August 1st, 1879.
DEAR, BROTHER AND SISTER,—I daresay you will be somewhat surprised at receiving a letter from me after such a prolonged silence, but although I have not written, I assure you I have often thought of you and the last letter I received from mother. She sent your address. We have been very busy, as I dare say you will imagine from the news of the fighting which has taken between us and our dusky foes. When I came out I expected to have some warm work, but it turned out very hot indeed for a great many of my unfortunate comrades, who, poor fellows, were not so lucky as myself, for, thank God, I have escaped so far safe and sound. Many of them have found a lonely grave in a distant land, and many more are maimed for life. But I think now the fighting is about done; at least it is not expected there will be any more heavy battles, for we gave them such a doing at Ulundi, which they are not likely to forget for a time, and there must be thousands of wounded Zulus somewhere, for scarcely any were found upon the field but what were quite dead. It is astonishing the weight of lead a Zulu will get away with. It seems that the only two places you can bring one of them down is through the head or heart. Fear seems a word not known to them, for they will walk up to the muzzle of a gun as coolly as I can walk to dinner, and I assure you that operation does not involve any great effort. Perhaps you may like a description of our living and lying. Well, our bed consists of two blankets, which, if you were not very careful, would disappear. Officers and men are all very lively. The intense heat at mid-day, and the extreme cold by night are something which must be felt to be realised. At six a.m. you rise shivering from the ground, and the moisture absorbed from the earth by the blankets causes them to stick to you, and they feel nice and clammy. After rising and shivering for about an hour or two, you get a pint of what they have the presumption to call coffee, but which seems infinitely more like the water the cups and saucers have been washed up in. This, accompanied with a superb chunk of bread (which, bye the bye, is the only thing eatable) constitutes breakfast, which you have to swallow in ravenous haste to get done before the doctor comes, and then work like slaves until dinner time.
Oh, the dinner, consisting of beef comparable to nothing out lumps of india rubber, which defies the power of the mongrel dogs to masticate, much less digest. Nothing but india-rubber or old carpet slippers can hold a candle to it. But then you get two small potatoes, which are like eating salve, or balls of wax. If you choose to drink the water the india-rubber is boiled in, you can, under the impression that it is soup, but I should prefer the water the potatoes are boiled in to that. Now if one would need some hard work at any time, I should think it must be after such a blow out as the above. Whether you require it or not, they do not ask you, for it has to be done, and we have to do it, that is a dead certainty. I am not going to give a long description of what the tea is; it is a second edition of the breakfast. I trust I am not getting too wearisome. I might have given you some very interesting news of the battles, but of course you will have heard of them all before this.
I arrived in the country in time for the start, but there was not one quarter the troops there is here now, and after the defeat of our poor fellows at Isandula it was dreadful waiting two long months for more troops to come before we could stir, and if you can imagine the suspense of expecting to be attacked every moment, night and day, you may guess how long the two months seemed, watching and waiting all that time, and you may guess how pleased we were when they arrived. At last the feeling of dread gave way to feelings of revenge (very natural), and an outburst of uncontrollable hatred of the Zulus. Everyone was anxious to get within shot of them, which they were not long in doing, and since then they have suffered very severely. The Zulus have two victories to boast, of dearly bought, but we have Gingolovo, Kampulla, Ulundi, and others, which did not cost us many men, but where thousands of Zulus fell. I shall be very pleased to get out of this, I assure you, but I must not grumble, for I am quite well.