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 Archibald Forbes report

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DrummerBoy 16



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PostSubject: Archibald Forbes report   Mon Apr 07, 2014 8:49 pm

Can some post Archibald Forbes account of his return to Isandlwana in May ? I used to have it in one of my books but i can't find it -_-


Cheers for any help.
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PostSubject: Re: Archibald Forbes report   Mon Apr 07, 2014 9:21 pm

"Isandula.

From the Daily News we take the following extract, describing more graphically than it had previously been described a visit to the scene of tho momorable disaster with which our campaign iu Zululand was opened. The writer iasMr.   Archibald Forbes, who accompanied the expedi- tion to Isandula on the 20th May. We select for quotation only that portion of the narrative which relates to the sad discoveries on that memorable field of blood :

" At the top of the ascent beyond the Bosbeo, which the Dragoon Guards crowned in dashing style, we saw on our left front, rising above the surrounding country, the steep, ¡solated, and almost inaccessible hill, or rather crag, of Isandala ; the contour of its rugged crest strangely resembling a side view of a couchant lion. On the lower neck of the high ground on its right were clearly visible up against the skyline the abandoned waggons of the destroyed column. No Zulus were seen. Flanking parties covered the hills on either side the track, along which the head of the column pressed at a trot, with small detach- ments of Natal Carbineers in front of the Dragoon Guards, Now we were down in the last dip, had crossed the rocky bed of the little stream, and were canteringg up the slope that stretched up to the crest on which were the waggons. Already tokens of the combat and bootless flight were apparent. The line of retreat towards Fugitives' Drift, along which, through a clink in the Zulu environment, our unfortunate comrades who thus far survived tried to escape, lay athwart a rocky slope to our right front, with a precipitous ravine at ita base. In this ravine dead men lay thick mere bones, with toughened, discolored skin like leather covering them, and clinging tight to them, the flesh all wasted away. Some were almost wholly dismembered, heaps of clammy yellow bones. I forbear to describe the faces with their blackened features and beards blanched by rain and sun. Every man had been disembowelled. Some were scalped and others subjected to yet ghastlier mutilation. The clothes had lasted better than the poor bodies they covered ; and helped to keep the skeletons together. All the way up the slope I traced by the ghastly token of dead men the fitful line of flight. Most of the men hereabouts were infantry of the 24th, It was like a long string with knots in it, the string ' formed of single corpses, the knots of clusters of dead where, as it seemed, little groups might have gathered to make a hopeless gallant stand and die. I came on a gully with a gun limber jammed on its edge, and the horses, their hides scored with assegai stabs, hanging in their har- ness down the steep face of the ravine. A little further on was a broken and battered ambulance waggon, with its team of mules mouldering in their harness, and around lay the corpses of soldiers, poor helpless wretches, dragged out of an intercepted vehicle and done to death without a chance of life.

Still following the trail of bodies through long rank grass and among stores, I approached the   crest. Here the slaughtered ones lay very thick, so that the string became a broad belt. Many hereabouts wore the uniform of the Natal Police. On the bare ground, on the crest itself, among the waggons, the dead were less thick, but on the slope,beyond, on which from the crest we looked down, the scene was the saddest, and more full of weird desolation than any I had yet gazed upon. (There was none of the stark blood- curdling horror of a recent battlefield ; no pool of yet wet blood ; no raw gaping wounds ; no torn red flesh that seems yet quivering. Nothing at all that makes the scene of yesterday's battle so rampantly ghastly shocked the senses, A strange dead calm reigned in this solitude of nature. Grain had grown luxuriantly round the waggons, sprouting from the seed that dropped from the loads, falling in soil fertilised by the life-blood of gallant men. So long in most places had grown the grass that it mercifully shrouded the dead, whom four long months to-morrow we have left unburied.

As one strayed aimlessly about one stumbled in the grass over skeletons that rattled to the touch. Here lay a corpse with a bayonet jammed into the mouth up to the socket, trans- fixing the head and mouth a foot into the ground. There lay a form that seemed cosily curled in calm sleep, turned almost on its face, but seven assegai stabs have pierced the back. Most, however, lay flat on the back, with the arms stretched widely out, and hands clenched. I noticed one dead man under a waggon, with his head on a saddle for a pillow, and a tarpaulin drawn over him, as if he had gone to sleep, and   died so. In a patch of long grass near the right flank of the camp lay Durnford's body, the long moustache still clinging to the withered skin of the face. Captain Shepstone recognised him at once, and identified him yet further by rings on the finger and a knife with the name on it in the pocket, which relics were brought away. Durnford had died hard-a central figure of a knot of brave men who had fought it out around their chief to the bittor end. A stalwart Zulu, covered by his shield, lay at the colonel's feet. Around him, almost in a ring, lay about a dozen dead men, half being Natal carbineers, riddled by assegai stabs. These gallant fellows were easily identified by their comrades who accom- panied the column. Poor Lieut. Scott was hardly at all decayed. Clearly they rallied round Durn- ford in a last despairing attempt to cover the flank of the camp, and had stood fast from choice, when they might have essayed to fly for their horses, Close beside the dead at the picquet line a gully traverses the ground in front of the camp. About 400 paces beyond this was the ground of the battle before the troops broke from their formation, and on both sides this gully the dead lie very thickly. In one place nearly fifty of the 24th lie almost touching, as if they had fallen in rallying square. The line of straggling rush-back to camp is clearly marked by the skeletons all along the front, Durnford's body was wrapped in a tarpaulin and buried under a heap of stones. The Natal Carbineers buried their dead comrades roughly. The gunners did the same by theirs. Efforts were made at least to conceal all the bodies of the men who had not belonged to the 24th Regi ment. These were loft untouched by special orders from General Newdigate. General Mar- shall had nourished a natural and seemly wish to give internment to all our dead who so long have lain bleaching at Isandula, but it appears that the 24th wishes to perform this office themselves, thinking it right that both battalions should be repre- sented, and that the ceremony should be postponed till the end of the campaign. In vain Marshall offered to, convoy a burial party of the regiment with tools from Rorke's Drift in waggons. One has some sympathy with the claim of the regiment to bury its own dead, but why postpone the interment till only a few loose bones can be gathered ? As the matter stands, the Zulus, who have carefully buried their own dead, and who do not appear to have been very numerous, will come back to-morrow to find that we visited the place, not to bury our dead, but to remove a batch of waggons.

Wandering about the desolate camp, amid the sour odor of stale death, was sickening. I chanced on many sad relics-letters from home, photographs, journals, blood-stained books, packs of cards. Lord Chelmsford's copying-book, con- taining an impression of his correspondence with the Horse Guards, was found in one of his port manteaus, and identified, in a kraal two tniles off. Colonel Harness was busily en- gaged in collecting his own belongings. Colonel Glyn found a letter from himself to Lieutenant Melvill, dated the day before the fight. The ground was strewn with brushes, toilet bags, pickle bottles, and unbroken tins of preserved meat and milk. Forges and bellows remained standing ready for the recommence- ment of work. The waggons in every case had been emptied, and the contents rifled, Bran lay spilt in heaps. Scarcely any arms were found and no ammunition. There were a few stray bayonets and assagais, rusted with blood. No firearms. ,

I shall offer a few comments on the Isandala position. Had the world been searched for a position offering the easiest facilities for being surprised, none could have been well found to surpass it. The position seems to offer a pre mium on disaster, and asks to be attacked. In the rear . laagered waggons would have dis- counted its defects ; but the camp was more defenceless than an English village Systematic scouting could alone have justified such a posi- tion, and this too clearly cannot have been carried out. '

South African proof readers die_ young. The last one succumbed to the description of a fight between the Unabelinijiji and Amaswaziezúi tribes,"
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PostSubject: Re: Archibald Forbes report   Tue Apr 08, 2014 8:16 am

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