Fort Pearson, Lower Tugela Drift,
November 26, 1878
Here I am soldiering again, and likely to do so for some time to come, as the General says he wants us for six months. We landed, nine officers and 160 men, two guns and a Gatling, and two rocket tubes, at noon on Tuesday, and were received at Port Durban by a crowd of people, who cheered loudly. We went on by train to Durban, and from thence to Saccharine village, about 12 miles. We pitched our camp there, and started at four a.m. with eleven wagons, and stopped at Verulam for breakfast. Our usual routine is as follows: Four a.m., strike tents; breakfast, half-past five; leave camp; halt about ten for dinner, when the oxen are outspanned for two hours; start again at one, and camp by some river in the evening. The men are in capital spirits and march splendidly, only we always have to wait for the wagons, which are very slow. The bluejackets are old campaigners; they pitch their tents quickly, and soon settle down to their life on shore. The next day we made a march of eighteen miles to a large river called the Umvoti, about one hundred yards across; the country we passed through was very pretty, like an English park, but very few people and little cultivation, except sugar and coffee in the valleys. Friday we made a short march, five miles, to a small village called Stanger, where we camped by a small stream, Bogame, and remained there all day. We had very heavy rain, which is much wanted just now. Saturday we went to Nonoti River, which is very beautiful, and where we had capital bathing, although I believe there are alligators in all these rivers. March twelve miles Sunday, we left Nonoti at seven a.m., and, after halting an hour at the ruins of an old fort call Williamson for the wagons to get up, we arrived at the Tugela at noon, where we found two companies of the 3rd Buffs. Here we had our first view of Zululand and the river, which is a muddy dirty-looking one, about 300 yards broad and six feet deep, and forms the boundary of the colony. The Buffs have built a fort on a high bluff commanding the drift or ford of the river, and called it Fort Pearson, after their colonel. We have one company in the fort and the remainder outside. The Buffs left on Monday to join their regiment at Thrings Post, 25 miles up the river. We are going to form a column to enter Zululand by this drift, with the Buffs, a hundred mounted men, and a thousand natives, the Tenedos men relieving us at the fort. We expect to move in about a fortnight or three weeks. The following officers have landed: Commander Campbell, Lieutenants Craigie and Hamilton, Lieutenant Dowding, R.M.L.I., Sub-Lieutenant Fraser,, Midshipman Coker, and Boatswain Cotter. It is very hot now, 97 degs in the tents.
(Source: The Western Daily Press, Bristol, January 8, 1879)
Petty Officer Tom