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 Josiah Sussen's letter. Intombi River

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PostSubject: Josiah Sussen's letter. Intombi River   Mon Feb 22, 2016 8:58 pm

"How a Pretorian Escaped from the Intombe River Disaster

“I was in the wagon, sleeping, and early in the morning I got up to see if it was daylight, and the kafirs swarming around within twenty yards of me. The alarm was given, and Captain Moriarty called out “Guards out.” I ran back to my wagon to get my rifle (which belonged to No. 1 company Transvaal Rifle Volunteers, of which corps I am a member) but in the confusion of the bullets flying about me, I could not get it out. I now found it so dangerous that I determined to try to bolt, if I could, without remaining to take out my cloths. As I emerged from the wagon for the last time, I heard Captain Moriarty cry out, “Fire away, men, I am done.” I then went to the adjoining wagon to call Whittington (also a Pretoria man), and told him the niggers were around. He immediately came out and jumped down, but was caught almost as soon as he got to the ground, and, assegaid on every side. The poor fellow shrieked out, but without avail, as no assistance was at hand. Seeing that I was powerless to do anything, having no arms of any kind, I ran down between the oxen, and made for the river, which was about 60 yards off. I found the Zulus shooting and stabbing the people in all directions. The sight was a most horrifying one, and one never to be forgotten. I had to dodge about to save myself, and am now surprised to find that I managed to get through at all. As soon as I got to the river, I jumped in and made a dive, as swimming was too dangerous, the Zulus standing on the banks, and at the edge of the river, as thick as thieves, throwing assegais and aiming their guns wherever they saw a head. I came up about the middle of the river, but the moment my head was out, I saw several Zulus pointing their guns, and ready to fire. I therefore dived again, and came out on the other side. The river was very full at the time, and a strong current running. In crossing I had torn off my shirt, the only garment I possessed, and therefore when I landed I was entirely in a state of nudity. I now found that fighting was still going on all sides of me, and that it was almost impossible I could get any further, and in my desperation I contemplated throwing myself in the water, to be drowned peaceably, rather than suffer the death by torture of many of those I saw around me. I however, got into a courageous spirit again, and dashed off, keeping as much out of the way of the enemy as I could. Several shots were fired at me, and assegais were flying in all directions, but somehow I happened to be fortunate and got clear of the encampment. I made for Myer’s station as fast as I could, and overtook one soldier on the road, who was shot dead just as I got up to him. I overtook two others shortly after, who were also shot. Getting further on, I fell in with Sergeant Booth and about a dozen men, who were keeping up a retreating fire, and fighting very pluckily. I rested for a few minutes with them, during which time I espied the Zulus coming round the hill to intercept us. I informed Sergeant Booth of this, and he kept up a steady fire upon them, and made the enemy retire back into the hills. I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of Sergeant Booth on this occasion; he fought most pluckily, and lost four of his small band here. It was entirely owing to their doing so well that any of us managed to get through at all. The Zulus would have entirely surrounded us, and not a soul could have escaped. Seventeen leaders and drivers were killed altogether, amongst them being Whittington, Campbell, and Goss. As I got in camp, I met Major Tucker going out with his men to the relief. Eight of us managed to get to Luneberg, and perhaps it would not be out of place if I were to state how I was received. Arriving in a state of nudity, with the exception of a soldiers overcoat, got from a native on the road, I applied to the authorities for blankets to sleep under, but was refused. They said they had none. Eight of us only had two blankets between the lot. To add to our annoyance two wounded Zulus were brought in (one was on my own cartel) and were put into a nice tent and covered with blankets, whilst we had to take our chances as best we could underneath the wagons. Only a very few of us survivors had any cloths on when we arrived, and we managed to get along as best we could -a shirt from a soldier, trowsers from a second, boots from a third, and so on. A sale of clothing, &c., took place afterwards, when we were allowed to buy a few things. And so we got on.”

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