISH OFFICERS
AFTER THE BATTLE OF DUNDEE]

The Boers themselves were not aware that they had a military system; at
least, none of the generals or men acknowledged the existence of such, and
it was not an easy matter to find evidences that battles were fought and
movements made according to certain established rules which suggested a
system. The Boers undoubtedly had a military plan of their own which was
naturally developed in their many wars with natives and with the British
troops. It might not have been a system, according to the correct
definition of the term--it might have been called an instinct for
fighting, or a common-sense way of attempting to defeat an enemy--but it
was a matter which existed in the mind of every single citizen of the two
Republics. It was not to be learned from books or teachers, nor could it
be taught to those who were not born in the country. Whatever that system
was, it was extremely rudimentary, and was never developed to any extent
by the discipline and training which any system necessarily requires in
order to make it effective. There was a natural system or manner used by
the Boers when hunting for lion or buck, and it was identically the same
which they applied against the British army. Every Boer was expert in the
use of his rifle; he had an excellent eye for country and cover; he was
able to tell at a glance whether a hill or an undulation in the ground was
suitable for fighting purposes, whether it could be defended and whether
it offered facilities for attack or retreat. Just as every Boer was a
general, so it was that every burgher had in his mind a certain military
plan fashioned after the needs and opportunities of the country, and this
was their system--a sort of national as well as natural military system.

In the British army, as well as in the other modern armies, the soldier is
supposed to understand nothing, know nothing, and do nothing but give
obedience to the commands of his officers. The trained soldier learns
little, and is supposed to learn little, of anything except the evolutions
he is taught on the drill-grounds. It is presumed that he is stupid, and
the idea appears to be to prevent him from being otherwise in order that
he may the better fulfil his part in the great machine to which a trained
army has been likened. The soldier is regarded as an animal of low mental
grade, whose functions are merely to obey the orders of the man who has
been chosen by beings of superior intelligence to lead him. When the man
who was chosen in times of peace to lead the men in times of war meets the
enemy and fails to make a display of the military knowledge which it was
presumed he possessed, then the soldiers who look to him for leadership
are generally useless, and oftentimes worse than useless, inasmuch as
their panic is likely to become infectious among neighbouring bodies of
soldiers who are equipped with better leaders. In trained armies the value
of a soldier is a mere reflection of the value of the officer who commands
him, and the value of the army is relatively as great as the ability of
its generals. In the Boer army the generals and commandants were of much
less importance, for the reason that the Boer burgher acted almost always
on his own initiative. The generals were of more service before the
beginning of a battle than while it was in progress. When a burgher became
aware of the presence of the enemy his natural instincts, his innate
military system, told him the best manner in which to attack his adversary
as well as his general could have informed him. The generals and other
officers were of prime importance in leading the burghers to the point
where the enemy was likely to be found, but when that point was reached
their period of usefulness ended, for the burghers knew how to wage the
battle as well as they did. Generally speaking, the most striking
difference between the Boer army and a trained army was the difference in
the distribution of intelligence.

All the intelligence of a trained army is centred in the officers; in the
Boer army there was much practical military sense and alertness of mind
distributed throughout the entire force.

Mr. Disraeli once said: "Doubtless to think with vigour, with clearness,
and with depth in the recess of a cabinet is a fine intellectual
demonstration; but to think with equal vigour, clearness, and depth among
bullets, appears the loftiest exercise and the most complete triumph of
the human faculties." Without attempting to insinuate that every Boer
burgher was a man of the high mental attainments referred to by the
eminent British statesman, it must be acknowledged that the fighting Boer
was a man of more than ordinary calibre.

In battle the Boer burgher was practically his own general. He had an eye
which quickly grasped a situation, and he never waited for an order from
an officer to take advantage of it. When he saw that he could with safety
approach the enemy more closely he did so on his own responsibility, and
when it became evident to him that it would be advantageous to occupy a
different position in order that he might stem the advance of the enemy he
acted entirely on his own initiative. He remained in one position just as
long as he considered it safe to do so, and if conditions warranted he
went forward, and if they were adverse he retreated, whether there was an
order from an officer or not. When he saw that the burghers in another
part of the field were hard pressed by the enemy he deserted his own
position and went to their assistance, and when his own position became
untenable, in his own opinion, he simply vacated it and went to another
spot where bullets and shells were less thick. If he saw a number of the
enemy who were detached from the main body of their own force, and he
believed that they could be taken prisoner, he enlisted a number of the
burghers who were near him, and made an effort to capture them, whether
there was an officer close at hand or a mile distant.

No one was surfeited with orders; in fact, the lack of them was more
noticeable, and it was well that it was so, for the Boer burgher disliked
to be ordered, and he always did things with better grace when he acted
spontaneously. An illustration of this fact was an incident at the fight
of Modderspruit where two young Boers saved an entire commando from
falling into the hands of the enemy. Lieutenant Oelfse, of the State
Artillery, and Reginald Sheppard, of the Pretoria commando, observed a
strong force of the British advancing towards a kopje where the
Krugersdorp commando was concealed. The two men saw that the
Krugersdorpers would be cut off in a short time if they were not informed
of the British advance, so they determined to plunge across the open veld,
six hundred yards from the enemy's guns, and tell them of their danger. No
officer could have compelled the men to undertake such a hazardous journey
across a bullet-swept plain, but Oelfse and Sheppard acted on their own
responsibility, succeeded in reaching the Krugersdorp commando without
being hit, and gave to the commandant the information which undoubtedly
saved him and his men from being captured. Incidents of like nature
occurred in almost every battle of the campaign, and occasionally the
service rendered so voluntarily by the burghers was of momentous
consequences, even if the act itself seemed trivial at the time.

A second feature of the Boer army, and equally as important as the freedom
of action of its individuals, was its mobility. Every burgher was mounted
on a fleet horse or pony, and consequently his movements on the
battlefield, whether in an advance or in a retreat, were many times more
rapid that those of his enemy--an advantage which was of inestimable value
both during an engagement and in the intervals between battles when it was
necessary to secure new positions. During the progress of a battle the
Boers were able to desert a certain point for a time, mount their horses
and ride to another position, and throw their full strength against the
latter, yet remaining in such close touch with the former that it was
possible to return and defend it in an exceedingly short space of time.
With the aid of their horses they could make such a sudden rush from one
position to another that the infantry of the enemy could be surrounded and
cut off from all communications with the body of its army almost before it
was known that any Boers were in the vicinity, and it was due to that fact
that the Boers were able to make so many large numbers of captives.

The fighting along the Tugela furnished many magnificent examples of the
Boers' extreme mobility. There it was a constant jump from one position to
another--one attack here yesterday, another there to-day. It was an
incessant movement made necessary by the display of energy by the British,
whose thrice-larger forces kept the Boers in a state of continued
ferment. On one side of the river, stretched out from the south of Spion
Kop, in the west, to almost Helpmakaar, in the east, were thirty thousand
British troops watching for a weak point where they might cross, and
attacking whenever there seemed to be the slightest opportunity of
breaking through; on the other side were between two and three thousand
mounted Boers, jumping from one point to another in the long line of
territory to be guarded, and repelling the attacks whenever they were
made. The country was in their favour, it is true, but it was not so
favourable that a handful of men could defend it against thousands, and it
was partly due to the great ease and rapidity with which the Boers could
move from one place to another, that Ladysmith remained besieged so long.
The mobility of the Boers was again well demonstrated by the retreat of
the burghers from the environs of Ladysmith. After the Krijgsraad decided
to withdraw the forces into the Biggarsberg, it required only a few hours
for all the many commandos to leave the positions they had held so long;
to load their impedimenta and to be well on the way to the northward. The
departure was so rapid that it surprised even those who were in
Ladysmith. One day the Boers were shelling the town as usual and all the
commandos were observed in the same positions which they had occupied for
several months; the following day not a single Boer was to be seen
anywhere. They had quietly mounted their horses by night and before the
sun rose in the morning they were trekking north beyond Modderspruit and
Elandslaagte, on the way to Glencoe. General Cronje's flight from
Magersfontein was also accomplished with great haste and in good order,
but what probably was the finest example of the Boers' mobility was the
magnificent retreat along the Basuto border of Generals Grobler, Olivier,
and Lemmer, with their six thousand men, when the enemy was known to be in
great strength within several days' march of them. After the capture of
Cronje at Paardeberg the three generals, who had been conducting the
campaign in the eastern provinces of Cape Colony, were in a most dangerous
position, having the enemy in the rear, the left and left front, the
neutral Basuto land on the right front, and only a small strip of
territory along the western border of the Basuto country apparently free
of the enemy. The British were in Bloemfontein and in the surrounding
country, and it seemed almost impossible that the six thousand men could
ever extricate themselves from such a position to join the Boer forces in
the north. It would have been a comparatively easy matter for six thousand
mounted men to make the journey if they had not been loaded down with
impedimenta, but the three generals were obliged to carry with them all
their huge transport waggons and heavy camping paraphernalia. The trek
northward was begun near Colesburg on March 12th, and when all the
different commandos had joined the main column the six thousand horsemen,
the seven hundred and fifty transport-waggons, the two thousand natives,
and twelve thousand cattle formed a line extending more than twenty-four
miles. The scouts, who were despatched westward from the column to
ascertain the whereabouts of the enemy, reported large forces of British
cavalry sixty and seventy miles distant, but for some inexplicable reason
the British made no attempt to cut off the retreat of the three generals,
and on March 28th they reached Kroonstad, having traversed almost four
hundred miles of territory in the comparatively short time of sixteen
days. Sherman's march to the sea was made under extraordinary conditions,
but the retreat of the three generals was fraught with dangers and
difficulties much greater. Sherman passed through a fertile country, and
had an enemy which was disheartened. The three generals had an enemy
flushed with its first victories, while the country through which they
passed was mountainous and muddy. If the column had been captured so soon
after the Paardeberg disaster, the relief of Kimberley and the relief of
Ladysmith, it might have been so disheartening to the remaining Boer
commandos that the war might have been ended at that time. It was a
magnificent retreat and well worthy to be placed in the Boer's scroll of
honour with Cronje's noble stand at Paardeberg, with Spion Kop and
Magersfontein.

[Illustration: GENERAL GROBLER]

The Boer army was capable of moving rapidly under almost any
conditions. The British army demonstrated upon many occasions that it
could not move more than two or three miles an hour when the column was
hampered with transport waggons and camping paraphernalia, and frequently
it was impossible to proceed at that pace for many consecutive hours. A
Boer commando easily travelled six miles an hour and not infrequently,
when there was a necessity for rapid motion, seven and even eight miles an
hour were traversed. When General Lucas Meyer moved his commandos along
the border at the outset of the war and learned that General Penn-Symons
was located at Dundee he made a night march of almost forty miles in six
hours and occupied Talana Hill, a mile distant from the enemy, who was
ignorant of the Boers' proximity until the camp was shelled at daybreak.
When General De Wet learned that Colonel Broadwood was moving westward
from Thaba N'Chu on March 30th, he was in laager several miles east of
Brandfort, but it required only several minutes for all the burghers to be
on their horses and ready to proceed toward the enemy. The journey of
twenty-five miles to Sannaspost, or the Bloemfontein waterworks, was made
in the short time of five hours, while Colonel Broadwood's forces consumed
seven hours in making the ten miles' journey from Thaba N'Chu to the same
place. The British column was unable to move more rapidly on account of
its large convoy of waggons, but even then the rate of progress was not as
great as that made by the trekking party of the three generals who were
similarly hampered. It was rarely the case that the Boers attempted to
trek for any considerable distance with their heavy waggons when they were
aware of the presence of the enemy in the vicinity. Ox-waggons were always
left behind, while only a small number of mule-waggons, bearing provisions
and ammunition, were taken, and on that account they were able to move
with greater rapidity than their opponents. Frequently they entered
dangerous territory with only a few days' provisions and risked a famine
of food and ammunition rather than load themselves down with many
lumbering waggons which were likely to retard their progress. After
fighting the battle at Moester's Hoek, General De Wet had hardly three
days' food and very little ammunition with him, yet rather than delay his
march and send for more waggons, he proceeded to Wepener where, after
several days' fighting, both his food and ammunition became exhausted and
he was obliged to lie idle around the enemy and await the arrival of the
supplies which he might have carried with him at the outset of the trek if
he had cared to risk such an impediment to his rapid movements.

One of the primary reasons why the Boer could move more rapidly than the
British was the difference in the weight carried by their horses. The Boer
paid no attention to art when he went to war, and consequently he carried
nothing that was not absolutely essential. His saddle was less than half
the weight of a British saddle, and that was almost all the equipment he
carried when on a trek. The Boer rider and equipment, including saddle,
rifle, blankets, and a food-supply, rarely weighed more than two hundred
and fifty pounds, which was not a heavy load for a horse to carry. A
British cavalryman and his equipment of heavy saddle, sabre, carbine, and
saddle-bags, rarely weighed less than four hundred pounds--a burden which
soon tired a horse. Again, almost every Boer had two horses, so that when
one had been ridden for an hour or more he was relieved and led, while the
other was used. In this manner the Boers were able to travel from twelve
to fourteen hours in a day when it was absolutely necessary to reach a
certain point at a given time. Six miles an hour was the rate of progress
ascribed to horses in normal condition, and when a forced march was
attempted they could travel sixty and seventy miles in a day, and be in
good condition the following morning to undertake another journey of equal
length. Small commandos often covered sixty and seventy miles in a day,
especially during the fighting along the Tugela, while after the battles
of Poplar Grove and Abraham's Kraal, and the capture of Bloemfontein, it
seemed as if the entire army in the Free State were moving northward at a
rate of speed far exceeding that of an express train. The mobility of the
Boer army was then on a par with that of the British army after the battle
of Dundee, and it was difficult to determine which of the two deserved the
palm for the best display of accelerated motion.

A feature of the Boer system of warfare which was most striking was the
manner in which each individual protected himself, as far as possible,
from danger. In lion-hunting it is an axiom that the hunter must not
pursue a wounded lion into tall grass or underbrush lest the pursuer may
be attacked. In the Boer army it was a natural instinct, common to all the
burghers, which led them to seek their own safety whenever danger seemed
to be near. Men who follow the most peaceful pursuits of life value their
lives highly. They do not assume great risks even if great ends are to be
attained. The majority of the Boers were farmers who saw no glory in
attempting to gain a great success, the attainment of which made it
necessary that they should risk their lives. It seemed as if each man
realised that his death meant a great loss to the Boer army, already
small, and that he did not mean to diminish its size if he could possibly
prevent it. The Boer was quick in noting when the proper time arrived for
retreat, and he was not slothful in acting upon his observations.
Retreating at the proper time was one of the Boers' characteristics, but
it could not be called an advantage, for frequently many of the Boers
misjudged the proper time for retreating and left the field when a battle
was almost won. At Poplar Grove the Boers might have won the day if the
majority of the burghers had remained and fought an hour or two longer
instead of retreating precipitately when the individuals determined that
safety was to be found only in flight. At Elandslaagte the foreigners
under General Kock did not gauge the proper moment for retreat, but
continued with the fighting and were almost annihilated by the Lancers
because of their lack of discretion in that respect. The burghers of the
Free State, in particular, had the instinct of retreating abnormally
developed, and whenever a battle was in progress large numbers of burghers
could be observed going in an opposite direction as rapidly as their
ponies could carry them over the veld. The lack of discipline in the
commandos made such practices possible; in fact there was no rule or law
by which a burgher could be prevented from retreating or deserting
whenever he felt that he did not care to participate in a battle. After
the British occupation of Bloemfontein there was a small skirmish about
eight miles north of that city at a place called Tafelkop which sent the
Free Staters running in all directions. The veld seemed to be filled with
deserters, and at every farmhouse there were from two to six able-bodied
men who had retreated when they believed themselves to be in grave danger.

Foolish men attribute all the moral courage in the world to the soldiers
of their own country, but nature made a wise distribution of that gift,
and not all the Boers were cowards. Boer generals with only a few hundred
men time and again attacked thousands of British soldiers, and frequently
vanquished them. General Botha's twenty-five hundred men held out for a
week against General Buller's thirty or forty thousand men, and General
Cronje with his four thousand burghers succumbed to nothing less than
forty thousand men and a hundred and fifty heavy guns under Field-Marshal
Lord Roberts. Those two examples of Boer bravery would suffice to prove
that the South African farmers had moral courage of no mean order if there
were not a thousand and one other splendid records of bravery. The
burghers did not always lie behind their shelter until the enemy had come
within several hundred yards and then bowl them over with deadly accuracy.
At the Platrand fight near Ladysmith, on January 6th, the Boers charged
and captured British positions, drove the defenders out, and did it so
successfully that only a few Boers were killed. The Spion Kop fight, a
second Majuba Hill, was won after one of the finest displays of moral
courage in the war. It requires bravery of the highest type for a small
body of men to climb a steep hill in the face of the enemy which is three
times greater numerically and armed with larger and more guns, yet that
was the case with the Boers at Spion Kop. There were but few battles in
the entire campaign that the Boer forces were not vastly outnumbered by
the enemy, who usually had from twice to twenty times their number of
cannon, yet the burghers were well aware of the fact and did not allow it
to interfere with their plans nor did they display great temerity in
battling with such a foe. When Lord Roberts and his three thousand cavalry
entered Jacobsdal there were less than one hundred armed Boers in the
town, but they made a determined stand against the enemy, and in a
street-fight a large percentage of the burghers fell, and their blood
mingled with that of those they had slain. Large bodies of Boers rarely
attacked, and never resisted the enemy on level stretches of veld, not
because they lacked courage to do so, but because they saw the futility of
such action. After the British drove the Boers out of the kopjes east and
north-east of Bloemfontein the burghers had no broken country suited to
their particular style of warfare, and they retreated to the Vaal without
much effort to stop the advance of the enemy. The Boer generals knew that
the British were equipped with innumerable cannon, which could sweep the
level veld for several miles before them and make the ground untenable for
the riflemen--the mainstay of the Boer army.

[Illustration: SPION KOP, WHERE BOERS CHARGED UP THE HILLSIDE]

When they were on hills the Boers were able to entrench themselves so
thoroughly that the fire of several hundred heavy guns made hardly any
impression on them, but as soon as they attempted to apply those tactics
on level ground the results were most disastrous. At Colenso and
Magersfontein the burghers remained in their trenches on the hills while
thousands of shrapnel and other shells exploded above and around them, but
very few men were injured, and when the British infantry advanced under
cover of the shell fire the Boers merely remained in the trenches until
the enemy had approached to within several hundred yards and then assailed
them with rifle fire. Trenches always afforded perfect safety from shell
fire, and on that account the Boers were able to cope so long and well
with the British in the fighting along the Tugela and around Kimberley.
The Boers generally remained quietly in their trenches and made no reply
to the British cannon fire, however hot it was. The British generals
several times mistook this silence as an indication that the Boers had
evacuated the trenches, and sent forward bodies of infantry to occupy the
positions. When the infantry reached the Boer zone of fire they usually
met with a terrific Mauser fire that could not be stemmed, however gallant
the attacks might have been. Hundreds of British soldiers lost their lives
while going forward under shell fire to occupy a position which, it was
presumed by the generals, was unoccupied by the Boers.

There were innumerable instances, also, of extraordinarily brave acts by
individual burghers, but it was extremely difficult to hear of them owing
to the Boers' disinclination to discuss a battle in its details. No Boer
ever referred to his exploits or those of his friends of his own volition,
and then only in the most indefinite manner. He related the story of a
battle in much the same manner he told of the tilling of his fields or the
herding of his cattle, and when there was any part of it pertaining to his
own actions he passed it over without comment. It seemed as if every one
was fighting, not for his own glorification, but for the success of his
country's army, and consequently there was little hero-worship. Individual
acts of bravery entitled the fortunate person to have his name mentioned
in the _Staats-Courant_, the Government gazette, but hardly any attention
was paid to the search for heroes, and only the names of a few men were
even chronicled in the columns of that periodical. One of the bravest men
in the Natal campaign was a young Pretoria burgher named Van Gas, who, in
his youth, had an accident which made it necessary that his right arm
should be amputated at the elbow. Later in life he was injured in one of
the native wars and the upper arm was amputated, so that when he joined a
commando he had only the left arm. It was an extraordinary spectacle to
observe young Van Gaz holding his carbine between his knees while loading
it with cartridges, and quite as strange to see the energy with which he
discharged his rifle with one hand. He was in the van of the storming
party at Spion Kop, where a bullet passed completely through his chest. He
continued, however, to work his rifle between his knees and to shoot with
his left arm, and was one of the first men to reach the summit of the
hill, where he snatched the rifles from the hands of two British
soldiers. After the battle was won he was carried to a hospital by several
other burghers, but a month afterwards he was again at the front at the
Tugela, going into exposed positions and shouting, "Come on, fellows, here
is a good chance!" His companions desired to elect him as their
field-cornet, but he refused the honour.

Evert Le Roux and Herculaas Nel, of the Swaziland Police, and two of the
best scouts in the Boer army, were constantly engaged in recklessly daring
enterprises, none of which, however, was quite equal to their actions on
April 21st, when the vicinity of Ladysmith had been in British hands for
almost two months. The two men went out on patrol and by night crept up a
kopje behind which about three hundred British cavalrymen were
bivouacking. The men were twenty miles distant from their laagers at
Dundee and only a short distance from Ladysmith, but they lay down and
slept on the other side of the kopje, less than a hundred yards from the
cavalrymen. In the morning the British cavalry was divided into three
squads, and all started for Ladysmith. Le Roux and Nel swept down toward
the last squad, and called, "Hands up," to one of the men in the van. The
cavalryman promptly held up his hands and a minute afterward surrendered
his gun and himself, while the remainder of the squad fled precipitately.
The two scouts, with their prisoner, quickly made a _détour_ of another
kopje, and appeared in front of the first squad, of whom they made a
similar demand. One of the cavalrymen, who was in advance of the others,
surrendered without attempting to make any resistance, while the others
turned quickly to the right and rode headlong into a deep sluit. Le Roux
shot the horse of one of the men before he reached the sluit, loaded the
unhorsed man on one of the other prisoner's horses, and then pursued the
fleeing cavalrymen almost to the city-limits of Ladysmith.

Major Albrecht, the head of the Free State-Artillery, was one of the
bravest men in General Cronje's commando, and his display of courage at
the battle of Magersfontein was not less extraordinary than that which he
made later in the river bed at Paardeberg. At Magersfontein Albrecht and
two of his artillerymen operated the cannon which were located behind
schanzes twenty feet apart. The British had more than thirty cannon, which
they turned upon the Boer cannon whenever one of them was discharged.
After a short time the fire became so hot that Albrecht sent his
assistants to places of safety, and operated the guns alone. For eight
hours the intrepid Free State artilleryman jumped from one cannon to
another, returning the fire whenever there was a lull in the enemy's
attack and seeking safety behind the schanze when shells were falling too
rapidly. It was an uneven contest, but the bravery of the one man inspired
the others, and the end of the day saw the Boers nearer victory than they
were in the morning. At Tafelkop, on March 30th, three burghers were
caught napping by three British soldiers, who suddenly appeared before
them and shouted, "Hands up!" While the soldiers were advancing toward
them the three burghers succeeded in getting their rifles at their
captors' heads, and turned the tables by making prisoners of them. There
were many such instances of bravery, but one that is almost incredible
occurred at the place called Railway Hill, near the Tugela, on February
24th. On that day the Boers did not appear to know anything concerning the
position of the enemy, and James Marks, a Rustenburg farmer, determined to
go out of the laager and reconnoitre on his own responsibility. Marks was
more than sixty-two years old, and was somewhat decrepit, a circumstance
which did not prevent him from taking part in almost every one of the
Natal battles, however. The old farmer had been absent from his laager
less than an hour when he saw a small body of British soldiers at the foot
of a kopje. He crept cautiously around the kopje, and, when he was within
a hundred yards of the men, he shouted, "Hands up!" The soldiers
immediately lifted their arms, and, in obedience to the orders of Marks,
stacked their guns on a rock and advanced toward him. Marks placed the men
in a line, saw that there were twenty-three big, able-bodied soldiers, and
then marched them back into camp, to the great astonishment of his
generals and fellow burghers.

[Illustration: PLAN OF BATTLEFIELD OF SANNASPOST]



CHAPTER VI

THE BOERS IN BATTLE


The battle of Sannaspost on March 31st was one of the few engagements in
the campaign in which the forces of the Boers and the British were almost
numerically equal. There were two or three small battles in which the
Boers had more men engaged than the British, but in the majority of
instances the Boers were vastly outnumbered both in men and guns. At
Elandslaagte the Boers had exactly seven hundred and fifty burghers pitted
against the five or six thousand British; Spion Kop was won from three
thousand British by three hundred and fifty Boers; at the Tugela Botha
with not more than twenty-six hundred men fought for more than a week
against ten times that number of soldiers under General Buller; while the
greatest disparity between the opposing forces was at Paardeberg, where
Cronje spent a week in trying to lead his four thousand men through the
encircling wall of forty or fifty thousand British soldiers.

Sannaspost was not a decisive battle of the war, since no point of great
strategical importance was at stake, but it was more in the nature of a
demonstration of what the Boers were able to do when they were opposed to
a force of equal strength. It was a test which was equally fair to both
contestants, and neither of them could reasonably claim to have possessed
an advantage over the other a day before the battle was fought. The
British commander, Colonel Broadwood, had seventeen hundred men in his
column, and General De Wet was at the head of about two hundred and fifty
less than that number, but the strength of the forces was equalised by the
Boer general's intimate knowledge of the country. Colonel Broadwood was
experienced in Indian, Egyptian, and South African warfare, and the
majority of his soldiers were seasoned in many battles. De Wet and his men
were fresh from Poplar Grove, Abraham's Kraal, and the fighting around
Kimberley, but they were not better nor worse than the average of the Boer
burghers. The British commander was hampered by a large transport train,
but he possessed the advantage of more heavy guns than his adversary. All
in all, the two forces were equally matched when they reached the
battlefield.

The day before the battle General De Wet and his men were in laager
several miles east of Brandfort, whither they had fled after the fall of
Bloemfontein. His scouts brought to him the information that a small
British column was stationed in the village of Thaba N'Chu, forty miles to
the east, and he determined to march thither and attack it. He gave the
order, "Opzaal!" and in less than eight minutes every one of his burghers
was on his horse, armed, provided with two days' rations of biltong,
biscuit, coffee, and sugar, and ready to proceed. De Wet himself leaped
into a light, ramshackle four-wheeler, and led the advance over the dusty
veld. Without attempting to proceed with any semblance of military order,
the burghers followed in the course of their leader, some riding rapidly,
others walking beside their horses, and a few skirmishing far away on the
veld for buck. The mule-teams dragging the artillery and the ammunition
waggons were not permitted by their hullabalooing Basuto drivers to lag
far behind the general, and the dust which was raised by this long
cavalcade was not unlike the clouds of locusts which were frequently
mistaken for the signs of a trekking commando. Mile after mile was rapidly
traversed, until darkness came on, when a halt was made so that the
burghers might prepare a meal, and that the general might hear from the
scouts, who were far in advance of the body. After the men and horses had
eaten, and the moon rose over the dark peak of Thaba N'Chu mountain, the
burghers lighted their pipes and sang psalms and hymns until the peaceful
valley resounded with their voices.

[Illustration: VILLAGE AND MOUNTAIN OF THABA N'CHU]

Panting horses brought to the little stone farmhouse, where General De Wet
was drinking milk, the long-awaited scouts who carried the information
that the British force had evacuated Thaba N'Chu late in the afternoon,
and that it was moving hurriedly toward Bloemfontein. Again the order:
"Opzaal," and the mule train came into motion and the burghers mounted
their horses. A chill night air arose, and shivering burghers wrapped
blankets around their shoulders. The humming of hymns and the whistling
ceased, and there was nothing but the clatter of horses' hoofs, the shouts
of the Basutos, and the noises of the guns and waggons rumbling over the
stones and gullies to mark the nocturnal passage of the army. Lights
appeared at farmhouse windows, and at their gates were women and children
with bread and bowls of milk and prayers for the burghers. Small walls
enclosing family burial plots where newly-dug ground told its own story of
the war seemed grim in the moonlight; native huts with their inhabitants
standing like spectres before the doors appeared like monstrous
ant-heaps--all these were passed, but the drooping eyes of the burghers
saw nothing. At midnight another halt was made, horses were off-saddled
and men lay down on the veld to sleep. The generals and officers met in
Krijgsraad, and other scouts arriving told of the enemy's evident
intention of spending the remainder of the night at an old-time
off-saddling station known as Sannaspost. The news was highly important,
and the heads of the generals came closer together. Maps were produced,
pencil marks were made, plans were formed, and then the sleeping burghers
were aroused. The trek was resumed, and shortly afterward the column was
divided into two parts; the one consisting of nine hundred men under
General Peter De Wet, proceeding by a circuitous route to the hills south
of Sannaspost, and the other of five hundred men commanded by General
Christian De Wet moving through a maze of kopjes to a position west of the
trekking station.

The burghers were not informed of the imminence of a battle; but they
required no such announcement from their generals. The atmosphere seemed
to be surcharged with premonitions of an engagement, and men rubbed sleep
out of their eyes and sat erect upon their horses. The blacks even ceased
to crack their whips so sharply, and urged the mules forward in whispers
instead of shrieks. Burghers took their rifles from their backs, tested
the workings of the mechanism and filled the magazine with cartridges.
Artillerymen leaped from their horses and led them while they sat on the
cannon and poured oil into the bearings. Young men speculated on the
number of prisoners they would take; old men wrote their names on their
hats by the light of the moon. The lights of Bloemfontein appeared in the
distance, and grey-beards looked longingly at them and sighed. But the
cavalcade passed on, grimly, silently, and defiantly, into the haunts of
the enemy.

After four hours of trekking over veld, kopje, sluit, and donga, the two
columns halted, the burghers dismounted, and, weary from the long journey
and the lack of sleep, lay down on the earth beside their horses.
Commandants, field-cornets and corporals, bustling about among the
burghers, horses and waggons, gave orders in undertones; generals summoned
their scouts and asked for detailed information concerning the whereabouts
of the enemy; patrols were scurrying hither and thither to secure accurate
ideas of the topography of the territory in front of them; all who were in
authority were busy, while the burghers, who carried the strength of
battle in their bodies, lay sleeping and resting.

The first dim rays of the day came over the tops of the eastern hills when
the burghers were aroused and asked to proceed to the positions chosen by
their leaders. The men under Peter De Wet, the younger brother of the
Commandant-General, were led to an elevation about a mile and a half south
of Sannaspost, where they placed their cannon into position and waited for
the break of day.

Christian De Wet and his five hundred burghers advanced noiselessly and
occupied the dry bed of Koorn Spruit, a stream which crossed the main road
running from Thaba N'Chu to Bloemfontein at right angles about a mile from
the station where the British forces had begun their bivouac for the
night, two hours before. No signs of the enemy could be seen; there were
no pickets, no outposts, and none of the usual safeguards of an army, and
for some time the Boers were led to believe that the British force had
been allowed to escape unharmed.

The burghers under the leadership of Christian De Wet were completely
concealed in the spruit. The high banks might have been held by the forces
of their enemy, but unless they crept to the edge and looked down into the
stream they would not have been able to discover the presence of the
Boers. Where the road crossed the stream deep approaches had been dug into
the banks in order to facilitate the passage of conveyances--a "drift" it
is called in South Africa--and on either side for a distance of a mile, up
and down the stream, the burghers stood by their horses and waited for the
coming of the day. The concealment was perfect; no specially constructed
trenches could have served the purposes of the Boers more advantageously.

Dawn lighted the flat-topped kopjes that lay in a huge semicircle in the
distance, and men clambered up the sides of the spruit to ascertain the
camp of the enemy. The white smoke-stack of the Bloemfontein waterworks
appeared against the black background of the hills in the east, but it was
still too dark to distinguish objects on the ground beneath it. A group of
burghers in the spruit, absent-mindedly, began to sing a deep-toned psalm,
but the stern order of a commandant quickly ended their matutinal song. A
donkey in an ammunition waggon brayed vociferously, and a dozen men,
fearful lest the enemy should hear the noise, sprang upon him with clubs
and whips, and even attempted to close his mouth by force of hands. It was
the fateful moment before the battle, and men acted strangely. Some walked
nervously up and down, others dropped on their knees and prayed, a few
lighted their pipes, many sat on the ground and looked vacantly into
space, while some of the younger burghers joked and laughed.

At the drift stood the generals, scanning the hills and undulations with
their glasses. Small fires appeared in the east near the tall white stack.
"They are preparing their breakfast," some one suggested. "I see a few
tents," another one reported excitedly. All eyes were turned in the
direction indicated. Some estimated the intervening distance at a mile,
others were positive it was not more than a thousand yards--it was not
light enough to distinguish accurately. "Tell the burghers that I will
fire the first shot," said General De Wet to one of his staff. Immediately
the order was spread to the men in the spruit. "I see men leading oxen to
the waggons; they are preparing to trek," remarked a commandant. "They are
coming down this way," announced another, slapping his thigh joyfully.

A few minutes afterwards clouds of dust arose, and at intervals the
waggons in the van could be seen coming down the slope toward the drift.
The few tents fell, and men in brown uniforms moved hither and thither
near the waterworks building. Waggon after waggon joined in the
procession; drivers were shrieking and wielding their whips over the heads
of the oxen, and farther behind were cavalrymen mounting their horses. It
was daylight then, although the sun was still below the horizon, and the
movements of the enemy could be plainly discerned. The ox-teams came
slowly down the road--there seemed to be no limit to their number--and the
generals retreated down the drift to the bottom of the spruit, so that
their presence should not be discerned by the enemy, and to await the
arrival of the waggons.

The shrieking natives drew nearer, the rumbling of the waggons became more
distinct, and soon the first vehicle descended the drift. A few burghers
were sent forward to intercept it. As soon as it reached the bottom of the
spruit the men grasped the bridles of the horses, and instantly there were
shrieks from the occupants of the vehicle. It was filled with women and
children, all pale with fright on account of the unexpected appearance of
the Boers. The passengers were quickly and gently taken from the waggon
and sent to places of safety in the spruit, while a burgher jumped into
the vehicle and drove the horses up the other drift and out upon the open
veld. The operation of substituting drivers was done so quickly and
quietly that none of those approaching the drift from the other side
noticed anything extraordinary, and proceeded into the spruit. Other
burghers stood prepared to receive them as they descended the drift with
their heavily laden ammunition and provision waggons, and there was little
trouble in seizing the British drivers and placing the whips into the
hands of Boers. Waggon after waggon was relieved of its drivers and sent
up to the other bank without creating a suspicion in the minds of the
others who were coming down the slope from the waterworks.

After fifty or more waggons had crossed the drift a solitary cavalry
officer with the rank of captain, riding leisurely along, followed one of
them. His coat had a rent in it and he was holding the torn parts
together, as if he were planning the mending of it when he reached
Bloemfontein. A young Boer sprang toward him, called "Hands up!" and
projected the barrel of his carbine toward him. The officer started out of
his reverie, involuntarily reached for his sword, but repented almost
instantly, and obeyed the order. General De Wet approached the captain,
touched his hat in salute, and said, "Good morning, sir." The officer
returned the complimentary greeting and offered his sword to the Boer. De
Wet declined to receive the weapon and told the officer to return to his
men and ask them to surrender. "We have a large force of men surrounding
you," the general explained, "and you cannot escape. In order to save many
lives I ask you to surrender your men without fighting." The officer
remained silent for a moment, then looked squarely into the eyes of the
Boer general and said, "I will return to my men and will order them to
surrender." De Wet nodded his head in assent, and the captain mounted his
horse. "I will rely upon your promise," the general added, "if you break
it I will shoot you."

General De Wet and several of his commandants followed the cavalry officer
up the drift and stood on the bank while the horseman galloped slowly
toward the troops which were following the waggons down the slope. The
general raised his carbine and held it in his arms. His eyes were fixed on
the officer, and he stood as firm as a statue until the cavalryman reached
his men. There was a momentary pause while the captain stood before his
troops, then the horses were wheeled about and their hoofs sent showers of
dust into the air as they carried their riders in retreat. General De Wet
stepped forward several paces, raised his carbine to his shoulder, aimed
steadily for a second, then fired. The bullet whistled menacingly over the
heads of oxen and drivers--it struck the officer, and he fell.[1]

    [1] This incident of the battle was witnessed by the writer, as well
    as by several of the foreign military attachés. Whether the British
    officer broke his promise by asking his men to retreat or whether his
    troopers were disobedient is a question, but it is more than likely
    that he endeavoured to act in good faith. Whether the officer was
    killed or only wounded by General De Wet's shot could not be
    ascertained.

All along the banks of the spruit, for a mile on either side of the
ravine, and over on the hills where Peter De Wet and his burghers lay, men
had been waiting patiently and expectantly for that signal gun of
Christian De Wet. They had been watching the enemy toiling down the slope
under the very muzzles of their guns for almost an age, it seemed, yet
they dared not fire lest the plans of the generals should be thwarted. Men
had lain flat on the ground with their rifles pointing minute after minute
at individuals in the advancing column, but the words of their general, "I
will fire the first shot," restrained them. The flight of the bullet which
entered the body of the cavalry officer marked the ending of the long
period of nervous tension, and the burghers were free to use their guns.

[Illustration: THE AUTHOR, AND A BASUTO PONY WHICH ASSISTED IN THE FIGHT
AT SANNASPOST]

Until the officer advised his men to retreat and he himself fell from his
horse the main body of the British troops was ignorant of the presence of
the Boers, but the report of the rifle was a summons to battle and
instantly the field was filled with myriads of stirring scenes. The lazy
transport-train suddenly became a thing of rapid motion; the huge body of
troops was quickly broken into many parts; horses that had been idling
along the road plunged forward as if projected by catapults. Officers with
swords flashing in the sunlight appeared leading their men into different
positions, cannon were hurriedly drawn upon commanding elevations, and Red
Cross waggons scattered to places of safety. The peaceful transport-train
had suddenly been transformed into a formidable engine of war by the
report of a rifle, and the contest for a sentiment and a bit of ground was
opened by shrieking cannon-shell and the piercing cry of rifle-ball.

Down at the foot of the slope, where the drift crossed the spruit, Boers
were dragging cannon into position, and in among the waggons which had
become congested in the road, burghers and soldiers were engaging in
fierce hand-to-hand encounters. A stocky Briton wrestled with a youthful
Boer, and in the struggle both fell to the ground; near by a cavalryman
was firing his revolver at a Boer armed with a rifle, and a hundred paces
away a burgher was fighting with a British officer for the possession of a
sword. Over from the hills in the south came the dull roar of Boer cannon,
followed by the reports of the shells exploding in the east near the
waterworks. British cannon opened fire from a position near the white
smoke-stack and scores of bursting projectiles fell among the waggons at
the spruit. Oxen and horses were rent limb from limb, waggons tumbled over
on their sides; boxes of provisions were thrown in all directions, and out
of the cloud of dust and smoke stumbled men with blood-stained faces and
lacerated bodies. Terrified and bellowing oxen twisted and tugged at their
yokes; horses broke from their fastenings in the waggons and dashed hither
and thither, and weakling donkeys strove in vain to free themselves from
waggons set on fire by the shells. Explosion followed explosion, and with
every one the mass became more entangled. Dead horses fell upon living
oxen; wheels and axles were thrown on the backs of donkeys, and plunging
mules dragged heavy waggons over great piles of _débris_.

The cannon on the southern hills became more active and their shells
caused the landscape surrounding the waterworks to be filled with geysers
of dust. Troops which were stationed near the white smoke-stack suddenly
spurred their horses forward and dashed northward to seek safety behind a
long undulation in the ground. The artillerymen in the hills followed
their movements with shells, and the dust-fountains sprang up at the very
heels of the troops. The cannon at the drift joined in the attack on the
horsemen scattered over the slope, and the big guns at the waterworks
continued to reply vigorously. The men in the spruit were watching the
artillery duel intently as they sped up and down the bottom of the
water-less stream, searching for points of vantage. A large number of them
moved rapidly down the spruit towards its confluence with the Modder River
in order to check the advance of the troops driven forward by the
shell-fire, and another party rushed eastward to secure positions in the
rear of the British cannon at the waterworks. The banks of the stream
still concealed them, but they dared not fire lest the enemy should
disturb their plans. On and on they dashed, over rocks and chasms, until
they were within a few hundred yards of a part of the British force.
Slowly they crept up the sides of the spruit, cautiously peered out over
the edge of the bank and then opened fire on the men at the cannon and the
troops passing down the slope. Little jets of dust arose where their
bullets struck the ground, men fell around the cannon, and cavalrymen
quickly turned and charged toward the spruit. The shells of the cannon at
the drift and on the southern hills fell thicker and thicker among the
troops and the air above them was heavy with the light blue smoke of
bursting shrapnel. The patter of the Boer rifles at the spruit increased
in intensity and the jets of brown dust became more numerous. The
cavalrymen leaped from their horses and ran ahead to find protection
behind a line of rocks. The intermittent, irregular firing of the Boers
was punctuated by the regular, steady reports of British volleys. The
brown dust-geysers increased among the rocks where the British lay, and
soon the soldiers turned and ran for their horses. Burghers crept from
rock to rock in pursuit of them, and their bullets urged the fleeing
horsemen on. The British cannon spoke less frequently, and shells and
bullets fell so thickly around them that bravery in such a situation
seemed suicidal, and the last artilleryman fled. Boers ran up and turned
the loaded guns upon the backs of those who had operated them a few
moments before.

Down in the north-western part of the field a large force of troops was
dashing over the veld toward the banks of the spruit. Officers, waving
swords above their heads and shouting commands to their subordinates, led
the way. A few shells exploding in the ranks scattered the force
temporarily and caused horses to rear and plunge, but the gaps quickly
disappeared, and the men moved on down the slope. Boers rode rapidly down
the spruit and out upon the veld behind a low range of kopjes which lay in
front of the British force. Horses were left in charge of native servants,
and the burghers crept forward on hands and knees to the summit of the
range. They carefully concealed themselves behind rocks and bushes and
waited for the enemy to approach more closely. The cavalrymen spread out
in skirmishing order as they proceeded, and, ignorant of the proximity of
the Boers, drew their horses into a walk. The burghers in the kopje fired
a few shots, and the troops turned quickly to the left and again broke
into a gallop. The firing from the kopje increased in volume, the cannon
from the hills again broke forth, the little dust-clouds rose out of the
earth on all sides of the troopers, and shrapnel bursting in the air sent
its bolts and balls of iron and steel; into the midst of the brown men and
earth. Horses and riders fell, officers leaped to the ground and shouted
encouragement to their soldiers, men sprang behind rocks and discharged
their rifles. Minutes of agony passed. Officers gathered their men and
attempted to lead them forward, but they had not progressed far when the
Boers in the spruit in front of them swept the ground with the bullets of
their rifles. Burghers crept around the edge of the kopjes and emptied
their carbines into the backs of the cavalrymen, cannons poured shell upon
them from three different directions, and these men on the open plain
could not see even a brace of Boers to fire upon. Men and horses continued
to fall, the wounded lay moaning in the grass, while shells and bullets
sang their song of death more loudly every second to those who braved the
storm. A tiny white cloth was raised, the firing ceased instantly, and the
brave band threw down its arms to the burghers who sprang out from the
spruit and rocky kopje.

In the east the low hills were dotted with men in brown. To the right and
left of them, a thousand yards apart, were Boer horsemen circling around
kopjes and seeking positions for attacking the already vanquished but
stubborn enemy. Rifle fire had ceased and cannon sounded only at intervals
of a few minutes. Women at the doors of the two farmhouses in the centre
of the battlefield, and a man drawing water at a well near by, were not
inharmonious with the quietness and calmness of the moment, but the epoch
of peace was of short duration. The Boer horsemen stemmed the retreat of
the men in brown, and compelled them to retrace their steps. Another body
of burghers made a wide _détour_ north-eastward from the spruit, and,
jumping from their horses, crept along under the cover of an undulation in
the ground for almost a half-mile to a point which overlooked the route of
the British retreat.

The enemy was slow in coming, and a few of the Boers lay down to sleep.
Others filled their pipes and lighted them, and one abstracted a pebble
from his shoe. As the cavalrymen drew nearer to them the burghers crept
forward several paces and sought the protection of rocks or piled stones
together in the form of miniature forts. "Shall we fire now?" inquired a
beardless Free State youth. "Wait until they come nearer," replied an
older burgher close by. Silence was maintained for several minutes, when
the youth again became uneasy. "I can hit the first one of those Lancers,"
he begged, as he pointed with his carbine to a cavalryman known to the
Boers as a "Lancer," whether he carried a lance or not. The cannon in the
south urged the cavalrymen forward with a few shells delivered a short
distance behind them, and then the old burgher called to the youth, "See
if you can hit him now."

The boy missed the rider but killed the horse, and the British force
quickly dismounted and sought shelter in a small ravine. The reports of
volley firing followed, and bullets cut the grass beside the burghers and
flattened themselves against the rocks. Another volley, and a third, in
rapid succession, and the burghers pressed more closely to the ground. An
interval of a minute, and they glanced over their tiny stockades to find a
British soldier. "They are coming up the kopje!" shouted a burgher, and
their rifles swept the hillside with bullets. More volleys came from below
and, while the leaden tongues sang above and around them, the burghers
turned and lay on their backs to refill the magazines of their rifles.
Another interval, and the attack was renewed. "They are running!" screamed
a youth exultingly, and burghers rose and fired at the men in brown at the
foot of the kopje. Marksmen had their opportunity then, and long aim was
taken before a shot was fired. Men knelt on the one knee and rested an
elbow on the other, while they held their rifles to their shoulders.
Reports of carbines became less frequent as the troops progressed farther
in an opposite direction, but increased again when the cavalrymen returned
for a second attack upon the kopje. "Lend me a handful of cartridges, Jan,"
asked one man of his neighbour, as they watched the oncoming force.

"They must want this kopje," remarked another burgher jocularly, as he
filled his pipe with tobacco and lighted it.

The British cannon in the east again became active, and the dust raised by
their shells was blown over the heads of the burghers on the kopje. The
reports of the big guns of the Boers reverberated among the hills, while
the regular volleys of the British rifles seemed to be beating time to the
minor notes and irregular reports of the Boer carbines. At a distance the
troops moving over the brown field of battle resembled huge ants more than
human beings; and the use of smokeless powder, causing the panorama to
remain perfectly clear and distinct, allowed every movement to be closely
followed by the observer. Cannon poured forth their tons of shells, but
there was nothing except the sound of the explosion to denote where the
guns were situated. Rifles cut down lines of men, but there was no smoke
to indicate where they were being operated, and unless the burghers or
soldiers displayed themselves to their enemy there was nothing to indicate
their positions. Shrapnel bursting in the air, the reports of rifles and
heavy guns and the little puffs of dust where shells and bullets struck
the ground were the only evidences of the battle's progress. The
hand-to-hand conflicts, the duels with bayonets and swords and the clouds
of smoke were probably heroic and picturesque before the age of rapid-fire
guns, modern rifles, and smokeless ammunition, but here the field of
battle resembled a country fox-chase with an exaggerated number of
hunters, more than a representation of a battle of twenty-five years ago.

On the summit of the kopje the burghers were firing leisurely but
accurately. One man aimed steadily at a soldier for fully twenty seconds,
then pressed the trigger, lowered his rifle and watched for the effect of
the shot. Bullets were flying high over him, and the shrapnel of the
enemy's guns exploded far behind him. There seemed to be no great danger,
and he fired again. "I missed that time," he remarked to a burgher who lay
behind another rock several yards distant. His neighbour then fired at the
same soldier, and both cried simultaneously: "He is hit!" The enemy again
disappeared in the little ravine, and the burghers ceased firing. Shells
continued to tear through the air, but none exploded in the vicinity of
the men, and they took advantage of the lull in the battle to light their
pipes. A swarm of yellow locusts passed overhead, and exploding shrapnel
tore them into myriads of pieces, their wings and limbs falling near the
burghers. "I am glad I am not a locust," remarked a burgher farther to the
left of the others, as he dropped a handful of torn fragments of the
insects. Shells and bullets suddenly splashed everywhere around the
burghers, and they crouched more closely behind the rocks. The enemy's
guns had secured an accurate range, and the air was filled with the
projectiles of iron and lead. Exploding shells splintered rocks into atoms
and sent them tearing through the grass. Puffs of smoke and dirt were
springing up from every square yard of ground, and a few men rose from
their retreats and ran to the rear where the Basuto servants were holding
their horses. More followed several minutes afterwards, and when those who
remained on the summit of the kopje saw that ten times their number of
soldiers were ascending the hill under cover of cannon fire they also fled
to their horses.

An open plain half a mile wide lay between the point where the burghers
mounted their horses, and another kopje in the north-east. The men lay
closely on their horses' backs, plunged their spurs in the animals' sides,
and dashed forward. The cavalrymen, who had gained the summit of the kopje
meanwhile, opened fire on the fleeing Boers, and their bullets cut open
the horses' sides and ploughed holes into the burgher's clothing. One
horse, a magnificent grey who had been leading the others, fell dead as he
was leaping over a small gully, and his rider was thrown headlong to the
ground. Another horseman turned in his course, assisted the horseless
rider to his own brown steed, and the two were borne rapidly through the
storm of bullets towards the kopje. Another horse was killed when he had
carried his rider almost to the goal of safety, and the Boer was compelled
to traverse the remainder of the distance on foot. Apparently all the
burghers had escaped across the plain, and their field-cornet was
preparing to lead them to another position when a solitary horseman, a
mere speck of black against a background of brown, lifeless grass, issued
from a rocky ravine below the kopje occupied by the enemy, and plunged
into the open space. Lee-Metfords cracked and cut open the ground around
him, but the rider bent forward and seemed to become a part of his
horse. Every rod of progress seemed to multiply the fountains of dust near
him; every leap of his horse seemed necessarily his last. On, on he
dashed, now using his stirrups, now beating his horse with his hands. It
seemed as if he were making no progress, yet his horse's legs were moving
so swiftly. "They will get him," sighed the field-cornet, looking through
his glasses. "He has a chance," replied a burgher. Seconds dragged
wearily, the firing increased in volume, and the dust of the horse's heels
mingled with that raised by the bullets. The sound of the hoofs beating
down on the solid earth came louder and louder over the veld, the firing
slackened and then ceased, and a foaming, panting horse brought his burden
to where the burghers stood. The exhausted rider sank to the ground, and
men patted the neck and forehead of the quivering beast.

Down in the valley, near the spruit, the foreign military attachés in
uniforms quite distinct were watching the effect of the British artillery
on the saddle belonging to one of their number. "They will never hit it,"
volunteered one, as a shell exploded ten yards distant from the leathern
mark.

"They must think it is a crowd of Boers," suggested another, when a dozen
shells had fallen without injuring the saddle. Fifteen, twenty tongues of
dust arose, but the leather remained unmarred by scratch or rent, and the
attachés became the target of the heavy guns. "I am hit," groaned
Lieutenant Nix, of the Netherlands-Indian army, and his companions caught
him in their arms. Blood gushed from a wound in the shoulder, but the
soldier spirit did not desert him. "Here, Demange!" he called to the
French attaché, "Hold my head. And you, Thompson and Allen, see if you
cannot bind this shoulder." The Norwegian and Hollander bound the wound as
well as they were able. "Reichman!" the injured man whispered, "I am going
to die in a few minutes, and I wish you would write a letter to my wife."
The American attaché hastily procured paper and pencil, and while shells
and shrapnel were bursting over and around them the wounded man dictated a
letter to his wife in Holland. Blood flowed copiously from the wound and
stained the grass upon which he lay. He was pale as the clouds above him,
and the pain was agonising, but the dying man's letter was filled with
nothing but expressions of love and tenderness.

In the south-eastern part of the field a large party of cavalrymen was
speeding in the direction of Thaba N'Chu. On two sides of them, a thousand
yards behind, small groups of horsemen were giving chase. At a distance,
the riders appeared like ants slowly climbing the hillside. Now and then a
Boer rider suddenly stopped his horse, leaped to the ground, and fired at
the fleeing cavalrymen. A second afterwards he was on his horse again,
bending to the chase. Shot followed shot, but the distance between the
forces grew greater, and one by one the burghers turned their animals'
heads and slowly retraced their steps. A startled buck bounded over the
veld, two rifles were turned upon it, and its flight was ended.

[Illustration: CALLING FOR VOLUNTEERS TO MAN CAPTURED CANNON AFTER
SANNASPOST]

The sound of firing had ceased, and the battle was concluded. Waggons with
Red Cross flags fluttering from the tall staffs above them, issued from
the mountains and rumbled through the valleys. Burghers dashed over the
field in search of the wounded and dying. Men who a few moments before
were straining every nerve to kill their fellow-beings became equally
energetic to preserve lives. Wounded soldiers and burghers were lifted out
of the grass and carried tenderly to the ambulance waggons. The dead were
placed side by side, and the same cloth covered the bodies of Boer and
Briton. Men with spades upturned the earth, and stood grimly by while a
man in black prayed over the bodies of those who died for their country.

Boer officers, with pencils and paper in their hands, sped over the
battlefield from a group of prisoners to a line of passing waggons, and
made calculations concerning the result of the day's battle. Three Boers
killed and nine wounded was one side of the account. On the credit sheet
were marked four hundred and eight British soldiers, seven cannon, one
hundred and fifty waggons, five hundred and fifty rifles, two thousand
horses and cattle, and vast stores of ammunition and provisions captured
during the day.

In among the north-eastern hills, where a farmer's daub-and-wattle cottage
stood, were the prisoners of war, chatting and joking with their captors.
The officers walked slowly back and forth, never raising their eyes from
the ground. Dejection was written on their faces. Near them were the
captured waggons, with groups of noisy soldiers climbing over them in
search of their luggage. On the ground others were playing cards and
matching coins. Young Boers walked amongst them and engaged them in
conversation. Near the farmhouse stood a tall Cape Colony Boer talking
with his former neighbour, who was a prisoner. Several Americans among the
captured disputed the merits of the war with a Yankee burgher, who had
readily distinguished his countrymen among the throng. Some one began to
whistle a popular tune, others joined, and soon almost every one was
participating. An officer gave the order for the prisoners to fall in
line, and shortly afterward the men in brown tramped forward, while the
burghers stepped aside and lined the path. A soldier commenced to sing
another popular song, British and Boer caught the refrain, and the noise
of tramping feet was drowned by the melody of the united voices of friend
and foe singing--

        "It's the soldiers of the Queen, my lads,
        Who've been, my lads--who've seen, my lads,
               *       *       *       *       *
        We'll proudly point to every one
        Of England's soldiers of the Queen."



CHAPTER VII

THE GENERALS OF THE WAR


The names and deeds of the men who led thirty thousand of their
fellow-peasants against almost a quarter of a million of the trained
troops of the greatest empire in the world, and husbanded their men and
resources so that they were enabled to continue the unequal struggle for
the greater part of a year will live for ever in the history of the Dark
Continent. When racial hatred and the bitternesses of the war have been
forgotten, and South Africa has emerged from its long period of bloodshed
and disaster, then all Afrikanders will revere the memory of the valiant
deeds of Cronje, Joubert, Botha, Meyer, De Wet, and the others who fought
so gallantly in a cause which they considered just and holy. Such noble
examples of heroism as Cronje's stand at Paardeberg, Botha's defence of
the Tugela and the region east of Pretoria; De Wet's warfare in the Free
State, and Meyer's fighting in the Transvaal will shine in African history
as long as the Southern Cross illumes the path of civilised people in that
region. When future generations search the pages of history for deeds of
valour they will turn to the records of the Boer-British war of 1899-1900,
and find that the military leaders of the farmers of South Africa were not
less valorous than those of the untrained followers of Cromwell or William
of Orange, the peace-loving mountaineers of Switzerland, or the patriotic
countrymen of Washington.

The leaders of the Boer forces were not generals in the popular sense of
the word. Almost without exception, they were men who had no technical
knowledge of warfare; men who were utterly without military training of
any nature, and who would have been unable to pass an examination for the
rank of corporal in a European army. Among the entire list of generals who
fought in the armies of the two Republics there were not more than three
who had ever read military works, and Cronje was the only one who ever
studied the theory and practice of modern warfare, and made an attempt to
apply the principles of it to his army. Every one of the Boer generals was
a farmer who, before the war, paid more attention to his crops and cattle
than he did to evolving ideas for application in a campaign, and the
majority of them, in fact, never dreamed that they would be called upon to
be military leaders until they were nominated for the positions a short
time before hostilities were commenced. Joubert, Cronje, Ferreira, and
Meyer were about the only men in the two Republics who were certain that
they would be called upon to lead their countrymen, for all had had
experience in former wars; but men like Botha, De Wet, De la Rey, and
Snyman, who occupied responsible positions afterward, had no such
assurance, and naturally gave little or no attention to the study of
military matters. The men who became the Boer generals gained their
military knowledge in the wilds and on the veld of South Africa where they
were able to develop their natural genius in the hunting of lions and the
tracking of game. The Boer principle of hunting was precisely the same as
their method of warfare and consequently the man who, in times of peace,
was a successful leader of shooting expeditions was none the less adept
afterward as the leader of commandos.

When the Volksraad of the Transvaal determined to send an ultimatum to
Great Britain, it was with the knowledge that such an act would provoke
war, and consequently preparations for hostilities were immediately made.
One of the first acts was the appointment of five assistant
commandant-generals--Piet Cronje, Schalk Burgher, Lucas Meyer, Daniel
Erasmus, and Jan Kock--all of whom held high positions in the Government,
and were respected by the Boer people. After hostilities commenced, and it
became necessary to have more generals, six other names were added to the
list of assistants of Commandant-General Joubert--those chosen being Sarel
Du Toit, Hendrik Schoeman, John De la Rey, Hendrik Snyman, and Herman R.
Lemmer. The selections which were so promiscuously made were proved by
time to be wise, for almost without exception the men developed into
extraordinarily capable generals. In the early part of the campaign many
costly mistakes and errors of judgment were made by some of the
newly-appointed generals, but such misfortunes were only to be expected
from men who suddenly found themselves face to face with some of the
best-trained generals in the world. Later, when the campaign had been in
progress for several months, and the farmers had had opportunities of
learning the tactics of their opponents, they made no move unless they
were reasonably certain of the result.

One of the prime reasons for the great success which attended the Boer
army before the strength of the enemy's forces became overwhelming, was
the fact that the generals were allowed to operate in parts of the country
with which they were thoroughly acquainted. General Cronje operated along
the western frontiers of the Republics, where he knew the geographical
features of the country as well as he did those of his own farm. General
Meyer spent the greater part of his life in the neighbourhood of the
Biggarsberg and northern Natal, and there was hardly a rod of that
territory with which he was unfamiliar. General Botha was born near the
Tugela, and, in his boyhood days, pursued the buck where afterward he made
such a brave resistance against the forces of General Buller. General
Christian De Wet was a native of Dewetsdorp, and there was not a sluit or
donga in all the territory where he fought so valiantly that he had not
traversed scores of times before the war began. General De la Rey spent
the greater part of his life in Griqualand West, Cape Colony, and when he
was leading his men around Kimberley and the south-western part of the
Free State he was in familiar territory. General Snyman, who besieged
Mafeking, was a resident of the Marico district, and consequently was
acquainted with the formation of the country in the western part of the
Transvaal. In the majority of cases the generals did not need the services
of an intelligence department, except to determine the whereabouts of the
enemy, for no scouts or patrols could furnish a better account of the
nature of the country in which they were fighting than that which existed
in the minds of the leaders. Under these conditions there was not the
slightest chance for any of the generals falling into a trap laid by the
enemy, but there always were opportunities for leading the enemy into
ambush.

The Boer generals also had the advantage of having excellent maps of the
country in which they were fighting, and by means of these they were
enabled to explain proposed movements to the commandants and field-cornets
who were not familiar with the topography of the land. These maps were
made two years before the war by a corps of experts employed by the
Transvaal Government, and on them was a representation of every foot of
ground in the Transvaal, Free State, Natal, and Cape Colony. A small
elevation near Durban and a spruit near Cape Town were marked as plainly
as a kopje near Pretoria, while the British forts at Durban and Cape Town
were as accurately pictured as the roads that led to them. The Boers had a
map of the environs of Ladysmith which was a hundred times better than
that furnished by the British War Office, yet Ladysmith was the Natal base
of the British army for many years.

The greater part of the credit for the Boers' preparedness must be given
to the late Commandant-General Piet J. Joubert, who was the head of the
Transvaal War Department for many years. General Joubert, or "Old Piet,"
as he was called by the Boers, to distinguish him from the many other
Jouberts in the country, was undoubtedly a great military leader in his
younger days, but he was almost seventy years old when he was called upon
to lead his people against the army of Great Britain, and at that age very
few men are capable of great mental or physical exertion. There was no
greater patriot in the Transvaal than he, and no one who desired the
absolute independence of his country more sincerely than the old general;
yet his heart was not in the fighting. Like Kruger, he was a man of peace,
and to his dying day he believed that the war might have been avoided
easily. Unlike Kruger, he clung to the idea that the war, having been
forced upon them, should be ended as speedily as possible, and without
regard to the loss of national interests. Joubert valued the lives of the
burghers more highly than a clause in a treaty, and rather than see his
countrymen slain in battle he was willing to make concessions to those who
harassed his Government.

Joubert was one of the few public men in the Transvaal who firmly believed
that the differences between the two countries would be amicably adjusted,
and he constantly opposed the measures for arming the country which were
brought before him. The large armament was secured by him, it is true, but
the Volksraads compelled him to purchase the arms and ammunition. If
Joubert had been a man who loved war he would have secured three times as
great a quantity of war material as there was in the country when the war
was begun; but he was distinctly a man who loved peace. He constantly
allowed his sentiments to overrule his judgment of what was good for his
country, and the result of that line of action was that at the beginning
of hostilities there were more Boer guns in Europe and on the ocean than
there were in the Transvaal.

General Joubert was a grand old Boer in many respects, and no better, more
righteous, and more upright man ever lived. He worked long and faithfully
for his people, and he undoubtedly strove to do that which he believed to
be the best for his country, but he was incapable of performing the duties
of his office as a younger, more energetic, and a more warlike man would
have attended to them. Joubert was in his dotage, and none of his people
were aware of it until the crucial moment of the war was passed. When he
led the Boers at Majuba and Laing's Nek, in 1881, he was in the prime of
his life--energetic, resourceful, and undaunted by any reverses. In 1899,
when he followed the commandos into Natal, he was absolutely the
reverse--slow, wavering, and too timid to move from his tent. He
constantly remained many miles in the rear of the advance column, and only
once went into the danger zone, when he led a small commando south of the
Tugela. Then, instead of leading his victorious burghers against the
forces of the enemy, he retreated precipitately at the first sign of
danger, and established himself at Modderspruit, a day's journey from the
foremost commandos, where he remained with almost ten thousand of his men
for three months.

Joubert attempted to wage war without the shedding of blood, and he
failed. When General Meyer reported that about thirty Boers had been
killed and injured in the fight at Dundee, the Commandant-General censured
him harshly for making such a great sacrifice of blood, and forbade him
from following the fleeing enemy, as such a course would entail still
greater casualties. When Sir George White and his forces had been
imprisoned in Ladysmith, and there was almost a clear path to Durban,
Joubert held back and would not risk the lives of a few hundred burghers,
even when it was pointed out to him that the men themselves were eager to
assume the responsibility. He made only one effort to capture Ladysmith,
but the slight loss of life so appalled him that he would never sanction
another attack, although the town could easily have been taken on the
following day if an attempt had been made. Although he had a large army
round the besieged town he did not dig a yard of entrenchment in all the
time he was at Modderspruit, nor would he hearken to any plans for
capturing the starving garrison by means of progressive trenches. While
Generals Botha, Meyer, and Erasmus, with less than three thousand men,
were holding the enemy at the Tugela, Joubert, with three times that
number of men to guard impotent Ladysmith, declined to send any ammunition
for their big guns, voted to retreat, and finally fled northward to
Colenso, deserting the fighting men, destroying the bridges and railways
as he progressed, and even leaving his own tents and equipment behind.

There were extenuating circumstances in connection with Joubert's failure
in the campaign--his age, an illness, and an accident while he was in
laager--and it is but charitable to grant that these were fundamentally
responsible for his shortcomings, but it is undoubted that he was
primarily responsible for the failure of the Natal campaign. The army
which he commanded in Natal, although only twelve or thirteen thousand men
in strength, was the equal in fighting ability of seventy-five thousand
British troops, and the only thing it lacked was a man who would fight
with them and lead them after a fleeing enemy. If the Commandant-General
had pursued the British forces after all their defeats and had drawn the
burghers out of their laagers by the force of his own example, the major
part of the history of the Natal campaign would have been made near the
Indian Ocean instead of on the banks of the Tugela. The majority of the
Boers in Natal needed a commander-in-chief who would say to them "Come,"
but Joubert only said "Go."

The death of General Joubert in Pretoria, on March 26th, was sincerely
regretted by all South Africans, for he undoubtedly was one of the most
distinguished men in the country. During his long public career he made
many friends who held him in high honour for his sterling qualities, his
integrity, and his devotion to his country's cause. He made mistakes--and
there are few men who are invulnerable to them--but he died while striving
to do that which he regarded the best for his country and its cause. If
dying for one's country is patriotism, then Joubert's death was sweet.

When war-clouds were gathering and the storm was about to burst over the
Transvaal Piet Cronje sat on the stoep of his farmhouse in Potchefstroom,
evolving in his mind a system of tactics which he would follow when the
conflict began. He was certain that he would be chosen to lead his people,
for he had led them in numerous native wars, in the conflict in 1881, and
later when Jameson made his ill-starred entry into the Transvaal. Cronje
was a man who loved to be amid the quietude of his farm, but he was in the
cities often enough to realise that war was the only probable solution of
the differences between the Uitlanders and the Boers, and he made
preparations for the conflict. He studied foreign military methods and
their application to the Boer warfare; he evolved new ideas and improved
old ones; he planned battles and the evolutions necessary to win them; he
had a natural taste for things military.

Before all the world had heard the blast of the war-trumpet, Cronje had
deserted the peaceful stoep and was attacking the enemy on the veld at
Mafeking. A victory there, and he was riding at the head of his men toward
Kimberley. A skirmish here, a hard-fought battle there, and he had the
Diamond City in a state of siege. Victories urged him on, and he led the
way southward. A Magersfontein to his wreath, a Belmont and a Graspan--and
it seemed as if he were more than nominally the South African Napoleon. A
reverse, and Cronje was no longer the dashing, energetic leader of the
month before. Doggedly and determinedly he retraced his steps, but
advanced cautiously now and then to punish the enemy for its
over-confidence. Beaten back to Kimberley by the overpowering force of the
enemy, he endured defeat after defeat until finally he was compelled to
abandon the siege in order to escape the attacks of a second army sent
against him. The enemy's web had been spun around him, but he fought
bravely for freedom from entanglement. General French was on one side of
him, Lord Roberts on another, Lord Kitchener on a third--and against the
experience and troops of all these men was pitted the genius of the
Potchefstroom farmer. A fight with Roberts's Horse on Thursday, February
15th; a march of ten miles and a victorious rear-guard action with Lord
Kitchener on Friday; a repulse of the forces under Lords Roberts and
Kitchener on Saturday, and on Sunday morning the discovery that he and his
four thousand men in the river-bed at Paardeberg were surrounded by forty
thousand troops of the enemy--that was a four days' record which caused
the Lion of Potchefstroom merely to show his fangs to his enemy.

When General Cronje entered the river-bed on Saturday he was certain that
he could fight his way out on the following day. Scores of his burghers
appealed to him to trek eastward that night, and Commandant-General
Ferreira, of the Free State, asked him to trek north-east in order that
their two Boer forces might effect a junction, but Cronje was determined
to remain in the positions he then occupied until he could carry all his
transport-waggons safely away. In the evening Commandants De Beer and
Grobler urged the general to escape and explained to him that he would
certainly be surrounded the following day, but Cronje steadfastly
declined, and expressed his ability to fight a way through any force of
the enemy. Even late that night, while the British troops were welding the
chain which was to bind him hard and fast in the river-bed, many of
Cronje's men begged the general to desert the position, and when they saw
him so determined they deserted him and escaped to the eastward.

Cronje might have accepted the advice of his officers and men if he had
not believed that he could readily make his way to the east, where he did
not suspect the presence of any of Lord Roberts's troops. Not until the
following forenoon, when he saw the British advance-guard marching over
the hills on the south side of the river, did he realise that the enemy
had surrounded him and that he had erred when he determined to hold the
position. The grave mistake could not be rectified, and Cronje was in no
mood for penitence. He told his men that he expected reinforcements from
the east and counselled them to remain cool and fire with discretion until
assistance came to them. Later in the day the enemy attacked the camp from
all sides but the little army repulsed the onslaught and killed and
wounded more than a thousand British soldiers. When the Sabbath sun
descended and the four thousand Boers sang their psalms and hymns of
thanksgiving there was probably only one man who believed that the
burghers would ever be able to escape from the forces which surrounded
them, and that man was General Cronje. He realised the gravity of the
situation, but he was as calm as if he had been victorious in a battle. He
talked cheerily with his men, saying, "Let the English come on," and when
they heard their old commander speak in such a confident manner they
determined to fight until he himself announced a victory or a defeat.

On Monday morning it seemed as if the very blades of grass for miles
around the Boer laager were belching shot and shell over the dongas and
trenches where the burghers had sought shelter. Lyddite shells and
shrapnel burst over and around them; the bullets of rifles and
machine-guns swept close to their heads, and a few yards distant from them
were the heavy explosions of ammunition-waggons set on fire by the enemy's
shells. Burghers, horses and cattle fell under the storm of lead and iron,
and the mingled life-blood of man and beast flowed in rivulets to join the
waters of the river. The wounded lay groaning in the trenches; the dead
unburied outside, and the cannonading was so terrific that no one was able
to leave the trenches and dongas sufficiently long to give a drink of
water to a wounded companion. There was no medicine in the camp, all the
physicians were held in Jacobsdal by the enemy, and the condition of the
dead and dying was such that Cronje was compelled to ask for an
armistice. The reply from the British commander was "Fight or surrender,"
and Cronje chose to continue the fight. The bombardment of the laager was
resumed with increased vigour, and there was not a second's respite from
shells and bullets until after night descended, when the burghers were
enabled to emerge from their trenches and holes to exercise their limbs
and to secure food.

The Boers' cannon became defective on Tuesday morning, and thereafter they
could reply to the continued bombardment with only their rifles. Hope rose
in their breasts during the day when a heliograph message was received
from Commandant Froneman; "I am here with Generals De Wet and Cronje," the
message read; "Have good cheer. I am waiting for reinforcements. Tell the
burghers to find courage in Psalm xxvii." The fact that reinforcements
were near, even though the enemy was between, imbued the burghers with
renewed faith in their ability to defeat the enemy and, when a concerted
attack was made against the laager in the afternoon, a gallant resistance
followed.

On Wednesday morning the British batteries again poured their shells on
the miserable and exhausted Boers. Shortly before midday there was a lull
in the storm, and the beleaguered burghers could hear the reports of the
battle between the relieving force and the British troops. The sounds of
the fight grew fainter and fainter, then subsided altogether. The
bombardment of the laager was renewed, and the burghers realised that
Froneman had been beaten back by the enemy. The disappointment was so
great that one hundred and fifty Boers bade farewell to their general, and
laid down their arms to their enemy. The following day was merely the
repetition of the routine of former days, with the exception that the
condition of the men and the laager was hourly becoming more
miserable. The wounded clamouring for relief was in itself a misery to
those who were compelled to hear it, but to allow such appeals to go
unanswered was heartrending. To have the dead unburied seemed cruel
enough, but to have the corpses before one's eyes day after day was
torture. To know that the enemy was in ten times greater strength was
disheartening, but to realise that there was no relief at hand was enough
to dim the brightest courage. Yet Cronje was undaunted.

Friday and Saturday brought nothing but a message from Froneman, again
encouraging them to resist until reinforcements could be brought from
Bloemfontein. On Saturday evening Jan Theron, of Krugersdorp, succeeded in
breaking through the British lines with despatches from General De Wet and
Commandants Cronje and Froneman, urging General Cronje to fight a way
through the lines whilst they would engage the enemy from their side.
Cronje and his officers decided to make an attempt to escape, and on
Sunday morning the burghers commenced the construction of a chain-bridge
across the Modder to facilitate the crossing of the swollen river.
Fortunately for the Boers the British batteries fired only one shot into
the camp that day, and the burghers were able to complete the bridge
before night by means of the ropes and chains from their ox-waggons. On
Monday morning the British guns made a target of the bridge, and shelled
it so unremittingly that no one was able to approach it, much less make an
attempt to cross the river by means of it. The bombardment seemed to grow
in intensity as the day progressed, and when two shells fell into a group
of nine burghers, and left nothing but an arm and a leg to be found, the
Krijgsraad decided to hoist a white flag on Tuesday morning. General
Cronje and Commandant Schutte were the only officers who voted against
surrendering. They begged the other officers to reconsider their decision,
and to make an attempt to fight a way out, but the confidence of two men
was too weak to change the opinions of the others.

In a position covering less than a square mile of territory, hemmed in on
all sides by an army almost as great as that which defeated Napoleon at
Waterloo, surrounded by a chain of fire from carbines, rapid-fire guns and
heavy cannon, the target of thousands of the vaporous lyddite shells, his
trenches enfiladed by a continuous shower of lead, his men half dead from
lack of food, and stiff from the effect of their narrow quarters in the
trenches, General Cronje chose to fight and to risk complete disaster by
leading his four thousand men against the forty thousand of the enemy.

The will of the majority prevailed, and on February 27th, the anniversary
of Majuba Hill, after ten days of fighting, the white flag was hoisted
above the dilapidated laager. The bodies of ninety-seven burghers lay over
the scene of the disaster, and two hundred and forty-five wounded men were
left behind when General Cronje and his three thousand six hundred and
seventy-nine burghers and women limped out of the river-bed and
surrendered to Field-Marshal Lord Roberts.

In many respects General Cronje was the Boers' most brilliant leader, but
he was responsible for many serious and costly reverses. At Magersfontein
he defeated the enemy fairly, and he might have reaped the fruits of his
victory if he had followed up the advantage there gained. Instead, he
allowed his army to remain inactive for two months while the British
established a camp and base at the river. General French's march to
Kimberley might readily have been prevented or delayed if Cronje had
placed a few thousand of his men on the low range of kopjes commanding
French's route, but during the two days which were so fateful to him and
his army General Cronje never stirred from his laager. At Magersfontein
Cronje allowed thirty-six cannon, deserted by the British, to remain on
several kopjes all of one night and until ten o'clock next morning, when
they were taken away by the enemy. When he was asked why he did not send
his men to secure the guns Cronje replied, "God has been so good to us
that I did not have the heart to send my overworked men to fetch them."

Cronje was absolutely fearless, and in all the battles in which he took
part he was always in the most exposed positions. He rarely used a rifle,
as one of his eyes was affected, but the short, stoop-shouldered,
grey-bearded man, with the long riding-whip, was always in the thick of a
fight, encouraging his men and pointing out the positions for attack. He
was a fatalist when in battle, if not in times of peace, and it is told of
him that at Modder River he was warned by one of the burghers to seek a
less exposed position. "If God has ordained me to be shot to-day," the
grim old warrior replied, "I shall be shot, whether I sit here or in a
well." Cronje was one of the strictest leaders in the Boer army, and that
feature made him unpopular with the men who constantly applied to him for
leaves-of-absence to return to their homes. They fought for him in the
trenches at Paardeberg not because they loved him, but because they
respected him as an able leader. He did not have the affection of his
burghers like Botha, Meyer, De Wet, or De la Rey, but he held his men
together by force of his superior military attainments--a sort of
overawing authority which they could not disobey.

Personally, Cronje was not an extraordinary character. He was urbane in
manner and a pleasant conversationalist. Like the majority of the Boers he
was deeply religious, and tried to introduce the precepts of his religion
into his daily life. Although he was sixty-five years old when the war
began he had the energy and spirit of a much younger man, and the terrors
and anxieties of the ten days' siege at Paardeberg left but little marks
on the face which has been described as Christlike. His patriotism was
unbounded, and he held the independence of his country above
everything. "Independence with peace, if possible, but independence at all
costs," he was wont to say, and no one fought harder than he, to attain
that end.

When the Vryheid commandos rode over the western border of their district
and invaded Natal, Louis Botha, the successor of Commandant-General
Joubert, was one of the many Volksraad members who went forth to war in
the ranks of the common burghers. After the battle of Dundee, in which he
distinguished himself by several daring deeds, Botha became
Assistant-General to his lifelong friend and neighbour General Lucas
Meyer. Several weeks later, when General Meyer fell ill, he gave his
command to his compatriot, General Botha, and a short time afterward, when
Commandant-General Joubert was incapacitated by illness, Botha was
appointed to assume the responsibilities of the commander-in-chief. When
Joubert was on his deathbed he requested that Botha should be his
successor, and in that manner Louis Botha, burgher, became Louis Botha,
Commandant-General, in less than six months.

It was remarkable, this chain of fortuitous circumstances which led to
Botha's rapid advancement, but it was not entirely due to extraneous
causes, for he was deserving of every step of his promotion. There is a
man for every crisis, but rarely in history is found a record of a soldier
who rose from the ranks to commander-in-chief of an army in one campaign.
It was Meyer's misfortune when he became ill at a grave period of the war,
but it was the country's good fortune to have a Botha ready at hand to
fight a Colenso and a Spion Kop. When the burgher army along the Tugela
was hard pressed by the enemy and both its old-time leaders, Joubert and
Meyer, lay ill at the same time, it seemed little less than providential
that a Botha should step out of the ranks and lead the men with as much
discretion and valour as could have been expected from the experienced
generals whose work he undertook to accomplish. It was a modern
representation of the ploughman deserting his farm in order to lead in the
salvation of Rome.

Thirty-five years before he was called upon to be Commandant-General of
the army of his nation Louis Botha was born near the same spot where he
was chosen for that office, and on the soil of the empire against whose
forces he was pitting his strength and ability. In his youth he was wont
to listen to the narratives of the battles in which his father and
grandfather fought side by side against the hordes of natives who
periodically dyed the waters of the Tugela crimson with the blood of
massacred men and women. In early manhood Botha fought against the Zulus
and assisted Lucas Meyer in establishing the New Republic, which afterward
became his permanent home. Popularity, ability, and honesty brought him
into the councils of the nation as a member of the First Volksraad, where
he wielded great influence by reason of his conscientious devotion to duty
and his deep interest in the welfare of his country. When public affairs
did not require his presence in Pretoria, Botha was with his family on his
farm in Vryheid, and there he found the only happiness which he considered
worth having. The joys of a pastoral existence combined with the devotion
and love of his family were the keystone of Botha's happiness, and no man
had a finer realisation of his ambitions in that respect than he. Botha
was a warrior, no doubt, but primarily he was a man who loved the
peacefulness of a farm, the pleasures of a happy home-life, and the
laughter of his four children more than the tramp of victorious troops or
the roar of cannon.

There are a few men who have a certain magnetic power which attracts and
holds the admiration of others. Louis Botha was a man of this class.
Strangers who saw him for the first time loved him. There was an
indescribable something about him which caused men looking at him for the
first time to pledge their friendship for all time. The light in his blue
eyes seemed to mesmerise men, to draw them, willing or unwilling, to him.
It was not the quality which gained friends for Kruger nor that which made
Joubert popular, but rather a mysterious, involuntary influence which he
exerted over everybody with whom he came in contact. A man less handsome,
of less commanding appearance than Botha might have possessed such a
power, and been considered less extraordinary than he, but it was not
wholly his personal appearance--for he was the handsomest man in the Boer
army--which aroused the admiration of men. His voice, his eyes, his facial
expression and his manner--all combined to strengthen the man's power over
others. It may have been personal magnetism or a mysterious charm which he
possessed--but it was the mark of a great man.

The early part of Botha's career as a general was fraught with many
difficulties, the majority of which could be traced to his lack of years.
The Boer mind could not grasp the fact that a man of thirty-five years
could be a military leader, and for a long time the Boers treated the
young commander with a certain amount of contempt. The old takhaars
laughed at him when he asked them to perform any duties, and called him a
boy. They were unable to understand for a long time why they should act
upon the advice or orders of a man many years younger than they
themselves, and it was not until Botha had fought Colenso and Spion Kop
that the old burghers commenced to realise that ability was not always
monopolised by men with hoary beards. Before they had these manifestations
of Botha's military genius hundreds of the burghers absolutely refused to
obey his commands, and even went to the length of protesting to the
Government against his continued tenure of the important post.

The younger Boers, however, were quicker to discern the worth of the man,
and almost without exception gave him their united support. There was one
instance when a young Boer questioned Botha's authority, but the burgher's
mind was quickly disabused, and thereafter he was one of the
Commandant-General's staunchest supporters. It was at the battle of Pont
Drift, when General Botha was busily engaged in directing the movements of
his men and had little time to argue fine points of authority. The general
asked two young Boers to carry ammunition to the top of a kopje which was
being hard-shelled by the enemy. One of the Boers was willing immediately
to obey the general, but the other man refused to undertake the hazardous
journey. The general spoke kindly to the Boer, and acknowledged that he
would be risking his life by ascending the hill, but insisted that he
should go. The Boer finally declared he would not go, and added that Botha
was too young to give orders to men. The Commandant-General did not lose
his temper, but it did not require much time for him to decide that a
rebuke of some sort was necessary, so he knocked the man to the ground
with his fist. It was a good, solid blow, and the young Boer did not move
for a minute, but when he rose he had fully decided that he would gladly
carry the ammunition to the top of the kopje.

After General Botha demonstrated that he was a capable military leader he
became the idol of all the Boers. His popularity was second only to that
of President Kruger, and the hero-worshippers arranged for all sorts of
honours to be accorded to him after the war. He was to be made President,
first of all things; then his birthday anniversary was to be made the
occasion of a national holiday; statues were to be erected for him, and
nothing was to be left undone in order that his services to his country
might be given the appreciation they deserved. The stoical Boers were
never known to worship a man so idolatrously as they did in this case, and
it was all the more noteworthy on account of the adverse criticism which
was bestowed upon him several months before.

General Botha's reputation as a gallant and efficient leader was gained
during the campaign in Natal, but it was not until after the relief of
Ladysmith that his real hard work began. After the advance of Lord
Roberts's large army from Bloemfontein was begun myriads of new duties
devolved upon the Commandant-General, and thereafter he displayed a skill
and ingenuity in dealing with grave situations which was marvellous, when
it is taken into consideration that he was opposing a victorious army with
a mere handful of disappointed and gloomy burghers. The situation would
have been grave enough if he had had a trained and disciplined army under
his command, but in addition to making plans for opposing the enemy's
advance, General Botha was compelled to gather together the burghers with
whom he desired to make the resistance. His work would have been
comparatively easy if he could have remained at the spot where his
presence was most necessary, but it was absolutely impossible for him to
lead the defensive movements in the Free State without men, and in order
to secure them he was obliged to desert that important post and go to the
Biggarsberg, where many burghers were idle. Telegraph wires stretched from
the Free State to Natal, but a command sent by such a route never caused a
burgher to move an inch nearer to the Free State front, and consequently
the Commandant-General was compelled to go personally to the Biggarsberg
in search of volunteers to assist the burghers south of Kroonstad. When
General Botha arrived in Natal in the first days of May he asked the
Standerton commando to return with him to the Free State. They flatly
refused to go unless they were first allowed to spend a week at their
homes, but Botha finally, after much begging, cajoling, and threatening,
induced the burghers to go immediately. The Commandant-General saw the men
board a train, and then sped joyously northward toward Pretoria and the
Free State in a special train. When he reached Pretoria Botha learned that
the Standerton commando followed him as far as Standerton station, and
then dispersed to their homes. His dismay was great; but he was not
discouraged, and several hours later he was at Standerton, riding from
farm to farm to gather the men. This work delayed his arrival in the Free
State two days, but he secured the entire commando, and went with it to
the front, where it served him valiantly.

The masterly retreat of the Boer forces northward along the railway and
across the Vaal River, and the many skirmishes and battles with which
Botha harassed the enemy's advance, were mere incidents in the
Commandant-General's work of those trying days. There were innumerable
instances not unlike that in connection with the Standerton commando, and,
in addition, there was the planning to prevent the large commandos in the
western part of the Transvaal, and Meyer's large force in the
south-eastern part, from being cut off from his own body of burghers. It
was a period of grave moment and responsibilities, but Botha was the man
for the occasion. Although the British succeeded in entering Pretoria, the
capital of the country, the Boers lost little in prestige or men, and
Botha and his burghers were as confident of the final success of their
cause as they were when they crossed the Natal border seven months before.
Even after all the successive defeats of his army, Commandant-General
Botha continued to say, "We will fight--fight until not a single British
soldier remains on South African soil." A general who can express such a
firm faith in his cause when he sees nothing but disaster surrounding him
is great even if he is not always victorious.

The military godfather of Commandant-General Botha was General Lucas
Meyer, one of the best leaders in the Boer army. The work of the two men
was cast in almost the same lines during the greater part of the campaign,
and many of the Commandant-General's burdens were shared by his old-time
tutor and neighbour in the Vryheid district. Botha seldom undertook a
project unless he first consulted with Meyer, and the two constantly
worked hand-in-hand. Their friends frequently referred to them as Damon
and Pythias, and the parallel was most appropriate, for they were as
nearly the counterparts of those old Grecian warriors as modern
limitations would allow. Botha attained the post of Commandant-General
through the illness of Meyer, who would undoubtedly have been Joubert's
successor if he had not fallen ill at an important period of the campaign,
but the fact that the pupil became the superior officer of the instructor
never strained the amicable relations of the two men.

General Meyer received his fundamental military education from the famous
Zulu chieftain, Dinizulu, in 1884, when he and eight hundred other Boers
assisted the natives in a war against the chieftains of other tribes. In a
battle at Labombo mountain, June 6th of that year, Meyer and Dinizulu
vanquished the enemy, and as payment for their services the Boers each
received a large farm in the district now known as Vryheid. A Government
named the New Republic was organised by the farmers, and Meyer was elected
President, a post which he held for four years, when the Transvaal annexed
the republic to its own territory. In the war of 1881 Meyer took part in
several battles, and at Ingogo he was struck on the head by a piece of
shell, which caused him to be unconscious for forty-two days. In the later
days of the republic General Meyer held various military and civil
positions in the Vryheid district, where his large farm, "Anhouwen," is
located, and was the chairman of the Volksraad which decided to send the
ultimatum to Great Britain.

When war was actually declared, General Meyer, with his commandos, was on
the Transvaal border near his farm, and he opened hostilities by making a
bold dash into Natal and attacking the British army encamped at
Dundee. The battle was carefully planned by Meyer, and it would
undoubtedly have ended with the capture of the entire British force if
General Erasmus, who was to co-operate with him, had fulfilled the part
assigned to him. Although many British soldiers were killed and captured,
and great stores of ammunition and equipment taken, the forces under
General Yule were allowed to escape to the south. General Meyer followed
the fleeing enemy as rapidly as the muddy roads could be traversed, and
engaged them at Modderspruit. There he gained a decisive victory, and
compelled the survivors to enter Ladysmith, where they were immediately
besieged. Meyer was extremely ill before the battle began, but he insisted
upon directing his men, and continued to do so until the field was won,
when he fell from his horse, and was seriously ill for a month. He
returned to the front, against the advice of his physicians, on December
24th, and took part in the fighting at Pont Drift, Boschrand, and in the
thirteen days' battle around Pieter's Hill. In the battle of Pont Drift a
bullet struck the General's field-glasses, flattened itself, and dropped
into one of his coat pockets, to make a souvenir brooch for Mrs. Meyer,
who frequently visited him when no important movements were in progress.

When General Joubert and his Krijgsraad determined to retreat from the
Tugela and allow Ladysmith to be relieved, General Meyer was one of those
who protested against such a course, and when the decision was made Meyer
returned to the Tugela, and remained there with his friend Louis Botha
during the long and heroic fight against General Buller's column. Meyer
and Botha were among the last persons to leave the positions which they
had defended so long, and on their journey northward the two generals
decided to return and renew the fight as soon as they could reach
Modderspruit and secure food for their men and horses. When they arrived
at Modderspruit they found that Joubert and his entire army had fled
northward, and had carried with them every ounce of food. It was a bitter
disappointment to the two generals, but there was nothing to be done
except to travel in the direction of the scent of food, and the journey
led the dejected, disappointed, starved generals and burghers north over
the Biggarsberg mountains, where provisions could be secured.

During the long period in March and April when neither Boers nor British
seemed to be doing anything, General Meyer arranged a magnificent series
of entrenchments in the Biggarsberg mountains which made an advance of the
enemy practically impossible. Foreign military experts pronounced the
defence impregnable and expressed the greatest astonishment when they
learned that Meyer formulated the plans of the entrenchments without ever
having read a book on the subject or without having had the benefit of any
instruction. The entrenchments began at a point a few miles east of the
British outposts and continued for miles and miles north-east and
north-west to the very apex of the Biggarsberg. Spruits and rivers were
connected by means of trenches so that a large Boer force could travel
many miles without being observed by the enemy, and the series of
entrenchments was fashioned in such a manner that the Boers could retreat
to the highest point of the mountains and remain meanwhile in perfect
concealment. Near the top of the mountain long schanzes or walls were
built to offer a place of security for the burghers, while on the top were
miles of walls to attract and to inveigle the enemy to approach the lower
wall more closely. The plan was magnificent, but the British forces evaded
the Biggarsberg in their advance movements, and the entrenchments were
never bathed in human blood.

[Illustration: COMMANDANT-GENERAL CHRISTIAN H. DE WET]

When the Boers in the Free State were unable to stem the advance of the
British, General Meyer was compelled to retreat northward to ensure his
own safety, but he did it so slowly and systematically that he lost only a
few men and was able, now and then, to make bold dashes at the enemy's
flying columns with remarkable success. The retreat northward through the
Transvaal was fraught with many harassments, but General Meyer joined
forces with General Botha east of Pretoria and thereafter the teacher and
pupil again fought hand in hand in a common cause.

The Free State was not as prolific of generals as the Transvaal, but in
Christian De Wet she had one of the ablest as well as one of the most
fearless leaders in the Republican ranks. Before he was enlisted to fight
for his country De Wet was a farmer, who had a penchant for dealing in
potatoes, and his only military training was secured when he was one of
the sixty Boer volunteers who ascended the slopes of Majuba Hill in
1881. There was nothing of the military in his appearance; in fact,
Christian De Wet, Commandant-General of the Orange Free State in 1900, was
not a whit unlike Christian De Wet, butcher of Barberton of 1879, and men
who knew him in the gold-rush days of that mining town declared that he
was more martial in appearance then as a licensed slayer of oxen than
later as a licensed slayer of men. He himself prided himself on his
unmilitary exterior, and it was not a little source of satisfaction to him
to say that his fighting regalia was the same suit of clothing which he
wore on his farm on the day that he left it to fight as a soldier in his
country's army.

Before the war, De Wet's chief claim to notoriety lay in the fact that he
attempted to purchase the entire supply of potatoes in South Africa for
the purpose of effecting a "corner" of that product on the Johannesburg
market. Unfortunately for himself, he held his potatoes until the new crop
was harvested, and he became a bankrupt in consequence. Later he appeared
as a potato farmer near Kroonstad, and still later, at Nicholson's Nek in
Natal, he captured twelve hundred British prisoners and, incidentally, a
large stock of British potatoes, which seemed to please him almost as
greatly as the human captives. Although the vegetable strain was
frequently predominant in De Wet's constitution, he was not over-zealous
to return to his former pastoral pursuits, and continued to lead his
commandos over the hills of the eastern Free State long after that
territory was christened the Orange River Colony.

[Illustration: GENERAL PETER DE WET]

General De Wet was at the head of a number of the Free State commandos
which crossed into Natal at the outbreak of the war, and he took part in
several of the battles around Ladysmith; but his services were soon
required in the vicinity of Kimberley, and there he made an heroic effort
to effect a junction with the besieged Cronje. It was not until after the
British occupation of Bloemfontein that De Wet really began his brilliant
career as a daring commander, but thereafter he was continually harassing
the enemy. He led with three big battles in one week, with a total result
of a thousand prisoners of war, seven cannon, and almost half a million
pounds' worth of supplies. At Sannaspost, on March 31st, he swept down
upon Colonel Broadwood's column and captured one-fourth of the men and all
their vast supplies almost before the British officer was aware of the
presence of the enemy. The echoes of that battle had hardly subsided when
he fell upon another British column at Moester's Hoek with results almost
as great as at Sannaspost, and two days later he was besieging a third
British column in his own native heath of Wepener. Column after column was
sent to drive him away, but he clung fast to his prey for almost two
weeks, when he eluded the great force on his capture bent, and moved
northward to take an active part in opposing the advance of Lord
Roberts. He led his small force of burghers as far as the northern border
of the Free State, while the enemy advanced, and then turned eastward,
carrying President Steyn and the capital of the Republic with him to
places of safety. Whenever there was an opportunity he sent small
detachments to attack the British lines of communications and harassed the
enemy continually. In almost all his operations the Commandant-General was
assisted by his brother, General Peter De Wet, who was none the less
daring in his operations. Christian De Wet was responsible for more
British losses than any of the other generals. In his operations in Natal
and the Free State he captured more than three thousand prisoners,
thousands of cattle and horses, and stores and ammunition valued at more
than a million pounds. The number of British soldiers killed and wounded
in battles with De Wet is a matter for conjecture, but it is not limited
by the one thousand mark.

[Illustration: GENERAL JOHN DE LA REY]

General John De la Rey, who operated in the Free State with considerable
success, was one of the most enthusiastic leaders in the army, and his
confidence in the Boers' fighting ability was not less than his faith in
the eventual success of their arms. De la Rey was born on British soil,
but he had a supreme contempt for the British soldier, and frequently
asserted that one burgher was able to defeat ten soldiers at any time or
place. He was the only one of the generals who was unable to speak the
English language, but he understood it well enough to capture a spy whom
he overheard in a Free State hotel. De la Rey was a Transvaal general, and
when the retreat from Bloemfontein was made he harassed the enemy greatly,
but was finally compelled to cross the Vaal into his own country, where he
continued to fight under Commandant-General Botha.

Among the other Boer generals who took active part in the campaign in
other parts of the Republics were J. Du P. De Beer, a Raad member, who
defended the northern border of the Transvaal; Sarel Du Toit, whose
defence at Fourteen Streams was admirably conducted; Snyman, the old
Marico farmer, who besieged Mafeking; Hendrik Schoeman, who operated in
Cape Colony; Jan Kock, killed at the Elandslaagte battle early in the
campaign; and the three generals, Lemmer, Grobler, and Olivier, whose
greatest success was their retreat from Cape Colony.

The Boer generals and officers, almost without exception, were admirable
men, personally. Some of them were rough, hardy men, who would have felt
ill at ease in a drawing-room, but they had much of the milk of human
kindness in them, and there was none who loved to see or partake of
bloodshed. There may have been instances when white or Red Cross flags
were fired upon, but when such a breach of the rules of war occurred it
was not intentional. The foreigners who accompanied the various Boer
armies--the correspondents, military attachés, and the volunteers--will
testify that the officers, from Commandant-General Botha down to the
corporals, were always zealous in their endeavours to conduct an
honourable warfare, and that the farmer-generals were as gentlemanly as
they were valorous.



CHAPTER VIII

THE WAR PRESIDENTS


The real leader of the Boers of the two Republics was Paul Kruger, their
man of peace. His opinions on the momentous questions that agitated the
country and his long political supremacy caused him many and bitter
enemies, but the war healed all animosities and he was the one man in the
Republics who had the respect, love, and admiration of all the burghers.
Wherever one might be, whether in the houses on the veld or in the
battlefield's trenches, every one spoke of "Oom Paul" in a manner which
indicated that he was the Boer of all Boers. There was not one burgher who
would not declare that Kruger was a greater man than he was before he
despatched his famous ultimatum to Great Britain. His old-time friends
supported him even more faithfully than before hostilities began, and his
political energies of other days became the might of his right arm. Those
who opposed him most bitterly and unremittingly when it was a campaign
between the Progressive and Conservative parties were most eager to listen
to his counsels and to stand by his side when their country's hour of
darkness had arrived. Not a word of censure for him was heard anywhere; on
the contrary, every one praised him for opposing Great Britain so firmly,
and prayed that his life might be spared until their dream of absolute
independence was realised.

Sir Charles Dilke once related a conversation he had with Bismarck
concerning Paul Kruger. "Cavour was much smarter, more clever, more
diplomatically gifted than I," said the Prince, "but there is a much
stronger, much abler man than Cavour or I, and that man is President
Kruger. He has no gigantic army behind him, no great empire to support
him. He stands alone with a small peasant people, and is a match for us by
mere force of genius. I spoke to him--he drove me into a corner." Kruger's
great ability, as delineated by Bismarck, was indisputable, and a man with
less of it might have been President and might have avoided the war, but
only at a loss to national interests. The President had one aim and one
goal, his country's independence, and all the force of his genius was
directed toward the attainment of that end. He tried to secure his
country's total independence by peaceable means, but he had planted the
seed of that desire so deeply in the minds of his countrymen that when it
sprouted they overwhelmed him and he was driven into war against his will.
Kruger would not have displaced diplomacy with the sword, but his burghers
felt that peaceful methods of securing their independence were of no
avail, and he was powerless to resist their wishes. He did not lead the
Boers into war; they insisted that only war would give to them the relief
they desired, and he followed under their leadership. When the meetings of
the Volksraad immediately preceding the war were held, it was not Paul
Kruger who called for war; it was the representatives of the burghers, who
had been instructed by their constituents to act in such a manner. When
the President saw that his people had determined to have war, he was
leader enough to make plans which might bring the conflict to a successful
conclusion, and he chose a moment for making a declaration that he
considered opportune. The ultimatum was decided upon eleven days before it
was actually despatched, but it was delayed eight days on account of the
Free State's unpreparedness. Kruger realised the importance of striking
the first blow at an enemy which was not prepared to resist it, and the
Free State's tardiness at such a grave crisis was decidedly unpleasant to
him. Then, when the Free State was ready to mobilise, the President
secured another delay of three days in order that diplomacy might have one
more chance. His genius had not enabled him to realise the dream of his
life without a recourse to war, and when the ultimatum was delivered into
the hands of the British the old man wept.

[Illustration: PRESIDENT KRUGER ADDRESSING AMERICAN VOLUNTEERS]

When the multitudinous executive duties to which he attended in peaceful
times were suddenly ended by the declaration, the President busied himself
with matters pertaining to the conduct of the war. He worked as hard as
any man in the country, despite his age, and on many occasions he
displayed the energy of a man many years younger. The war caused his daily
routine of work and rest to be changed completely. He continued to rise at
four o'clock in the morning, a habit which he contracted in early youth
and followed ever after. After his morning devotions he listened to the
reading of the despatches from the generals at the front, and dictated
replies in the shape of suggestions, censure, or praise. He slept for an
hour after breakfast, and then went to the Government Buildings, arriving
there punctually every morning as the clock on the dome struck nine. He
remained in consultation with the other members of the Executive Council
and the few Government officials, who had remained in the city, for an
hour or more. After luncheon he again worked over despatches, received
burghers on leave of absence from the front and foreigners who sympathised
with his people's cause. He never allowed himself to be idle, and, in
fact, there was no opportunity for him to be unemployed, inasmuch as
almost all the leading Government officials were at the front, while many
of their duties remained behind to be attended to by some one. Kruger
himself supervised the work of all the departments whose heads were
absent, and the labour was great. His capacity for hard labour was never
better demonstrated than during the war, when he bore the weight of his
own duties and those of other Government officials, as well as the work of
guiding the Boer emissaries in foreign countries. Added to all these grave
responsibilities, when the reverses of the army grew more serious, was the
great worry and the constant dread of new disasters which beset a man who
occupies a position such as he occupied.

No man had greater influence over the Boers than Kruger, and his counsel
was always sought and his advice generally followed. When the first
commandos went to the front it was considered almost absolutely necessary
for them to stop at Pretoria and see "Oom Paul" before going to battle,
and it seemed to affect the old man strangely when he addressed them and
bade them God-speed in the accomplishment of their task. It was in the
midst of one of these addresses that the President, while standing in the
centre of a group of burghers, broke down and wept as he referred to the
many men who would lose their lives in the war. When the Boer army was
having its greatest successes Kruger constantly sent messages to his
burghers, thanking them for their good work, and reminding them not to
neglect thanking their God for His favours. One of the most characteristic
messages of this nature was sent to the generals, commandants, officers,
and burghers on January 8th, and was a most unique ebullition to come from
a President of a Republic. The message was composed by himself, and, as
literally translated, read:--

"For your own and the war-officers' information, I wish to state that,
through the blessing of our Lord, our great cause has at present been
carried to such a point that, by dint of great energy, we may expect to
bring it to a successful issue on our behalf.

"In order that such an end be attained, it is, however, strictly necessary
that all energy be used, that all burghers able to do active service go
forward to the battlefield, and that those who are on furlough claim no
undue extension thereof, but return as soon as possible, every one to the
place where his war-officers may be stationed.

"Brothers! I pray you to act herein with all possible promptitude and
zeal, and to keep your eyes fixed on that Providence who has miraculously
led our people through the whole of South Africa. Read Psalm 33, from
verse 7 to the end.

"The enemy have fixed their faith in Psalm 83, where it is said that this
people shall not exist and its name must be annihilated; but the Lord
says: 'It shall exist' Read also Psalm 89, the 13th and 14th verses, where
the Lord saith that the children of Christ, if they depart from His words,
shall be chastised with bitter reverses, but His favour and goodness shall
have no end and never fail. What He has said remains strong and firm. For,
see, the Lord purifieth His children, even unto gold, proven by fire.

"I need not draw your attention to all the destructiveness of the enemy's
works, for you know it, and I again point to the attack of the Devil on
Christ and His Church. This has been the attack from the beginning, and
God will not countenance the destruction of His Church. You know that our
cause is a just one, and there cannot be any doubt, for it is with the
contents of just this Psalm that they commenced with us in their
wickedness, and I am still searching the entire Bible, and find no other
way which can be followed than that which has been followed by us, and we
must continue to fight in the name of the Lord.

"Please notify all the officers of war and the entire public of your
district of the contents of this telegram, and imbue them with a full
earnestness of the cause."

When the President learned that Commandant-General Joubert had determined
to retreat from the neighbourhood of Ladysmith he sent a long telegram to
his old friend, imploring him not to take such a step, and entreating him
to retain his forces at the Tugela. The old General led his forces
northward to Glencoe, notwithstanding the President's protest, and a day
afterward Kruger arrived on the scene. The President was warrior enough to
know that a great mistake had been made, and he did not hesitate to show
his displeasure. He and Joubert had had many disagreements in their long
experiences with one another, but those who were present in the General's
tent at that Glencoe interview said that they had never seen the President
so angry. When he had finished giving his opinion of the General's action
the President shook Joubert's hand, and thereafter they discussed matters
calmly and as if there had been no quarrel. To the other men who were
partly responsible for the retreat he showed his resentment of their
actions by declining to shake hands with them, a method of showing
disapprobation that is most cutting to the Boers.

"If I were five years younger, or if my eyesight were better," he growled
at the recalcitrants, "I would take a rifle and bandolier and show you
what we old Boers were accustomed to do. We had courage; you seem to have
none."

After the President had encouraged the officers, and had secured their
promises to continue the resistance against their enemy he wandered about
in the laagers, shaking hands with and infusing new spirit into the
burghers who had flocked together to see their revered leader. When
several thousand of the Boers had gathered around him and were trying to
have a word with him the President bared his head and asked his friends to
join him in prayer. Instantly every head was bared, and Kruger's voice
spread out over the vast concourse in a grand appeal to the God of Battles
to grant His blessing to the burgher army. The grey-haired old man was
conspicuous in a small circle which was formed by the burghers withdrawing
several paces when he began the prayer. On all sides there spread out a
mass of black-garbed, battle-begrimed Boers with eyes turned to the
ground. Here and there a white tent raised its head above the assemblage;
at other points men stood on waggons and cannon. Farther on, burghers
dismounted from their horses and joined the crowd. In the distance were
Talana Hill, where the first battle of the campaign was fought; the lofty
Drakensberg where more than fifty years before the early Boer Voortrekkers
had their first glimpses of fair Natal, while to the south were the hills
of Ladysmith of sombre history. There in the midst of bloody battlefields,
and among several thousand men who sought the blood of the enemy, Kruger,
the man of peace, implored Almighty God to give strength to his
burghers. It was a magnificent spectacle.

He had been at Glencoe only a short time when the news reached him that
the burghers in the Free State had lost their courage, and were retreating
rapidly towards Bloemfontein. He abbreviated his visit, hastened to the
Free State, and met the fleeing Boers at Poplar Grove. He exhorted them to
make a stand against the enemy, and, by his magnetic power over them,
succeeded in inducing the majority to remain and oppose the British
advance. His own fearlessness encouraged them, and when they saw their old
leader standing in the midst of shell fire as immobile as if he were
watching a holiday parade, they had not the heart to run. While he was
watching the battle a shell fell within a short distance of where he
stood, and all his companions fled from the spot. He walked slowly away,
and when the men returned to him he chided them, and made a witty remark
concerning the shell, naming it one of "the Queen's pills." While the
battle continued, Kruger followed one of the commandos and urged the men
to fight. At one stage of the battle the commando which he was following
was in imminent danger of being cut off and captured by the British
forces, but the burghers fought valiantly before their President, and
finally conveyed him to a place of safety, although the path was shell and
bullet swept.

He returned to Bloemfontein, and in conjunction with President Steyn,
addressed an appeal to Lord Salisbury to end the war. They asked that the
republics should be allowed to retain their independence, and firmly
believed that the appeal would end hostilities, inasmuch as the honours of
war were then about equally divided between the two armies. To those who
watched the proceedings it seemed ridiculous to ask for a cessation of
hostilities at that time, but Kruger sincerely believed that his appeal
would not be in vain, and he was greatly surprised, but not discomfited,
when a distinct refusal was received in reply.

Several weeks after the memorable trip to the Free State, President Kruger
made another journey to the sister-republic, and met President Steyn and
all the Boer generals at the famous Krijgsraad at Kroonstad. No one who
heard the President when he addressed the burghers who gathered there to
see him, will ever forget the intensity of Kruger's patriotism. Kroonstad,
then the temporary capital of the Free State, was not favoured with any
large public hall where a meeting might be held, so a small butcher's
stand in the market-square was chosen for the site of the meeting. After
President Steyn, Commandant-General Joubert, and several other leading
Boers had addressed the large crowd of burghers standing in the rain
outside the tradesman's pavilion, Kruger stepped on one of the long
tables, and exhorted the burghers to renewed efforts, to fight for freedom
and not to be disconsolate because Bloemfontein had fallen into the hands
of the enemy. When the President concluded his address the burghers raised
a great cheer, and then returned to their laagers with their minds filled
with a new spirit, and with renewed determination to oppose the enemy--a
determination which displayed itself later in the fighting at Sannaspost,
Moester's Hoek, and Wepener. Kruger found the burghers in the Free State
in the depths of despair; when he departed they were as confident of
ultimate victory as they were on the day war was begun. The old man had
the faculty of leading men as it is rarely found. In times of peace he led
men by force of argument as much as by reason of personal magnetism. In
war-time he led men by mere words sent over telegraph wires, by his
presence at the front, and by his display of manly dignity, firm
resolution and devotion to his country. He was like the kings and rulers
of ancient times, who led their cohorts into battle, and wielded the sword
when there was a necessity for such action.

During the war President Kruger suffered many disappointments, endured
many griefs, and withstood many trials and tribulations; but none affected
him so deeply as the death of his intimate friend, Commandant-General
Joubert. Kruger and Joubert were the two leading men of the country for
many years. They were among those who assisted in the settlement of the
Transvaal and in the many wars which were coincident with it. They had
indelibly inscribed their names on the scroll of the South African history
of a half-century, and in doing so they had become as intimate as two
brothers. For more than two score years Kruger had been considered the
Boers' leader in peaceful times, while Joubert was the Boers' warrior. The
ambition of both was the independence of their country, and, while they
differed radically on the methods by which it was to be attained, neither
surpassed the other in strenuous efforts to secure it without a recourse
to war. The death of Joubert was as saddening to Kruger, consequently, as
the Demise of his most dearly-beloved brother could have been, and in the
funeral-oration which the President delivered over the bier of the
General, he expressed that sense of sorrow most aptly. This oration,
delivered upon an occasion when the country was mourning the death of a
revered leader and struggling under the weight of recent defeats, was one
of the most remarkable utterances ever made by a man at the head of a
nation.

"Brothers, sisters, burghers, and friends," he began,--"Only a few words
can I say to you to-day, for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
We have lost our brother, our friend, our Commandant-General. I have lost
my right hand, not of yesterday, but my right hand since we were boys
together, many long years ago. To-night I alone seem to have been spared
of the old people of our cherished land, of the men who lived and
struggled together for our country. He has gone to heaven whilst fighting
for liberty, which God has told us to defend; for the freedom for which he
and I have struggled together for so many years, and so often, to
maintain. Brothers, what shall I say to you in this our greatest day of
sorrow, in this hour of national gloom? The struggle we are engaged in is
for the principles of justice and righteousness, which our Lord Has taught
us is the broad road to heaven and blessedness. It is our sacred duty to
keep on that path, if we desire a happy ending. Our dear dead brother has
gone on that road to his eternal life. What can I say of his personality?
It is only a few short weeks ago that I saw him at the fighting front,
humbly and modestly taking his share of the privations and the rough work
of the campaign like the poorest burgher, a true general, a true
Christian--an example to his people. And he spoke to me then and even more
recently; and, let me tell you, that the days are dark. We are suffering
reverses on account of wickedness rampant in our land. No success will
come, no blessings be given to our great cause unless you remove the bad
elements from among us; and then you may look forward to attaining the
crowning point, the reward of righteousness and noble demeanour. We have
in our distinguished departed brother an example. Chosen, as he was, by
the nation, time after time, to his honourable position, he had their
trust to such an extent that everything was left in his hands; and he did
his work well. He died, as he has lived, in the path of duty and
honour. Let the world rage around us, let the enemy decry us, I say,
Follow his example. The Lord will stand by you against the ruthless hand
of the foe, and at the moment when He deems it right for interference
peace will come once more. Why is the sympathy of the whole world with us
in this struggle for freedom? Why are the strangers pouring in from Europe
to assist to the maintenance of our beloved flag, to aid us in the just
defence of our independence? Is it not God's hand? I feel it in my
heart. I declare to you again, the end of our struggle will be
satisfactory. Our small nation exists by the aid of the Almighty, and will
continue to do so. The prophets say the closed books shall be opened, the
dead shall arise, darkness be turned into light; nothing be concealed.
Every one will face God's judgment throne. You will listen to His voice,
and your eyes shall be open for the truth of everything. Think of the
costly lives given by us for our cause, and you will rally to the fight
for justice to the end. Brothers, to the deeply bereaved widow of our
Commandant-General, to his family, to you all, I say trust more than ever
in the Almighty; go to Him for condolence; think and be trustful in the
thought that our brother's body has gone from amongst us to rise again in
a beautiful and eternal home. Let us follow his example. Weep not, the
Lord will support you; the hour of all our relief is near; and let us pray
that we may enter heaven, and be guided to eternity in the same way as he
whom we mourn so deeply. Amen."

Early in his life Kruger formed an idea that the Boers were under the
direct control of Providence, and it displeased him greatly to learn that
many petty thefts were committed by some of the burghers at the front. In
many of the speeches to the burghers he referred to the shortcomings of
some of them, and tried to impress on their minds, that they could never
expect the Lord to took with favour on their cause if they did not mend
their ways. He made a strong reference to those sins in the oration he
delivered over Joubert's body, and never neglected to tell the foreign
volunteers that they had come into the country for fighting and not for
looting. When an American corps of about fifty volunteers arrived in
Pretoria in April he requested that they should call at his residence
before leaving for the front, and the men were greatly pleased to receive
and accept the invitation. The President walked to the sidewalk in front
of his house to receive the Americans, and then addressed them in this
characteristically blunt speech: "I am very glad you have come here to
assist us. I want you to look after your horses and rifles. Do not allow
any one to steal them from you. Do not steal anybody else's gun or
horse. Trust in God, and fight as hard as you can."

Undoubtedly one of the most pathetic incidents in Kruger's life was his
departure from Pretoria when the British army was only a short distance
south of that city. It was bitter enough to him to witness the conquest of
the veld district, the farms and the plantations, but when the conquerors
were about to possess the capital of the country which he himself had seen
growing out of the barren veld into a beautiful city of brick and stone,
it was indeed a grave epoch for an old man to pass through. It hurt him
little to see Johannesburg fall to the enemy, for that city was ever in
his enemy's hands, but when Pretoria, distinctly the Boer city, was about
to become British, perhaps for ever, the old man might have been expected
to display signs of the great sorrow which he undoubtedly felt in his
heart. At the threshold of such a great calamity to his cause it might
have been anticipated that he would acknowledge defeat and ask for mercy
from a magnanimous foe. It was not dreamt of that a man of almost four
score years would desert his home and family, his farms and flocks, the
result of a lifetime's labour, and endure the discomforts of the field
merely because he believed in a cause which, it seemed, was about to be
extinguished by force of arms. But adversity caused no changes in the
President's demeanour. When he bade farewell to his good old wife--perhaps
it was a final farewell--he cheered and comforted her, and when the
weeping citizens and friends of many years gathered at his little cottage
to bid him goodbye he chided them for their lack of faith in the cause,
and encouraged them to believe that victory would crown the Boers'
efforts. Seven months before, Kruger stood on the verandah of his
residence, and, doffing his hat to the first British prisoners that
arrived in the city, asked his burghers not to rejoice unseemingly; in May
the old man, about to flee before the enemy, inspired his people to take
new courage, and ridiculed their ideas that all was lost.

Whether the Boers were in the first flush of victory or in the depths of
despair Paul Kruger was ever the same to them--patriot, adviser,
encourager, leader, and friend.

It was an easy matter to see the President when he was at his residence at
Pretoria, and he appeared to be deeply interested in learning the opinions
of the many foreigners who arrived in his country. The little verandah of
the Executive Mansion--a pompous name for the small, one-storey
cottage--was the President's favourite resting and working place during
the day. Just as in the days of peace he sat there in a big armchair,
discussing politics with groups of his countrymen, so while the war was in
progress he was seated there pondering the grave subjects of the time. The
countrymen who could always be observed with him at almost any time of the
day were missing. They were at the front. Occasionally two or three old
Boers could be seen chatting with him behind Barnato's marble lions, but
invariably they had bandoliers around their bodies and rifles across their
knees. Few of the old Boers who knew the President intimately returned
from the front on leaves-of-absence unless they called on him to explain
to him the tide and progress of the war.

According to his own declaration his health was as good as it ever was,
although the war added many burdens to his life. Although he was
seventy-five years old he declared he was as sprightly as he was twenty
years before, and he seemed to have the energy and vitality of a man of
forty. The reports that his mind was affected were cruel hoaxes which had
not the slightest foundation of fact. The only matter concerning which he
worried was his eyesight, which had been growing weaker steadily for five
years. That misfortune alone prevented him from accompanying his burghers
to the front and sharing their burdens with them, and he frequently
expressed his disappointment that he was unable to engage more actively in
the defence of his country. When Pretoria fell into British hands Kruger
again sacrificed his own interests for the welfare of his Government and
moved the capital into the fever-districts, the low-veld of the eastern
part of the Transvaal. The deadly fever which permeates the atmosphere of
that territory seemed to have no more terrors for him than did the British
bullets at Poplar Grove, and he chose to remain in that dangerous locality
in order that he might be in constant communication with his burghers and
the outside world rather than to go farther into the isolated interior
where he would have assumed no such great risks to his health.

Mr. Kruger was not a bitter enemy of the British nation, as might have
been supposed. He was always an admirer of Britons and British
institutions, and the war did not cause him to alter his convictions. He
despised only the men whom he charged with being responsible for the war,
and he never thought to hide the identity of those men. He blamed Mr.
Rhodes, primarily, for instigating the war, and held Mr. Chamberlain and
Sir Alfred Milner equally responsible for bringing it about. Against these
three men he was extremely bitter, and he took advantage of every
opportunity for expressing his opinions of them and their work. In
February he stated that the real reason of the war between the Boers and
the British was Rhodes's desire for glory. "He wants to be known as the
maker of the South African empire," he said, "and the empire is not
complete so long as there are two Republics in the centre of the country."

Whatever were the causes of the war, it is certain that President Kruger
did not make it in order to gain political supremacy in the country. The
Dutch of Cape Colony, President Steyn of the Free State, and Secretary
Reitz of the Transvaal, may have had visions of Dutch supremacy, but
President Kruger had no such hopes. He invariably and strenuously denied
that he had any aspirations other than the independence of his country,
and all his words and works emphasised his statement to that effect.
Several days before Commandant-General Joubert died, that intimate friend
of the President declared solemnly that Kruger had never dreamt of
expelling the British Government from South Africa and much less had made
any agreement with the Dutch in other parts of the country with a view to
such a result. It was a difficult matter to find a Transvaal Boer or a
Boer from the northern part of the Free State who cared whether the
British or the Dutch were paramount in South Africa so long as the
Republics were left unharmed, but it was less difficult to meet Cape
Colonists and Boers from the southern part of the Free State who desired
that Great Britain's power in the country should be broken. If there was
any real spirit against Great Britain it was born on British soil in Cape
Colony and blown northward to where courage to fight was more
abundant. Its source certainly was not in the north, and more certainly
not with Paul Kruger, the man of peace.

President Steyn, of the Orange Free State, occupied even a more
responsible position than his friend President Kruger, of the Transvaal.
At the beginning of hostilities, Steyn found that hundreds of the
British-born citizens of his State refused to fight with his army, and
consequently he was obliged to join the Transvaal with a much smaller
force than he had reckoned upon. He was handicapped by the lack of
generals of any experience, and he did not have a sufficient number of
burghers to guard the borders of his own State. His Government had made
but few preparations for war, and there was a lack of guns, ammunition,
and equipment. The mobilisation of his burghers was extremely difficult
and required much more time than was anticipated, and everything seemed to
be awry at a time when every detail should have been carefully planned and
executed. As the responsible head of the Government and the veritable head
of the army Steyn passed a crisis with a remarkable display of energy,
ingenuity, and ability. After the army was in the field he gave his
personal attention to the work of the departments whose heads were at the
front and attended to many of the details of the commissariat work in
Bloemfontein. He frequently visited the burghers in the field and gave to
them such encouragement as only the presence and praise of the leader of a
nation can give to a people. In February he went to the Republican lines
at Ladysmith and made an address in which he stated that Sir Alfred
Milner's declaration that the power of Afrikanderism must be broken had
caused the war. Several days later he was with his burghers at Kimberley,
praising their valour and infusing them with renewed courage. A day or two
afterward he was again in Bloemfontein, arranging for the comfort of his
men and caring for the wives and children who were left behind. His duties
were increased a hundred-fold as the campaign progressed, and when the
first reverses came he alone of the Free Staters was able to imbue the men
with new zeal. After Bloemfontein was captured by the British he
transferred the capital to Kroonstad, and there, with the assistance of
President Kruger, re-established the fighting spirit of the burgher army.
He induced the skulking burghers to return to their compatriots at the
front, and formed the plans for future resistance against the invading
army. When Lord Roberts's hosts advanced from Bloemfontein, President
Steyn again moved the capital and established it at Heilbron. Thereafter
the capital was constantly transferred from one place to another, but
through all those vicissitudes the President clung nobly to his people and
country.



CHAPTER IX

FOREIGNERS IN THE WAR


In every war there are men who are not citizens of the country with whose
army they are fighting, and the "soldier-of-fortune" is as much a
recognised adjunct of modern armies as he was in the days of
knight-errantry. In the American revolutionary war both the colonial and
British forces were assisted by many foreigners, and in every great and
small war since then the contending armies have had foreigners in their
service. In the Franco-Prussian war there was a great number of
foreigners, among them having been one of the British generals who took a
leading part in the Natal campaign. The brief Græco-Turkish war gave many
foreign officers an opportunity of securing experience, while the
Spaniards in the Hispano-American war had the assistance of a small number
of European officers. Even the Filipinos have had the aid of a corps of
foreigners, the leader of whom, however, deserted Aguinaldo and joined the
Boer forces.

There is a fascination in civilised warfare which attracts men of certain
descriptions, and to them a well-fought battle is the highest form of
exciting amusement. All the world is interested in warfare among human
beings, and there are men who delight in fighting battles in order that
their own and public interest may be gratified. It may suggest a morbid or
bloodthirsty spirit, this love of warfare, but no spectacle is finer, more
magnificent, than a hard-fought game in which human lives are staked
against a strip of ground--a position. It is not hard to understand why
many men should become fascinated with warfare and travel to the ends of
the earth in order to take part in it, but a soldier of fortune needs to
make no apologies. The Boer army was augmented by many of these men who
delighted in war for fighting's sake, but a larger number joined the
forces because they believed the Republics were fighting in a just cause.

The Boer was jealous of his own powers of generalship, and when large
numbers of foreigners volunteered to lead their commandos the farmers gave
a decidedly negative reply. Scores of foreign officers arrived in the
country shortly after the beginning of hostilities and, intent on securing
fame and experience, asked to be placed in command, but no request of that
kind was granted. The Boers felt that their system of warfare was the
perfect one, and they scoffed at the suggestion that European officers
might teach them anything in the military line. Every foreign officer was
welcomed in Pretoria and in the laagers, but he was asked to enlist as a
private, or ordinary burgher. Commissions in the Boer army were not to be
had for the asking, as was anticipated, and many of the foreign officers
were deeply disappointed in consequence. The Boers felt that the
foreigners were unacquainted with the country, the burgher mode of
warfare, and lacked adroitness with the rifle, and consequently refused to
place lives and battles in the hands of incompetent men. There were a few
foreigners in the service of the Boers at the beginning of the war, but
their number was so small as to have been without significance. Several
European officers had been employed by the Governments of the Republics to
instruct young Boers in artillery work---and their instruction was
invaluable--but the oft-repeated assertion that every commando was in
charge of a foreign officer was as ridiculous as that of the _Cape Times_
which stated that the British retired from Spion Kop because no water was
found on its summit.

The influx of foreigners into the country began simultaneously with the
war, and it continued thereafter at the rate of about four hundred men a
month. The volunteers, as they were called by the burghers, consisted of
the professional soldier, the man in search of loot, the man who fights
for love of justice, and the adventurer. The professional soldier was of
much service to the burghers so long as he was content to remain under a
Boer leader, but as soon as he attempted to operate on his own
responsibility he became not only an impediment to the Boers, but also a
positive danger. In the early stages of the war the few foreign legions
that existed met with disaster at Elandslaagte, and thereafter all the
foreign volunteers were obliged to join a commando. After several months
had passed the foreigners, eager to have responsible command, prevailed
upon the generals to allow the formation of foreign legions to operate
independently. The Legion of France, the American Scouts, the Russian
Scouts, the German Corps, and several other organisations were formed, and
for a month after the investment of Bloemfontein these legions alone
enlivened the situation by their frolicsome reports of attacks on the
enemy's outposts. During those weeks the entire British army must have
been put to flight scores of times at the very least, if the reports of
the foreign legions may be believed, and the British casualty list must
have amounted to thrice the number of English soldiers in the country. The
free-rein given to the foreign legionaries was withdrawn shortly after
Villebois-Mareuil and his small band of Frenchmen met with disaster at
Boshof, and thereafter all the foreigners were placed under the direct
command of General De la Rey.

The man in search of the spoils of war was not so numerous, but he made
his presence felt by stealing whatever was portable and saleable. When he
became surfeited with looting houses in conquered territory and stealing
horses, luggage, and goods of lesser value in the laagers he returned to
Johannesburg and Pretoria and assisted in emptying residences and stores
of their contents. This style of soldier-of-fortune never went into a
battle of his own accord, and when he found himself precipitated into the
midst of one he lost little time in reaching a place of safety. Almost on
a par with the looter was the adventurer, whose chief object of life
seemed to be to tell of the battles he had assisted in winning. He was
constantly in the laagers when there was no fighting in progress, but as
soon as the report of a gun was heard the adventurer felt the necessity of
going on urgent business to Pretoria. After the fighting he could always
be depended upon to relate the wildest personal experiences that
camp-fires ever heard. He could tell of amazing experiences in the wilds
of South America, on the steppes of Siberia, and other ends of the earth,
and after each narrative he would make a request for a "loan." The only
adventures he had during the war were those which he encountered while
attempting to escape from battles, and the only service he did to the Boer
army was to assist in causing the disappearance of commissariat supplies.

The men who fought with the Boers because they were deeply in sympathy
with the Republican cause were in far greater numbers than those with
other motives, and their services were of much value to the federal
forces. The majority of these were in the country when the war was begun,
and were accepted as citizens of the country. They joined commandos and
remained under Boer leaders during the entire campaign. In the same class
were the volunteers who entered the Republics from Natal and Cape Colony,
for the purpose of assisting their co-religionists and kinsmen. Of these
there were about six thousand at the beginning of hostilities, but there
were constant desertions, so that after the first six months of the war
perhaps less than one-third of them remained. The Afrikanders of Natal and
Cape Colony were not inferior in any respect to the Boers whose forces
they joined, but when the tide of war changed and it became evident that
the Boers would not triumph, they returned to their homes and farms in the
colonies, in order to save them from confiscation. Taking into
consideration the fact that four-fifths of the white population of the two
colonies was of the same race and religion as the Boers, six thousand was
not a large number of volunteers to join the federal forces.

The artillery fire of the Boer was so remarkably good that the delusion
was cherished by the British commanders that foreign artillerists were in
charge of all their guns. It was not believed that the Boers had any
knowledge of arms other than rifles, but it was not an easy matter to find
a foreigner at a cannon or a rapid-fire gun. The field batteries of the
State Artillery of the Transvaal had two German officers of low rank, who
were in the country long before the war began, but almost all the other
men who assisted with the field guns were young Boers. The heavy artillery
in Natal was directed by MM. Grunberg and Leon, representatives of
Creusot, who manufactured the guns. M. Leon's ability as an engineer and
gunner pleased Commandant-General Joubert so greatly that he gave him full
authority over the artillery. Major Albrecht, the director of the Free
State Artillery, was a foreigner by birth, but he became a citizen of the
Free State long before the war, and did sterling service to his country
until he was captured with Cronje at Paardeberg. Otto von Lossberg, a
German-American who had seen service in the armies of Germany and the
United States, arrived in the country in March, and was thereafter in
charge of a small number of heavy guns, but the majority of them were
manned by Boer officers.

None of the foreigners who served in the Boer army received any
compensation. They were supplied with horses and equipment, at a cost to
the Boer Governments of about £35 for each volunteer, and they received
better food than the burghers, but no wages were paid to them. Before a
foreign volunteer was allowed to join a commando, and before he received
his equipment, he was obliged to take an oath of allegiance to the
Republic. Only a few men who declined to take the oath were allowed to
join the army. The oath of allegiance was an adaptation of the one which
caused so much difficulty between Great Britain and the Transvaal before
the war. A translation of it reads--

    "I hereby make an oath of solemn allegiance to the people of
        the South African Republic, and I declare my willingness
        to assist, with all my power, the burghers of this
        Republic in the war in which they are engaged. I further
        promise to obey the orders of those placed in authority
        according to law, and that I will work for nothing but
        the prosperity, the welfare, and the independence of the
        land and people of this Republic, so truly help me, God
        Almighty."

[Illustration: BATTLEFIELD OF ELANDSLAAGTE]

No army lists were ever to be found at Pretoria or at the front, and it
was as monumental a task to secure a fair estimate of the Boer force as it
was to obtain an estimate of the number of the foreigners who assisted
them. The Boers had no men whom they could spare to detail to statistical
work, and, in consequence, no correct figures can ever be obtained. The
numerical strength of the various organisations of foreigners could
readily be obtained from their commanders, but many of the foreigners were
in Boer commandos, and their strength is only problematical. An estimate
which was prepared by the British and American correspondents, who had
good opportunities of forming as nearly a correct idea as any one,
resulted in this list, which gives the numbers of those in the various
organisations, as well as those in the commandos:--

   Nationality.        In Organisations.   In Commandos.
 French                     300     ...       100
 Hollanders                 400     ...       250
 Russian                    100     ...       125
 Germans                    300     ...       250
 Americans                  150     ...       150
 Italians                   100     ...       100
 Scandinavians              100     ...        50
 Irishmen                   200     ...       ...
 Afrikanders                ...     ...     6,000
   Total in Organisations 1,650     ...       ...
   Total in Commandos               ...     7,025
         Grand Total        ...   8,675

The French legionaries were undoubtedly of more actual service to the
Boers than the volunteers of any other nationality, inasmuch as they were
given the opportunities of doing valuable work. Before the war one of the
large forts at Pretoria was erected by French engineers, and when the war
was begun Frenchmen of military experience were much favoured by General
Joubert, who was proud of his French extraction. The greater quantity of
artillery had been purchased from French firms, and the Commandant-General
wisely placed guns in the hands of the men who knew how to operate them
well. MM. Grunberg and Leon were of incalculable assistance in
transporting the heavy artillery over the mountains of Natal, and in
securing such positions for them where the fire of the enemy's guns could
not harm them. The work of the heavy guns, the famous "Long Toms" which
the besieged in Ladysmith will remember as long as the siege itself
remains in their memory, was almost entirely the result of French hands
and brains, while all the havoc caused by the heavy artillery in the Natal
battles was due to the engineering and gunnery of Leon, Grunberg, and
their Boer assistants. After remaining in Natal until after the middle of
January the two Frenchmen joined the Free State forces, to whom they
rendered valuable assistance. Leon was wounded at Kimberley on February
12th, and, after assisting in establishing the ammunition works at
Pretoria and Johannesburg, returned to France. Viscount Villebois-Mareuil
was one of the many foreigners who joined the Boer army and lost their
lives while fighting with the Republican forces. While ranking as colonel
on the General Staff of the French army, and when about to be promoted to
the rank of general, he resigned from the service on account of the
Dreyfus affair. A month after the commencement of the war
Villebois-Mareuil arrived in the Transvaal and went to the Natal front,
where his military experience enabled him to give advice to the Boer
generals. In January the Colonel attached himself to General Cronje's
forces, with whom he took part in many engagements. He was one of the few
who escaped from the disastrous fight at Paardeberg, and shortly
afterwards, at the war council at Kroonstad, the French officer was
created a brigadier-general--the first and only one in the Boer army--and
all the foreign legions were placed in his charge. It was purposed that he
should harass the enemy by attacks on their lines of communication, and it
was while he was at the outset of the first of these expeditions that he
and twelve of his small force of sixty men were killed at Boshof, in the
north-western part of the Free State, early in April. Villebois-Mareuil
was a firm believer in the final success of the Boer arms, and he received
the credit of planning two battles--second Colenso and
Magersfontein--which gave the Boers at least temporary success. The
Viscount was a writer for the _Revue des Deux Mondes_, the
_Correspondant_, and _La Liberté_, the latter of which referred to him as
the latter-day Lafayette. Colonel Villebois-Mareuil was an exceptionally
brave man, a fine soldier, and a gentleman whose friendship was prized.

Lieutenant Gallopaud was another Frenchman who did sterling service to the
Boers while he was subordinate to Colonel Villebois-Mareuil. At Colenso
Gallopaud led his men in an attack which met with extraordinary success,
and later in the Free State campaign he distinguished himself by
creditable deeds in several battles. Gallopaud went to the Transvaal for
experience, and he secured both that and fame. After the death of
Villebois-Mareuil, Gallopaud was elected commandant of the French Legion,
and before he joined De la Rey's army he had the novel pleasure of
subduing a mutiny among some of his men. An Algerian named Mahomed Ben
Naseur, who had not been favoured with the sight of blood for several
weeks, threatened to shoot Gallopaud with a Mauser, but there was a
cessation of hostilities on the part of the Algerian shortly after big,
powerful Gallopaud went into action.

The majority of the Hollanders who fought with the Boers were in the
country when the war was begun, and they made a practical demonstration of
their belief in the Boer cause by going into the field with the first
commandos. The Dutch corps was under the command of Commandant Smoronberg,
the former drill-master of the Johannesburg Police. Among the volunteers
were many young Hollanders who had been employed by the Government in
Pretoria and Johannesburg establishments, and by the Netherlands railways.
In the first engagement, at Elandslaagte, in November, the corps was
practically annihilated and General Kock, the leader of the Uitlander
brigade, himself received his death wounds. Afterward the surviving
members of the corps joined Boer commandos where stray train-loads of
officers' wines, such as were found the day before the battle of
Elandslaagte, were not allowed to interfere with the sobriety of the
burghers. The Russian corps, under Commandant Alexis de Ganetzky and
Colonel Prince Baratrion-Morgaff, was formed after all the men had been
campaigning under Boer officers in Natal for several months. The majority
of the men were Johannesburgers without military experience who joined the
army because there was nothing else to do.

The German corps was as short-lived as the Hollander organisation, it
having been part of the force which met with disaster at Elandslaagte.
Colonel Schiel, a German-Boer of brief military experience, led the
organisation, but was unable to display his abilities to any extent before
he was made a prisoner of war. Captain Count Harran von Zephir was killed
in the fight at Spion Kop, and Herr von Brusenitz was killed and Colonel
von Brown was captured at the Tugela. The corps was afterward reorganised
and, under the leadership of Commandant Otto Krantz of Pretoria, it fought
valiantly in several battles in the Free State. Among the many German
volunteers who entered the country after the beginning of hostilities was
Major Baron von Reitzenstein, the winner of the renowned long-distance
horseback race from Berlin to Vienna. Major von Reitzenstein was a
participant in battles at Colesburg and in Natal, and was eager to remain
with the Boer forces until the end of the war, but was recalled by his
Government, which had granted him a leave of absence from the German
army. Three of the forts at Pretoria were erected by Germans, and the
large fort at Johannesburg was built by Colonel Schiel at an expense of
less than £5,000.

[Illustration: COLONEL JOHN E. BLAKE, OF THE IRISH BRIGADE]

The Americans in South Africa who elected to fight under the Boer flags
did not promise to win the war single-handed, and consequently the Boers
were not disappointed in the achievements of the volunteers from the
sister-republic across the Atlantic. In proportion to their numbers the
Americans did as well as the best volunteer foreigners, and caused the
Government less trouble and expense than any of the Uitlanders'
organisations. The majority of the Americans spent the first months of the
war in Boer commandos, and made no effort to establish an organisation of
their own, although they were of sufficient numerical strength. A score or
more of them joined the Irish Brigade organised by Colonel J.E. Blake, a
graduate of West Point Military Academy and a former officer in the
American army, and accompanied the Brigade through the first seven months
of the Natal campaign. After the exciting days of the Natal campaign John
A. Hassell, an American who had been with the Vryheid commando, organised
the American Scouts and succeeded in gathering what probably was the
strangest body of men in the war. Captain Hassell himself was born in New
Jersey, and was well educated in American public schools and the schools
of experience. He spent the five years before the war in prospecting and
with shooting expeditions in various parts of South Africa, and had a
better idea of the geological features of the country than any of the
commandants of the foreign legions. While he was with the Vryheid commando
Hassell was twice wounded, once in the attack on Caesar's Hill and again
at Estcourt, where he received a bayonet thrust which disabled him for
several weeks and deprived him of the brief honour of being General
Botha's adjutant.

The one American whose exploits will long remain in the Boer mind was John
N. King, of Reading, Pennsylvania, who vowed that he would allow his hair
to grow until the British had been driven from federal soil. King began
his career of usefulness to society at the time of the Johnstown flood,
where he and some companions lynched an Italian who had been robbing the
dead. Shortly afterward he gained a deep insight into matters journalistic
by being the boon companion of a newspaper man. The newspaper man was in
jail on a charge of larceny; King for murder. When war was begun King was
employed on a Johannesburg mine, and when his best friend determined to
join the British forces he decided to enlist in the Boer army. Before
parting the two made an agreement that neither should make the other
prisoner in case they met. At Spion Kop, King captured his friend unawares
and, after a brief conversation and a farewell grasp of the hand, King
shot him dead. King took part in almost every one of the Natal battles,
and when there was no fighting to do he passed the time away by such
reckless exploits as going within the British firing-line at Ladysmith to
capture pigs and chickens. He bore a striking resemblance to Napoleon I.,
and loved blood as much as the little Corsican. When the Scouts went out
from Brandfort in April and killed several of the British scouts, King
wept because he had remained in camp that day and had missed the
opportunity of having a part in the engagement.

The lieutenant of the Scouts was John Shea, a grey-haired man who might
have had grand-children old enough to fight. Shea fought with the Boers
because he thought they had a righteous cause, and not because he loved
the smell of gunpowder, although he had learned to know what that was in
the Spanish-American war. Shea endeavoured to introduce the American army
system into the Boer army, but failed signally, and then fought side by
side with old takhaars all during the Natal campaign. He was the guardian
of the mascot of the scouts, William Young, a thirteen-year-old American,
who was acquainted with every detail of the preliminaries of the war.
William witnessed all but two of the Natal battles, and several of those
in the Free State, and could relate all the stirring incidents in
connection with each, but he could tell nothing more concerning his
birthplace than that it was "near the shore in America," both his parents
having died when he was quite young. Then there was Able-Bodied Seaman
William Thompson, who was in the _Wabash_ of the United States Navy, and
served under MacCuen in the Chinese-Japanese war. Thompson and two others
tried to steal a piece of British heavy artillery while it was in action
at Ladysmith, but were themselves captured by some Boers who did not
believe in modern miracles. Of newspaper men, there were half a dozen who
laid aside the pen for the sword. George Parsons, a _Collier's Weekly_
man, who was once left on a desert island on the east end of Cuba to
deliver a message to Gomez, several hundred miles away; J.B. Clarke, of
Webberville, Michigan, who was correspondent for a Pittsburg newspaper
whenever some one could commandeer the necessary stamps; and four or five
correspondents of country weeklies in Western States. Starfield and Hiley
were two Texans, of American army experience, who fought with the Boers
because they had faith in their cause. Starfield claimed the honour of
having been pursued for half a day by two hundred British cavalryman,
while Hiley, the finest marksman in the corps, had the distinction of
killing Lieutenant Carron, an American, in Lord Loch's Horse, in a fierce
duel behind ant-heaps at Modder River on April 21st. Later in the
campaign many of the Americans who entered the country for the purpose of
fighting joined Hassell's Scouts, and added to the cosmopolitan character
of the organisation.

One came from Paget [Transcriber's note: sic] Sound in a sailing vessel.
Another arrival boldly claimed to be the American military attaché at
the Paris Exposition, and then requested every one to keep the matter a
secret for fear the War Department should hear of his presence in South
Africa and recall him. On the way to Africa he had a marvellous midnight
experience on board ship with a masked man who shot him through one of
his hands. Later the same wound was displayed as having been received at
Magersfontein, Colenso, and Spion Kop. This industrious youth became
adjutant to Colonel Blake, and assisted that picturesque Irish-American
in securing the services of the half-hundred Red Cross men who entered
the country in April.

Of the many Americans who fought in Boer commandos none did better service
nor was considered more highly by the Boers than Otto von Lossberg, of New
Orleans, Louisana [Transcriber's note: sic]. Lossberg was born in Germany,
and received his first military training in the army of his native
country. He afterwards became an American citizen, and was with General
Miles' army in the Porto-Rico campaign. Lossberg arrived in the Transvaal
in March, and on the last day of that month was in charge of the artillery
which assisted in defeating Colonel Broadwood's column at Sannaspost. Two
days later, in the fight between General Christian De Wet and McQueenies'
Irish Fusiliers, Lossberg was severely wounded in the head, but a month
later he was again at the front. With him continually was Baron Ernst
von Wrangel, a grandson of the famous Marshal Wrangle [Transcriber's
note: sic], and who was a corporal in the American army during the
Cuban war.

When one of the four sons of State Secretary Reitz who were fighting with
the Boer army asked his father for permission to join the Irish Brigade,
the Secretary gave an excellent description of the organisation: "The
members of the Irish Brigade do their work well, and they fight remarkably
well, but, my son, they are not gentle in their manner." Blake and his men
were among the first to cross the Natal frontier, and their achievements
were notable even if the men lacked gentility of manner. The brigade took
part in almost every one of the Natal engagements and when General Botha
retreated from the Tugela Colonel Blake and seventy-five of his men
bravely attacked and drove back into Ladysmith a squadron of cavalry which
intended to cut off the retreat of Botha's starving and exhausted
burghers. Blake and his men were guarding a battery on Lombard Kop, a
short distance east of Ladysmith, when he learned that Joubert was leading
the retreat northward, and allowing Botha, with his two thousand men, to
continue their ten days' fighting without reinforcements. Instead of
retreating with the other commandos, Blake and seventy-five of his men
stationed themselves on the main road between Ladysmith and Colenso and
awaited the coming of Botha. A force of cavalry was observed coming out of
the besieged city, and it was apparent that they could readily cut off
Botha from the other Boers. Blake determined to make a bold bluff by
scattering his small force over the hills and attacking the enemy from
different directions. The men were ordered to fire as rapidly as possible
in order to impress the British cavalry with a false idea of the size of
the force. The seventy-five Irishmen and Americans made as much noise with
their guns as a Boer commando of a thousand men usually did, and the
result was that the cavalry wheeled about and returned into Ladysmith.
Botha and his men, dropping out of their saddles from sheer exhaustion and
hunger, came up from Colenso a short time after the cavalry had been
driven back and made their memorable journey to Joubert's new headquarters
at Glencoe. It was one of the few instances where the foreigners were of
any really great assistance to the Boers.

After the relief of Ladysmith the Irish Brigade was sent to Helpmakaar
Pass, and remained there for six weeks, until Colonel Blake succeeded in
inducing the War Department to send them to the Free State, where these
"sons of the ould sod" might make a display of their valour to the world,
and more especially to Michael Davitt, who was then visiting in the
country. When the Brigade was formed it was not necessary to show an Irish
birth certificate in order to become a member of the organisation, and
consequently there were Swedes, Russians, Germans, and Italians marching
under the green flag. A half-dozen of the Brigade claimed to be Irish
enough for themselves and for those who could not lay claim to such
extraction, and consequently a fair mean was maintained. A second Irish
Brigade was formed in April by Arthur Lynch, an Irish-Australian, who was
the former Paris correspondent of a London daily newspaper. Colonel Lynch
and his men were in several battles in Natal and received warm praise from
the Boer generals.

The Italian Legion was commanded by a man who loved war and warfare.
Camillo Richiardi and General Louis Botha were probably the two handsomest
men in the army, and both were the idols of their men. Captain Richiardi
had his first experience of war in Abyssinia, when he fought with the
Italian army. When the Philippine war began he joined the fortunes of
Aguinaldo, and became the leader of the foreign legion. For seven months
he fought against the American soldiers, not because he hated the
Americans, but because he loved fighting more. When the Boer war seemed to
promise more exciting work Richiardi left Aguinaldo's forces and joined a
Boer commando as a burgher. After studying Boer methods for several months
he formed an organisation of scouts which was of great service to the
army. Before the relief of Ladysmith the Italian Scouts was the ablest
organisation of the kind in the Republics.

The Scandinavian corps joined Cronje's army after the outbreak of war, and
took part in the battle of Magersfontein on December 11th. The corps
occupied one of the most exposed positions during that battle and lost
forty-five of the fifty-two men engaged. Commandant Flygare was shot in
the abdomen and was being carried off the field by Captain Barendsen when
a bullet struck the captain in the head and killed him instantly. Flygare
extricated himself from beneath Barendsen's body, rose, and led his men in
a charge. When he had proceeded about twenty yards a bullet passed through
his head, and his men leapt over his corpse only to meet a similar fate a
few minutes later.



CHAPTER X

BOER WOMEN IN THE WAR


One of the most glorious pages in the history of the Boer nation relates
to the work of the women who fought side by side with their husbands
against the hordes of murderous Zulus in the days of the early
Voortrekkers. It is the story of hardy Boer women, encompassed by
thousands of bloodthirsty natives, fighting over the lifeless bodies of
their husbands and sons, and repelling the attacks of the savages with a
spirit and strength not surpassed by the valiant burghers themselves. The
magnificent heritage which these mothers of the latter-day Boer nation
left to their children was not unworthily borne by the women of the end of
the century, and the work which they accomplished in the war of 1899-1900
was none the less valuable, even though it was less hazardous and
romantic, than that of their ancestors whose blood mingled with that of
the savages on the grassy slopes of the Natal mountains.

[Illustration: MRS. GENERAL LUCAS J. MEYER]

The conspicuous part played in the war by the Boer women was but a
sequence to that which they took in the political affairs of the country
before the commencement of hostilities, and both were excellent
demonstrations of their great patriotism and their deep loyalty to the
Republics which they loved. Some one has said that real patriotism is bred
only on the farms and plains of a country, and no better exemplification
of the truth of the saying was necessary than that which was afforded by
the wives and mothers of the burghers of the two South African Republics.
Many months before the first shot of the war was fired the patriotic Boer
women commenced to take an active interest in the discussion of the grave
affairs of State, and it increased with such amazing rapidity and volume
that they were prepared for hostilities long before the men. Women urged
their husbands, fathers, and brothers to end the long period of political
strife and uncertainty by shouldering arms and fighting for their
independence. Even sooner than the men, the Boer women realised that peace
must be broken sometime in order to secure real tranquillity in the
country, and she who lived on the veld and was patriotic was anxious to
have the storm come and pass as quickly as possible. So enthusiastic were
the women before the war that it was a common saying among them that if
the men were too timorous to fight for their liberty the daughters and
grand-daughters of the heroines who fought against the Zulus at Weenen and
Doornkop would take up arms.

Even before the formal declaration of war was made, many of the Boer women
prevailed upon their husbands, brothers, and sons to leave their homes and
go to the borders of the Boer country to guard against any raids that
might be attempted by the enemy, and in many instances women accompanied
the men to prepare their meals and give them comfort. These manifestations
of warlike spirit were not caused by the women's love of war, for they
were even more peace-loving than the men, but they were the natural result
of a desire to serve their country at a time when they considered it to be
in great peril. The women knew that war would mean much bloodshed and the
death of many of those whom they loved, but all those selfish
considerations were laid aside when they believed that the life of their
country was at stake.

For weeks preceding the commencement of hostilities farmers' wives on the
veld busied themselves with making serviceable corduroy clothing,
knapsacks, and bread-bags for their male relatives who were certain to go
on commando; and when it became known that an ultimatum would be sent to
Great Britain the women prepared the burghers' outfits, so that there
would be no delay in the men's departure for the front as soon as the
declaration of war should be made.

No greater or harder work was done by the women during the entire war than
that which fell to their lot immediately following the formal declaration
of war by the authorities. In the excitement of the occasion the
Government had neglected to make any satisfactory arrangements for
supplying the burghers with food while on the journey to the front and
afterward, and consequently there was much suffering from lack of
provisions and supplies. At this juncture the women came to the rescue,
and in a trice they had remedied the great defect. Every farmhouse and
every city residence became a bakery, and for almost two months all the
bread consumed by the burgher army was prepared by the Boer women.
Organisations were formed for this purpose in every city and town in the
country, and by means of a well-planned division of labour this improvised
commissariat department was as effective as that which was afterward
organised by the Government. Certain women baked the bread, prepared
sandwiches, and boiled coffee; others procured the supplies, and others
distributed the food at the various railway stations through which the
commando-trains passed, or carried it directly to the laagers. One of the
women who was tireless in her efforts to feed the burghers and make them
comfortable as they passed through Pretoria on the railway was Mrs. F.W.
Reitz, the wife of the Transvaal State Secretary, and never a
commando-train passed through the capital that she was not there to
distribute sandwiches, coffee, and milk.

When the first battles of the campaign had been fought and the wounded
were being brought from the front the women again volunteered to relieve
an embarrassed Government, and no nobler, more energetic efforts to
relieve suffering were ever made than those of the patriotic daughters of
the Transvaal and Orange Free State. Women from the farms assisted in the
hospitals; wives who directed the herding of cattle during the absence of
their husbands went to the towns and to the laager hospitals; young school
girls deserted their books and assisted in giving relief to the burghers
who were bullet-maimed or in the delirium of fever. No station in life was
unrepresented in the humanitarian work. Two daughters of the former
President of the Transvaal, the Rev. Thomas François Burgers, were nurses
in the Burke hospital in Pretoria, which was established and maintained by
a Boer burgher. Miss Martha Meyer, a daughter of General Lucas Meyer,
devoted herself assiduously to the relief of the wounded in the same
hospitals, and in the institution which Barney Barnato established in
Johannesburg there were scores of young women nurses who cared for British
and Boer wounded with unprejudiced attention. In every laager at the front
were young Boer vrouwen who, under the protection of the Red Cross, and
indifferent, to the creed, caste, or country of the wounded and dying,
assuaged the suffering of those who were entrusted to their care. In the
hospital-trains which carried the wounded from the battlefields to the
hospitals in Pretoria and Johannesburg were Boer women who considered
themselves particularly fortunate in having been able to secure posts
where they could be of service, while at the stations where the trains
halted were Boer women bearing baskets of fruit and bottles of milk for
the unfortunate burghers and soldiers in the carriages.

When the war began and all the large mines on the Witwatersrand and all
the big industries and stores in Johannesburg and Pretoria were obliged to
cease operations, much distress prevailed among the poorer classes of
foreigners who were left behind when the great exodus was concluded, and
after a few months their poverty became most acute. Again the Boer women
shouldered the burden, and in a thousand different ways relieved the
suffering of those who were the innocent victims of the war. Subscription
lists were opened and the wealthy Boers contributed liberally to the fund
for the distressed. Depôts where the needy could secure food and clothing
were established, while a soup-kitchen where Mrs. Peter Maritz Botha, one
of the wealthiest women in the Republics, stood behind a table and
distributed food to starving men and women, was a veritable blessing to
hundreds of needy foreigners. In Johannesburg, Boer women searched through
the poorest quarters of the city for families in need of food or medicine
and never a needy individual was neglected. Among the few thousand British
subjects who remained behind there were many who were in dire straits, but
Boer women made no distinctions between friend and enemy when there was an
opportunity for performing a charitable deed. Nor was their charity
limited to civilians and those who were neutral in their sentiments with
regard to the war. When the British prisoners of war were confined in the
racecourse at Pretoria the Boer women sent many a waggon-load of fruit,
luxuries, and reading matter to the soldiers who had been sent against
them to deprive them of that which they esteemed most--the independence of
their country. The spirit which animated the women was never better
exemplified than by the action of a little Boer girl of about ten years
who approached a British prisoner on the platform of the station at
Kroonstaad and gave him a bottle of milk which she had kept carefully
concealed under her apron. The soldier hardly had time to thank her for
her gift before she turned and ran away from him as rapidly as she had the
strength. It seemed as if she loved him as a man in distress, but feared
him as a soldier, and hated him as the enemy of her country.

Besides assisting in the care of the wounded, the baking of bread for the
burghers, and giving aid to the destitute, the women of the farms were
obliged to attend to the flocks and herds which were left in their charge
when the fathers, husbands, and brothers went to the front to fight. All
the laborious duties of the farm were performed by the women, and it was
common to witness a woman at work in the fields or driving a long
ox-waggon along the roads. When the tide of war changed and the enemy
drove the burghers to the soil of the Republics the work of the women
became even more laborious and diversified. The widely-separated
farmhouses then became typical lunch stations for the burghers, and the
women willingly were the proprietresses. Boers journeying from one
commando to another, or scouts and patrols on active duty, stopped at the
farmhouses for food for themselves and their horses, and the women gladly
prepared the finest feasts their larder afforded. No remuneration was ever
accepted, and the realisation that they were giving even indirect
assistance to their country's cause was deemed sufficient payment for any
work performed. Certain farmhouses which were situated near frequently
travelled roads became the well-known rendezvous of the burghers, and
thither all the women in the neighbourhood wended their way to assist in
preparing meals for them. Midway between Smaldeel and Brandfort was one of
that class of farmhouses, and never a meal-time passed that Mrs. Barnard
did not entertain from ten to fifty burghers. Near Thaba N'Chu was the
residence of John Steyl, a member of the Free State Raad, whose wife
frequently had more than one hundred burgher guests at one meal. When the
battle of Sannaspost was being fought a short distance from her house,
Mrs. Steyl was on one of the hills overlooking the battlefield,
interspersing the watching of the progress of the battle with prayers for
the success of the burghers' arms. As soon as she learned that the Boers
had won the field she hastened home and prepared a sumptuous meal for her
husband, her thirteen-year-old son, and all the generals who took part in
the engagement.

When the winter season approached and the burghers called upon the
Government for the heavy clothing which they themselves could not secure,
there was another embarrassing situation, for there was only a small
quantity of ready-made clothing in the country, and it was not an easy
matter to secure it through the blockaded port at Delagoa Bay. There was
an unlimited quantity of cloth in the country, but, as all the tailors
were in the commandos at the front, the difficulty of converting the
material into suits and overcoats seemed to be insurmountable until the
women found a way. Unmindful of the other vast duties they were engaged in
they volunteered to make the clothing, and thenceforth every Boer home was
a tailor's shop. President Kruger's daughters and grand-daughters, the
Misses Eloff, who had been foremost in many of the other charitable works,
undertook the management of the project, and they continued to preside
over the labours of several hundred women who worked in the High Court
Building in Pretoria until the British forces entered the city. Thousands
of suits of clothing and overcoats were made and forwarded to the burghers
in the field to protect them against the rigors of the South African
winter's nights.

One of the most conspicuous parts played in the war by the Boer women was
that of urging their husbands and sons to abbreviate their
leaves-of-absence and return to their commandos. The mothers and wives of
the burghers of the Republics gave many glorious examples of their
unselfishness and deep love of country, but none was of more material
benefit than their efforts to preserve the strength of the army in the
field. When the burghers returned to their homes on furloughs of from five
days to two weeks the wives urged their immediate return, and, in many
instances, insisted that they should rejoin their commandos forthwith upon
pain of receiving no food if they remained at home. It was one of the
Boer's absolute necessities to have a furlough every two or three months,
and unless it was given to him by the officers he was more than likely to
take it without the prescribed permission. When burghers without such
written permits reached their homes they were not received by their wives
with the customary cordiality, and the air of frigidity which encompassed
them soon compelled them to return to the field. The Boer women despised a
coward, or a man who seemed to be shirking his duty to his country, and,
not unlike their sisters in countries of older civilisation, they
possessed the power of expressing their disapprobation of such acts. It
was not uncommon for the women to threaten to take their husbands' post of
duty if the men insisted upon remaining at home, and invariably the ruse
was efficient in securing the burghers' early return.

During the war there were many instances to prove that the Boer women of
the end of the century inherited the bravery and heroic fortitude of their
ancestors who fell victims to the Zulu assegais in the Natal valley, in
1838. The Boer women were as anxious to take an active part in the
campaign as their grandmothers were at Weenen, and it was only in
obedience to the rules formulated by the officers that Amazon corps were
absent from the commandos. Instances were not rare of women trespassing
these regulations, and scores of Boer women can claim the distinction of
having taken part in many bloody battles. Not a few yielded up their
life's blood on the altar of liberty, and many will carry the scars of
bullet-wounds to the grave.

In the early part of the campaign there was no military rule which forbade
women journeying to the front, and in consequence the laagers enjoyed the
presence of many of the wives and daughters of the burghers.
Commandant-General Joubert set an example to his men by having Mrs.
Joubert continually with him on his campaigning trips, and the burghers
were not slow in patterning after him. While the greater part of the army
lay around besieged Ladysmith large numbers of women were in the laagers,
and they were continually busying themselves with the preparation of food
for their relatives and with the care of the sick and wounded. Not
infrequently did the women accompany their husbands to the trenches along
the Tugela front, and it was asserted, with every evidence of veracity,
that many of them used the rifles against the enemy with even more ardour
and precision than the men. On February 28th, while the fighting around
Pieter's Hills was at its height, the British forces captured a Boer woman
of nineteen years who had been fatally wounded. Before she died she stated
that she had been fighting from the same trench with her husband, and that
he had been killed only a few minutes before a bullet struck her.

While the Boer army was having its many early successes in Natal few of
the women partook in the actual warfare from choice, or because they
believed that it was necessary for them to fight. The majority of those
who were in the engagements happened to be with their husbands when the
battles were begun, and had no opportunity of escaping. The burghers
objected to the presence of women within the firing lines, and every
effort was made to prevent them from being in dangerous localities, but
when it was impossible to transfer them to places of safety during the
heat of the battle there was no alternative but to provide them with
rifles and bandoliers so that they might protect themselves. The
half-hundred women who endured the horrors of the siege at Paardeberg with
Cronje's small band of warriors chose to remain with their husbands and
brothers when Lord Roberts offered to convey them to places of safety, but
they were in no wise an impediment to the burghers, for they assisted in
digging trenches and wielded the carbines as assiduously as the most
energetic men.

[Illustration: MRS. OTTO KRANTZ, A BOER AMAZON]

One of the women who received the Government's sanction to join a commando
was Mrs. Otto Krantz, the wife of a professional hunter. Mrs. Krantz
accompanied her husband to Natal at the commencement of hostilities, and
remained in the field during almost the entire campaign in that colony. In
the battle of Elandslaagte, where some of the hardest hand-to-hand
fighting of the war occurred, this Amazon was by the side of her husband
in the thick of the engagement, but escaped unscathed. Later she took part
in the battles along the Tugela, and when affairs in the Free State
appeared to be threatening she was one of the first to go to the scene of
action in that part of the country.

Among the prisoners captured by the British forces at Colesburg were three
Boer women who wore men's clothing, but it was not until after they had
been confined in the prison-ship at Cape Town for several weeks that their
sex was discovered. A real little Boertje was Helena Herbst Wagner, of
Zeerust, who spent five months in the laagers and in the trenches without
her identity being revealed. Her husband went to the field early in the
war and left her alone with a baby. The infant died in January and the
disconsolate woman donned her husband's clothing, obtained a rifle and
bandolier, and went to the Natal front to search for her soldier-spouse.
Failing to find him, she joined the forces of Commandant Ben Viljoen and
faced bullets, bombs, and lyddite at Spion Kop, Pont Drift, and Pieter's
Hills. During the retreat to Van Tonder's Nek the young woman learned that
her husband lay seriously wounded in the Johannesburg hospital, and she
deserted the army temporarily to nurse him.

When Louis Botha became Commandant-General of the army he issued an order
that women would not be permitted to visit the laagers, and few, if any,
took part in the engagements for some time thereafter. When the forces of
the enemy approached Pretoria the women made heroic efforts to encourage
the burghers, and frequently went to the laagers to cheer them to renewed
resistance. Mrs. General Botha and Mrs. General Meyer were specially
energetic and effective in their efforts to instil new courage in the men,
and during the war there was no scene which was more edifying than that of
those two patriotic Boer women riding about the laagers and beseeching the
burghers not to yield to despair.

On the fifteenth of May more than a thousand women assembled in the
Government Buildings at Pretoria for the purpose of deciding upon a course
of action in the grave crisis which confronted the Republic. It was the
gravest assemblage that was ever gathered together in that city--a
veritable concourse of Spartan mothers. There was little speech, for the
hearts of all were heavy, and tears were more plentiful than words, but
the result of the meeting was the best testimonial of its value.

It was determined to ask the Government to send to the front all the men
who were employed in the Commissariat, the Red Cross, schools, post and
telegraph offices, and to fill the vacancies thus created with women. A
memorial, signed by Mrs. H.S. Bosman, Mrs. General Louis Botha, Mrs. F.
Eloff, Mrs. P.M. Botha, and Mrs. F.W. Reitz, was adopted for transmission
to the Government asking for permission to make such changes in the
commissariat and other departments, and ending with these two significant
clauses:--

1.--A message of encouragement will be sent to our burghers who are at the
front, beseeching them to present a determined stand against the enemy in
the defence of our sacred cause, and pointing out to those who are losing
heart the terrible consequences which will follow should they prove weak
and wanting in courage at the present crisis in our affairs.

2.--The women throughout the whole State are requested to provide
themselves with weapons, in the first instance to be employed in
self-defence, and secondly so that they may be in a position to place
themselves entirely at the disposition of the Government.

The last request was rather superfluous in view of the fact that the
majority of the women in the Transvaal were already provided with arms.
There was hardly a Boer homestead which was not provided with enough
rifles for all the members of the family, and there were but few women who
were not adepts in the use of firearms. In Pretoria a woman's shooting
club was organised at the outset of the war, and among the best shots were
the Misses Eloff, the President's grand-daughters; Mrs. Van Alphen, the
wife of the Postmaster-General, and Mrs. Reitz, the wife of the State
Secretary. The object of the organisation was to train the members in the
use of the rifle so that they might defend the city against the enemy. The
club members took great pride in the fact that Mrs. Paul Kruger was the
President of the organisation, and it was mutually agreed that the aged
woman should be constantly guarded by them in the event of Pretoria being
besieged. Happily the city was not obliged to experience that horror, and
the club members were spared the ordeal of protecting President and
Mrs. Kruger with their rifles as they had vowed to do.

The Boer women endured many discomforts, suffered many griefs, and bore
many heartaches on account of the war and its varying fortunes, but
throughout it all they acted bravely. There were no wild outbursts of
grief when fathers, husbands, brothers or sons were killed in battle, and
no untoward exclamations of joy when one of them earned distinction in the
field. Reverses of the army were made the occasions for a renewed display
of patriotism or the signal for the sending of another relative to the
field. Unselfishness marked all the works of the woman of the city or
veld, and the welfare of the country was her only ambition. She might have
had erroneous opinions concerning the justice of the war and the causes
which were responsible for it, but she realised that the land for which
her mother and her grandmother had wept and bled and for which all those
whom she loved were fighting and dying was in distress, and she was
patriotic enough to offer herself for a sacrifice on her country's altar.

[Illustration: MRS. COMMANDANT-GENERAL LOUIS BOTHA]



CHAPTER XI

INCIDENTS OF THE WAR


In every battle, and even in a day's life in the laagers, there were
multitudes of interesting incidents as only such a war produces, and
although Sherman's saying that "War is hell" is as true now as it ever
was, there was always a plenitude of amusing spectacles and events to
lighten the burdens of the fighting burghers. There were the sad sides of
warfare, as naturally there would be, but to these the men in the armies
soon became hardened, and only the amusing scenes made any lasting
impression upon their minds. It was strange that when a burgher during a
battle saw one of his fellow-burghers killed in a horrible manner, and
witnessed an amusing runaway, that after the battle he should relate the
details of the latter and say nothing of the former, but such was usually
the case. Men came out of the bloody Spion Kop fight and related amusing
incidents of the struggle, and never touched upon the grave phases until
long afterward when their fund of laughable experiences was
exhausted. After the battle of Sannaspost the burghers would tell of
nothing but the amusing manner in which the drivers of the British
transport waggons acted when they found that they had fallen into the
hands of the Boers in the bed of the spruit and the fun they had in
pursuing the fleeing cavalrymen. At the ending of almost every battle
there was some conspicuous amusing incident which was told and retold and
laughed about until a new and fresh incident came to light to take its
place.

In one of the days' fighting at Magersfontein a number of youthful Boers,
who were in their first battle, allowed about one hundred Highlanders to
approach to within a hundred yards of the trench in which they were
concealed, and then sprang up and shouted: "Hands up!" The Highlanders
were completely surprised, promptly threw down their arms, and advanced
with arms above their heads. One of the young Boers approached them, then
called his friends, and, scratching his head, asked: "What shall we do
with them?" There was a brief consultation, and it was decided to allow
the Highlanders to return to their column. When the young burghers arrived
at the Boer laager with the captured rifles and bandoliers, General Cronje
asked them why they did not bring the men. The youths looked at each other
for a while; then one replied, rather sheepishly, "We did not know they
were wanted." In the same battle an old Boer had his first view of the
quaintly dressed Highlanders, and at a distance mistook them for a herd of
ostriches from a farm that was known to be in the neighbourhood, refused
to fire upon them, and persuaded all the burghers in his and the
neighbouring trenches that they were ostriches and not human beings.

During the second battle at Colenso a large number of Boers swam across
the river and captured thirty or forty British soldiers who had lost the
way and had taken refuge in a sluit. An old takhaar among the Boers had
discarded almost all his clothing before entering the river, and was an
amusing spectacle in shirt, bandolier, and rifle. One of the soldiers went
up to the takhaar, looked at him from head to foot, and, after saluting
most servilely, inquired, "To what regiment do you belong, sir?" The Boer
returned the salute, and, without smiling, replied, "I am one of Rhodes'
'uncivilised Boers,' sir." In the same fight an ammunition waggon, heavily
laden, and covered with a huge piece of duck, was in an exposed position,
and attracted the fire of the British artillery. General Meyer and a
number of burghers were near the waggon, and were waiting for a lull in
the bombardment in order to take the vehicle to a place of safety. They
counted thirty-five shells that fell around the waggon without striking
it, and then the firing ceased. Several men were sent forward to move the
vehicle, and when they were within several yards of it two Kafirs crept
from under the duck covering, shook themselves, and walked away as if
nothing had interrupted their sleep.

In the Pretoria commando there was a young professional photographer named
Reginald Shepperd who carried his camera and apparatus with him during the
greater part of the campaign, and took photographs whenever he had an
opportunity. On the morning of the Spion Kop fight, when the burghers were
preparing to make the attack on the enemy, Mr. Shepperd gathered all the
burghers of the Carolina laager and posed them for a photograph. He was on
the point of exposing the plate when a shrapnel shell exploded above the
group, and every one fled. The camera was left behind and all the men went
into the battle. In the afternoon when the engagement had ended it was
found that another shell had torn off one of the legs of the camera's
tripod and that forty-three of the men who were in the group in the
morning had been killed or wounded. Before the same battle, General Schalk
Burger asked Mr. Shepperd to photograph him, as he had had a premonition
of death, and stated that he desired that his family should have a good
likeness of him. The General was in the heat of the fight, but he was not
killed.

While Ladysmith was being besieged by the Boers there were many
interesting incidents in the laagers of the burghers, even if there was
little of exciting interest. In the Staats Artillery there were many young
Boers who were constantly inventing new forms of amusement for themselves
and the older burghers, and some of the games were as hazardous as they
seemed to be interesting to the participants.

The "Long Tom" on Bulwana Hill was fired only when the burghers were in
the mood, but occasionally the artillery youths desired to amuse
themselves, and then they operated the gun as rapidly as its mechanism
would allow. When the big gun had been discharged, the young Boers were
wont to climb on the top of the sandbags behind which it was concealed,
and watch for the explosion of the shell in Ladysmith. After each shot
from the Boer gun it was customary for the British to reply with one or
more of their cannon and attempt to dislodge "Long Tom." After seeing the
flash of the British guns the burghers on the sandbags waited until they
heard the report of the explosion, then called out, "I spy!" as a warning
that the shell would be coming along in two or three seconds, and quietly
jumped down behind the bags, while the missile passed over their retreats.
It was a dangerous game, and the old burghers frequently warned them
against playing it, but they continued it daily, and no one was ever
injured. The men who operated the British and Boer heliographs at the
Tugela were a witty lot, and they frequently held long conversations with
each other when there were no messages to be sent or received by their
respective officers. In February the Boer operator signalled to the
British operator on the other side of the river and asked: "When is
General Buller coming over here for that Christmas dinner? It is becoming
cold and tasteless." The good-natured Briton evaded the question and
questioned him concerning the date of Paul Kruger's coronation as King of
South Africa. The long-distance conversation continued in the same vein,
each operator trying to have amusement at the expense of the other. What
probably was the most mirth-provoking communication between the two
combatants in the early part of the campaign was the letter which Colonel
Baden-Powell sent to General Snyman, late in December, and the reply to
it. Colonel Baden-Powell, in his letter, which was several thousand words
in length, told his besieger that it was utter folly for the Boers to
continue fighting such a great power as Great Britain, that the British
army was invincible, that the Boers were fighting for an unjust cause, and
that the British had the sympathy of the American nation. General Snyman
made a brief reply, the gist of which was, "Come out and fight."

[Illustration: GENERAL SNYMAN]

A British nobleman, who was captured by the Boers at the Moester's Hoek
fight in the Free State in April, was the author of a large number of
communications which were almost as mirthful as Colonel Baden-Powell's
effort. When he was made a prisoner of war the Earl had a diary filled
with the most harrowing personal experiences ever penned, and it was
chiefly on that evidence that General De Wet sent him with the other
prisoners to Pretoria. The Earl protested against being sent to Pretoria,
asserting that he was a war correspondent and a non-combatant, and
dispatched most pitiful telegrams to Presidents Kruger and Steyn, State
Secretary Reitz and a host of other officials, demanding an instant
release from custody. In the telegrams he stated that he was a peer of the
realm; that all doubts on that point could be dispelled by a reference to
Burke's Peerage; that he was not a fighting-man; that it would be
disastrous to his reputation as a correspondent if he were not released in
order that he might cable an exclusive account of the Moester's Hoek
battle to his newspaper, and finally ended by demanding his instant
release and safe conduct to the British lines. The Boers installed the
Earl in the officers' prison, and printed his telegrams in the newspapers,
with the result that the Briton was the most laughed-at man that appeared
in the Boer countries during the whole course of the war.

Several days before Commandant-General Joubert died he related an amusing
story of an Irishman who was taken prisoner in one of the Natal battles.
The Irishman was slightly wounded in one of his hands and it was decided
to send him to the British lines together with all the other wounded
prisoners, but he refused to be sent back. After he had protested
strenuously to several other Boer officers, the soldier was taken before
General Joubert, who pointed out to him the advantages of being with his
own people and the discomforts of a military prison. The Irishman would
not waver in his determination and finally exclaimed: "I claim my rights
as a prisoner of war and refuse to allow myself to be sent back. I have a
wife and two children in Ireland, and I know what is good for my health."
The man was so obdurate, General Joubert said, that he could do nothing
but send him to the Pretoria military prison. An incident of an almost
similar nature occurred at the battle of Sannaspost, where the Boers
captured almost two hundred waggons.

Among the convoy was a Red Cross ambulance waggon filled with rifles and a
small quantity of ammunition. The Boers unloaded the waggon and then
informed the physician in charge of it that he might proceed and rejoin
the column to which he had been attached. The physician declined to move
and explained his action by saying that he had violated the rules of the
International Red Cross and would therefore consider himself and his
assistants prisoners of war. General Christian De Wet would not accept
them as prisoners and trekked southward, leaving them behind to rejoin the
British column several days afterward.

[Illustration: FIRST BRITISH PRISONERS OF WAR CAPTURED NEAR DUNDEE]

During the war it was continually charged by both combatants that dum-dum
bullets were being used, and undoubtedly there was ample foundation for
the charges. Both Boers and British used that particular kind of expansive
bullet notwithstanding all the denials that were made in newspapers and
orations. After the battle of Pieter's Hills, on February 28th, Dr.
Krieger, General Meyer's Staff Physician, went into General Sir Charles
Warren's camp for the purpose of exchanging wounded prisoners. After the
interchange of prisoners had been accomplished General Warren produced a
dum-dum bullet which had been found on a dead Boer's body and, showing it
to Dr. Krieger, asked him why the Boers used the variety of cartridge that
was not sanctioned by the rules of civilised warfare. Dr. Krieger took the
cartridge in his hand and, after examining it, returned it to Sir Charles
with the remark that it was a British Lee-Metford dum-dum. General Warren
seemed to be greatly nonplussed when several of his officers confirmed the
physician's statement and informed him that a large stock of dum-dum
cartridges had been captured by the Boers at Dundee. It is an undeniable
fact that the Boers captured thousands of rounds of dum-dum cartridges
which bore the "broad arrow" of the British army, and used them in
subsequent battles. It was stated in Pretoria that the Boers had a small
stock of dum-dum ammunition, which was not sent to the burghers at the
front at the request of President Kruger, who strongly opposed the use of
an expansive bullet in warfare. It was an easy matter, however, for the
Boers to convert their ordinary Mauser cartridges into dum-dum by simply
cutting off the point of the bullet, and this was occasionally done.

One of the pluckiest men in the Boer army was Arthur Donnelly, a young
Irish American from San Francisco, who served in the Pretoria detective
force for several years, and went to the war in one of the commandos under
General Cronje. At the battle of Koodoesberg Donnelly and Captain Higgins,
of the Duke of Cornwall's regiment, both lay behind ant-heaps, several
hundred yards apart, and engaged in a duel with carbines for almost an
hour. After Donnelly had fired seventeen shots Captain Higgins was fatally
wounded by a bullet, and lifted his handkerchief in token of surrender.
When the young Irish-American reached him the officer was bleeding
profusely, and started to say: "You were a better man than I," but he died
in Donnelly's arms before he could utter the last two words of the
sentence. At Magersfontein Donnelly was in a perilous position between the
two forces, and realised that he could not escape being captured by the
British. He saw a number of cavalrymen sweeping down upon him, and started
to run in an opposite direction. Before he had proceeded a long distance
he stumbled across the corpse of a Red Cross physician which lay partly
concealed under tall grass. In a moment Donnelly had exchanged his own
papers and credentials for those in the physician's pockets, and a minute
later the cavalrymen were upon him. He was sent to Cape Town, and confined
in the prison-ship _Manila_, from which he and two other Boers attempted
to escape on New Year's night. One of the men managed to reach the water
without being observed by the guards, and swam almost three miles to
shore, but Donnelly and the other prisoner did not succeed in their
project. Several days later he was released on account of his Red Cross
credentials, and was sent to the British front to be delivered to the Boer
commander. He was taken out under a flag of truce by several unarmed
British officers, and several armed Boers went to receive him. While the
transfer was being made a British horseman, with an order to the officers
to hold the prisoner, dashed up to the group and delivered his
message. The officers attempted to take Donnelly back to camp with them,
but he refused to go, and, taking one of the Boer's rifles, ordered them
to return without him--a command which they obeyed with alacrity in view
of the fact that all of them were unarmed, while the Boers had carbines.

When the British column under Colonel Broadwood left the village of Thaba
N'Chu on March 30th all the British inhabitants were invited to accompany
the force to Bloemfontein, where they might have the protection of a
stronger part of the army. Among those who accepted the invitation were
four ladies and four children, ranging in ages from sixteen months to
fifteen years. When the column was attacked by the Boers at Sannaspost the
following morning, the ladies and children were sent by the Boers to a
culvert in the incomplete railway line which crossed the battlefield, and
remained there during almost the entire battle. They were in perfect
safety, so far as being actually in the line of fire was concerned, but
bullets and shells swept over and exploded near them, and they were in
constant terror of being killed. The nervous tension was so great and
continued for such a long time that one of the children, a twelve-year-old
daughter of Mrs. J. Shaw McKinlay, became insane shortly after the battle
was ended.

An incident of the same fight was a duel between two captains of the
opposing forces. In the early parts of the engagement the burghers and the
soldiers were so close together that many hand-to-hand encounters took
place and many a casualty followed. Captain Scheppers, of the Boer
heliographers, desired to make a prisoner of a British captain and asked
him to surrender. The British officer said that he would not be captured
alive, drew his sword, and attempted to use it. The Boer grasped the
blade, wrenched the sword from the officer's hand, and knocked him off his
horse. The Briton fired several revolver shots at Scheppers while the Boer
was running a short distance for his carbine, but missed him. After
Scheppers had secured his rifle the two fired five or six shots at each
other at a range of about ten yards and, with equal lack of skill, missed.
Finally, Scheppers hit the officer in the chest and laid him low. At the
same time near the same spot two Boers called upon a recruit in Roberts's
Horse to surrender, but the young soldier was so thoroughly frightened
that he held his rifle perpendicularly in front of him and emptied the
magazine toward the clouds.

While the siege of Ladysmith was in progress, Piet Boueer, of the Pretoria
commando, made a remarkable shot which was considered as the record during
the Natal campaign. He and several other Boers were standing on one of the
hills near the laager when they observed three British soldiers emerging
from one of the small forts on the outskirts of the city. The distance was
about 1,400 yards, or almost one mile, but Boueer fired at the men, and
the one who was walking between the others fell. The two fled to the fort,
but returned to the spot a short time afterward, and the Boer fired at
them a second time. The bullet raised a small cloud of dust between the
men, sent them back again, and they did not return until night for their
companion, who had undoubtedly been killed by the first shot. There were
many other excellent marksmen in the Boer army, whose ability was often
demonstrated in the interims of battles. After 1897, shooting clubs were
organised at Pretoria, Potchefstroom, Krugersdorp, Klerksdorp,
Johannesburg and Heidelberg, and frequent contests were held between the
various organisations. In the last contest before the war E. Blignaut, of
Johannesburg, won the prize by making one hundred and three out of a
possible one hundred and five points, the weapon having been a Mauser at a
range of seven hundred yards. These contests, naturally, developed many
fine marksmen, and, in consequence, it was not considered an extraordinary
feat for a man to kill a running hare at five hundred yards. While the
Boers were waiting for Lord Roberts's advance from Bloemfontein,
Commandant Blignaut, of the Transvaal, killed three running springbok at a
range of more than 1,700 yards, a feat witnessed by a score of persons.

The Boers were not without their periods of depression during the war, but
when these had passed there was no one who laughed more heartily over
their actions during those times than they. The first deep gloom that the
Boers experienced was after the three great defeats at Paardeberg,
Kimberley and Ladysmith, and the minor reverses at Abraham's Kraal, Poplar
Grove and Bloemfontein. It was amusing, yet pitiful, to see an army lose
all control of itself and flee like a wild animal before a forest fire. As
soon as the fight at Poplar Grove was lost the burghers mounted their
horses and fled northward. President Kruger and the officers could do
nothing but follow them. They passed through Bloemfontein and excited the
population there; then, evading roads and despising railway
transportation, they rode straight across the veld and never drew rein
until they reached Brandfort, more than thirty miles from Poplar Grove.
Hundreds did not stop even at Brandfort, but continued over the veld until
they reached their homes in the north of the Free State and in the
Transvaal. In their alarm they destroyed all the railway bridges and
tracks as far north as Smaldeel, sixty miles from Bloemfontein, and made
their base at Kroonstad, almost forty miles farther north. A week later a
small number of the more daring burghers sallied toward Bloemfontein and
found that not a single British soldier was north of that city. So fearful
were they of the British army before the discovery of their foolish flight
that two thousand cavalrymen could have sent them all across the Vaal
river.



APPENDIX

THE STRENGTH OF THE BOER ARMY


The War Departments of the two Boer Governments never made any provision
for obtaining statistics concerning the strength of the armies in the
field, and consequently the exact number of burghers who bore arms at
different periods of the war will never be accurately known. A year before
the war was begun the official reports of the two Governments stated that
the Transvaal had thirty thousand and the Free State ten thousand men
between the ages of sixteen and sixty, capable of performing military
duties, but these figures proved to be far in excess of the number of men
who were actually bearing arms at any one period of the war. In the early
stages of the war men who claimed to have intimate knowledge of Boer
affairs estimated the strength of the Republican armies variously from
sixty thousand to more than one hundred thousand men. Major Laing, who had
years of South African military experience, and became a member of
Field-Marshal Lord Roberts's bodyguard, in December estimated the strength
of the Boer forces at more than one hundred thousand men, exclusive of the
foreigners who joined the fortunes of the Republican armies. Other men
proved, with wondrous arrays of figures and statistics, that the Boer army
could not possibly consist of less than eighty or ninety thousand men.

The real strength of the Boer armies at no time exceeded thirty thousand
armed men, and of that number more than one-half were never in the mood
for fighting. If it could be ascertained with any degree of accuracy it
would be found that not more than fifteen thousand Boers were ever engaged
in battles, while the other half of the army remained behind in the
laagers and allowed those who were moved by the spirit or by patriotism to
volunteer for waging battles. As has been pointed out in other chapters,
the officers had no power over their men, and consequently the armies were
divided into two classes of burghers: those who volunteered their services
whenever there was a battle, and those who remained in the laagers--the
"Bible-readers," as they were called by some of the more youthful
Boers. There were undoubtedly more than thirty thousand men in the
Republics capable of bearing arms, but it was never possible to compel all
of them to go to the front, nor was it less difficult to retain them there
when once they had reached the commando-laagers. Ten per cent. of the men
in the commandos were allowed to return to their homes on leave of
absence, and about an equal proportion left the laagers without
permission, so that the officers were never able to keep their forces at
their normal strength.

The War Departments at Pretoria and Bloemfontein and the officers of the
commandos at the front had no means of learning the exact strength of the
forces in the field except by making an actual enumeration of the men in
the various commandos, and this was never attempted. There were no
official lists in either of the capitals and none of the commandos had
even a roll-call, so that to obtain a really accurate number of burghers
in the field it was necessary to visit all the commandos and in that way
arrive at a conclusion.

Early in December the Transvaal War Department determined to make a
Christmas gift to all the burghers of the two Republics who were in the
field, and all the generals and commandants were requested to send
accurate lists of the number of men in their commands. Replies were
received from every commando, and the result showed that there were almost
twenty-eight thousand men in the field. That number of presents was
forwarded, and on Christmas day every burgher at the front received one
gift, but there were almost two thousand packages undistributed. This was
almost conclusive proof that the Boer armies in December did not exceed
twenty-six thousand men.

At various times during the campaign the foreign newspaper
correspondents--Mr. Douglas Story, of the London _Daily Mail_; Mr. John O.
Knight, of the _San Francisco Call_; Mr. Thomas F. Millard, of the _New
York Herald_, and the writer--made strenuous efforts to secure accurate
information concerning the Boers' strength, and the results invariably
showed that there were less than thirty thousand men in the field. The
correspondents visited all the principal commandos and had the admirable
assistance of the generals and commandants, as well as that of the
officers of the War Departments, but frequently the results did not rise
above the twenty-five thousand mark. According to the statement of the
late Commandant-General Joubert, made several days before his death, he
never had more than thirteen thousand men in Natal, and of that number
less than two thousand were engaged in the trek to Mooi River. After the
relief of Ladysmith the forces in Natal dwindled down, by reason of
desertions and withdrawals, to less than five thousand, and when General
Buller began his advance there were not more than four thousand five
hundred Boers in that Colony to oppose him.

The strength of the army in the field varied considerably, on account of
causes which are described elsewhere, and there is no doubt that it
frequently fell below twenty thousand men while the Boers were still on
their enemy's territory. The following table, prepared with great care and
with the assistance of the leading Boer commanders, gives as correct an
idea of the burghers' numerical strength actually in the field at various
stages of the campaign as will probably ever be formulated:--

  -----------------+----------+------------+------------+-------
        Date.      |  Natal.  | Free State | Transvaal  | Total.
                   |          | and Border.| and Border.|
  -----------------+----------+------------+------------+-------
  November 1, 1899 |  12,000  |    12,000  |   5,000    | 29,000
  December 1, 1899 |  13,000  |    12,000  |   5,000    | 30,000
  January 1, 1900  |  13,000  |    12,000  |   3,000    | 28,000
  February 1, 1900 |  12,000  |    10,000  |   3,000    | 25,000
  March 1, 1900    |   8,000  |     8,000  |   7,000    | 23,000
  April 1, 1900    |   5,000  |    10,000  |  10,000    | 25,000
  May 1, 1900      |   4,500  |     9,000  |   9,000    | 22,500
  June 1, 1900     |          |     4,500  |  16,000    | 20,500
  July 1, 1900     |          |     4,000  |  15,000    | 19,000
  -----------------+----------+------------+------------+-------

According to this table, the average strength of the Boer forces during
the nine months was considerably less than 25,000 men. In refutation of
these figures it may be found after the conclusion of hostilities that a
far greater number of men surrendered their guns to the British army, but
it must be remembered that not every Boer who owned a weapon was
continually in the field.



THE GRESHAM PRESS

UNWIN BROTHERS,
WOKING AND LONDON.





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