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  DISASTER AT ISANDULA. SCENE OF 800 BRITISH HEROES.

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Chard1879

Chard1879


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PostSubject: DISASTER AT ISANDULA. SCENE OF 800 BRITISH HEROES.    DISASTER AT ISANDULA. SCENE OF 800 BRITISH HEROES. EmptySun Mar 17, 2013 9:21 pm

"THE ZULU WAR.

DISASTER AT ISANDULA.

SCENE OF 800 BRITISH HEROES.

We are now in possession of full details regarding the great disaster at Isandula. On January 21, the day before the action took place, Colonel Glyn, in command of the 3rd column, acting under the direct orders of Lord Chelmsford, sent away the advance guard under the command of Major Dartnall, com- posed of a detachment of Carbineers, the Natal Mounted Police, Lonsdale's Native Contingent, and others. This advance guard sent to say it was engaged with the Zulus. Lord Chelmsford himself aud Colonel Glyn pushed forward the main force, consisting of seven companies of the 2-24th, under Lieu-tenant-Colonel Degacher, Lonsdale's Native Contingent under Major Black, 2-24th and other troops, leaving behind as rear-guard five companies of the l-24th, under Lieutenant Colonel Pulleine, one company of the 2-24th, under Lieutenant Pope, and a portion of the 1st Regiment of the Natal Native Contingent under Lieutenant-Colonel Durnford, with the following cavalry :-About thirty Natal Car- bineers, the Buffalo Border Guard, and about twenty-five Newcastle Mounted Riflemen. In addition, Colonel Durnford had Sikali's Horse and two guns, under Captain Russell, R.A. There were a few artillerymen. The Army Hospital Corps, the Commissariat, with a column of Lord Chelmsford's moved forward with the main body either on the evening of the 21st or the morning of the 22nd. The correspondent of the Daily News says :-The rear-guard had finished its usual morning march andout Bpanned when Zulu skirmishers were observed surrounding the hills. These skirmishers advanced towards the camp, keeping up a desultory fire. The camp waa pitched in a broken country in a sort of valley, with dis- tant surrounding hills. Colonel Pulleiuo sent skirmishers, who responded to the fire of the Zulus. It seems that the number of Zulus was not estimated, it being considered a slight demonstration of a few men. As the oiifiny's scouts were Boon joined by bodies of considerable strength, Colonel Pulleino's skirmishers were recalled, and the camp hastily put upon the defensive. The Zulu army then came on rapidly in regular battalions, eight deep, keeping up a heavy steady fire until well within assegais distance. They then ceased their fire and hurled assegais. Our men kept up avery steady tellingfire, and great numbers of the enemy dropped, but without checking their progress. The places of the men who fell were constantly filled by com- rades. While this attack was going on in the rear a double flank movement was executed, by which the horns of the Zulu army sur- rounded the camp. The disadvantage of the waggons not being packed in laager was now evident, and it led to the disaster. Our men had emptied their pouches, aud found it im- possible to replenish them, as the Zulus had obtained possession of the ammunition wag- gons. The affair then became one of absolute butchery. Our officers and men were as segaied as they stood. They made no charges. The Zulu host came down with the weight of its battalions, and literally crushed the small body, which could only defend itself with the bayonet, and very soon it had not even room to use that. The Zulus picked up the dead bodies of their comrades and hurled thom on the bayonet points of our soldiers, thus simply beating down all defence. The work of des- truction was complete. Within two hours from the time the Zulu skirmishers were seeu there was not a living white man in the camp. The ammunition, the guns, the commissariat supplies, the waggons, the oxen, all the material of the column, fell into the hands of the enemy. Fortunately two cannons were spiked by Captain Smith, R.A., who was assegaied whilst in the act of spiking. As far as could be ascertained, the Zulus carried away all the ammunition and some waggons, and destroyed whatever was left behind. Young, an officer belonging to Lonsdale's contingent, who had been wounded in the skirmish with Sirayo's men some days pre- viously, happened to be at the camp of Isan- dula, where his brother was superintending the return of the 23rd to Pietermaritzburg. Being invalided, and not being connected with any regiment, he fired a rifle from the corner of a waggon until he-had exhausted his ammunition. Being unable to obtain a further supply, and having no weapon what- ever, he saw it was useless for him to remain any longer. Happily for him he had got a good horse, and a desperate dash carried him through a weak point in the enemy's cordon just in time. Ile was chased by the Zulus, who were swift runners, but could not get up with lum. Looking back he saw our men, completely surrounded, firm as a rock, falling rapidly, but fighting to the last. The loud yells of the Zulus filled the air. There waa no other noise except their demoniac shrieks, as the work was done with the short stabbing assegai. He saw Lieutenant Coghill trying to, fight his way through, as also Adjutant Melvdle, who had seized the colours and was vainly trying to carry them through. It ÍB probable that Lieutenant Coghill was dis- patched for assistance, as he was acting that day as staff officer to Colonel Pulleine. Both Coghill and Melville were splendid horsemen, and were well mounted. They were not, howevor, BO fortunate as Young. _ The place he escaped through was a minute after he passed it completely blocked. He saw it was impossible to pierce the dense masses of Zulus between min and the Drift, so he made for a point on the river lower down, where he found no Zulus. Ile had, however, to jump the cliff, happily only ten feet high. If it had been a hundred ho must have jumped it, as his pursuers were not far behind. His horse, having swam a few yards, was able to ford the rest of the river. Ho then rode to Helpmakaar. A few of the Natal Native contingent and others were drowned in attempting to swim, but some were saved. It may bo, seen from this short narrative that the Zulu army was completely organized. It advanced, first throwing out skirmishers : then, as {the battalions came down in mass, used their rifles whilst at long range with consideraba effect. When near enough to use their ingre familiar weapon, the assegai, they threw in two or three showers. AU this time ithey were advancing steadily and rapidly, arid the stabbing assegai was soon at work. The impression in Natal is that the engagement on the part of the Zulus is not attributable to generalship, but that the army of invasion was making for Natal and accordingly came across the rear- guard of Colonel Glyn's column. Our troops were allowed to cross the various points. Colonel Glyn's main body was euticed by a feint advance away from its material. Then the main body of the enemy, supposed to be under Sirayo, the favorite Induna of Cetewayo, swept down on the baggage. Young and another who was saved speak in the highest terms of the way in which the gallant force sustained the assault of the overwhelm- ing hordes of the enemy. Our native allies fought bravely too, and if the camp had been formed in laager, and our men could have have been furnished with the ammuni- tion with which the camp was so generously _ supplied, it would have given a different account of the enemy. Young saw nothing of the barbarities. The way in which the men were surrounded and crushed down by weight of numbers proves that utter annihililation took place, but it is hoped that the horrible stories in circulation have no foundation in fact. All that are left of the 24th Regiment are Captain Harrison's company, stationed at St. John's River, Captain Upehers, and Captain Rainforth, who were at that time on their march to join their battallion ; Mayor Much, andDr. Hartley, who were invalided a short time before; and Lieu- tenant Morshead, who was doing staff duty at Pietermaritzburg.

The supplement to the London Gazette of March 4 contains a list

of the killed of the British troops, which amounts to 51 officers aud 786 men. It is, I however, admitted that the total loss is sup- posed to be greater, and if to these be added the losses of the colonial and native troops, we have a total far exceeding the loss sustain- ed by any British army in any single battle since the wars of the First French Empire.

THE GALLANT DEITENCE AT RORKE'S DRIFT.

The Zulu war repeats the tale of the former Indian mutiny. Small bodies of British soldiers defeat large masses of enemies, by heroic courage. The defence at Rurke's Drift, by Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead, with eighty men, against three thousand Zulus, was of this noble character. Lieuten- ant Chard had beeu left in charge of Rorke's Drift by Major Spalding, who had gone to Helpmakaar to hurry forward a company of the 21th Regiment. It was at 3.15 on the afternoon of the 22nd that Lieut. Chard was first informed of the disaster at Isandula ; and immediately afterwards he received a message from Lieut. Bromhead-commander of the company of the 24th Regiment at the camp near the commissariat stores-asking him to come up at once. He immediately gave instructions to strike tents, and to put all stores into the waggons. He made his way to the commissariat store, where he found that Lieut. Bromhead had received a note from the 3rd column stating that the enemy was advancing in force against the post at Rorke's Drift, which they were ordered to strengthen and hold at all costs. Bromhead had already begun the work of entrenchment, and Chard then superintended the arrange- ments. " I went," ho says, " round our posi- tion down to tho ponts, and brought up along with their guard one sergeant and six men, the gear, waggons, &c. I desire here to mention for approval the offer of these pont guards, Daniels and Sergeant Milne, of the 3rd Buffs, who, with their comrades, volun- teered to moor the ponts out iu the middle of the stream, and there to defend them from the decks, with a few men to assist. We arrived back at our post at 3.30 p.m., and shortly after an officer with some of D urnford's Horse carno in, and asked orders from mo. I requested him to send a detachment to ob- serve the drifts and points, and to throw out vedettes in the direction of the enemy, in order to check their advance as much as pos- sible, his men falling back upon the post when forced to retire, and thereafter to as- sist in the defence. I next requested Lieut. Bromhead to station his men, and, having seen every man thoroughly know his post, the rest of the work went quickly on." Firing was first hoard behind the hill to the south at 4.20-about one hour after they had received the first hint about the disaster. " The officer of D urnford's Horse returned, reporting that the enemy were now close upon us. His men ho told me, wouid not obey orders, but were going off towards Helpmakaar, and I myself say them in retreat, numbering apparently about 100, going in that direction. About the same time Captain Stephenson's detach- ment of the Natal Native Contingent left us -as did that officer himself." Chard now saw that their line of defence was too ox tended, and at once commenced an inner en- trenchment of biscuit boxes, out of which they had completed a wall two boxes high, " when about 4.20 p.m., five hundred or six hundred of the enemy came suddenly in sight around the hill to the south. They advanced at a run against our south wall, but were met by a well-sustained fire ; yet, notwithstanding heavy loss, they continued to advance till within 50 yards of the wall, when their leading mon encountered such a hot fire from our front, with a cross one from the Store, that they were checked. Taking advantage, however, of the cover afforded by the cook-house and the ovous, they kept up thonco heavy musketry volleys ; the greater number, however, without stopping at all, moved on towards the left round our hospital, and thence made a rush upon the north-west wall and our breastwork ot mealio bags. After a short but desperate struggle those assailants were driven back with heavy loss into the bushes around our works. The main body of the enemy close behind had meantime lined the ledge of rocks and filled some cave overlooking us at a dibtance of 100 yards to south, from whenco thoykeptup a constant fire. Another body, advancing somewhat more to the left than those who first attacked us, occupied a garden in the hollow of the road and also the bush beyond it in great force, taking special advautago of tho bush, which wo had not had time to cut down. Tho enemy was thus able to advance close to our works, and in this part soon held ono whole side of tho wall, while wo on tho other hand kept back a series of desperato assaults which were made on a line extending from the hospital all along the wall as far as the bush. But such attack was most splen- didly met and repulsed by our men with the bayonet. Corporal Schiess, of the Native Natal Contingent, greatly distinguished him solf by conspicuous gallantry. The fire from the rock behind our post, though badly directed, took us completely in reverse, and was so heavy that wo suffered very severely, and at 6 p.m. were finally forced to retire behind the entrench- ment of biscuit boxes. AU this time the enemy had been attempting to force the hos- pital, and soon after succeeded in setting fire to the roof. The garrison of the hospital defended the building room by roora, bringing out the sick who could bo removed before they retired. Privates Williams, Hook, R. Jones, and W. Jones, of the 24th Regiment, were tho last four men to leave, holding the doorway against the Zulus with bayonets, their ammunition being quite expended. From want of interior communication, and from smoke, it was found impossible to carry off all the sick, and, with most heartfelt sorrow and regret, wo could not save a few poor fel- lows from a terrible fate." The enemy then made desperate attempts to fire the roof of the stores, and seeing that and the hospital on fire, they converted the mealie-bag \eapa into a sort of redoubt, which gave a second line of fire all along. They were now completely surrounded, and, after repulsing several furious assaults, they were eventually forced to retire to the middle aud then to the inner
wall of the kraal ou the east of the position they first had. Throughout it all they had to sustain a desultory fire kept up all night ; but all the assaults were vigorously repulsed. The men fired with the greatest coolness, not wasting a single shot-a matter of the utmost iniportanco in the circumstances. Even the light from the burning hospital proved of groat advantage. The firing finally ceased at 4 a.m. on January 23; and at daybreak the Zulus were observed passing out of sight over the hill to the south-west."


Source:
The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser. Thursday 1 May 1879
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