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 James Hamer (survivor of Isandlwana).

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PostSubject: James Hamer (survivor of Isandlwana).   Tue Jun 18, 2013 8:18 pm

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Grave in Clun, Shropshire
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James Hamer's letter to his Farther with regards Isandlwana


‘"I dined the night before in his tent with Colonel Durnford and (poor?) Captain Geo. Shepstone. We were then at Rorke’s Drift about 10 miles from the Isandhlwana camp. The next morning Wed. Jan. 22, we had a dispatch from General Lord Chelmsford and Colonel Durnford sent for me to his tent. I had some breakfast with him & he gave me a verbal message to Lord Chelmsford at camp. When I got there I found the General had left the camp to attack the Zulus. About an hour after my arrival in camp, Col. Durnford arrived with his mounted native horse, the rest of the native contingency being some miles behind. The Zulus were then seen on the distant hills in small numbers (for an officer lent me his glass and I saw them myself). Colonel Durnford being superior officer took over command and orders from Colonel Pulleine and of course has all the ... (?). Very soon after the mounted native horse had arrived they were sent out to some hills on the left of the camp. Captain George Shepstone in command. I went along with him, and after going some little way, we tried to capture some cattle. They disappeared over a ridge, and on coming up we saw the Zulus, like ants in front of us, in perfect order as quiet as mice and stretched across in an even line. We estimated those we saw at 12,000. After his having given orders to the Captain of the Native Horse to retire gradually, Geo. Shepstone (& myself) rode as hard as ever we could back to the camp and reported what we had seen. A company of the 1/24 Foot was sent to back up our horsemen who by that time had retired down the hill towards the camp (I sent you a plan of the camp - which being the first I made out is slightly incorrect - I made out two other plans which have been sent to England to the War Office). We left our horses (for Geo. Shepstone & myself had rejoined the men) at the bottom of the hill, and went up and attacked the Zulus on foot, we drove them back at first, but after retiring over a ridge they were reinforced and came on in overwhelming numbers and we had a sharp run for it to our horses, which were some little distance away. We retreated towards the camp. Up to that time I had only had a revolver, so I rode into the camp and got a carbine. I then joined some soldiers in front of the camp and fired away as fast as possible, but we had to run for the Zulus came on us like ants on all sides. I had the greatest difficulty in finding my horse but got him and galloped through the camp, the Zulus being within 200 yards and then our company of the 24th with poor Colonel Durnford making a heroic and most gallant stand to cover the retreat. The scenes at the top of the camp baffles description, oxen yoked to waggons, mules, sheep, horses and men in the greatest confusion, all wildly trying to escape. I saw one gun brought over the neck of the hill, but it stuck fast among the stones. We had a very bad country to go over, large rough boulders and stones. Some distance from the camp is a small ravine which was hid by bushes, the greater part of the fugitives fortunately went above it, but several (with myself) went too low down, and met it at the centre. We could not go above as the Zulus were too near, and we had to go to the end of it before we could cross. The Zulus saw this and in large numbers tried to cut us off, I and four others were the last to get round, and we had to use our revolvers very freely, for the Zulus followed us up quickly, the ground being very bad for horses, and footmen had not the ghost of a chance. Several even were stabbed on their horses. My horse (Dick) had had a great deal of work that day and with tracking over the stones he got completely done and would not move a step further. I was in a jolly predicament when (thank God) a man of the Rocket Battery galloped up with a led horse and let me have it. I had just taken the saddle off poor Dick when a bullet struck him dead and the poor fellow who gave me the horse had only ridden ten yards when I saw him fall killed from his horse. The animal I was now on was a splendid beast, but the girth of the saddle was not strong enough and when I had galloped another two miles it burst and I came down on the stones, luckily I stuck like mad to the bridle and quickly rigged up a girth by passing the neck rein through the D of the saddle, and thereby saved myself as the Zulus were by this time close upon me. I managed all right till I got to the Buffalo River which was very difficult to cross. I myself saw several men swept down and drowned or killed. The Zulus charged us down to the river but they took care to cross lower down where it was safer. I had a dreadful ride to Helpmakaar half insensible and wet through. We got in about 6 p.m. to Helpmakaar and were up all night making ... (?) and keeping guard. We four volunteered to go with Major Spaulding next morning to Rorke’s Drift. Where as I had lost everything I possessed, horse (and my cash went down the river in my saddle bags where I had another spill getting out), Lord Chelmsford with his extreme courtesy and kindness (he is beloved by every one, and we only think of him in this sad affair), I mean chiefly for poor Col. Durnford, Geo. Shepstone and the other brave fellows, it is too awful to think of (and I have escaped on mere luck) allowed me to accompany his staff to Helpmakaar and thence to Pietermaritzburg. I am to my deep disgust now today in Natal and am proceeding up country to Ladysmith."


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PostSubject: Re: James Hamer (survivor of Isandlwana).   Fri Jul 12, 2013 7:11 pm

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