BLOUKRANS : 16-17 FEBRUARY 1838
Retief left Doornkop with a party of 70 men and 30 Coloured servants on 25
January 1838 and arrived at the Zulu capital umgungundlovu on 3 February.
After they had spent a few days at the Kraal, a treaty was drawn up in
which Dingane granted land to the voortrekkers. This document, dated 4 February, was signed on the 6th at the
time of the final interview. On that morning the voortrekkers and their servants
were seized and taken to a hill nearby, where they were killed.
On the same day Dingane dispatched thousands of warriors under the
command of Ndlela Ntuli to exterminate the voortrekkers in the midlands of
advanced Trekker camps were spread over a 25 km range between the
the present-day Colenso
to the present-day village
of Willowgrange. The remainder were at Saai Laager, Doornkop and in scattered
camps further westward.
family groups had established themselves in the valley of the Rensburg Spruit,
km east of
the present-day Estcourt. Further
north, many family groups were located between two streams flowing into the
Bloukrans River. (Later they would be named the Great and Little Moord (Murder)
large party was camped between these two groups on the banks of the Bushman's
the Piet Retief party failed to return to their laager on 12 February as had
been expected, Gert Maritz became
concerned and visited many of the family groups,
warning them to form laagers. In some cases he was successful but many
disregarded his warnings.
about midnight on 16-17 February 1838 the Zulus began their assault on the
Trekker encampments over a 9 km front along the Bloukrans River.
The Zulus fell upon the sleeping Liebenbergs, Besters and de Beers near
the confluence of the Umlaas River (also called the Little Murder Spruit) and
the Bloukrantz Rivers.
Bezuidenhout, awakened by barking
dogs, managed to escape to the families further west and warn them of the
impendinq Zulu attack. Hans
Bezuidenhout also managed to escape and warn others in the vicinity.
All the Trekker families situated to the west of the Qabango (also called the Great
were overwhelmed and killed, including
the families of Botha, Smit,
Breytenbach and most of the Bezuidenhouts.
Further to the south, some of the Zulu impi fell upon the Rossouws.
Nearby, 36 members of the Engelbrecht and Greyling families sought
protection with the Robbertse family who were located between the Little and
Great Murder Spruits. This group,
however, were overtaken by the Zulus and killed.
Van der Merwe and Prinsloo families were located close to each other to the east
of the Great Murder Spruit. Johanna
van der Merwe, who was 12 years
old, sought shelter with the
prinsloos. She received 21 assegai
wounds in the Zulu attack and Catherina Prinsloo received 23. Both
were found by a rescue party the following afternoon.
Both eventually recovered and lived to an old age.
to the south, and east of the Great
Murder Spruit, was the Bothma
family, warned of an imminent attack, they
fled westward, crossed the
stream and sought refuge on a nearby koppie.
There they initially managed to withstand the Zulu attacks, but
eventually the Zulus, using
herds of cattle, overwhelmed them and the entire family perished.
The Zulus then
plundered and destroyed the camps they
had attacked. The camps to
the west remained unscathed, and by
sunrise a group of 196 men, women
and children sought refuge at Doornkop which lies about 8 km west of the
is apparent that the Trekkers launched counter-attacks on four fronts. From Doornkop, commandant Greyling led a force into the
valley of the Bloukrans River. Sarel
Cilliers, leaving his camp near the present-day Frere, led a force by a
circuitous route to arrive on the ridge to the east of the valley of Great
Murder Spruit. He then
advanced into the valley and rendered assistance there.
Hans (Dons) de Lange left his camp on the Little Bushman's River and made
an assault on the retreating Zulus. Gert
Maritz, after a successful defence against the Zulus at Saai Laager, went to the
aid of the beleagured Trekkers in the valley of the Great Murder.Spruit.
following day the Trekker pursuit was resumed.
At the Tugela they came upon a large body of the enemy, who were trying to drive the cattle and sheep across the
river. On being attacked, the
Zulus rushed into the swollen river and many were drowned. Unfortunately for the
Trekkers, the 25 000 head of cattle
and 2000 horses siezed from the camps had already been taken across the Tugela
and as it was growing dark and the place that had seemed fordable now looked
dangerous, the Trekkers were forced to abandon the pursuit
They returned to the scene
of the massacre and joined the survivors in search of the dead, dying and
wounded. For ten days burial
parties were busy locating and interring the dead.
The number slain was ascertained to be not less than 41 men, 56 women,
185 children and 200 servants. The
Trekkers spoke of the night's deeds on 16-17 February 1838 as "The Great
Murder". Nowadays it is usually referred to as "The Bloukrans
Massacre". It is estimated that the Zulu losses amounted to not less than 1
000, half of which incurred during the counter-attack.
is believed that most of the victims now lie buried in a mass grave on the left
bank of the Great Murder Spruit near its confluence with the Bloukrans.
At the instigation of General Piet Joubert of the Transvaal, the remains
of the victims were exhumed from their scattered graves and re-interred in a
communal grave on 17 December 1895
The reburial was a solemn ceremony
a large crowd
including old Voortrekkers
like Marthinus Oosthuizen. The remains of Gert Maritz were also transferred
from Maritzdam near Loskop on the Little Tugela where he had been buried.
The monument was erected in 1897.