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 Pte. James P. Mitchell #1784

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Sue Whelan



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PostSubject: Pte. James P. Mitchell #1784   Sun Nov 20, 2011 4:28 pm

I have my Great Grandfathers campaign medal from the South African Campaign. It has the campaign bar 1879. Can anyone tell me where he fought, with which group and any other pertinent information. His name was James Patrick Mitchell, G. No. 1784. I would like to get as much history as possible, since my father is still alive and would be interested in knowing the history.
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PostSubject: Re: Pte. James P. Mitchell #1784   Sun Nov 20, 2011 5:36 pm

Hi Sue

Firstly welcome to the forum.

1784 Private James Patrick Mitchell was part of the 1st King's Dragoon Guards.
He would have been sent out to Zululand as part of the reinforcements after the battle of Isandlwana.

James would have been in the theatre of war to receive the 1879 Clasp to his medal. In what capacity I do not know.

The following is from Major Marter diary - 1st King's Dragoon Guards:-

11th February 1879
An unexpected order was received for the regiment to go to South Africa for the Zulu War.

26th February 1879
Marter marched in command of the Left Wing, consisting of 311 men, 15 officers, with 240 Troop and 28 Officers horses, snow was on the ground and falling. All entrained at Farnborough, and embarked the same day at Southampton in S S ‘Spain’ and sailed but on account of the fog did not leave Southampton water until March 1st.

8th March 1879
Reached St Vincent. There were in the harbour the ‘England’ with the right wing of the 17th Lancers, the ‘France’ with the left wing, the ‘China’ with the 94th Regiment, the ‘Russia with the 58th Regiment, the ‘Palmyra with the Royal Engineers, and the ‘Egypt with the right wing of the KDG arrived a few hours later. All ships were waiting for coal. The Consul being the contractor there was no one the pressure on, and the means employed were quite inadequate. The ‘Spain and ‘Egypt were detained until the 16th March, and then sailed for Table Bay. In Cape Town (where he had been with the regiment in 1857) Marter bought a good colonial horse as an addition to the three English ones he had brought with him. The regiment proceeded to Durban and disembarked. On account of the disaster at Isandhlwana, the colonists were found to be in a great state of abject panic. Although months had passed no attempt had been made to visit the field to bury the dead. The idea was that the Zulus were in force in the neighbourhood but nothing certain was known. The colonists admired the fine English horses, but said they would never get over the country, only Colonials could do that, the result being that before the war was over, English Dragoons and horses went where the Colonials had feared to go.

20th May 1879
After a delay of several days in camp in tall grass near Durban, during which men and horses were tormented by ticks, Marter marched his wing independently to Pietermaritzberg, where the two wings were joined. After marching on to Dundee, General Marshall, commanding the Cavalry Brigade, decided on making a reconnaissance over the Isandhlwana battlefield, and breaking the spell that seemed to hang over it. This was well planned and carried out, a forced march was made, the King’s Dragoon Guards and the 17th Lancers arriving at Rorke’s Drift after dark and bivouacking. Before daylight next morning they forded Buffalo River and made their way along a track between hills covered with scrub jungle, in which it was very difficult to keep a look out. As daylight broke the wagons of the ill-fated force could be clearly seen in the distance against the sky. They were ranged across the Isandhlwana neck, having a weird appearance, for it was well known that some 1200 Englishmen lay dead about them. On arrival there was the camp, the oxen inspanned in the wagons, the horse at their picket posts, the officers mess and their baggage, the Quartermasters Stores and supplies, and officers and men lying about in their uniforms-dead-but singularly lifelike, as from the state of the climate the bodies had only dried. Many were recognisable, they had not been mutilated. Birds and beasts seem not to have molested them, and the Zulus had removed nothing but arms and ammunition, and part of the canvas of the tents. With such light tools as they had the Cavalry Brigade buried some of the bodies, Colonel Durnford among them, and having brought every spare horse and tackle, dragged about 40 wagons back to Rorke’s Drift It was now decided that the King’s Dragoon Guards should remain on the frontier, whilst the 17th Lancers accompany the column advancing into Zululand. In vain did General Marshall remonstrate, but he was not on good terms with Lord Chelmsford and his argument were disregarded. In vain did Marter endeavour to persuade his colonel to make a stand against the heart of the regiment being thus broken. At length almost beside himself he went to Lord Chelmsford’s tent, and not withstanding repeated rebuffs, did not leave until he had brought him reluctantly to agree the he with one Squadron should accompany the column.

1st June 1879
With the Colonels permission he picked Officers, Men and horses, about 186 of all ranks and on the 1st June in high spirits crossed the Blood River with the column into Zululand. That day the Prince Imperial was killed, and early next morning Marter and his squadron with some 17th Lancers was sent out to find the body

6th June 1879
Two Squadrons of the 17th Lancers along with my two marched at 4:30am for the Upoka River, Buller’s Horse accompanying. The enemy were strongly posted in a wood intersected with dongas behind four kraals. Buller’s men managed to set fire to the kraals, but having had several horse shot, and men wounded from the fire of natives concealed in the wood found it necessary to retire. Colonel Lowe then, against General Marshall’s orders advanced with the 17th Lancers to within 150yds of the woods, and dismounted some men. I supported him placing a Squadron in echelon on either flank, and we were potted at for about twenty minutes. Frith, the Adjutant of the 17th was shot dead, and Martini Henry bullets flew high, and others were more dangerous.

16th June 1879
I was ordered on the 16th June with my Squadron to Fort Newdigate, a fort which had been formed a few miles back, and the command was given to me with an engagement that no one senior to me would be sent there. I still longed for the front and begged and begged to go on

17th June 1879
The 17th was a most wearisome day, and I tried to the last to get off going back to Fort Newdigate, trudging backwards and forwards form one staff officer to another. We marched at 3:30 and took up my new command. The garrison was two companies of the 21st Fusiliers, my Sqn, two Gatlin guns, a company of Bengough’s Contingent, and four mounted Kaffir’s and Basutos. The fact is that Lord Chelmsford and General Marshall did not agree. The former therefore decided to break up the Cavalry Brigade, and General Marshall was relegated to the lines of communication. Marter escorted him back to the Frontier, about 25 miles, bivouacked, and returned to Fort Newdigate. His duties from the fort were to meet and pass all convoys between the frontier and the next fort, a stage further on towards Ulundi., and on intervening days to raid as far as possible, more especially on the left rear of Lord Chelmsford Column, burning kraals and devastating the country, so as to clear the Zulus out. The duties were heavy. The Zulus had burnt most of the grass, there was hardly enough for the horses, and corn was unduly restricted by Chelmsford’s orders. Many of the horses died of sheer inefficiency of food under harsh work conditions. When at Fort Newdigate Marter and two of his men built a memorial tomb on the spot where the Prince Imperial was killed, bring white stones 7 miles on an ox cart for the purpose. Marter made a sketch of this which he sent to the Empress Eugenie. When the Queen sent out a cross she desired that the work of her soldiers should not be disturbed, but the cross should be placed at the head. Whilst bring forward a convoy Marter heard that the Battle of Ulundi had been fought, and thus to his bitter grief he and his men were out of the longed for fight. Danger they had plenty of it bringing up heavy convoys with a handful of Dragoons, and it was harder work that any of the other troops in Zululand, the Infantry in Fort Newdigate were not allowed to be taken out on escort duty. When the war was over some of the Zulu warriors on being asked why they never attacked the slenderly guarded convoys said the scouting was so good that they could never get near enough to see what troops was guarding them. Before leaving England Marter had put his Troops through a special course of instruction in scouting, and they never failed him in the field, no matter how broken the ground may be. General Marshall said that he had never seen such scouting, and specially reported that effect to H. R. H. The Commander-in-Chief.

28th July 1879
Sir Garnet Wolseley, having taken command the forces were reorganised. Marter and his men, with the 58th, two Companies of the 24th, two Gatling guns and about 150 ox wagons, commenced marching for Ulundi

7th August 1879
As they settled into camp a terrific storm of wind and rain came on, sweeping away the tents, and rendering shelter and cooking impossible. Marter and the others lay on the ground in the open with water freely circulating between their skin and their clothes. The deluge continued with unabated fury throughout the night, and it was not until 11am the next morning that they could see around them, and then what a sight presented itself. 236 of their transport bullocks lay dead, many others had broken away and were found dead in the bush afterwards. The force could not advance for lack of transport animals, the troops were formed into burial parties, so that this, the only road of approach on the capital, should not become pestilential.

13th August 1879
Marter and his men encamped with the Headquarters camp in Ulundi. The main Zulu army had been beaten by the forces under Lord Chelmsford, but had not been followed up, the British Troops retiring immediately after the battle, as if they had met with a reverse. It was not therefore known whether the Zulus had reunited to any extent, and all events peace could not be made, or any arrangement for settling the country effected until the King either surrendered or was captured. Surrender he evidently did not mean to, and the scouts who best knew the country could obtain no real clue as to his whereabouts. As Marter was senior to all Officers of Cavalry and Mounted Infantry with the Division, and searching for the King was entirely a business for mounted men, he urged his claim to be sent in pursuit, but was put off by a variety of excuses-his horses too valuable-his men too heavy-ect ect. Party after party of Mounted Infantry and Colonial Horse was organised and dispatched under command of one or other of Sir Garnett’s staff. The capture of the King being the ‘’PLUM’’ yet to be gathered in the war, such credit as was to be gained thereby was to be reserved, not for the Regimental Soldier who had borne the toil and hardships of the campaign with little chance of distinction, but for members of that illustrious body, the ‘’Mutual Admiration Society’’ recently arrived from England. Party after party returned however only to tell of the difficulties of the country, the impenetrable thorn jungles, the loss of horses, and that as the transport available could not follow, and there were no supplies to be had of any kind, it was impossible to keep men out when such rations as each man could carry had been exhausted. The only party which remained out (to his credit be spoken) was that under Lord Gifford. That officer was very sanguine, often sending in news that he was on the point of effecting the capture, and as often finding that he had been mislead by emissaries of the King, who cleverly pretended to assist him, whilst putting him off the track. Marter continued to urge his claim, so to get him out of the way he was sent on a useless errand over a very rough country to communicate with a flying column under Lt Colonel Baker Russell, who’s general whereabouts was quite well known. He had also attempted to capture the King, and having killed some of his horses declared the country impracticable. Again Marter was sent to establish a line of outposts along a chain of grassy hills in another direction, that least likely to be taken by the King.

15th August 1879
11th August marched from Ulundi 7:30am-thick fog-settled down for the night about three hours march beyond Inhlazatye-a very rough place. Marched at 6:60am and reached Bakers Column-Fort George at 12:30-men and horse dined and we marched for 2 hours on our homeward way towards Ingoby’s Kraal-Total distance to Fort George by ‘’supposed’’ wagon road and direct from Inhlazatye 45 miles

16th August 1879
Marched at 6:15 am and reached Ulundi at 9:20pm via Ishalo-about 35 miles in the day. Parts of this track were every bad, but on the whole better that the other. Total distance from Fort George to Ulundi 50 miles.

17th August 1879
17 August In camp wrote a long report and prepared for a fresh start the next day

18th August 1879
Marched from Ulundi at 6:30am to place a line of outposts from Fort Victoria to St Paul’s. I took a Squadron of KDG and one Company of the Native Contingent from Ulundi, and one from Fort Victoria, picking up Captain Whalley’s Troop and some more Native Contingent at Kwamagasa crossroads, where we arrived long after dark-wet through-thick fog and mule transport broken down in the rear-a very miserable night

18th August 1879
Marched from Ulundi at 6:30am to place a line of outposts from Fort Victoria to St Paul’s. I took a Squadron of KDG and one Company of the Native Contingent from Ulundi, and one from Fort Victoria, picking up Captain Whalley’s Troop and some more Native Contingent at Kwamagasa crossroads, where we arrived long after dark-wet through-thick fog and mule transport broken down in the rear-a very miserable night

19th August 1879
Rode nearly to Fort Albert in the morning and then to St Paul’s, and back with Captain Whalley-Total 46 miles completed-disposition of outposts-begging a Company of the 90th to complete. On arrival at bivouac late at night, I found I had been ‘’given up’’ and another officer who had no work had eaten my ration.

20th August 1879
Rode to Fort Albert in the morning about rations ect, and met Robertson the Missionary. The church and house near it were destroyed by the Zulus, he said the church had held 200, and that it was always full. He had sent some of his flock to Natal for safety. Rode about 12 miles along the outpost in the evening

21st August 1879
At Kwamagusa crossroads all day. Just as it was getting dark, and I was thinking of having my supper and going to bed, an order came for me to roll up all the parties fo my men and Native contingent, and, marching through the night , bring them to Fort Victoria early in the morning in readiness to go on to Ulundi if required. Marched at 9:15pm

22nd August 1879
Arrived at Fort Victoria at 4:30am and fed the horses. Two hours sleep on the ground in Stubbs tent, whilst having my breakfast had the order for Ulundi. Marched there accordingly-35 miles from Kwamagusa crossroads. Sir Garnet had been at Ulundi for a fortnight, and the probability of capturing the King seemed as remote as ever. He became anxious, for the clouds gathered day by day, and he was told that if the rainy season set in he would have difficulty in leaving the country by the route he desired to do so. A report came in that the King had gone to the Ngombe Forest, and the Colonists who best knew the country said that if he had gone to Ngombe, the chase might be given up as they could not follow him there.

23rd August 1879
Marter was sent with his Squadron to join Colonel Clarke, who was in command of the 3/60th Rifles, some mounted Infantry and Native Contingent, and was in bivouac on the Black Umvolosi River, 25 miles north east of Ulundi. The next three days were spent in marching into Nsibabu’s country, and bringing in that chief

27th August 1879
Early in the morning of the 27th Marter was sent forward through the thorn bush for the purpose of testing the report that the King had gone to the Ngombe forest, and ascertain if the country was practicable for troops. The events of the next few days have been written by command of the Queen, it is necessary to recount them here. (See also printed pamphlet ‘’Capture of Cetewayo, King of the Zulus’’, Available from QDG on-line shop) With reference to the account it may be stated that as Lord Gifford, by his own shewing, had not been nearer to the Kraal in which the King was taken, to say the least of it, 11 miles, he could not have been watching it as he said, and at such a distance, in a very difficult country he might, in view of immediate capture, nearly as well as been in Ulundi. Cetewayo himself disposed of the question of any advance from the open side. On arrival of the King at Ulundi, it was found that Lord Gifford had generally stated in camp that Marter had obtained the information, which enabled him to take the King from the note alluded to in the account-had in fact taken him out of his almost closed hand. On this Marter went to Maurice and found he had not received the note. Then, taking with him one of his officers, who had heard it read, found Lord Gifford and told him plainly he had no right to make the statements he had made, as in his note he had given no clue whatsoever to the King’s whereabouts, to which the whole of his (Marter’s Officers) could testify. Gifford said ‘I thought I had’. Marter replied, ‘’if only you thought you had, you should not have made positive statements calculated to damage another officer, but in order to clear the matter up, I will send out scouts to find the man entrusted, who may still have it’’. Gifford replied ‘’You need not do that’’. But on Marter’s expressing his determination to do so , added after some hesitation, ‘’The note was brought back to me’’. Marter said ‘’then produce it to see which one of us is in the right’’. Gifford replied ‘’I destroyed it’’. On hearing this Marter said, ‘’As you have destroyed the note, and endeavoured to make capital out of it, I have only to say Good Morning my Lord, and he turned his back on him. Never the less Gifford was one of the ‘’Society’’, Sir Garnet inclined to his statements, selected him to carry the despatches to England, that he might receive the £300 customarily paid for the duty, and so worded his despatch as to convey the idea that Gifford had almost affected the capture. Later on he was told the truth by a young officer who had been with Gifford’s party, but he never amended the despatch or evinced ant friendship towards Marter. He rejoiced that the King was captured, but wrong had done the business. Extract from the Army & Navy Gazette of the 6th September 1879; ‘’1st Dragoon Guards’’ The most satisfactory accounts reach us from Natal as to the general behaviour of the regiment and its efficiency. Our correspondent says, ‘’Notwithstanding the serious disappointment suffered by the officers and men at finding themselves deprived of the honour of marching on Ulundi, all ranks have worked in a spirit which does them no little credit to maintain the character of an old and most distinguished regiment, and General Marshall’s eulogiums passed upon them have been fully well deserved. Though some have never tired of maligning this regiment, it had since its arrival in Natal shown that it is not behind-hand when work is to be done; and Colonel Alexander may well feel proud of his command’’. From a telegram dated Durban, August 19th, we learn that ‘’A Squadron of the Dragoon Guards, under Major Marter, has been brought up from Fort Victoria,
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PostSubject: Re: Pte. James P. Mitchell #1784   Sun Nov 20, 2011 7:42 pm

Sue. You may find some usefull information regarding the 1st King's Dragoon Guards here click on link below.

http://www.qdg.org.uk/pages/Recent-Acquisitions-133.php
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