The following is an extract from a letter addressed to Mr. S. Cookson, by his son, Mr. John Cookson, serving with the Naval Brigade in Zululand.
We were in the column that went out to the relief of Colonel Pearson at Ekowe. We had one good engagement before we got there, and I think that it will be the turning point as I hear that the Zulu King has been suing for peace. We have had several messengers in our camp lately with messages saying that he does not want to fight the English any more. But the Zulus are a very acute race of people, and there is no trusting them. The morning they attacked us they came upon us like swarms of bees, but we poured the shot into them like hail. We had two nine-pounder guns, two Gatling guns, and four rocket tubes. I can tell you that we gave it to them both hot and strong while it lasted, to warm ourselves up a little, as the rain fell in torrents the evening before, and we had all got a good soaking in it, having nothing to cover us but the clothes that we stood upright in. So you may imagine we felt a little chilled, and having no breakfast (we were just about to prepare to get it when they were sighted), they may have wanted to share it with us, but we did not feel inclined to let them. So the action commenced, and lasted about an hour and a half at the outside, and those who did not stop to be killed I dare say are running yet., for they threw away everything that they had, and set off like hares. There must have been over 2,000 of them killed or died of their wounds afterwards, for we have had to Love our camping ground twice to get better water, on account of their dead bodies lying in it. It has caused a great deal of sickness, and of the water where we are now it is reported that there are bodies in it. We have taken over 200 prisoners since out engagement at Gingolova. We are expecting to make another flit up the country shortly, and build another fort; but there is another river to cross, which it is considered will be rather difficult, as there is thick bush on the other side. All our mounted men were out at it a few days ago, to look and find the best place to cross; and there were large bodies of Zulus who opened fire on them from the other side, which they soon returned, and killed several of them that they saw lying about, but nothing happened to our men.
(Source: The Kendal Mercury, June 27, 1879)
Petty Officer Tom