Fort Pearson, named after the Colonel of the 3rd Regiment (Buffs), commanding the column which has advanced upon Ekowe, is situated upon an eminence which commands the lower drift of the Tugela river. It is a strong earthwork, with central citadel, and is armed with a 12-pounder Armstrong gun. The view from the fort is very fine, embracing the whole of the river to its mouth, and a sweep of about forty miles into the enemy’s country. To the left, in our view, is Smith’s Store, where Lieutenant-General Lord Chelmsford has taken up his abode for a day or two whilst making an inspection of the position. Below Smith’s store is seen the Pont, which has transported all the men and material across the river. On the right is the camp of the now disbanded Native Contingent, and farther on that of the 99th, on Euphorbia, so called from a number of those trees which crown its summit. Here also is the burying-ground, tenanted by two of the Buffs, one seaman of the Active, one of the Tenedos, and an officer of the Natal Native Sappers. The rocky face of the hill on which the Fort stands is very abrupt down to the river, and thickly wooded in the crevices with small shrubs and trees. As shown in the Sketch, the river is very low, with mud banks visible, and the pontoon constructed by the Royal Engineers high and dry. The Tugela is the natural defence of Natal against the Zulus. Gun and signal departments at the Fort are in charge of a small party of men from the contingent supplied to the Naval Brigade by H.M.S. Tenedos.
That ship has given its name to Fort Tenedos, on the opposite side of the Lower Tugela Drift. The column under Colonel Pearson crossed the Tugela on Jan, 11, and at once proceeded to intrench itself in the event of any opposition. The spot selected for the prominent work was a farm-house and yard, late in the possession of a Dutch settler. The work commenced by Colonel Pearson has, since the departure of the main body of the troops, has been strengthened and completed under the superintendence of the Commandant, Lieutenant Kingscote, R.N. It would now task the capabilities of the whole Zulu army, or a very large force of a less savage character, for its reduction. The fort is situated on a gentle rise, about 300 yards from the river banks, and four miles from its mouth. The form is that of an irregular pentagon. It is protected by a strong earthwork ditch and abattis; while outside, and forming an almost complete cordon, is a line of “trous de loup,” or deep pyramidal holes; these contain pointed sticks, which are made a more effective obstacle by the addition of wire drawn in all directions over them. Several mines, to be fired by electricity, have also been laid; broken glass is thickly strewn over the interior of the ditch and slopes. Every precaution is taken, by means of spies, patrols, and vedettes, to guard against surprise by day or night. The fort is commanded by the guns of Fort Pearson, on the opposite bank of the river, which is here about 300 yards wide, twelve foot deep in some places, and with a strong current after heavy rains. The waters are dark and muddy; alligators are occasionally seen, but no accident has as yet befallen any of the numerous bathers, who have gone in for what is literally at times “a mud bath.” All traces of the farm-house and offices have long since disappeared, and the tents and hospital marquee now occupy the whole space.
The country in front extends in beautiful undulating, sloping hills, quite open, for about fifteen miles. This is now covered with the richest grass. In the distance is a missionary station, now, of course, deserted and wrecked; and between this and the Fort is the grazing ground for a large number of “trek,” or draught oxen, waiting to convey stores and ammunition to the front. The road to the Drift or ford leads down to the right of the view. Here the passage of the river is effected by a large pont, of floating bridge working on a steel hawser; the hauling from bank to bank being effected by a span of oxen. The pontoon and arrangement of the hawsers are the work of the Naval Brigade from H.M.S. Active, under Commander Campbell, R.N., and have answered their purpose admirably. The garrison proper of the fort consists of sixty seamen and officers from H.M.S. Tenedos, a company of the 99th Regiment, a few mounted infantry, and an unknown number of Kaffirs, drivers, conductors, and others. The garrison, owing to the changes in the movement of troops, has varied in force from two hundred to as many thousand. The armament is composed of three guns (a twelve, a nine, and a seven pounder), besides a Gatling and a rocket tube. It is extremely probable that this fort will be permanently held, or, at least, till the whole Zulu question is thoroughly and satisfactorily concluded.
(Source: The Illustrated London New, April 5, 1879)
Petty Officer Tom