Most of you know i'm more into the reference side of the forum. But I was reading through "A lost legionary in South Africa" Colonel HAMILTON-BROWNE. and high-lighted some points that may be open to discussion. I know Brown is not taken seriously, because of some incident where he was sopposed to have eaten a child ect. But I thought as he was there it my be of some interest to look at some of the writings from the book. I hope some of you see the point i'm trying to get at with reference to the thoughts of some the officers when they arrived and after Isandlwana. Anyway lets see how it goe's...
ADVANCE INTO ZULULAND That afternoon I received a note from Captain Buncombe who was in command of the picket on the top of the hill, informing me that there was a large number of cattle in the valleys on his right
, and requesting me to come up at once. This I did, taking with me two companies of my Zulus, the other one being on picket with him. On joining him on the top of the pass we moved care- fully to the edge of some very rough ground con- sisting of deep valleys, and on looking into these we saw a large number of cattle herded by a few unarmed Zulus, who called to us to come down, as they wished to surrender themselves and the cattle. This was a temptation, a very nice bait indeed, but I saw through it. I had matriculated in ambush work in New Zealand, had had more than my share of it and with all my faults I have never been deemed a greedy or covetous man, so directed Captain Duncombe to shout to them ordering them to come up and surrender on the top, but this they refused to do. Captain Duncombe then at my request called Umvubie, the head fighting induna (chief) of my Zulus and asked him what he thought of it. He at once replied, " That is a trap, those bushes are full of Zulus. If we descend they will kill every one of us, but we shall have a good fight first. I and my brothers are ready to descend with the chief. " Now this was startling. I had no doubt that what Umvubie stated was true, and if so a large body of the enemy how large I knew not must be on the General's right flank.
I immediately sent off a runner to the H.Q. camp, with a note to that effect, and, as it was approaching sunset, retired to my camp, leaving Captain Duncombe with a few good men (well hidden) to keep watch for any moves they (the Zulus) might carry on. The Zulus, seeing I had retired, came out of their ambush, some 1500 strong, and started towards a large military kraal which we knew to be several miles down the river. I partook of early coffee at that kraal later on.
Seeing they left the cattle behind, Buncombe and his men, as soon as they lost sight of the enemy, descended into the valley, captured some 150 head of them and brought them into my camp.
On reaching my camp I found Major Black had arrived, bringing with him two companies of the second 24th. I reported to him what I had seen and Captain Buncombe coming in shortly afterwards, Major Black at once sent a report into the H.Q. camp.
The night passed quietly, but my natives were very restless and evidently in a great funk. Next morning Captain Hallan Parr, one of the staff, came out with orders to Major Black and myself that we were to get ready to march as the whole column was to move forward, so we struck camp and packed wagons. On the General reaching us, he questioned myself and Buncombe as to what we had seen and we reported fully. This interview being over, I was ordered by the C.S.O. to move my men on and clear the road, a rough wagon track over the pass, of any boulders and stones that might be lying on it and was to be supported by a party of the second 24th, under Lieu- tenant Pope. Could this have been the men working on the road we have talked about in other threads
Away we went and after a few miles came to a queer-shaped mountain that looked like a sphinx lying down, by the same token I have never seen the beast depicted standing up, anyhow the road ran between this mountain and a kopje when we at once came out on a big plain.
I had just reached here when Major Cleary rode up, who directed me to move to my left so as to be ready to encamp,he riding with Me and pointing out the ground on which my camp was to be pitched, which would be on the extreme left of the line.
The column came up, and the camp was arranged in the same form as it had been on the bank of the river, only it was much more extended. As
soon as the tents were pitched, and we had had some food, I was joined by Commandant Lonsdale, who had that day come out of hospital. I was talking to some of my best officers when he joined us and his first words to me were, " My God, Maori, what do you think of this camp? " I replied, " Some one is mad/* The Colonial officers were loud and long in complaint, and Buncombe said, " Do the staff think we are going to meet an army of schoolgirls? Why in the name of all that is holy do we not laager? " First mention of failing to Laager
In the evening I strolled over to the 24th lines to have a chat with the officers, all of whom I knew well. Whilst there, I had a yarn with Colonel Glyn who was acting as Brigadier-General, and would have had command of the column had not the General and staff decided to join us at the last moment. He was a very old friend of my family's and had served as a Lieutenant under my father. He did not seem to be in good spirits, but said nothing about the camp and on my remarking it looked very pretty though rather extended, he looked hard at me, shook his head and said " Very." Wonder why Glynn didn't say anything at that time.
That night Lonsdale came to my tent and told me that myself and Cooper were each to parade eight companies before daylight, and to clear the rough broken valleys to our right front. He would take command, and that Major Dartnell, with the Natal Mounted Police and volunteers were to act in concert with us, keeping on the high ground. I inquired if any orders had been given to laager the camp. He answered " No," adding language not very complimentary to certain members of the staff, which I fully endorsed. It appears that many of the officers were concerned about not forming a laager by said nothing.
BEFORE daylight we moved out of camp, and while doing so I saw and spoke to Lieut.-Col. Pulleine of the first 24th. We were old friends, and he chaffed me, saying, "A lot of you nigger leaders will be knocked over to-day/' I answered, " If that is so, when I return to camp I shall not find one of you alive/' We laughed and parted. Which prophecy was to come right you shall hear.
At the head of my men I crossed a donga to join up with Lonsdale who was with the 2nd battalion, and on doing so he instructed me to make a detour of a hill and descend into some valleys, he working round the other side in such a manner so as to catch anything or any one who might be between us.
This movement was carried out and we captured some hundreds of head of cattle, though all the kraals we passed contained only old men, women, girls and children. To a girl, I returned some goats which one of my men had taken from her and, through Duncombe, questioned her as to the movements of all the men. She replied, " That they had been ordered to join the King's big army." We again asked " where that was/' She pointed with her chin over to the N.E., at the same time saying, " They would attack us in two days' time/' This bore out the opinion I had formed, after hearing the news that the army had left Ulundi. More Possible information overlooked
In our next drive I captured two young men and questioned them. They had no goats to be given back to them, but there are more ways than one of extracting information.
They were led apart and well questioned. War is war and you can't play at savage war with kid gloves on. The information amounted to this. They had both left the big army and had come over to see their mother. We inquired, " Where is the big army? " They pointed in the same direction as the girl had done. " When was the attack to take place? " They did not know, but the moon would be right in two days' time. This information tallied with the girl's and Lonsdale, Cooper and myself discussed it.
The day wore on. The valleys became as hot as furnaces. We captured more cattle. So towards evening we left the low country after the most trying day and made for the high land.
On reaching it, I at once suggested we should return to the camp and inform the General of what we had learned. This was decided on and as we were then seven miles from camp Captain. Murray was immediately dispatched, with two companies, to drive the captured cattle there. The remainder of us rested; as the white non-coms., most of whom were on foot, were very tired after their rough day's work in the stony, rugged valleys. Its appears the information was ignored
Poor Murray! I never saw him again. He was one of the very best stamp of Colonials, brave, loyal and true, always ready for hard work, a
splendid shot and horseman. I know before he went down in the awful hell of the 22nd that he did his duty to the last, and that very many of the enemy fell to his rifle.
Evening was drawing on. We had fallen in and were preparing to return to camp when two mounted men rode up, informing us that Major Dartnell had sent them to find us, and to ask us to come and support him as he had 300 Zulus in front of him
, the ground in rear of the enemy being so rough, he was unable to use his horses to advantage.
I requested Lonsdale not to think of doing such a thing, pointing out at the same time that we had no food or reserve ammunition, also that we were seven miles from camp, our white men worn out and that it would be night before we could reach Dartnell, who was over three miles from us and at least that distance further away from camp than
Again was not this party of Zulus the advance guard of the big army? a trap to catch us or a small party of men on their way to join the big army who would clear out directly they saw Dartnell reinforced. Duncombe who was asked to give an opinion fully agreed with me, but Lonsdale, who had not got over his sunstroke, was simply spoiling for a fight, so orders were given for us to advance, and away we went. I regret to say that as we moved off four of my officers left me without leave and returned to camp. Their punishment came quickly, they were all killed next day.
Well on we went till we came to an open valley and saw the mounted men drawn up at one end of it, while at the other end were from 200 to 300 Zulus with very rough ground just in their rear and at this moment the sun set. I again pointed out to Lonsdale the folly of our joining the mounted men. If it was a trap and we descended, our men, or rather our white men who had been on foot all day were too much exhausted to put up a good fight.
If it was not a trap, the enemy would never stand and allow about 1400 more men to join the mounted forces but would fall back into the rough ground where it would be impossible to follow them in the dark.
However Lonsdale decided to descend, so down we went. As we advanced, the Zulus drew off into the rough ground and the night fell. There is no twilight in Zululand. Here we were at least eleven miles from camp, no food, no spare ammunition, well knowing that a huge army of Zulus must be in our close vicinity. Well I was not in command, but I begged Lonsdale even at that hour to return to camp. I said, " We know the camp is going to be attacked, every cock fights best in his own yard. When the General hears our news he will order the camp to be laagered and we can put up a fight there against the whole Zulu nation, whilst out here we shall be stamped flat in a minute." But no, Lonsdale would not grasp the situation, and decided to stay where we were, with the intention of going for those few Zulus in the morning. Major Dartnell concurred with him. They decided to form two squares, our men in one, Dartnell's in another, and we were to bivouac there for the night.
My Colonial officers were furious. Colonial officers are given to speaking their minds. Even Captain Buncombe came to me and asked me if everyone had gone mad. " What in God's name are we to do here? "
The squares were formed. We had in our square about 1400 natives armed as I have before mentioned, with their complement of white officers and non-coms., but few of the officers had brought their rifles, and very many cartridges had been lost while scrambling over the rocks and rough ground during the day. I of course disarmed
the natives, who had M.H. rifles, and gave them to the officers but the ammunition was very short.
The natives were made to sit down in a square, two deep, the white men being inside. Ye Gods of war! as if Natal Kafirs in a formation two deep would stand for a moment against a rush of Zulus. Sick with disgust, as soon as the square was formed, I lay down and, strange to say, fell asleep. I had loosened my revolver belt for a minute, meaning to buckle it again, but went to sleep without having done so. I do not know how long I slept when I felt myself rushed over and
trampled on. I tried to get to my feet, but was knocked down again. I then tried to find my revolver, but was unable to do so. I never let go of my horse's bridle which I was holding in my hand, and at last staggered to my feet.
The square was broken, natives rushing all ways mixed up with plunging horses, while the night was horrible with yells, shouts and imprecations. " My God/' I thought, " why am I not assagaied?'' as half-mad natives rushed by me jostling me with their shields. In a flash I saw it was a false alarm. To wrench a knobkerry out of a native's hand, and to lay about me, was the work of a moment. My white men fought their way to my shout and backing me up splendidly we soon quelled the uproar and thrashed the cowardly brutes back to their places.
To pick up my revolver and buckle the belt did not take long, and then it was time to inquire the cause of the row. It seems that one of the natives had gone to sleep and had dropped his shield and assagais, and this was enough to frighten the bold Natal Kafirs into a stampede.
Yet with these curs I was expected to stop a rush of the finest fighting savages in the world! As soon as I met Lonsdale I again urged him to return to camp even at this hour, and perhaps he might have done so, when Major Dartnell came over to us and informed us that he had sent an orderly back to camp to request the General to reinforce us. This would be worse and worse, with a force of men barely strong enough to meet 30,000 to 40,000 Zulus, even when in laager. It certainly was not the game to break up that force into two parts at a distance of quite eleven miles and just before a big fight was expected to take place.
Again I sat down, sick to the very heart, but of course I could say no more. Lonsdale was my chief, and it was my duty to loyally back him up and obey his orders.
About an hour afterwards, one of the horses shook himself, and immediately the cowardly hounds of Natal Kafirs again stampeded, but we were ready for them this time, and thrashed them back to their places. I then informed them that the next man who moved would be at once shot and that the two Zulu companies should charge and kill off the company to which the delinquent belonged. This threat put the fear of the Lord into them, and for the rest of the night they sat tight. The weary night dragged on, no chance of sleep, no chance of rest, as we had to watch our wretched niggers, and I was very pleased to see the east lighten and grow pale.
THE DAY OF ISANDLWANA
After daybreak, to my unbounded surprise, the General, staff, fourguns, the Mounted Infantry and I think six companies of the second 24th reached us. Colonel Glyn rode over to me and drawing me aside said, " In God's name, Maori, what are you doing here? " I answered him with a question, " In God's name, sir, what are you doing here? " Heshook his head and replied, " I am not in command."
And fine old soldier as he was, I could see he was much disturbed. So it was out of Glynn's hands.
As we were speaking, I received orders to get my men into line and advance into the rough ground, into which the enemy had retreated the night before. We were now going further away from the camp; but orders must be obeyed
, so getting my crowd under way, we advanced.
After moving forwards about two miles I found a party of the enemy in caves and behind a good cover of rocks and stunted bush. They appeared to be well supplied with firearms, and opened out on us, making fairly good practice.
I was just going to try to kick a charge out of my beauties, when a mounted orderly rode up with orders for me, which were that I was at once to report myself with my battalion to the General, and that he was to guide me to the place where the General was waiting for me. Getting my men together and advising Lonsdale of my orders, I requested him to take over my skirmish, and on his relieving me with the 2nd battalion I moved down a valley and found the General and staff quietly at breakfast. Never shall I forget the sight of that peaceful picnic. Here were the staff quietly breakfasting and the whole command scattered over the country ! Over there the guns unlimbered, over the hills parties of Mounted Infantry and volunteers looting the scattered kraals for grain for their horses, a company of the 24th one place, and another far away, and yet I knew that an army of from 30,000 to 40,000 of the bravest and most mobile savages in the world were within striking distance of us, and that our camp was some thirteen miles away; left with but few horsemen and only two guns to defend, and it a long straggling camp, hampered with all the wagons and impedimenta of the column. As soon as I halted my men, the General rose and kindly greeting me asked me if I had had any breakfast. I replied, " No, nor had any of my men had any/' I might have added " and no dinner or supper the night before/' Of course he under- stood, that as commandant, I could not eat in presence of my fasting men. Now that was in the film Zulu Dawn.I said, " Are you aware, sir, I was engaged when I received your order? " He said " No," and turning to the C.S.O., said, " Crealock, Browne tells me he was engaged when he received the order to come here/ Colonel Crealock came to me and said, " Commandant Browne, I want you to return at once to camp and assist Colonel Pulleine to strike camp and come on here." I nearly fell off my horse. Could these men know of the close proximity of the enemy? Were we all mad or what? However I was only a poor devil of a Colonial Commandant and as a simple irregular not supposed to criticise full-blown staff officers, so I saluted and said, " If I come across the enemy? " Oh/' said he, " just brush them aside and go on," and with this he went on with his breakfast. They really wasn't interested.
So I kept on down that valley which presently opened out into a big plain, and on the far side of it, about thirteen miles off, was a queer-shaped mountain, the ground gently rising to the base of it. With my glasses I could discern a long white line which I knew to be tents. The name of that mountain was Isandlwana and the time was then 9 a.m. on the 22nd January 1879.
We marched very slowly on, the day was intensely hot, and my white non-coms, who were on foot very fagged. They had had a very hard day the day before. They had had no sleep and no food, and somehow over the whole command there seemed to hover a black cloud.
However push on was the word, and at 10 o'clock myself and Adjutant- Lieutenant Campbell, who were riding some distance in front, flushed two Zulus. They bolted and we rode them down. Campbell shot his one, but I captured mine and on Duncombe coming up we questioned him.
He was only a boy and was frightened out of his life so that when asked where he came from, he pointed to the line of hills on the left flank of the camp saying " he had come from the King's big army." " What are you doing here? " we asked, to which he replied " that he and his mate had been sent by their induna to see if any white men
were among the hills " we had just left, " but as they were sitting resting under the shade of a rock they did not hear the white men and were caught/' " What was the size of the army? " He answered, " There were twelve full regiments " (about 30,000 or perhaps 36,000 men). Now here was the fat in the fire with a vengeance. The big Zulu army within four miles of the left flank of the camp, Colonel Pulleine without mounted men, or only a few, only two guns, not more than 900 white men in all, the camp not laagered and the General away on a wild-goose chase, at least thirteen miles from him.
I was unaware, at the time, that Colonel Durnford, R.E., had, that morning, reached Isandlwana; he had some hundreds of natives and a rocket battery with him. I at once wrote a note to the following effect : " 10 a.m. I have just captured a Zulu scout who informs me the Zulu army is behind the range of hills on the left flank of the camp. Will push on as fast as possible. The ground here is good for the rapid advance of mounted men and guns." This note I sent by a well-mounted officer with orders he was to ride as fast as possible
. The next thing was to try and advance as fast as I could. I rode forward and used my glasses, but everything so far was peaceful.
Just then I met two boys loaded with food. They had been sent out to me by the kind forethought of Lieutenant Beuie of my battalion.
They also brought me a note from a great chum of mine, Lieutenant Anstey, first 24th, who told me he and Lieutenant Dailey had gone to my tent the night before, and as they had found a good dinner spoiling, they had eaten it, but sent in return a couple of bottles of whisky. I was never fated to see any of these kind-hearted men again but it is the fortune of war. Well these loads were indeed a godsend, and I divided the food and drink among my non-coms, who were on foot and it just bucked them up and gave them heart for further exertions. I would not have minded having some myself, but I was mounted, and they were on foot, so after a ten minutes' halt I again gave the word to move on. At about 11 o'clock I was on ahead and looking through my glasses when I saw a puff of smoke rise from the hills on the left of the camp. It was followed by another. They seemed to come from a huge black shadow that lay on the hills. Presently another puff and in a moment I knew they were bursting shells. Not a cloud was in the sky, and I knew that the black shadow resting on the hills must be the Zulu army moving down to attack the camp.At once I dispatched the second message Another Message to the General" 11 a.m. The Zulu army is attacking the left of the camp. The guns have opened on them. The ground here still suitable for guns and mounted men. Will push on so as to act as support to them."
This I dispatched by a mounted officer, and at the same time my first messenger returned. He informed me he had delivered my note to a S.O. who had read it, and told him to rejoin me, and that I was to push on to camp.
But now my brave barbarians, with their wonderful eyesight, had seen the dreaded foe, and they refused to march. They could not run awayas the Zulus were between them and safety, but it took all the muscular persuasion of my officers and the dauntless blackguardism of my non-coms, to kick a crawl out of them.
Umvubie of No. 8 Company helped me at this juncture to solve the problem. He said he and his men would march in rear and kill everyone who lagged behind, so at last I got a crawl out of them. I rode on and used my glasses.
I could now see the troops lying down and firing volleys, while the guns kept up a steady fire. The Zulus did not seem able to advance. They were getting it hot, and as there was no cover they must have suffered very heavy losses, as they shortly afterwards fell back. The guns and troops also ceased firing. At about midday I was looking back anxiously to see if the mounted men and guns were coming up, when I heard the guns in camp reopen again; and riding forward, we were then about four miles from the camp. I saw a cloud of Zulus thrown out from their left and form the left horn of their army. These men swept round and attacked the front of the camp, and I saw the two right companies of the 24th and one gun thrown back to resist them.
There was also plenty of independent firing going on within the camp, as if all the wagon men, servants, and in fact everyone who could use a rifle was firing away to save his life.
I at once sent another messenger with the following note : " The camp is being attacked on the left and in front, and as yet is holding its own. Ground still good for the rapid advance of guns and horses. Am moving forward as fast as I can." And another noteMy second messenger joined me shortly after this and told me he had delivered my note to a staff officer and had received orders for me to push on to camp.
At 1 o'clock the camp was still holding its own and the Zulus were certainly checked. The guns were firing case and I could see the dense mass of natives writhe, sway and shrink back from the steady volleys of the gallant old 24th.
I had given orders to my men to deflect to their left so as to try to get into the right of the camp, and the officers and non-coms, were forcing the brutes on, when about half-past one I happened to glance to the right of the camp. Good God ! what a sight it was. By the road that runs between the hill and the kopje, came a huge mob of maddened cattle, followed by a dense swarm of Zulus. Don't recall reading about cattle being at Isandlwana.
These poured into the undefended right and rear of the camp, and at the same time the left horn of the enemy and the chest of the army rushed in. Nothing could stand against this combined attack. All formation was broken in a minute, and the camp became a seething pandemonium of men and cattle struggling in dense clouds of dust and smoke.
The defenders fought desperately and I could see through the mist the flash of bayonet and spear together with the tossing heads and horns of the infuriated cattle, while above the bellowing of the latter and the sharp crack of the rifles could be heard the exulting yells of the savages and the cheers of our men gradually dying away
. Of course I saw in a moment everything was lost and at once galloped back to my men.
There was no time to write, but I said to Captain Develin, a fine horseman and a finer fellow, " Ride as hard as you can, and tell every officer you meet, ' For God's sake come back, the camp is surrounded and must be taken/ '
Then getting my officers together, I said to them, " Our only chance is to retreat slowly, and ordered them to form their companies into rings, after the Zulu fashion, and retire, dismounting themselves and hiding all the white men among the Natives
This we did, and although there were large parties of the enemy close to us, they took no notice of us, and we gradually retired out of their vicinity. When we had got to a place, about five miles from the camp, where I thought my white men and Zulus could put up a bit of a fight in case we were attacked, I halted and determined to await the course of events. During the retreat I had often looked back and seen that the fighting was over in the camp, but that one company, in company square, was retreating slowly up the hill surrounded by a dense swarm of Zulus. This was Captain Younghusband's Company. They kept the enemy off as long as their ammunition lasted, then used the bayonet until at last overcome by numbers they fell in a heap like the brave old British Tommy should.
Well here we were. The white men worn out and hungry, but most of them determined and I had the satisfaction to read on the grim, dirty faces of my roughs, that no matter what they had been in the past, they meant to stick to their work, do their duty like men and if necessary die game. Curses not loud but very deep, went up for a time, and one or two of Lord Chelmsford's staff must have felt their ears tingle. Crealock being one of them.
We sat and lay where we were. There was no-where to go, nothing to be done,
we had no food, and very little ammunition, but we had some water and tepid and muddy as it was it was thankfully used as there was no shade and the sun shone like a ball of fire. As soon as I had made what few arrangements I could I told the men to get some rest, as I was convinced that later on, we should be called upon to retake the camp, as through that camp was the only possible retreat for the General's party and ourselves. After a time Captain Develin rode up to me. " Well," said I, " who did you see? " " I first saw Major Black with the second 24th and repeated your message he at once turned back. Then I saw Colonel Harness with the guns he at once turned back. Then I saw the mounted men, and they turned back." " Well," said I, " where are they? " " Why, sir," he replied, " as we were marching back we met the staff and the troops were ordered to go back again, so I came on alone." Why had this been done? Those who want to know had better get the book Miss Colenso wrote in defence of Colonel Durnford, and if they study the evidences recapitulated in that book, especially that of Captain Church, they may find out. I am only writing of what I actually saw myself, and have no wish to throw mud at anyone.
Some time later I saw the M.I. come out from the hills on to the open ground, form up and dismount. I at once sent an officer to their O.C. to tell him that if he would support me I would again advance. He acknowledged my message but sent no reply, and shortly afterwards he again mounted his men and returned to the hills.
The long afternoon passed slowly away, and towards evening I saw a small body of horsemen riding towards us. On using my glasses I dis- covered it was the General and his staff and I at once mounted and rode to meet him.
He looked very surprised when he saw me and said, " What are you doing here, Commandant Browne? You ought to have been in camp hours ago/' I replied, " The camp has been taken, sir."
He flashed out at once, " How dare you tell me such a falsehood?
Get your men into line at once and advance. " I did so and led my 700 miserables supported by the staff against the victorious Zulu army.
We moved on about two and a half miles until we had opened out a good view of the camp, when he called me to him and said, in a kindly manner, " On your honour, Commandant Browne, is the camp taken? " I answered, " The camp was taken at about 1.30 in the afternoon, and the Zulus are now burning some of the tents." He said, "That may be the Quartermaster's fatigue burning the debris of the camp." I replied, " Q.M/s fatigue do not burn tents, sir/' and I offered him my glasses. He refused them,
but said, " Halt your men at once," and leaving me, rode back to the staff and dispatched an officer to bring up the remainder of the column.
I had just halted my men and placed them in the best position I could, when to my utter astonishment I saw a man on foot leading a pony, coming from the direction of the camp, and recognized him as Commandant Lonsdale. He came up to me and said, " By Jove, Maori, this is fun; the camp is taken/ This Commandant Lonsdale he comes acorss as a bit of an idiot
" Don't see the humour/' I said, " but go and tell the staff; they won't believe me."
He had had the most wonderful escape. As I have said before he was still suffering from sunstroke and having somehow lost the battalion he was with, had ridden towards the camp. More than half stupefied by the great heat, he rode into it, and all at once awoke to the fact that the camp was full of Zulus, some of them wearing soldiers' tunics, and that the ground was littered with dead men. He then realized the situation at a glance and in less time than words can tell, he turned his pony's head and rode as hard as he could away. He was pursued, but the ground was good-going, and his pony " Dot " a very smart one, so he got clear away and joined us.
Well, again a weary halt. As we lay we could see long lines of Zulus marching along the hills on our right flank. They had with them many of our wagons, most probably loaded with their wounded men, or plunder out of the camp.
At last just as night fell, we were joined by the remainder of the column that had been sent for and we were then formed into line of attack. The guns were in the centre, flanking them parties of the second 24th, my battalion in line on the left, Cooper's battalion in line on the right, and the mounted men in front and on the flanks.
The General spoke a few words to the men and then ready once more, away we went to recapture the camp, or as Umvubie would say, " To die, but have a good fight first/' The night, as we were nearing the camp, be-came very dark and I received orders that I was to retake the kopje at all costs being at the same time warned that if my men turned tail the party of the 24th (under Major Black) who supported me, were at once to fire a volley and charge. This was pleasant for me but of course I recognized the necessity.
The word was now given to move on. At the same time the guns opened fire so as to clear the ground in front of us of any large bodies of Zulus who might be there.
I dismounted and made for the kopje, dragging with me the principal Natal induna, whom I had clawed hold of by his head ring, swearing I would blow his brains out in case his men turned tail. He howled to them not to run away, but behind them came the 24th with fixed bayonets so that no matter what funk the natives were in, they had to come on.
It was as dark as pitch, and soon we were stumbling and falling over dead men (black and white), dead horses, cattle, ruined tents and all the debris of the fight. But up and up the kopje we had to go, for every now and then Black's voice would ring out, " Steady the 24th be ready to fire a volley and charge/' Up and up we went as the shells came screaming over our heads; the burning time-fuses in the dark looking like rockets. Every time one came over us my wretched natives would utter a howl and try to sit down, but bayonets in rear of them will make even a Natal Kafir move on, and they had to come.
At last we arrived at the top, no living man was there and as the shells just passed over us I told my bugler to sound the " cease fire/' He could not sound a note, so I shouted to Black that we were on the top and asked him to have the " ceasefire " sounded. This was done and up rushed the 24th, who, when they reached the top of the hill, broke out into cheer after cheer. My Zulus to keep them company rattled their shields and assagais, for had not we retaken the camp; or rather perhaps I ought to say, reoccupied it. Anyhow we were there.
Dear old Black came up to me, and on shaking hands, lamented we had not had a fight. He then poured me out a cup of sherry from his flask. I wanted it badly as it was over forty hours since I had tasted food, and my throat and mouth were parched and dry with shouting, mingled I fear with cursing.
However the Zulus could not have removed all the food from the camp and we were bound to find some. So I called for my trusty Irish servant, who was a past master in the art of looting. He was serving as senior sergeant of No. 8 Company and I told him to take some good men and see what he could fin i. The remains of the hospital lines were close t> us so down he went. He was soon back again with plenty of bully beef and biscuits and drawing me aside, slipped into myempty haversack a bottle of port and a bottle of brandy, also a large packet of tobacco. I said, " What have you got for yourself, Quin? " He replied and I know he grinned, " Troth, sor, is it so short a time your honour has known me that you can't trust me to look after meself." Well the bully beef went round, so did the biscuits and thebrandy. And so did not the port, for Black and I drank most of that. However there was enough for everyone, and we had a rough but a square feed.
Just as we officers had finished and were sitting smoking, I looked across the Buffalo Valley. By the road it was a long way, but as the crow flies quite a short distance, and in the direction I knew Rourke's Drift to lie I noticed a lot of tiny flashes. I called Black's attention to them, saying, " Those flashes must be musketry." He looked in the direction indicated and said, " Yes." I told at once said, " Yes, the Zulus are attacking the white man's camp by the river." I said to Black, " Do you know if the store camp was laagered? " He talked in Gaelic for a few minutes. He might have been praying but it did not sound like prayers, and just then all along the Natal bank of the Buffalo huge fires broke out and Duncombe ex- claimed, " By God, the Zulus are in Natal! Lord help the women^and children." There could be no doubt about it. The fires we saw were the friendly kraals and the farmhouses burning, and all we could do was to echo Buncombe's prayer, " God help the women and children." In a few minutes we saw a great flare over Rourke's Drift, and thought that the base hospital, the store camp and all our supplies were in the hands of the enemy. We had not been very joyful before, but now we felt very sick indeed. If the Zulus chose to raid Natal there was nothing to stop their doing so. Our retreat, also, would be cut off.
What was to become ofus did not bother me. No one depended on me, so I was like Umvubie, expected to be killed but hoped to have a good fight first. Well the night wore away. We could get no sleep as we were too crowded to lie down and the kopje we were on was all covered with stones.
THE MORNING AFTER ISANDLWANA
JUST before daybreak orders were given to fall in and as soon as I got my men into their places I galloped across the camp to my tent to try and save some papers, medals, etc.
My God, in the grey dawn, it was a sight ! In their mad rush into the camp, the Zulus had killed everything. Horses had been stabbed at their picket lines. Splendid spans of oxen were lying dead in their yokes, mules lay dead in their harness and even dogs were lying stabbed among the tents. Ripped open sacks of rice, flour, meal and sugar lay everywhere. They had even in their savage rage thrust their assagais into tins of bully beef, butter and jam. Among all this debris singly and in heaps, or rather in groups of two or three, lay the ripped and mutilated bodies of the gallant 24th, showing how, when their formation was broken, they had stood it out, and fought back to back or in groups until they had been run over and destroyed. That they had fought to the last gasp could be seen by the number of dead Zulus who lay everywhere in amongst them, the bayonet wounds on their bodies telling of the fierce, though short combat that had taken place after the right horn of the Zulus had swept round the hill. I had just time to get to the door of my tent, inside of which I saw my old setter dog, dead, with an assagai thrust through her. My two spare horses were also lying killed at their picket rope, with my Totty groom dead between them. As I said before, my camp was on the extreme left of the line, and the best part of the fighting had taken place there.
I saw the bodies of two of my officers lying dead with heaps of empty cartridge shells by their sides. Both had been splendid shots and I bet they had done plenty of execution before they went under. As I reined up I glanced out to the left and left front of the camp, and saw heaps and heaps of Zulu dead. Where the volleys of the 24th had checked them, they lay in lines, and the donga I had ridden over on the morning of the 2ist was chock-full of them. Surely the 24th had died game, but bitter as I felt, a thrill of admiration passed through me when I thought of the splendid courage of the savages who could advance to the charge suffering the awful punishment they were getting.
I had not time to dismount as I heard the bugle sound the advance and I galloped back to my men as fast as I could without trampling on the bodies of my poor comrades. On my way I reined up my horse sharply, for there lay the body of my old friend Lieut.-Col. Pulleine; I could do nothing for him, and it at once flashed through my mind our last words of chaff, so I saluted the poor remains and passed on as quickly as I could to my men.
When I reached them I asked the Adjutant if any orders had reached us. He replied, " No, sir. Everyone has moved off except ourselves and the rear-guard of M.I. which Major Black has taken command of." Good old Black, I thought, always at the post of honour. Well he rode up to me and asked me " What I was doing there? " I said, " Waiting for orders." He made a few remarks in Gaelic and then said, " Come on, old fellow. Move off just in front of me, and if these black devils come after us we will have a nice little rear-guard action of our own."
I did so, and sorrowfully returned by the same road we had so gaily advanced along three days before. A few shots as my officer picked off scattered Zulus was all that happened. But as we crossed some high ground we saw a large party of Zulus away to the left. They stood still for a few minutes when they saw us, then broke up and fled all over the country. This was their beaten army retreating from Rourke's Drift. We afterwards heard that they did not know that we had been out in front of the camp, but thought they had killed all the white men. They therefore imagined that we were the dead men come to life again, that we were ghosts, and in superstitious terror fled away from us.
We descended the steep pass to the Bashie River, halted for a few minutes to let the men and horses drink, then moved on to the high ground.
As we came to the top of a ridge, we saw the advance guard on the top of another ridge signalling. I said to Black, " Who on earth can they be signalling to? " " The Lord only knows," he answered. But all at once a tremendous cheer broke out in front and ran along the column towards us, and Lieutenant Harford galloped back with the joyful news that there were white men signalling from the ruins of the base camp, and that the camp must have held out and beaten off the attack.
Our men began to cheer, and everyone was de- lighted. We had been very sick the night before when we thought the camp at Rourke's Drift had been taken and destroyed. Now we knew it was safe the reaction was very pleasant.
Yes ; it was true a deed had been done by one company of the second 24th, assisted by a few irregulars and civilians, that has never been surpassed in the annals of British warfare. They had beaten off an attack of 4000 Zulus. True, they had an improvised laager of biscuit-boxes and mealie sacks and behind these they had done wonders. But how about the camp at Isandlwana? How about those 900 white men lying exposed to the vulture and the jackal in the camp a few miles behind? How would that fight have ended if they had had a laager
, and why had they not one? In another hour we were back at the Buffalo and again lined the same ridge we had sweltered on during the 10th, but this time we only had to wait while half the 24th crossed and only four guns. That long line of wagons that had taken such a tedious time to cross, where were they? They were stranded only a few miles away with two guns and 900 good officers and men. Well everyone crossed and Black and myself rode down to the drift last of all. Giving him the post of honour as he was entitled to it I rode in front of him, as we came to the water, so that he was the last man of No. 3 Column to leave Zulu- land that is to say he was the last living man but there were plenty lying unburied, exposed to the sun, wind and rain, the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, and who was to blame? Who promulgated that book of orders the first of which was that no camp should be pitched without being laagered?
Another mention of Isandlwana not being laagered.But Brown himself was concerned but he to failed to mention this to Chelmsford.In writing this I have only stated facts that I personally saw, and I have tried to hurt no man's feelings who may be alive nor throw a stone at the memory of any man who may be dead. An odd statement to make when he knew what he knew...
I'm not really sure what was going on. A lot of high ranking officers including Glynn seemed to have discussed the camp layout among themselves, but none appeared to have discussed their concers with Chelmsford.
PS. He doesn’t once mention the eclipse. Yet he had a good view of the Battle through his field glasses.