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 TRUMPETER Richard Stevens of the Natal Mounted Police .

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PostSubject: TRUMPETER Richard Stevens of the Natal Mounted Police .    Wed 28 Jan 2015 - 20:31

The following letter from the seat of war in Zululand will be interesting to our readers as coming from the son of Mr Stevens, solicitor, of Witham:-
Natal Mounted Police Camp, Helmekaar, Feb. 15, 1879.
My dear _____,
You will see by the heading of my letter that we have been driven back to our starting place by the Zulus, and to tell [indistinct: you the] truth, I feel ashamed to own it. I have written home [indistinct: twice] since the awful day, 22nd January, but I will give you an account all to yourself. I will commence from the start, from the first camp the other side of the river. We left Rorke’s Drift camp, that is the name of the drift wh[indiscinct: where we] crossed over the Buffalo river, which divides Natal from Zululand, on the 19th January to advance about twelve miles into the country. It was a pretty sight to see the column going along, the waggons stretching over five miles, besides the troops. My little horse was sick that day, so I had to walk and lead him all the way. I was very tired when I came to the end of the journey; it was a broiling hot day. Well, we got to the place for camping, right in the centre of two hills, a very bad place indeed, and we pitched camp, and had a good sleep that night. The next morning , most of our men went out patrolling, and were to return the same evening, but about tea-time an order came in that they had seen the enemy out a good distance from the camp, and that they were going to stay out all night, so we sent out their food and great coats. Early the next morning the General took out most of the column with him, leaving in camp about 800 white men and several native contingents, and two big guns. This was the morning of the 22nd. Well, about 9 o’clock the men of our corps who were out on out-post duty, came in and reported the enemy in sight. We all turned out ready for action. We saw a few of them come [Indistinct] to the top of a big hill to our left, but they went away again. Then they sent some mounted niggers up the hill to see w[indistinct] presently we heard heavy firing over in that direction, [indistinct] these mounted men retiring slowly, closely follow[indistinct] of Zulus. Then they came down in heaps, you could not see the grass for them. The fight began then properly. I and a few more of us were sent out to skirmish in front of the [indistinct]p, we kept them at bay for some time, then we had the order [indistinct] retir[indistinct]g camp, and then they came on in thousands. I got into camp and went all over the place trying to get a rifle; my only weapon (a revolver) was broken, so I had no arms. I could not get any in the camp, so I had to stop there without any. I was in the camp until the Zulus were in as well, stabbing men right and left, and ripping the tents up with their assegais. They were destroying the second or third tent up the row, when I looked around , and saw a lot of men making their escape, so I thought that as I was of no use in the camp without arms I would go too, so I went. The sight in camp was something awful. They were not content with killing the men, but they ripped them up, and mutilated them horribly. They were so disfigured that when the remainder of the column came back they could hardly recognise one of them. The way we escaped was something marvellous. I was on a very small grey pony; there was no road, simply the rough ground covered with tremendous stones. I just got through the enemy as they were surrounding us, by the skin of my teeth; another few minutes and I should not have been able to have got through at all. After that there was a most awful hill to go up, then (worst of all) a precipice to go down – how we got down is a wonder to everybody. Then we came to the River – no end of poor fellows were drowned there. I went at it; my horse was taken away from under me. I managed to get my feet out of the stirrups somehow and swam for it. I was just being carried away by the current, when I saw a horse swimming in front of me all right, so I caught hold of his tail, and he pulled me through safely. When I got out I saw my pony further down the River standing high and dry, so I got on him and rode on to this place. We made what they call a laarger of the waggons – that is, the waggons are put so they form a square, and I spent two nights watching for the enemy, and I had no sleep; then the remainder of the column came up, and I can tell you we felt greatly relieved. We have been stationed up here ever since – it is most unhealthy. It is a small laarger, with about 11,000 men in it bad water and weather, and you can imagine the amount of sickness there is – there is an average daily of about 500 men who see the doctor with dysentery and rheumatism. I am happy to say I have been pretty well up to the present, but I can feel rheumatism coming on in all my joints. The Zulus have taken every thing away from us. I have only what I stand up in. When I go to wash my short or socks, I have to sit on the bank and smoke until they get dry – there is one thing to be said, when the sun is out it does not take long. Our winter months are just beginning to come on, and we shall have it awfully cold up here, 7,000 feet above the level of the sea. Our waggons have just come up with our outfits, so we shall jog along a little better now. My poor little horse was killed, poor boy – I regret that as much as anything, he was such a pet and so affectionate. I should have been on him and got away with him if he had been well; but he had a sickness on him; he was so weak he could not bear the weight of the saddle on him, and he was stabbed going along the road trying to escape. Fancy, there were 16 officers of the 24th Regt. , and 3 companies of men cut up, and it was just one day later than the battle of Chilianwallah in 1849 was fought, when 23 officers and 500 rank-and-file of the same Regt. were cut up, as you will see in the paper I send you. It is dreadful to think of, and you can imagine how sick of talking and writing about it I am. This is the third letter I have written. My watch, I am sorry to say, was spoilt whilst I was swimming across the river, but I have sent it down to be repaired. I must say good-bye, so with love to all, and hoping this dry epistle won’t tire you,
I remain,
Yours ever affectionately,
R. W. Stevens

The Essex Standard, West Suffolk Gazette, and Eastern Counties' Advertiser(Colchester, England),Saturday, April 19, 1879; pg. 5; Issue 2523.
Category: News
Sourced from the British Library
Gale Document Number:R3208618474
Source: RDVC

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PostSubject: Trumpeter Richard Stevens    Wed 28 Jan 2015 - 21:41

One of his relatives is a member on here , not sure if he still comes on , but I remember there was a thread on Trptr Stevens a while back , possibly 3 yrs or so ago ? .
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Taff price

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PostSubject: Re: TRUMPETER Richard Stevens of the Natal Mounted Police .    Wed 16 Dec 2015 - 19:50

Trptr Stevens mentions his column crossed the Buffalo River on the 19th, is this right?
I was under the assumption that the main column crossed on the 11th and Durnford crossed on the morning of the 22nd. Can anyone shed some light on this for me.

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PostSubject: Crossing the Buffalo   Fri 18 Dec 2015 - 9:41

Hi Taff,

Holt's  "History Of The NMP" states that the NMP column of some  118 + men , under Insp Mansel, with their supply wagons  finally arrived at Isandlwana on 20/01/1879. They had travelled up independently, on a journey taking serveral days, from central Natal  and were not part of Chelmsford's main column . They had however spent a few days at Helpmekaar, en route . Maj Dartnelll and another group of +- 20 NMP troopers who had been called up from northern Natal outstations met the main NMP column on site.
On arrival at the battlefield,  many of the NMP were posted out at as vedettes on surrounding high points, which  included a nearby ridge.


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