IN NATAL FROM 23rd
Chelmsford, with what remained of the central column, arrived, as has been
already mentioned, at Rorke's Drift on the morning of the 23rd January. During the day the improvised fortifications at 'this place
were strengthened, and as they were now held by a garrison of some 700 men, the
post was perfectly secure from assault.
confidence of the Native Contingent, however, had been rudely shaken, and on the
night of the 23rd January many of those whose comrades had fallen at
Isandhlwana; deserted from the two battalions at Rorke's Drift.
Chelmsford determined to proceed at once to Pietermaritzburg, and at 9 A.M.
the 24th January started from Rorke's Drift.
On arriving at Helpmekaar, he found that the battalion of the Native
Contingent at that place had refused to march to Umsinga as ordered, and it was
only by making it clearly understood that deserters would be shot, that
obedience was secured.
Chelmsford left Helpmekaar, and, proceeding by way of Ladysmith,* arrived at
Pietermaritzburg on the evening of the 26th.
the General's departure from Rorke's Drift, the whole of the Native Contingent
who had remained at that place deserted, those who had rifles, however, being
this day the artillery and mounted men were moved to Helpmekaar, so that at
Rorke's Drift there were only seven companies of the 2/24th, viz., the
one which had defended the post, and the six which had been out with Lord
Chelmsford on the 22nd.
Helpmekaar were two companies of the 1/24th, and these were joined by half the
5th Company R.E., the other half of this company moving on to Rorke's Drift.
the 2/4th Regiment which had left England a few days after the 99th, three
companies had been sent to Cape Town, and the remainder had disembarked at
Durban on the 13th and 16th January. These companies were moving up country to
occupy posts on the line of communications when the news of the Isandhlwana
disaster was received, and four of them were sent to Helpmekaar, one being left
in garrison at Grey-town.
the period immediately following the withdrawal from
the 4th February a small party under Major Black 2/24th Regiment, went from
Rorke's Drift down the course of the Buffalo River to the spot known as the
Fugitive's Drift, where the greater number of those who had escaped from
Isandhlwana had endeavoured to cross over into Natal.
Near this spot the bodies of Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill were found
and buried, and the Queen's colour of the 1/24th was recovered from the bed of
the river, and on the following day was restored to the custody of the regiment.
about this time a few marauding parties crossed from Zululand into Natal and
caused serious alarm, Ketchwayo's intentions remaining unknown, and no
reliable information was forthcoming as to the position of his army which had
fought at Isandhlwana.
these circumstances very grave fears of invasion were felt, not only in the more
exposed portions of Natal, but also in regions remote front the frontier. At Pietermaritzburg and Durban, as well as at Utrecht,
Greytown, Stanger and other towns and villages near the border, central post or
laagers were prepared in which in case of need the white inhabitants might
assemble, and where they might stand a siege.
Chelmsford on his arrival at Pietermaritzburg took measures for informing the
Secretary of State for War, both by telegraph and by despatch, of the
Isandhlwana disaster, and at the same time asked for reinforcements.
South Africa not being in telegraphic communication with Europe, the
General's message had to be conveyed by steamer from Cape Town to St. Vincent,
the vessel being despatched on the 27th instead of on the 28th, in order that
the news might be delivered as speedily as possible.
the information reached Cape Town, arrangements were promptly made for having
the duties carried on by the colonial troops, and for sending to Natal the three
companies of the 2/4h Regiment, which had formed the garrison.
These companies leaving Cape Town on the 26th January arrived at Durban
on the 30th, and marched into Pietermaritzburg on the 2nd February.
companies of the 88th, which had been on the eastern frontier of the
Cape colony, on being relieved by Volunteers from Cape Town, proceeded by sea to
Natal, and arrived at Durban on the 8th February. The Headquarters of the
regiment and one company went to Pietermaritzburg, two companies to Stanger,
arid one remained at Durban. Those
which went to Stanger, relieved two companies of the 99th, which moved on to
Chelmsford, who had arrived at Durban on the 6th February; and had sent messages
thence to Colonel Pearson - proceeded on the 11th to Fort Pearson. At this time Colonel Pearson's return from Etshowe with a
portion of his force was contemplated, and it was proposed to aid him, if
attacked on the march, by a force from the Lower Tugela.
The two companies of the 99th from Stanger arrived on the 14th, and the
force available was thus raised to five companies of the 99th, two of the Buffs,
and the "Tenedos" Naval Brigade, with Barrow's mounted infantry, the
Volunteers, and the Native Contingent, the whole being under the command of Lord
has been already mentioned, no portion of Colonel Pearson's force left Etshowe
at this time, and Lord Chelmsford, after remaining at the Lower Tugela for about
a week, returned to Pietermaritzburg, where he arrived on the 21st February.
consequence of a request from Colonel Wood, the mounted infantry and Natal
Carabineers which had remained at Helpmekaar since the 24th January, marched on
the 14th February to join the left column, and on the same day two companies
of the 2/4th Regiment also left Helpmekaar for Utrecht.
the middle of February, the fears' of an invasion of Natal were considerably
allayed, and Lord Chelmsford's efforts, on his return to Pietemaritzburg, were
principally directed to the collection of transport to replace that lost at
Isandhlwana, and to the reorganisation of the Native Contingent, now formed into
five battalions. Additional native
levies were also enrolled, and the mode in which they should be employed led to
a long correspondence between Lord Chelmsford, Sir Bartle Frere, and Sir Henry
was finally decided that the bulk of these levies, which were enrolled for the
defence of Natal, should not cross the Zulu frontier.
the meantime, however reinforcements were on their way to Natal.
the 6th February the news of the Isandhlwana disaster reached St. Helena, and it
was determined that the garrison of the island, consisting of a battery R.A.
(8/7) and a company of the 88th Regiment, should be at once embarked on board
Her Majesty's ship "Shah," which was in port at the time, and be
conveyed to Durban. The
"Shah" was on her way home from the Pacific station, but under these
circumstances her commander, Captain Bradshaw, considered himself justified in
changing her destination. In
addition to the troops, a naval contingent of about 400 men could be furnished
from this vessel, so that a reinforcement of some 650 men would in this manner
become available. Coal was
purchased at St. Helena, and the voyage was performed under steam. On the 23rd February the "Shah" arrived at Simon's
Bay, and, after coaling, proceeded to Durban, which was reached on the 6th
Chelmsford's telegram of the 27th January reached the Secretary of State for War
early on the 11th February, and before the day was over the reinforcements to be
sent out had been detailed, and the preliminary measures for their transport and
supply had been taken. It was
decided that these reinforcements should consist of two regiments of cavalry,
two batteries of artillery, and an ammunition column, one company of
engineers, six battalions of infantry, three companies Army Service Corps, and
one company Army Hospital Corps. Two
of the troop ships sailed on the 19th February, and the remainder followed, as
shown in me table forming Appendix B.
Louis Napoleon, son of the late Emperor of the French, accompanied the
expedition, and went out in the steamship “Danube."
the time when the news of Isandhlwana was received in London, the 57th
'Regiment, which had been in garrison in Ceylon, was about to be relieved by the
102nd Fusiliers, who had proceeded from Gibraltar in Her Majesty's ship "
Tamar." Orders were sent by telegraph for the " Tamar " to convey
the 57th to Natal, and this regiment having embarked on the 22nd February, landed
at Durban on the 11th March.
next reinforcements were furnished from Her Majesty's ship "Boadicea,"
from which a naval brigade 200 strong was landed on the 15th March, and on the
17th March the 91st Regiment disembarked from the " Pretoria," which
had made the voyage from Southampton in 26 days.
Chelmsford had returned to Durban early in March, and on the arrival of the “Shah”
had proposed to send forward a column from the Lower Tugela towards Etshowe to
co-operate with Colonel Pearson, who was to sally out with a portion of the
garrison. This relief column, under
Lieutenant-Colonel Law, R.A., was to have been composed of detachments or the
Buffs, 88th; and 99th, with seamen and marines from the "Tenedos and
Barrow's mounted men, and, as mentioned in the account of the blockade of
Etshowe, was to have started on the 12th March.
scheme was, however, abandoned, and the relief of Etshowe was postponed till the
arrival of further reinforcements should allow of its being carried out by a
column of a strength sufficient to bear down all probable opposition.
the months of February and March heavy floods came down the Buffalo and Tugela,
and this fact to a great extent accounts for the inaction of the Zulus in the
period following their success at Isandhlwana.
The scene of this disaster to the British arms remained unvisited by any
Europeans till the 14th March, when about 25 mounted men,* under
Lieutenant-Colonel Black, 2/24th Regiment, proceeded from Rorke's Drift by the
track followed on the 20th January, and reached Isandhlwana unopposed.
On passing over the neck of land, which has been previously mentioned,
the wrecked camp was before them. A
few natives were seen running away from a kraal.
ascertained that the whole of the transport appliances, baggage and effects of
what had been the centre column was now represented by a certain number of
uninjured wagons, the little party returned to Rorke's Drift unmolested.
arrival at Durban of six companies of the 3/60th Rifles on the 20th March,
completed the reinforcement which Lord Chelmsford considered necessary for
undertaking the relief of Etshowe
troops were at once sent forward to join the column on the Lower Tugela, of
which Lord Chelmsford took personal command on the 23rd March.
force assembled near Fort Pearson consisted of the 57h and 91st Regiments,
six companies of the 3/60th, five companies of the 99th, and two
companies of the Buffs, with a naval brigade formed of men from the "
Shah," " Tenedos," and Boadicea."
In addition to these, there were the mounted infantry and Volunteers with
the 4th and 5th Battalions of the Native Contingent, so that the strength of the
column amounted to 3,390 whites and 2,280 natives, with two 9-pr. guns, four
24-pr. rocket-tubes, and two Gatlings.
brigades were formed, of which one
was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Law, R.A., and the other by
Lieutenant-Colonel Pemberton, 60th Rifles.
28th March this force, together with 122 carts and wagons containing provisions,
was assembled on the left bank of the Tugela, and the advance commenced at 6 A.M. on the 29th March.
route adopted was not the same as that by which Colonel Pearson had marched in
January, but was nearer the coast, and passed through a more open country.
Heavy rain had fallen on the 27th and 28th, and progress was slow, but by
midday the Inyoni river had been reached. Here
an entrenched camp was formed, the wagons being drawn up in a square with a
shelter trench at about 20 yards distance outside.
No tents had been taken, and the troops bivouacked in the space between
the wagons and the shelter trench. The
oxen, which had been sent out to feed as soon as the column had halted, were
collected at dusk and driven within the wagon enclosure for the night.
the following morning the column again moved forward, and in the afternoon
formed a similar entrenched camp on the right bank of the Amatikulu.
This river was crossed on the 31st March, and a fresh camp established
"about a mile and a half beyond it.
noon on the 1st April the column having marched some 6 miles, occupied a slight
eminence about a mile from the Inyezane river, where an entrenched camp, like
those of the Inyoni and Amatikulu, was formed.*
The Gingihlovo stream ran close to the site of this camp, which was
surrounded by country generally free from bush, though clothed with long grass,
affording a considerable amount of cover.
the 1st April, some large parties of Zulus were seen in the distance, and during
the following night the numerous fires on the hills to the northward made it
evident that a considerable force of the enemy was in the neighbourhood.
night, however, passed without any alarm, and at dawn on the 2nd April the
mounted men were sent out to reconnoitre, while the infantry stood to their aims
within the entrenchments. It was not intended that the column should advance
this day, and the cattle were about to be turned out to graze, when, shortly
before 6 A.M., information was sent in by the mounted men and by the advanced piquets,
that the Zulu army was approaching, and exactly at 6 o'clock the enemy came in
sight of the camp.
columns appeared on the farther bank of the Inyezane, and, after passing this
stream at different points, rapidly deployed outwards and assumed a loose
formation, which allowed all advantage to be taken of the cover which the ground
right of these two columns advancing from near the ruined mission station soon
became engaged with the front or north face of the laager, while the left, whose
point of crossing had been lower down the stream, was hastening forward to
attack the north-eastern angle.
two columns formed the left ‘wing’ of the Zulu army, and the right wing was
but little behindhand in coming into action.
This wing advanced in column from the westward, and on emerging from the
bush to the north of the Umisi hill, deployed and embraced the southern arid
western faces pf the laager in its attack.
In the assault on the latter the co-operation of the right column of the
left wing was received, as this checked in its first attempt, had circled round
to its right, and was now endeavouring to make an impression on the western
within a short time after the commencement of the action, the defenders of the
camp were on three sides hotly engaged with an enemy, who, pushing on in spite
of the deadly fire of breech-loaders and Gatlings, at some points got to within
20 yards of the shelter trench. Closer
than this it was impossible to approach, and when the Zulus had realised that
this struggle was one in which the assegai would be useless, they
enemy. A few shots were
fired at the advancing horsemen, and
then the Zulus turned and fled
the pursuit which now took place, the fugitives suffered severely from the
mounted infantry, who, following for about 2 miles, used with good effect the
sabres with which they had been armed a short time previously.
The Native Contingent were also sent out after the flying Zulus, and
killed considerable numbers.
this action, which lasted about an hour and a half, and which resulted in such a
complete victory for the British, their loss was 9 killed and 52 wounded.
Zulu army was about 10,000 strong, and had only arrived in the neighbourhood of Gingihlovo on the
previous evening. It
was commanded by Dabulamanzi, who was ignorant of the real strength of the
relief column. The Zulu losses in
this engagement amounted to nearly 1,200.
from Etshowe having been received and acknowledged by signal, the troops of the
relieving column passed the remainder of the 2nd April at Gingihlovo, engaged in
reducing the size of the laager and in strengthening its defences, as Lord
Chelmsford had determined that a part of his force should remain here, while he
advanced to Etshowe with merely a flying column.
Lord Chelmsford also decided that Etshowe, on account of its
inaccessibility, should be abandoned, and orders were flashed to Colonel Pearson
to prepare for its evacuation as soon as he was relieved.
the 3rd April, Lord Chelmsford's flying column, consisting of the 57th, 60th,
and 91st, with part of the Naval Brigade, left Gingihlovo for Etshowe.
These troops escorted a convoy of 58 carts of stores for the garrison,
and on the march were preceded by the mounted infantry and Volunteers, under
Barrow, and by a number of native scouts organised by Mr. John Dunn.*
road the distance to Etshowe was about 15 miles, and the route led up the right
bank of the Inyezane as far as the crossing-place near which Colonel Pearson's
action of the 22nd January had been fought.
From hence the ranges near Majia's hill were ascended by the track
followed after that action, and by this track, though it was in two places
partially destroyed, Lord Chelmsford's column eventually arrived at the
commence-merit of the new road to Etshowe, which had been formed by the
this march the country was found quite free from any
hostile force, but the progress of the column was much delayed