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 Was the Buffalo River High or Flood

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Dave

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PostSubject: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood   Wed Jul 01, 2015 12:34 am

Was the Buffalo River on the 22nd Jan in a state of high or Flood. I take it in high it would have been easier to across, than it would in Flood.
On the other forum a member posted a thread, that could answer how the Zulus managed to cross the river so quickly.
I can't find anything that gives an account from those in 1879 of the rivers conditions. It maybe worth taking a look at the other forum, to get a better overview of what he is trying to say. For those that have been there, it make more sense.
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood   Wed Jul 01, 2015 2:37 am

Hi Dave
Paul is a resident and would have good local knowledge, but having chatted with David Rattray on a number of occasions he was of the opinion that the River had to have been pretty high to have formed the very strong whirlpool lower down towards the gorge.
High but not in flood would probably be my contention.
If it was in flood and, as a lot of writers seem to contend, the banks had flooded to a 100 yards wide the existing bank on the Natal side that Melvill had trouble climbing ( Brickhill ) wouldn't have been there. There are a couple of references to the weather, and rain, on the march to iSandlwana, cant put my hand to them at present but they are there. And again the fact that the Bashee and the Manzimyama rivers were giving such difficulty in crossing would suggest that they were running strongly.
The Zulus crossed the rivers by joining there arms and rushing at the water, Samuel Wassal mentions they had an unusual way of using their arms.
This is Rorkes Drift on the 11th January a couple of years back.
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This is Fugitives Drift at the same time of year
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I dont believe the impi would have had any problem crossing a flooded river, they would have done so on many occasions. And there are again references by fugitives of men being carried away down stream and of horses swirling around in the whirlpool.

As with anything relating to that period, its open to interpretation. My money was on a high river, possibly not in flood though.

Hope that helps.
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John

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PostSubject: Re: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood   Wed Jul 01, 2015 10:31 am

Frank how deep would the river be approx, in the top photo?
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood   Wed Jul 01, 2015 11:30 am

Hi John
At the actual drift, to the left of the photo, alongside the island, a horse could cross pretty well but no body on foot. If the circumstances were the same on the 22nd 1879 it would probably explain why Addendorf didn't want to cross and waited for the pont, two hundred yards to the right of shot.
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Chard1879

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PostSubject: Re: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood   Wed Jul 01, 2015 10:21 pm

Those soldiers that were washed away, where would they have ended up? If not snagged on rocks ect.
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90th

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PostSubject: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood    Thu Jul 02, 2015 9:13 am

Dave from all the books I've read and people I've spoken to over the years , the Buffalo was in full spate ( flood ) , the rains of Oct & Nov 1878 were Drought breaking rains , the area had been in Drought for 10 or so years . Anyone who lives in an area affected by Drought periods will tell you that Drought breaking rains are much higher in volume than the areas normal seasonal rain .
90th
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24th

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PostSubject: Re: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood   Thu Jul 02, 2015 11:50 am

If it was in flood, would it not have been near impossible to cross. How did Henderson get his men across before arriving at RD.
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood   Thu Jul 02, 2015 2:26 pm

The highest Ive ever seen the Mzinyathi was during the hurricane that hit the area, it wasn't that it was so high but the speed it flowed was awesum. Way back then the concrete bridge and road to iSandlwana didn't exist and to get to iSandlwana by car involved a long round about trip to Dundee and then down to Nqutu before venturing over the Ngwebini stream onto the iSandlwana road. My car got washed of the crossing by the speed of the 'small' stream so you can imagine the water force going down the rivers. But that was a full on hurricane. 22nd January 1879 wasn't in that class.
There were one or two mentions of the rain and marching through plus of course the stories of the hell that the men at Helpmakaar had to endure. But there are also a few key elements from the survivors that could give a lead to the conditions.
Brickhill mentions seeing Gamble tottering about amongst the rocks of the Manzimyama on his way down the trail. If it was really such a 'high tide' those rocks would have been covered. Theres no mention by any of the fugitives of having to cross any sort of deep or fast flowing stream before hitting the drift itself.
I saw the fugitives drift at the time of the hurricane, that's the time that the 'coffin' rock was reputably moved. It was hellishly fast but not significantly broader. From a normal level there is a fair sized bank before the flat plain, Ive always assumed that was the bank that gave Melvill the problems in getting out of the river, Brickhill again. If the river had indeed burst its banks then the plain would have been pretty much underwater and that, or any, bank would not have played its part.
So yes comes back to the point, flood or high? I don't think it made that much difference to the flow rate, it was bloody quick !
24th in answer to your question, at Rorkes Drift there is an island/sand bank in the middle of the river, stands well out of the water even at 'high tide' from one bank to swim from upstream diagonal to the island, rest the horse, then repeat is not difficult. Ive done that. Trying to cross on foot is not a task to do lightly, that's why the NNC crossed downstream a bit. The river had to be strong enough to deter Adendorff however, he left Henderson and opted to ride upstream to get to the ponts.

Cheers
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Chelmsfordthescapegoat

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PostSubject: Re: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood   Thu Jul 02, 2015 7:29 pm

"I then came to Fugitives' Drift, the descent to which was almost a precipice. I found there a man in a red coat badly assegaied in the arm, unable to move. He was, I believe, a mounted infantryman of the 24th, named Macdonald, but of his name I cannot be sure. I managed to make a tourniquet with a handkerchief to stop the bleeding, and got him half-way down, when a shout from behind said, " Get on, man; the Zulus are on top of you." I turned round and saw Major Smith, R.A., who was commanding the section of guns, as white as a sheet and bleeding profusely ; and in a second we were surrounded, and assegais accounted for poor Smith, my wounded M.L friend, and my horse.

With help of my revolver and a wild jump down the rocks I found myself in the Buffalo River, which was in flood and eighty yards broad. I was carried away, but luckily got hold of the tail of a loose horse, which towed me across to the other bank, but I was too exhausted to stick to him. Up this bank were swarming friendly natives, but I only saw one European, a Colonial and Acting Commissariat Officer named Hamer, lying there unable to move. I managed to catch a loose horse, and put him on it, and he escaped. The Zulus were pouring in a very heavy fire from the opposite bank and dropped several friendly natives as we climbed to the top. No sooner had I achieved this than I saw that a lot of Zulus had crossed higher up and were running to cut me off. This drove me off to my left, but twenty of them still pursued for about three miles, and I managed to keep them off with my revolver."

Extract MOFYS Smith-Dorrien
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Ray63

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PostSubject: Re: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood   Thu Jul 02, 2015 9:31 pm

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Same applies I guess, some make it, some don't!
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Paul Lamberth



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PostSubject: Re: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood   Sat Aug 15, 2015 10:24 am

I was somewhat surprised to see this question appear on this forum (had to join up so as to respond) as it was originally posted on another. None the less reading comments submitted there is no circumstantial evidence or record that the river was in "flood" it was simply at normal levels at that point in time. I am of the opinion that its state was somewhat exaggerated by certain individuals who found themselves in a rather precariouse position...almost a kind of coverup so as not to be shot or wrongly accused of desertion.
ps Smith Doriens account has a slight challenge in so much it is believed that Smith did not make it to the river.
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barry

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PostSubject: Re: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood   Sat Aug 15, 2015 4:05 pm

Hi  Paul,
You make a very interesting and valid observation.
If the Mzinyathi river was in full flood it would have been more than 80m wide at Sontondose's Drift. Full flood meaning overflowing the banks.
I don't recall any accounts of survivors describing difficulties getting to the banks because of water, which then suggests that the river WAS in spate. Spate meaning river level raised and flowing very strongly.
One simple pointer that tells me that the river was not in flood at the time  was the finding, by the NMP  during the Princess Eugenie visit to Isandlwana battlefield in Jun-Jul 1880, the unburied bodies of a horse and rider, both long dead. These were found  on the river bank at the foot of one of the cliffs  near SD's pool. The two had jumped off that cliff to escape the pursuing Zulu's during the battle and had not survived the fall.
The NMP Royal Escort detail buried the remains of rider and horse in situ, in the river sand on the bank of the river at the foot of the cliff. If there had been flood conditions at the time of the jump, the remains of horse and rider would have been quickly swept away down river and there would have been absolutely nothing to find there 19 months later.
Others have questioned the integrity of much of what Smith Dorien had to say about the battle. I tend too to treat much of his account with a lot of scepticism. So, if  SD got one thing wrong it opens up questions on a lot more. I think he knew very well how to sing the corporate song, just as long as Thesiger was alive, as his career could have been on the line if he did otherwise, ie not toeing the "official" line. His story seemed to change after the demise of the latter however.

regards

barry

PS : How SD managed to escape the battle field and then fight off 20 pursuing  Zulus on the south bank of the river
with only 11 rounds for his Adams reminds one of the cowboy movies where there never seems to be the need to reload. Utter BS in my mind.
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Paul Lamberth



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PostSubject: Re: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood   Sun Aug 16, 2015 8:19 am

Thanks Barry...you have added another point(s) that confirms my theory. What is also interesting is that although very few get out alive and that certain events are based on myth one can still deduct fact from logic and make statements that hold...in this case the river was not in flood. In my research I found that there was more evidence that pointed towards the fact that the river was in good spate as apposed to it being in flood. It is interesting how very little and even somewhat questionable evidence leeds to a conclusion that is certainly not correct. So to end this debate W.W.Lloyd's sketch of the crossing (Illustrated London News 29 March 1879) should be understood and accepted as such. However, this is also a good example how certain aspects can be misleading yet at the same time can be correct.
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood   Sun Aug 16, 2015 8:49 am

For the benefit of the forum
The so called Smith Dorrien Pool and the sand bank refered to by Barry as containing a grave
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The same area during the dry months
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Looking down stream from the same point, the bank on the right is the area where Melville was unhorsed
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I will post later photos showing the river flowing strongly. The bank was a key element, Brickhill and others mention it, if the river was 'flooded' that bank would not exist. From that point of view I agree with Paul and Barry, to extend that into the realms of cover ups, avoidance of court martials etc is a bit beyond the pale though. But very happy to have that explained to me?
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood   Sun Aug 16, 2015 8:52 am

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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood   Sun Aug 16, 2015 10:48 am

There is of course the other point that in the river flowing strongly it could/would back up into the small stream bed on the Zulu side, that would increase the surface area of water without breaching the river bank. When the river flows strongly it also 'floods' into the area around the Blacks Sangar. That would also tend to increase the width of the river. I have a photo of that occurring will try and post.

Regards
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood   Sun Aug 16, 2015 10:53 am

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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Was the Buffalo River High or Flood   Mon Aug 17, 2015 9:35 am

Hi Paul
Im belatedly just picked up on the following comment you made:
"ps Smith Doriens account has a slight challenge in so much it is believed that Smith did not make it to the river."
Could you elaborate on that statement? I would be really interested as to who is challenging Smith Doriens account of Smiths demise.

Regards
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