Infomotions, Inc.Three Years' War / De Wet, Christiaan Rudolf, 1854-1922



Author: De Wet, Christiaan Rudolf, 1854-1922
Title: Three Years' War
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THREE YEARS' WAR

by

CHRISTIAAN RUDOLF DE WET

Frontispiece by John S. Sargent, R.A.

Four Plans and a Map







[Illustration: (signature) C. R. de Wet




New York
Charles Scribner's Sons
1902
Copyright, 1902, by
Charles Scribner's Sons
All rights reserved
Published, December, 1902
Trow Directory
Printing and Bookbinding Company
New York




      TO
MY FELLOW SUBJECTS
      OF
THE BRITISH EMPIRE




Preface


By way of introduction to my work I wish, dear reader, to say only this
short word: "I am no book-writer."--But I felt that the story of this
struggle, in which a small people fought for liberty and right, is
rightly said, throughout the civilized world, to be unknown, and that it
was my duty to record my personal experiences in this war, for the
present and for the future generations, not only for the Afrikander
people, but for the whole world.

Not only did I consider this my duty, but I was encouraged to write by
the urgings of prominent men among my people, of men of various
nationalities and even of several British officers.

Well, dear reader, I hope that you will not feel disappointed in reading
these experiences, as it is not in me, as is perhaps sometimes the case
with historical authors, to conjure up thrilling pictures--imaginary
things--and put them together merely to make up a book or to make a name
for themselves. That be far from me! In publishing my book (although it
is written in simple style) _I had one object only_, viz., to give to
the world a story which, although it does not contain the whole of the
truth, as regards this wondrous war, yet contains nothing but the
truth.

The original has been written by me in Dutch, and I can therefore not be
answerable for its translation into other languages.

C. R. DE WET.




Contents


CHAPTER                                                              PAGE

     I. I GO ON COMMANDO AS A PRIVATE BURGHER                           3

    II. NICHOLSON'S NEK                                                13

   III. LADYSMITH BESIEGED                                             19

    IV. I AM APPOINTED VECHTGENERAAL                                   22

     V. THE OVERWHELMING FORCES OF LORD ROBERTS                        26

    VI. PAARDEBERG                                                     39

   VII. THE WILD FLIGHT FROM POPLAR GROVE                              49

  VIII. THE BURGHERS RECEIVE PERMISSION TO RETURN TO THEIR HOMES       56

    IX. SANNA'S POST                                                   61

     X. FOUR HUNDRED AND SEVENTY ENGLISH TAKEN PRISONER AT REDDERSBURG 71

    XI. AN UNSUCCESSFUL SIEGE                                          77

   XII. THE ENGLISH SWARM OVER OUR COUNTRY                             82

  XIII. OUR POSITION AT THE END OF MAY, 1900                           92

   XIV. ROODEWAL                                                       96

    XV. I MAKE LORD KITCHENER'S ACQUAINTANCE                          108

   XVI. BETHLEHEM IS CAPTURED BY THE ENGLISH                          117

  XVII. THE SURRENDER OF PRINSLOO                                     123

 XVIII. I AM DRIVEN INTO THE TRANSVAAL                                129

   XIX. I RETURN TO THE FREE STATE                                    144

    XX. THE OATH OF NEUTRALITY                                        156

   XXI. FREDERIKSSTAD AND BOTHAVILLE                                  161

  XXII. MY MARCH TO THE SOUTH                                         172

 XXIII. I FAIL TO ENTER CAPE COLONY                                   180

  XXIV. WHEREIN SOMETHING IS FOUND ABOUT WAR AGAINST WOMEN            191

   XXV. I AGAIN ATTEMPT TO ENTER CAPE COLONY                          197

  XXVI. DARKNESS PROVES MY SALVATION                                  215

 XXVII. WAS OURS A GUERILLA WAR?                                      225

XXVIII. NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE ENEMY                                   230

  XXIX. PRESIDENT STEYN'S NARROW ESCAPE                               242

   XXX. THE LAST PROCLAMATION                                         246

  XXXI. BLOCKHOUSES AND NIGHT ATTACKS                                 260

 XXXII. MY COMMANDO OF SEVEN HUNDRED MEN                              267

XXXIII. A SUCCESS AT TWEEFONTEIN                                      275

 XXXIV. I CUT MY WAY THROUGH SIXTY THOUSAND TROOPS                    284

  XXXV. I GO TO THE TRANSVAAL WITH PRESIDENT STEYN                    298

 XXXVI. PEACE NEGOTIATIONS                                            305

XXXVII. THE END OF THE WAR                                            319

CORRESPONDENCE                                                        325


APPENDICES

A.--REPORT OF THE MEETING OF THE GENERAL REPRESENTATIVES HELD AT
      VEREENIGING IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN REPUBLIC ON THE 15TH OF
      MAY, 1902, AND THE FOLLOWING DAYS                              333

B.--THE CONFERENCE AT PRETORIA BETWEEN THE COMMISSION OF THE
      NATIONAL REPRESENTATIVES AND LORDS KITCHENER AND MILNER
      (MAY 19TH-MAY 28TH, 1902)                                      365

C.--MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE SPECIAL NATIONAL
      REPRESENTATIVES AT VEREENIGING, SOUTH AFRICAN REPUBLIC,
      THURSDAY, THE 29TH OF MAY, 1902, AND THE FOLLOWING DAYS        397

INDEX                                                                429

MAP                                                   _At end of volume_




THREE YEARS WAR




CHAPTER I

I Go on Commando as a Private Burgher


In the month of September, 1899, the burghers of the Orange Free State
were notified, under the Commando Law, to hold themselves in readiness
to go on active service at the shortest possible notice.

Before proceeding any further I should like to explain that portion of
the Commando Law which dealt with commandeering. It stipulated that
every burgher between the ages of sixteen and sixty must be prepared to
fight for his country at any moment; and that, if required for active
service, he must provide himself with a riding-horse, saddle and bridle,
with a rifle and thirty cartridges--or, if he were unable to obtain a
rifle, he must bring with him thirty bullets, thirty caps, and half a
pound of powder--in addition he must be provisioned for eight days. That
there should have been an alternative to the rifle was due to the fact
that the law was made at a time when only a few burghers possessed
breech-loading rifles--_achterlaaiers_, as we call them.

With reference to the provisions the law did not specify their quality
or quantity, but there was an unwritten but strictly observed rule
amongst the burghers that they should consist of meat cut in strips,
salted, peppered, and dried, or else of sausages and "Boer biscuits."[1]
With regard to quantity, each burgher had to make his own estimate of
the amount he would require for eight days.

It was not long after they were notified to hold themselves ready that
the burghers were called up for active service. On the 2nd of October,
1899, the order came. On that day the Veldtcornets, or their
lieutenants, visited every farm and commandeered the men.

Amongst the commandeered was I; and thus, as a private burgher, I
entered on the campaign. With me were my three sons--Kootie, Isaac, and
Christiaan.

The following day the men of the sub-district of Krom Ellenborg, in the
district of Heilbron--to which I belonged--mustered at Elandslaagte
Farm. The Veldtcornet of this sub-district was Mr. Marthinus Els, and
the Commandant of the whole contingent Mr. Lucas Steenekamp. It soon
became known that the War Commission had decided that our commando was
to proceed as rapidly as possible to the Natal frontier, and that with
us were to go the troops from Vrede and Harrismith, as well as some from
Bethlehem, Winburg, and Kroonstad. Carrying out these orders, we all
arrived at Harrismith six days later.

Commando life now began in real earnest.

The eight days during which the burghers had to feed themselves were
soon over, and now it was the duty of the Government to provide for
them.

It may be interesting to mention here that the British commissariat
differed greatly from ours. Rations were served out daily to their
troops. Each soldier received the same quantity and the same quality as
his comrade. Our methods were very different, except as regards flour,
coffee, sugar, and other articles of that nature. The British soldier,
for instance, received his meat ready cooked in the form of bully-beef
(_blikkiescost_ we called it), whilst the burgher received his meat raw,
and had to cook it as best he could.

Before I leave this subject I may be forgiven if I describe the method
of distributing meat to the burghers. After it had been cut up, the
Vleeschkorporaal[2] handed out the pieces--a sufficiently responsible
task, as it proved, for, as the portions differed much in quality, it
became of the first importance that the Vleeschkorporaal should be a man
whose impartiality was above suspicion. To avoid any temptations to
favouritism, this useful personage used to turn his back on the
burghers, and as the men came up in turn he would pick up the piece of
meat which lay nearest to hand and, without looking round, give it to
the man who was waiting behind him to receive it.

This arrangement should have been satisfactory to all, but it sometimes
happened that some burgher, whom fortune had not favoured, made no
effort to conceal his discontent, and thus squabbles frequently
occurred. Then the Vleeschkorporaal, fully convinced of his own
uprightness, would let his tongue go, and the burgher who had complained
was a man to be pitied. But such quarrels only occurred early in the
campaign. By the time that the Vleeschkorporaal had been a few weeks at
his work he had gained a considerable knowledge of human nature, and the
injustice of his fellows no longer troubled him. Accordingly he allowed
the complaints of the men to go in at one ear and at once to come out at
the other. The burghers, too, soon became convinced of the foolishness
of their conduct, and learnt the lesson of content and forbearance.

As I have already stated, the burgher had to boil or roast his own meat.
The roasting was done on a spit cut in the shape of a fork, the wood
being obtained from a branch of the nearest tree. A more ambitious fork
was manufactured from fencing wire, and had sometimes even as many as
four prongs. A skillful man would so arrange the meat on his spit as to
have alternate pieces of fat and of lean, and thus get what we used to
call a _bout span_.[3]

The burghers utilized the flour supplied to them in making cakes; these
they cooked in boiling fat, and called them _stormjagers_[4] or
_maagbommen_.[5]

Later on, the British, finding that by looting our cattle they could get
fresh meat for nothing, were no longer forced to be content with
bully-beef. They then, like ourselves, killed oxen and sheep; but,
unlike us, were very wasteful with it. Often, in the camping places they
had vacated, we found the remains of half-eaten oxen, sheep, pigs, and
poultry.

But I shall not go further into this matter. I leave it to other pens to
describe how the British looted our property, wantonly killed our
cattle, and devastated our farms. In the course of this narrative my
intention is to mention only those cases which I saw with my own eyes.
The reader, perusing them, may well pause in surprise and cry out, "Can
such things be possible?" To such a question I have only one
answer--"They actually occurred, and so my only course is to record
them."

But enough of these digressions. Let me return to my proper subject--the
story of my own experiences and doings in the great struggle which took
place between Boer and Briton.

As I have already said, I had been commandeered, and, together with the
other burghers of the Heilbron commando, had just reached Harrismith, on
the road to the south-eastern frontier.

During our stay there the other commandos, in obedience to Commando Law,
joined us, and we proceeded to elect a Commander-in-Chief. The
Commandants present were Steenekamp, of Heilbron; Anthonie Lombaard, of
Vrede; C.J. De Villiers, of Harrismith; Hans Nande, of Bethlehem;
Marthinus Prinsloo, of Winburg; and C. Nel, of Kroonstad. The result of
the voting was that Prinsloo was chosen for the supreme command.

Then the burghers of Winburg selected Mr. Theunissen as their
Commandant. He fulfilled his duties admirably, until he was made a
prisoner of war. This happened when he was leading a courageous attack
at Paardeberg in order to relieve General Piet Cronje.

From Harrismith our commando advanced to within six miles of the
Natal-Free State frontier, and camped not far from Bezuidenhoutspas, in
the Drakensberg. This imposing range of mountains, which then formed the
dividing line between Boer and British territory, slopes down gently
into the Free State, but on the Natal side is very steep and
precipitous.

The day after we had elected our Commander-in-Chief I was sent by
Commandant Steenekamp, with a small detachment of burghers, to the Natal
frontier. I saw nothing of the English there, for they had abandoned all
their positions on the frontier shortly before the beginning of the war.
When I returned in the evening I found that the burghers had chosen me,
in my absence, as Vice-Commandant[6] under Commandant Steenekamp.

It was at five o'clock on the afternoon of that day--the 11th of
October, 1899--that the time, which the ultimatum allowed to England,
expired. The British had not complied with the terms which the South
African Republic demanded--the time for negotiations had passed, and war
had actually broken out.

On this very day martial law was proclaimed by the Governments of the
two Republics, and orders were given to occupy the passes on the
Drakensberg. Commander-in-Chief Prinsloo despatched Steenekamp that
night to Bezuidenhoutspas. Eastwards from there the following commandos
were to hold the passes:--Bothaspas was to be occupied by the commando
from Vrede; Van Reenen's Pass by the commandos from Harrismith and
Winburg; and Tintwaspas by the commando from Kroonstad. Westwards, the
burghers from Bethlehem were to guard Oliviershoekpas.

Commandant Steenekamp was very ill that night, and was unable to set
out; he accordingly ordered me to take his place and to proceed forward
with six hundred burghers.

Although I had only to cover six miles, it cost me considerable thought
to arrange everything satisfactorily. This was due to the fact that real
discipline did not exist among the burghers. As the war proceeded,
however, a great improvement manifested itself in this matter, although
as long as the struggle lasted our discipline was always far from
perfect. I do not intend to imply that the burghers were unwilling or
unruly; it was only that they were quite unaccustomed to being under
orders. When I look back upon the campaign I realize how gigantic a task
I performed in regulating everything in accordance with my wishes.

It did not take me long to get everything arranged, and we made an early
start.

It was impossible to say what might lie before us. In spite of the fact
that I had visited the spot the day before, I had not been able to cross
the frontier. The English might have been on the precipitous side of the
mountains under the ridge without my being any the wiser. Perhaps on our
arrival we should find them in possession of the pass, occupying good
positions and quite prepared for our coming.

Everything went well with us, however, and no untoward incident
occurred. When the sun rose the following morning the whole country, as
far as the eye could reach, lay before us calm and peaceful.

I sent a full report of my doings to Commandant Steenekamp, and that
evening he himself, although still far from well, appeared with the
remaining part of the commando. He brought the news that war had started
in grim earnest. General De la Rey had attacked and captured an armoured
train at Kraaipan.

Some days after this a war council was held at Van Reenen's Pass under
Commander-in-Chief Marthinus Prinsloo. As Commandant Steenekamp, owing
to his illness, was unable to be present, I attended the council in his
place. It was decided that a force of two thousand burghers, under
Commandant C.J. De Villiers, of Harrismith, as Vice-Vechtgeneraal,[7]
should go down into Natal, and that the remaining forces should guard
the passes on the Drakensberg.

Let me say, in parenthesis, that the laws of the Orange Free State make
no allusion to the post of Vechtgeneraal. But shortly before the war
began the Volksraad had given the President the power to appoint such an
officer. At the same session the President was allowed the veto on all
laws dealing with war.

As Commandant Steenekamp was still prevented by his health from going to
the front, I was ordered, as Vice-Commandant of the Heilbron commando,
to proceed with five hundred men to Natal.

It soon became apparent that we had been sent to Natal with the object
of cutting off the English who were stationed at Dundee and
Elandslaagte. We were to be aided in our task by the Transvaalers who
were coming from Volksrust and by a party of burghers from Vrede, all
under the command of General Roch.

We did not arrive in time to be successful in this plan. That there had
been some bungling was not open to question. Yet I am unable to assert
to whom our failure was due--whether to the Commandants of the South
African Republic, or to Commander-in-Chief Prinsloo, or to Vechtgeneraal
De Villiers. For then I was merely a Vice-Commandant, who had not to
_give_ orders, but to obey them. But whoever was to blame, it is
certainly true that when, early in the morning of the 23rd of October, I
cut the line near Dundee, I discovered that the English had retreated to
Ladysmith. It was General Yule who had led them, and he gained great
praise in British circles for the exploit.

If we had only reached our destination a little sooner we should have
cut off their retreating troops and given them a very warm time. But now
that they had joined their comrades at Ladysmith, we had to be prepared
for an attack from their combined forces, and that before the
Transvaalers, who were still at Dundee, could reinforce us.

The British did not keep us long in anxiety.

At eight o'clock the following morning--the 24th of October--they came
out of Ladysmith, and the battle of Modder Spruit[8] began. With the
sole exception of the skirmish between the Harrismith burghers and the
Carabineers at Bester Station on the 18th of October, when Jonson, a
burgher of Harrismith, was killed--the earliest victim in our fight for
freedom--this was the first fighting the Free-Staters had seen.

We occupied kopjes which formed a large semicircle to the west of the
railway between Ladysmith and Dundee. Our only gun was placed on the
side of a high kop on our western wing. Our men did not number more than
a thousand--the other burghers had remained behind as a rear-guard at
Bester Station.

With three batteries of guns the English marched to the attack, the
troops leading the way, the guns some distance behind. A deafening
cannonade was opened on us by the enemy's artillery, at a range of about
4,500 yards. Our gun fired a few shots in return, but was soon silenced,
and we had to remove it from its position. Small arms were our only
weapons for the remainder of the contest.

The English at once began as usual to attack our flanks, but they did
not attempt to get round our wings. Their object appeared to be to keep
us in small parties, so that we should be unable to concentrate a large
force anywhere.

Meanwhile the troops which were making the attack pushed on closer and
closer to us. The country was of such a nature that they were able to
get quite near to us without coming under our fire, for small kloofs[9]
and other inequalities of the ground afforded them excellent cover. But
when they did show themselves they were met by such a frightful and
unceasing fire that they could not approach nearer than two hundred
paces from our lines.

The brunt of the attack was borne by the burghers from Kroonstad, who,
under Commandant Nel, formed our western wing. More to the east, where I
myself was, our men had less to endure. But every burgher, wherever he
might be, fought with the greatest courage. Although there were some who
fell killed or wounded, there was no sign of yielding throughout the
whole battle, and every one of our positions we successfully held.

Till three o'clock in the afternoon we kept up our rifle fire on the
English, and then we ceased, for the enemy, realizing the impossibility
of driving us out of our positions, withdrew to Ladysmith. Shortly
afterwards we were able to go over the battlefield. There were not many
dead or wounded to be seen; but burghers who had been stationed on the
high kop previously mentioned had seen the English remove their wounded
during the engagement.

We ourselves had eleven men killed and twenty-one wounded, of whom two
subsequently died. This loss touched us deeply, yet it was encouraging
to notice that it had not the effect of disheartening a single officer
or burgher.

Just as the battle began Mr. A.P. Cronje arrived on the scene. He had
been nominated by the President as Vechtgeneraal, and had taken over the
command from Vice-General C.J. De Villiers. He was most useful in this
engagement. When it was over I agreed with him in thinking that our
forces were too weak to pursue the retreating English troops. As soon
as I was able to leave my position it gave me great pleasure to shake
hands with him, for he was an old friend and fellow-member of the
Volksraad. It was pleasant to greet him as Vechtgeneraal--he was the son
of a valiant officer who had fought in the Basuto war of 1865 and 1866.
He had reached the age of sixty-six years, an age when it is very hard
for a man to have to stand the strain which the duties of a
Vechtgeneraal necessarily entail.

[Footnote 1: Small loaves manufactured of flour, with fermented raisins
instead of yeast, and twice baked.]

[Footnote 2: Officer in charge of the meat--literally, Flesh-corporal.]

[Footnote 3: Literally, a team of oxen which are not all of the same
colour.]

[Footnote 4: Storm-hunters; so-called from being rapidly cooked.]

[Footnote 5: Stomach-bombs--a reflection on their wholesomeness.]

[Footnote 6: A Vice-Commandant has no duties to fulfil so long as the
Commandant is himself in camp and fit for work.]

[Footnote 7: Fighting general.]

[Footnote 8: Sometimes referred to as the battle of Rietfontein.]

[Footnote 9: Water-courses.]




CHAPTER II

Nicholson's Nek


Until the 29th of October we retained our positions at Rietfontein. On
that date General Joubert joined us with a portion of the Transvaal
commandos. On his arrival it was settled that the Transvaalers should
proceed to the north of Ladysmith and occupy positions on the east of
Nicholson's Nek, whilst the Free-Staters were to go to the west and
north-west of that town.

A party of burghers, under Commandant Nel, of Kroonstad, were ordered to
station themselves on a kop with a flat top, called Swartbooiskop,[10]
an hour and a half to the south of Nicholson's Nek. After the battle
which was fought on the 30th of November this kop was christened by us
Little Majuba.

Just after sunrise on the 30th of November the roaring of cannon came to
our ears. The sound came from the extreme end of our position, where the
Transvaalers were stationed. No sooner did we hear it than the order to
off-saddle was given. I myself asked Commandant Steenekamp, who had
arrived the previous day from Bezuidenhoutspas, to go to General Croup's
laager, about two miles distant, and to request him to advance to where
the firing was taking place. To this request General Croup acceded, and
Commandant Steenekamp went there with three hundred men, of whom I was
one. Our way led past the kop to the south of Nicholson's Nek. What a
sight met our gaze on our arrival there!

The kop was occupied by the English.

This must be ascribed to the negligence of Commandant Nel, who had
orders to guard the kop. He excused himself by assuring us that he had
been under the impression that one of his Veldtcornets and a number of
burghers were occupying the hill.

What could we do now?

Commandant Steenekamp and I decided that we must storm the hill with the
three hundred men whom we had at our disposal. And this we did, and were
sufficiently fortunate to capture the northern point of the kop.

On reaching the summit we discovered that the British troops occupied
positions extending from the southern point to the middle of the
mountain.

The enemy, the moment we appeared on the ridge, opened a heavy rifle
fire upon us. We answered with as severe a fusillade as theirs. Whilst
we were shooting, twenty of Commandant Nel's men joined us and helped us
to hold our ground. When we had been engaged in this way for some time
we saw that the only possible course was to fight our way from position
to position towards the English lines.

I now observed that the mountain top was of an oblong shape, extending
from north to south for about a thousand paces. At the northern end,
where we were, the surface was smooth, but somewhat further south it
became rough and stony, affording very good cover. In our present
situation we were thus almost completely exposed to the enemy's fire.
The English, on the other hand, had excellent positions. There were a
number of ruined Kaffir kraals scattered about from the middle of the
mountain to its southern end, and these the enemy had occupied, thus
securing a great advantage.

Our bullets hailed on the English, and very shortly they retreated to
the southernmost point of the mountain. This gave us the chance for
which we had been waiting, for now we could take the splendid positions
they had left.

Whilst this was going on an amusing incident occurred. A Jew came up to
a burgher who was lying behind a stone, on a piece of ground where
boulders were scarce.

"Sell me that stone for half-a-crown," whined the Jew.

"Loop!"[11] the Boer cried; "I want it myself."

"I will give you fifteen shillings," insisted the Jew.

Although the Boer had never before possessed anything that had risen in
value with such surprising rapidity, at that moment he was anything but
ready to drive a bargain with the Jew, and without any hesitation he
positively declined to do business.

In the positions from which the English had retired we found several
dead and wounded men, and succeeded in capturing some prisoners.

The enemy were now very strongly posted at the south end of the
mountain, for there were in their neighbourhood many Kaffir kraals and
huge boulders to protect them from our marksmen. Their fire on us became
still more severe and unceasing, and their bullets whistled and sang
above our heads, or flattened themselves against the stones. We gave at
least as good as we got, and this was so little to their liking that
very soon a few white flags appeared in the kraals on their left wing,
and from that quarter the firing stopped suddenly.

I immediately gave the order to cease fire and to advance towards the
enemy. All at once the English blazed away at us again. On our part, we
replied with vigour. But that did not continue long. In a very short
time white flags fluttered above every kraal--the victory was ours.

I have no wish to say that a misuse of the white flag had taken place. I
was told when the battle was over that the firing had continued, because
the men on our eastern wing had not observed what their comrades on
their left had done. And this explanation I willingly accept.

Our force in this engagement consisted only of three hundred men from
Heilbron, twenty from Kroonstad, and forty or fifty from the
Johannesburg Police, these latter under Captain Van Dam. The Police had
arrived on the battlefield during the fighting, and had behaved in a
most praiseworthy manner.

But I overestimate our numbers, for it was not the _whole_ of the
Heilbron contingent that reached the firing line. We had to leave some
of them behind with the horses at the foot of the kop, and there were
others who remained at the first safe position they reached--a frequent
occurrence at that period.

I took careful note of our numbers when the battle was over, and I can
state with certainty that there were not more than two hundred burghers
actually engaged.

Our losses amounted to four killed and five wounded. As to the losses of
the English, I myself counted two hundred and three dead and wounded,
and there may have been many whom I did not see. In regard to our
prisoners, as they marched past me four deep I counted eight hundred and
seventeen.

In addition to the prisoners we also captured two Maxim and two mountain
guns. They, however, were out of order, and had not been used by the
English. The prisoners told us that parts of their big guns had been
lost in the night, owing to a stampede of the mules which carried them,
and consequently that the guns were incomplete when they reached the
mountain. Shortly afterwards we found the mules with the missing parts
of the guns.

It was very lucky for us that the English were deprived of the use of
their guns, for it placed them on the same footing as ourselves, as it
compelled them to rely entirely on their rifles. Still they had the
advantage of position, not to mention the fact that they out-numbered us
by four to one.

The guns did not comprise the whole of our capture: we also seized a
thousand Lee-Metford rifles, twenty cases of cartridges, and some
baggage mules and horses.

The fighting had continued without intermission from nine o'clock in the
morning until two in the afternoon. The day was exceedingly hot, and as
there was no water to be obtained nearer than a mile from the berg,[12]
we suffered greatly from thirst. The condition of the wounded touched my
heart deeply. It was pitiable to hear them cry, "Water! water!"

I ordered my burghers to carry these unfortunate creatures to some
thorn-bushes, which afforded shelter from the scorching rays of the sun,
and where their doctors could attend to them. Other burghers I told off
to fetch water from our prisoners' canteens, to supply our own wounded.

As soon as the wounded were safe under the shelter of the trees I
despatched a message to Sir George White asking him to send his
ambulance to fetch them, and also to make arrangements for the burial of
his dead. For some unexplained reason, the English ambulance did not
arrive till the following morning.

We stayed on the mountain until sunset, and then went down to the
laager. I ordered my brother, Piet de Wet, with fifty men of the
Bethlehem commando, to remain behind and guard the kop.

We reached camp at eight o'clock, and as the men had been without food
during the whole day it can be imagined with what delight each watched
his _bout span_ frizzling on the spit. This, with a couple of
_stormjagers_ and a tin of coffee, made up the meal, and speedily
restored them. They were exempted from sentry duty that night, and
greatly enjoyed their well-earned rest.

To complete my narrative of the day's work, I have only to add that the
Transvaal burghers were engaged at various points some eight miles from
Nicholson's Nek, and succeeded in taking four hundred prisoners.

We placed our sentries that evening with the greatest care. They were
stationed not only at a distance from the camp, as _Brandwachten_,[13]
but also close round the laager itself. We were especially careful, as
it was rumoured that the English had armed the Zulus of Natal. Had this
been true, it would have been necessary to exercise the utmost vigilance
to guard against these barbarians.

Since the very beginning of our existence as a nation--in 1836--our
people had been acquainted with black races, and bitter had been their
experience. All that our _voortrekkers_[14] had suffered was indelibly
stamped on our memory. We well knew what the Zulus could do under cover
of darkness--their sanguinary night attacks were not easily forgotten.
Their name of "night-wolves" had been well earned. Also we Free-Staters
had endured much from the Basutos, in the wars of 1865 and 1867.

History had thus taught us to place _Brandwachten_ round our laagers at
night, and to reconnoitre during the hours of darkness as well as in the
day-time.

Perhaps I shall be able to give later on a fuller account in these
pages--or, it may be, in another book--of the way we were accustomed to
reconnoitre, and of the reasons why the scouting of the British so
frequently ended in disaster. But I cannot resist saying here that the
English only learnt the art of scouting during the latter part of the
war, when they made use of the Boer deserters--the "Hands-uppers."

These deserters were our undoing. I shall have a good deal more to say
about them before I finally lay down my pen, and I shall not hesitate to
call them by their true name--the name with which they will be for ever
branded before all the nations of the world.

[Footnote 10: About nine miles: distance reckoned by average pace of
ridden horse--six miles an hour.]

[Footnote 11: Clear off.]

[Footnote 12: Hill.]

[Footnote 13: Literally, watch-fire men. They were the furthest
outposts, whose duty it was to signal by means of their fires.]

[Footnote 14: Pioneers.]




CHAPTER III

Ladysmith Besieged


The Orange Free State and the South African Republic held a joint
council of war on the 1st of November, and it was then decided to lay
siege to Ladysmith.

We also agreed to send out a horse-commando in the direction of
Estcourt. This commando, under Vice-General Louis Botha, had several
skirmishes with the enemy. On the 15th of November he engaged an
armoured train, capturing a hundred of the British troops. This was
General Botha's chief exploit, and shortly afterwards he returned to
camp. But I must not anticipate.

On the night of the council of war, General Piet Cronje was sent to
occupy positions to the south and south-west of Ladysmith. He had with
him the Heilbron burghers, a part of the commandos from Winburg and
Harrismith, and two Krupp guns. On the following day a brush took place
with the enemy, who, however, speedily fell back on Ladysmith. On the
3rd, a few of their infantry regiments, with a thousand or fifteen
hundred mounted troops, and two batteries of 15 and 12-pound Armstrong
guns, marched out of the town in a south-westerly direction.

The English brought these two guns into position at such a distance from
us that we could not reach them with the Mauser; nor would it have been
safe for us to advance upon them, for between them and us lay an open
plain, which would have afforded no cover. One of our guns, which was
placed exactly in front of the enemy, did indeed begin to fire; but
after a shot or two, it received so much attention from the English
artillery that we were compelled--just as at Rietfontein--to desist.

The British infantry and cavalry did not show any excessive eagerness to
tackle us; and we, on our side, were as disinclined to come to close
quarters with them. Nevertheless, the enemy's infantry, backed up by the
thunder of twelve guns, did make an attempt to reach us; but though they
advanced repeatedly, they were for the most part careful to keep out of
range of our rifles. When they neglected this precaution, they soon
found themselves compelled to retire with loss.

Our second gun, which had been placed on a _tafel-kop_[15] to the east
of the ground where the engagement was taking place, did excellent work.
It effectually baulked the enemy's mounted troops in their repeated
efforts to outflank us on that side, and also made it impossible for the
English to bring their guns farther east, so as to command the
_tafel-kop_. They did, indeed, make an attempt to place some guns
between us and Platrand, which lay to the north of our eastern position,
but it was unsuccessful, for our Krupp on the _tafel-kop_ brought such a
heavy fire to bear on the troops and gunners, that they were forced to
retire.

We, on our part, as I have already said, found it equally impossible to
storm the English positions. To advance would have been to expose
ourselves to the fire of their heavy guns, whereas an attack to the
south would have involved exposure to a cross-fire from the guns on
Platrand.

Altogether it was a most unsatisfactory engagement for us both. Nothing
decisive was effected; and, as is always the case in such battles,
little was done except by the big guns, which kept up a perpetual roar
from ten in the morning until five in the afternoon. At that hour the
British fell back on Ladysmith.

Our loss was one killed and six wounded, among the latter being
Veldtcornet Marthinus Els, of Heilbron.

It was evident that the English did not escape without loss, but we were
unable to ascertain its extent. My own opinion is that they did not lose
very heavily.

From that day nothing of importance happened until I left Natal; though
both the Transvaalers and Free State burghers had a few slight brushes
with the enemy.

During the night of December the 7th, "Long Tom," the big Transvaal gun,
which had been placed on Bulwana Hill, had been so seriously damaged by
dynamite, that it had to remain out of action for some time. We all
admitted that the English on that occasion acted with great skill and
prudence, and that the courage of their leaders deserved every praise.
Yet, if we had only been on our guard, we might have beaten off the
storming party; but they had caught us unawares. Nevertheless, the
mishap taught us a useful lesson: henceforth the Transvaal Commandants
were more strict, and their increased severity had an excellent effect
both on the burghers and gunners.

General Sir Redvers Buller had landed at Cape Town early in November. We
were now expecting every day to hear that he had assumed the chief
command over the English army encamped between Estcourt and Colenso. The
number of troops there was continually increasing owing to the
reinforcements which kept pouring in from over the ocean.

Great things were expected of Sir Redvers Buller, to whom the Boers, by
a play of words, had given a somewhat disrespectful nick-name. He had
not been long in Natal before his chance came. I must, however, be
silent about his successes and his failures, for, as I left Natal on the
9th of December, I had no personal experience of his methods. But this I
will say, that whatever his own people have to say to his discredit, Sir
Redvers Buller had to operate against stronger positions than any other
English general in South Africa.

[Footnote 15: A table-shaped mountain.]




CHAPTER IV

I am Appointed Vechtgeneraal


Up to the 9th of December I had only been a Vice-Commandant, but on the
morning of that day I received a telegram from States-President Steyn,
asking me to go to the Western frontier as Vechtgeneraal.

This came as a great surprise to me, and I telegraphed back to the
President asking for time to think the matter over. To tell the truth, I
should have much preferred to go through the campaign as a private
burgher.

Almost immediately after this there came another telegram--this time
from Mr. A. Fisscher, a member of the Executive Council, and a man whom
I respected greatly on account of his official position. He urged me not
to decline the appointment, but to proceed at once to the Western
borders. I did not know what to do. However, after deliberating for a
short time, and with great difficulty overcoming my disinclination to
leave my present associates, I decided to accept the post offered to me.
Commandant Steenekamp was kind enough to allow me to take with me
fourteen men, with whom I had been on especially friendly terms; and,
after a few parting words to the Heilbron burghers, in which I thanked
them for all the pleasant times I had passed in their company, I left
the laager.

It was heart-breaking to tear myself away from my commando: that 9th of
December was a day which I shall never forget.

The following morning I arrived, with my staff, at Elandslaagte Station,
on our way to Bloemfontein. A special train, provided by the Transvaal
authorities, at the request of my Government, was waiting for us, and
we started without a moment's delay. As we journeyed on, the conductor
would sometimes ask me whether I should like to stop at such and such a
station, but my answer was always:

"No! no! hurry on!"

But when we got as far as Viljoen's Drift, there was an end to my
"special train!" In spite of the Government's orders that I was to be
sent forward without delay, I had to wait six hours, and then be content
to travel as an ordinary passenger.

At Bloemfontein we found everything ready for us, and at once started on
our journey of sixty or seventy miles to Magersfontein, where we arrived
on December the 16th.

During the time I had spent in travelling, three important engagements
had taken place, namely those of Colenso, Magersfontein and Stormberg.
At Colenso, the English had suffered heavy losses, and ten guns had
fallen into our hands. Magersfontein also had cost them dear, and there
General Wauchope had met his fate; while at Stormberg seven hundred of
them had been taken prisoners, and three of their big guns had been
captured by us.

At Magersfontein were six or seven thousand Transvaal burghers under
General Piet Cronje, with General De la Rey as second in command. Thus
it fell to my lot to take over the command of the Free-Staters. The
Commander-in-Chief of these Free State burghers, as well as of those who
were camped round Kimberley, was Mr. C.J. Wessels; Mr. E.R. Grobler
commanded at Colesberg, and Mr. J.H. Olivier at Stormberg.

I spent my first few days at Magersfontein in organizing the Free State
burghers. When this task had been accomplished, General De la Rey and I
asked General Cronje's permission to take fifteen hundred men, and carry
on operations in the direction of Hopetown and De Aar with the intention
of breaking Lord Methuen's railway communications. But Cronje would
hear nothing of the scheme. Say what we would, there was no moving him.
He absolutely refused to allow fifteen hundred of his men to leave their
positions at Magersfontein, unless the Government found it impossible to
procure that number of burghers from elsewhere. Thus our plan came to
nothing.

Shortly afterwards De la Rey was sent to the commandos at Colesberg, and
I succeeded him in the command of the Transvaalers at Magersfontein. The
Government then put General Wessels in sole command at Kimberley, and
gave General Cronje the chief command over the Free State burghers at
Magersfontein. Thus it was that I, as Vechtgeneraal, had to receive my
orders from Cronje. I had the following Commandants under me: Du Preez,
of Hoopstad; Grobler, of Fauresmith; D. Lubbe, of Jacobsdal; Piet
Fourie, of Bloemfontein; J. Kok and Jordaan, of Winburg; Ignatius
Ferreira, of Ladybrand; Paul De Villiers, of Ficksburg; Du Plessis, and,
subsequently, Commandant Diederiks, of Boshof.

       *       *       *       *       *

The English had entrenched themselves at the Modder River, we at
Magersfontein. There was little or nothing for us to do, and yet I never
had a more troublesome time in my life. I had all the Transvaalers under
my orders, in addition to the burghers of the Free State, and the
positions which I had to inspect every day extended over a distance of
fifteen miles from end to end. I had to listen to constant complaints;
one of the officers would say that he could not hold out against an
attack if it were delivered at such and such a point; another, that he
had not sufficient troops with him, not to mention other remarks which
were nonsensical in the extreme.

In the meantime, the enemy was shelling our positions unceasingly. Not a
day passed but two of their Lyddite guns dropped shells amongst us.
Sometimes not more than four or five reached us in the twenty-four
hours; at other times from fifty to two hundred, and once as many as
four hundred and thirty-six.

In spite of this, we had but few mishaps. Indeed, I can only remember
three instances of any one being hurt by the shells. A young burgher,
while riding behind a ridge and thus quite hidden from the enemy, was
hit by a bomb, and both he and his horse were blown to atoms. This youth
was a son of Mr. Gideon van Tonder, a member of the Executive Council.
Another Lyddite shell so severely wounded two brothers, named Wolfaard,
Potchefstroom burghers, that we almost despaired of their lives.
Nevertheless, they recovered. I do not want to imply that the British
Artillery were poor shots. Far from it. Their range was very good, and,
as they had plenty of practice every day, shot after shot went home. I
ascribe our comparative immunity to a Higher Power, which averted
misfortune from us.

I had not been long at Magersfontein before I became convinced that Lord
Methuen was most unlikely to make another attack on our extensive
positions. I said nothing of this to any of the burghers, but on more
than one occasion, I told General Cronje what I thought about the
matter.

"The enemy," I repeated to him over and over again, "will not attack us
here. He will flank us." But Cronje would not listen to me.

The presence of women in our laager was a great hindrance to me in my
work. Indeed, I opened a correspondence with the Government on the
matter, and begged them to forbid it. But here again my efforts were
unavailing. Later on, we shall see in what a predicament the Republican
laagers were placed through the toleration of this irregularity.

Meanwhile, the inevitable results of Cronje's policy became more and
more apparent to me, and before long we had to suffer for his obstinacy
in keeping us to our trenches and _schanzes_.[16]

[Footnote 16: A shelter-mound of earth and boulders.]




CHAPTER V

The Overwhelming Forces of Lord Roberts


I speedily discovered the object which the English had in view in taking
such advanced positions and in bombarding Magersfontein. They wished to
give us the impression that they were able to attack us at any moment
and so to keep us tied to our positions. In the meantime they were
making preparations in another direction, for the movement which was
really intended--namely, the advance of Lord Roberts with his
overwhelming force.

The Commander-in-Chief, Piet de Wet (and before him Commandant H.
Schorman), had plenty of work given them by the English. But General De
la Rey had been so successful that he had prevented Lord Roberts,
notwithstanding the enormous numbers he commanded, from crossing the
Orange River at Norvalspont, and had thus forced him to take the Modder
River route.

Lord Roberts would have found it more convenient to have crossed the
Orange River, for the railway runs through Norvalspont. Yet had he
attempted it, he would have fared as badly as Sir Redvers Buller did in
Natal. Our positions at Colesberg, and to the north of the river, were
exceedingly strong. He was wise, therefore, in his decision to march
over the unbroken plains.

It was now, as I had foreseen, that the English renewed their flanking
tactics.

On the 11th of February, 1900, a strong contingent of mounted troops,
under General French, issued from the camps at Modder River and
Koedoesberg. This latter was a kop on the Riet River, about twelve
miles to the east of their main camp.

At ten o'clock in the morning, General French started. Immediately I
received orders from General Cronje to proceed with three hundred and
fifty men to check the advancing troops. As I stood on the ridges of
Magersfontein, I was able to look down upon the English camps, and I saw
that it would be sheer madness to pit three hundred and fifty men
against General French's large force. Accordingly I asked that one
hundred and fifty more burghers and two guns might be placed at my
disposal. This request, however, was refused, and so I had to proceed
without them.

When we arrived at Koedoesberg that afternoon, we found that the English
had already taken possession of the hill. They were stationed at its
southern end, and had nearly completed a stone wall across the hill from
east to west. Their camp was situated on the Riet River, which flows
beside the southern slopes of the _berg_. The enemy also held strong
positions on hillocks to the east of the mountain, whilst on the west
they occupied a ravine, which descended from the mountain to the river.

Commandant Froneman and I determined to storm the _berg_ without a
moment's delay. We reached the foot of the mountain in safety, and here
we were out of sight of the English. But it was impossible to remain in
this situation, and I gave orders that my men should climb the mountain.
We succeeded in reaching the summit, but were unable to get within seven
hundred paces of the enemy, owing to the severity of their fire from
behind the stone wall. And so we remained where we were until it became
quite dark, and then very quietly went back to the spot where we had
left our horses.

As General French was in possession of the river, we had to ride about
four miles before we could obtain any water.

Early the following morning we again occupied the positions we had held
on the previous evening. Although under a severe rifle fire, we then
rushed from position to position, and at last were only three hundred
paces from the enemy. And now I was forced to rest content with the
ground we had gained, for with only three hundred and fifty men I dare
not risk a further advance, owing to the strength of the enemy's
position.

The previous day I had asked General Cronje to send me reinforcements,
and I had to delay the advance until their arrival. In a very short time
a small party of burghers made their appearance. They had two
field-pieces with them, and were under the command of Major Albrecht. We
placed the guns in position and trained them on the English.

With the second shot we had found our range, while the third found its
mark in the wall, so that it was not long before the enemy had to
abandon that shelter. To find safe cover they were forced to retreat
some hundred paces. But we gained little by this, for the new positions
of the English were quite as good as those from which we had driven
them, and, moreover, were almost out of range of our guns. And we were
unable to bring our field-pieces any nearer because our gunners would
have been exposed to the enemy's rifle fire.

Our Krupps made good practice on the four English guns which had been
stationed on the river bank to the south. Up till now these had kept up
a terrific fire on our guns, but we soon drove them across the river, to
seek protection behind the mountain. I despatched General Froneman to
hold the river bank, and the _sluit_[17] which descended to the river
from the north. While carrying out this order he was exposed to a heavy
fire from the enemy's western wing, which was located in the
above-mentioned ravine, but he succeeded in reaching the river under
cover of the guns. Once there, the enemy's artillery made it impossible
for him to move.

And now a curious incident occurred! A falcon, hovering over the heads
of our burghers in the _sluit_, was hit by a bullet from one of the
shrapnel shells and fell dead to the ground in the midst of the men. It
was already half-past four, and we began to ask ourselves how the affair
would end. At this juncture I received a report from a burgher, whom I
had placed on the eastern side of the mountain to watch the movements of
the English at the Modder River. He told me that a mountain corps, eight
hundred to a thousand men strong, was approaching us with two guns, with
the intention, as it appeared, of outflanking us. I also learnt that
eighty of my men had retreated. I had stationed them that morning on a
hillock three miles to the east of the mountain, my object being to
prevent General French from surrounding us.

It now became necessary to check the advance of this mountain corps. But
how? There were only thirty-six men at my disposal. The other burghers
were in positions closer to the enemy, and I could not withdraw them
without exposing them too seriously to the bullets of the English. There
was nothing for it, but that I with my thirty-six burghers should attack
the force which threatened us.

We rushed down the mountain and jumping on our horses, galloped against
the enemy. When we arrived at the precipice which falls sheer from the
mountain, the English were already so near that our only course was to
charge them.

In front of us there was a plain which extended for some twelve hundred
paces to the foot of an abrupt rise in the ground. This we fortunately
reached before the English, although we were exposed all the way to the
fire of their guns. But even when we gained the rise we were little
better off, as it was too low to give us cover. The English were
scarcely more than four hundred paces from us. They dismounted and
opened a heavy fire. For ten or fifteen minutes we successfully kept
them back. Then the sun went down! and to my great relief the enemy
moved away in the direction of their comrades on the mountain. I ordered
all my men from their positions, and withdrew to the spot where we had
encamped the previous night. The burghers were exhausted by hunger and
thirst, for they had had nothing to eat except the provisions which they
had brought in their saddle-bags from the laager.

That evening Andreas Cronje--- the General's brother--joined us with two
hundred and fifty men and a Maxim-Nordenfeldt.

When the sun rose on the following day, the veldt was clear of the
enemy. General French had during the night retreated to headquarters.
What losses he had suffered I am unable to say; ours amounted to seven
wounded and two killed.

Our task here was now ended, and so we returned to Magersfontein.

The following morning a large force again left the English camp and took
the direction of the Koffiefontein diamond mine. General Cronje
immediately ordered me to take a force of four hundred and fifty men
with a Krupp and a Maxim-Nordenfeldt, and to drive back the enemy. At my
request, Commandants Andreas Cronje, Piet Fourie, Scholten and Lubbe
joined me, and that evening we camped quite close to the spot where the
English force was stationed!

Early the next day, before the enemy had made any movement, we started
for Blauwbank,[18] and, having arrived there, we took up our positions.
Shortly afterwards the fight began; it was confined entirely to the
artillery.

We soon saw that we should have to deal with the whole of Lord Roberts'
force, for there it was, advancing in the direction of Paardenberg's
Drift. It was thus clear that Lord Roberts had not sent his troops to
Koffiefontein with the intention of proceeding by that route to
Bloemfontein, but that his object had been to divide our forces, so as
to march via Paardenberg's Drift to the Capital.

I accordingly withdrew with three hundred and fifty of the burghers in
the direction of Koffiefontein, and then hid my commando as best I
could. The remainder of the men--about a hundred in number--I placed
under Commandant Lubbe, giving him orders to proceed in a direction
parallel to the advance of the English, who now were nearing
Paardenberg's Drift, and to keep a keen eye on their movements. It was a
large force that Lubbe had to watch. It consisted chiefly of mounted
troops; but there were also nine or ten batteries and a convoy of light
mule waggons.

I thought that as General Cronje was opposing them in front, my duty was
to keep myself in hiding and to reconnoitre.

I wished to communicate with General Cronje before the English troops
came up to him, and with this object I sent out a despatch rider. The
man I chose for the mission was Commandant G.J. Scheepers--whose name
later in the war was on every man's lips for his exploits in Cape
Colony, but who then was only the head of our heliograph corps. I
informed General Cronje in my message that the English, who had been
stationed at Blauwbank, had made a move in the direction of
Paardenberg's Drift; and I advised him to get out of their road as
quickly as he could, for they numbered, according to my computation,
forty or fifty thousand men.

I thought it wise to give Cronje this advice, on account of the women
and children in our camps, who might easily prove the cause of disaster.
When Scheepers returned he told me what reply General Cronje had made.
It is from no lack of respect for the General, whom I hold in the
highest honour as a hero incapable of fear, that I set down what he
said. It is rather from a wish to give a proof of his undaunted courage
that I quote his words.

"Are you afraid of things like that?" he asked, when Scheepers had given
my message. "Just you go and shoot them down, and catch them when they
run."

At Paardenberg's Drift there were some Free-Staters' camps that stood
apart from the others. In these camps there were a class of burghers who
were not much use in actual fighting. These men, called by us "water
draggers," correspond to the English "non-combatants." I ordered these
burghers to withdraw to a spot two hours' trek from there, where there
was more grass. But before all had obeyed this order, a small camp,
consisting of twenty or thirty waggons, was surprised and taken.

In the meantime, keeping my little commando entirely concealed, I spied
out the enemy's movements.

On the 16th of February, I thought I saw a chance of dealing an
effective blow at Lord Roberts. Some provision waggons, escorted by a
large convoy, were passing by, following in the wake of the British
troops. I asked myself whether it was possible for me to capture it then
and there, and came to the conclusion that it was out of the question.
With so many of the enemy's troops in the neighbourhood, the risk would
have been too great. I, therefore, still kept in hiding with my three
hundred and fifty burghers.

I remained where I was throughout the next day; but in the evening I saw
the convoy camping near Blauwbank, just to the west of the Riet River. I
also observed that the greater part of the troops had gone forward with
Lord Roberts.

On the 18th I still kept hidden, for the English army had not yet moved
out of camp. The troops, as I learnt afterwards, were awaiting the
arrival of columns from Belmont Station.

On the following day I attacked the convoy on the flank. The three or
four hundred troops who were guarding it offered a stout resistance,
although they were without any guns.

After fighting for two hours the English received a reinforcement of
cavalry, with four Armstrong guns, and redoubled their efforts to drive
us from the positions we had taken up under cover of the mule waggons.
As I knew that it would be a serious blow to Lord Roberts to lose the
provisions he was expecting, I was firmly resolved to capture them,
unless the force of numbers rendered the task quite impossible. I
accordingly resisted the enemy's attack with all the power I could.

The battle raged until it became dark; and I think we were justified in
being satisfied with what we had achieved. We had captured sixteen
hundred oxen and forty prisoners; whilst General Fourie, whom I had
ordered to attack the camp on the south, had taken several prisoners and
a few water-carts.

We remained that night in our positions. The small number of burghers I
had at my disposal made it impossible for me to surround the English
camp.

To our great surprise, the following morning, we saw that the English
had gone. About twenty soldiers had, however, remained behind; we found
them hidden along the banks of the Riet River at a short distance from
the convoy. We also discovered thirty-six Kaffirs on a ridge about three
miles away. As to the enemy's camp, it was entirely deserted. Our booty
was enormous, and consisted of two hundred heavily-laden waggons, and
eleven or twelve water-carts and trollies. On some of the waggons we
found klinkers,[19] jam, milk, sardines, salmon, cases of corned beef,
and other such provisions in great variety. Other waggons were loaded
with rum; and still others contained oats and horse provender pressed
into bales. In addition to these stores, we took one field-piece, which
the English had left behind. It was, indeed, a gigantic capture; the
only question was what to do with it.

Our prisoners told us that columns from Belmont might be expected at
any moment. Had these arrived we should have been unable to hold out
against them.

By some means or other it was necessary to get the provisions away, not
that we were then in any great need of them ourselves, but because we
knew that Lord Roberts would be put in a grave difficulty if he lost all
this food. I did not lose a moment's time, but at once ordered the
burghers to load up the waggons as speedily as possible, and to inspan.
It was necessary to reload the waggons, for the English troops had made
use of the contents to build _schanzes_; and excellent ones the
provisions had made.

The loading of the waggons was simple enough, but when it came to
inspanning it was another matter. The Kaffir drivers alone knew where
each span had to be placed, and there were only thirty-six Kaffirs left.
But here the fact that every Boer is himself a handy conductor and
driver of waggons told in our favour. Consequently we did not find it
beyond our power to get the waggons on the move. It was, however, very
tedious work, for how could any of us be sure that we were not placing
the after-oxen in front and the fore-oxen behind? There was nothing left
for it but to turn out the best spans of sixteen oxen that we could, and
then to arrange them in the way that struck us as being most suitable.
It was all done in the most hurried manner, for our one idea was to be
off as quickly as possible.

Even when we had started our troubles were not at an end. The waggons
would have been a hard pull for sixteen oxen properly arranged; so that
it is not surprising that our ill-sorted teams found the work almost
beyond their strength. Thus it happened that we took a very long time to
cover the first few miles, as we had constantly to be stopping to
re-arrange the oxen. But under the supervision of Commandant Piet
Fourie, whom I appointed Conductor-in-Chief, matters improved from hour
to hour.

After a short time I issued orders that the convoy should proceed over
Koffiefontein to Edenberg. I then divided my burghers into two parties;
the first, consisting of two hundred men with the Krupp gun, I ordered
to proceed with the convoy; the second, consisting of a hundred and
fifty men with the Maxim-Nordenfeldt, I took under my own command, and
set out with them in the direction of Paardenberg's Drift.

My spies had informed me that there were some fifty or sixty English
troops posted about eight miles from the spot where we had captured the
convoy. We made our way towards them, and when we were at a distance of
about three thousand yards, I sent a little note to their officer,
asking him to surrender. It was impossible for his troops to escape, for
they found themselves threatened on three sides.

The sun had just gone down when my despatch-rider reached the English
camp; and the officer in command was not long in sending him his reply,
accompanied by an orderly.

"Are you General De Wet?" the orderly asked me.

"I am," replied I.

"My officer in command," he said in a polite but determined voice,
"wishes me to tell you that we are a good hundred men strong, that we
are well provided with food and ammunition, and that we hold a strong
position in some houses and kraals. Every moment we are expecting ten
thousand men from Belmont, and we are waiting here with the sole purpose
of conducting them to Lord Roberts."

I allowed him to speak without interrupting him; but when he had
finished, I answered him in quite as determined a voice as he had used
to me.

"I will give you just enough time to get back and to tell your officer
in command that, if he does not surrender at once, I shall shell him and
storm his position. He will be allowed exactly ten minutes to make up
his mind--then the white flag must appear."

"But where is your gun?" the orderly asked. In reply I pointed to the
Maxim-Nordenfeldt, which stood a few hundred paces behind us, surrounded
by some burghers.

"Will you give us your word of honour," he asked me when he caught sight
of the gun, "not to stir from your position till we have got ten miles
away? That is the only condition on which we will abandon our
positions."

I again allowed him to finish, although his demand filled me with the
utmost astonishment. I asked myself what sort of men this English
officer imagined the Boer Generals to be.

"I demand unconditional surrender," I then said. "I give you ten minutes
from the moment you dismount on arriving at your camp; when those ten
minutes have passed I fire."

He slung round, and galloped back to his camp, the stones flying from
his horse's hoofs.

He had hardly dismounted before the white flag appeared. It did not take
us long to reach the camp, and there we found fifty-eight mounted men.
These prisoners I despatched that evening to join the convoy.

I then advanced with my commando another six miles, with the object of
watching Lord Roberts' movements, in case he should send a force back to
retake the convoy he could so ill spare. But the following day we saw
nothing except a single scouting party coming from the direction of
Paardenberg's Drift. This proved to consist of the hundred burghers whom
I had sent with Commandant Lubbe to General Cronje's assistance. I heard
from Lubbe that General French had broken through, and had in all
probability relieved Kimberley; and that General Cronje was retreating
before Lord Roberts towards Paardeberg. I may say here that I was not at
all pleased that Commandant Lubbe should have returned.

On account of Lubbe's information, I decided to advance at once in the
direction of Paardenberg's Drift, and was on the point of doing so when
I received a report from President Steyn. He informed me that I should
find at a certain spot that evening, close to Koffiefontein, Mr. Philip
Botha[20] with a reinforcement of one hundred and fifty men. This report
convinced me that the convoy I had captured would reach Edenberg Station
without mishap, and accordingly I went after it to fetch back the gun
which would no longer be needed. I found the convoy encamped about six
miles from Koffiefontein. Immediately after my arrival, General Jacobs,
of Fauresmith, and Commandant Hertzog,[21] of Philippolis, brought the
news to me that troops were marching on us from Belmont Station. I told
Jacobs and Hertzog to return with their men, two or three hundred in
number to meet the approaching English.

We were so well supplied with forage that our horses got as much as they
could eat. I had, therefore, no hesitation in ordering my men to
up-saddle at midnight, and by half-past two we had joined
Vice-Vechtgeneraal Philip Botha. I had sent him word to be ready to
move, so that we were able to hasten at once to General Cronje's
assistance. Our combined force amounted to three hundred men all told.

[Footnote 17: A ravine or water-course.]

[Footnote 18: In the district of Jacobsdal.]

[Footnote 19: Biscuits.]

[Footnote 20: Mr. Philip Botha had just been appointed
Vice-Vechtgeneraal.]

[Footnote 21: Brother to Judge Hertzog.]




[Illustration: PAARDEBERG (CRONJE'S).

FROM A SKETCH BY THE AUTHOR.]




CHAPTER VI

Paardeberg


An hour after sunrise we off-saddled, and heard, from the direction of
Paardeberg, the indescribable thunder of bombardment. That sound gave us
all the more reason for haste. We allowed our horses the shortest
possible time for rest, partook of the most hurried of breakfasts, and
at once were again on the move, with the frightful roar of the guns
always in our ears.

About half-past four that afternoon, we reached a point some six miles
to the east of Paardeberg, and saw, on the right bank of the Modder
River, four miles to the north-east of the mountain, General Cronje's
laager. It was surrounded completely by the enemy, as a careful
inspection through our field-glasses showed.

Immediately in front of us were the buildings and kraals of
Stinkfontein, and there on the opposite bank of the river stood
Paardeberg. To the left and to the right of it were khaki-coloured
groups dotted everywhere about--General Cronje was hemmed in on all
sides, he and his burghers--a mere handful compared with the encircling
multitude.

What a spectacle we saw! All round the laager were the guns of the
English, belching forth death and destruction, while from within it at
every moment, as each successive shell tore up the ground, there rose a
cloud--a dark red cloud of dust.

It was necessary to act--but how?

We decided to make an immediate attack upon the nearest of Lord Roberts'
troops, those which were stationed in the vicinity of Stinkfontein, and
to seize some ridges which lay about two and a half miles south-east of
the laager.

Stinkfontein was about a thousand paces to the north of these ridges,
and perhaps a few hundred paces farther from where Cronje was stationed.

We rode towards the ridges, and when we were from twelve to fourteen
hundred paces from Stinkfontein, we saw that the place was occupied by a
strong force of British troops.

General Botha and I then arranged that he should storm the houses,
kraals and garden walls of Stinkfontein, whilst I charged the ridges.
And this we did, nothing daunted by the tremendous rifle fire which
burst upon us. Cronje's pitiable condition confronted us, and we had but
one thought--could we relieve him?

We succeeded in driving the English out of Stinkfontein, and took sixty
of them prisoners.

The enemy's fire played on us unceasingly, and notwithstanding the fact
that we occupied good positions, we lost two men, and had several of our
horses killed and wounded.

We remained there for two and a half days--from the 22nd to the 25th of
February--and then were forced to retire. While evacuating our
positions, three of my burghers were killed, seven wounded, and fourteen
taken prisoner.

But the reader will justly demand more details as to the surrender of
Cronje, an event which forms one of the most important chapters in the
history of the two Republics. I am able to give the following
particulars.

After we had captured the positions referred to above, I gave orders
that the Krupp and the Maxim-Nordenfeldt should be brought up. For with
our hurried advance, the oxen attached to the big guns, as well as some
of the burghers' horses, had become so fatigued, that the guns and a
number of the burghers had been left behind. The ridges were so thickly
strewn with boulders, that even on the arrival of the guns, it was
impossible to place them in position until we had first cleared a path
for them. I made up my mind to turn these boulders to account by using
them to build _schanzes_, for I knew that a tremendous bombardment would
be opened upon our poor Krupp and Maxim-Nordenfeldt as soon as they made
themselves heard.

During the night we built these _schanzes_, and before the sun rose the
following morning, the guns were placed in position.

By daybreak the English had crept up to within a short distance of our
lines. It was the Krupp and the Maxim-Nordenfeldt that gave our answer.

But we had to be very sparing of our ammunition, for it was almost
exhausted, and it would take at least five days to get a fresh supply
from Bloemfontein.

Our arrival on the previous day had made a way of escape for General
Cronje. It is true that he would have been obliged to leave everything
behind him, but he and his burghers would have got away in safety. The
British had retreated before our advance, thus opening a road between us
and the laager. That road was made yet wider by the fire from our guns.

But General Cronje would not move. Had he done so, his losses would not
have been heavy. His determination to remain in that ill-fated laager
cost him dearly.

The world will honour that great general and his brave burghers; and if
I presume to criticize his conduct on this occasion, it is only because
I believe that he ought to have sacrificed his own ideas for the good of
the nation, and that he should have not been courageous at the expense
of his country's independence, to which he was as fiercely attached as
I.

Some of the burghers in the laager made their escape, for, on the second
day, when our guns had cleared a wide path, Commandants Froneman and
Potgieter (of Wolmaranstadt), with twenty men, came galloping out of
the laager towards us.

Although we were only a few in number, the British had their work cut
out to dislodge us. First they tried their favourite strategy of a
flanking movement, sending out strong columns of cavalry, with heavy
guns to surround us. It was necessary to prevent the fulfilment of this
project. I, therefore, removed the Krupp and the Maxim-Nordenfeldt from
their positions, and divided our little force into three portions. I
ordered the first to remain in their position, the second was to proceed
with the Krupp round our left wing, while I despatched the third party
to hold back the left wing of the British. I had no wish to share
General Cronje's unenviable position.

We succeeded in checking the advance of the enemy's wings; and when he
saw that we were not to be outflanked he changed his tactics, and while
still retaining his wings where they were, in order to keep our men
occupied, he delivered at mid-day, on the 20th, an attack on our centre
with a strong force of infantry.

The result of this was that the British gained one of our positions,
that, namely, which was held by Veldtcornet Meyer, an officer under
Commandant Spruit. Meyer was entirely unable to beat off the attack,
and, at nightfall, was compelled to retire about two or three hundred
paces, to a little ridge, which he held effectively.

As the English took up the abandoned position, they raised a cheer, and
Commandant Spruit, who was ignorant of its meaning, and believed that
his men were still in possession, went there alone.

"_Hoe gaat het?_"[22] he called out.

"Hands up!" was the reply he received.

There was nothing left for the Commandant to do but to give himself up.
The soldiers led him over a ridge, and struck a light to discover his
identity. Finding papers in his pocket which showed that their prisoner
was an important personage, they raised cheer upon cheer.[23]

I heard them cheering, and thought that the enemy were about to attempt
another attack, and so gave orders that whatever happened our positions
must be held, for they were the key to General Cronje's escape. However,
no attack was delivered.

Nobody could have foreseen that two thousand infantry would give up the
attack on positions which they had so nearly captured, and we all
expected a sanguinary engagement on the following morning. We had made
up our minds to stand firm, for we knew that if General Cronje failed to
make his way out, it would be a real calamity to our great cause.

Fully expecting an attack, we remained all that night at our posts. Not
a man of us slept, but just before dawn we heard this order from the
English lines:

"Fall in."

"What can be the meaning of this?" we ask one another.

Lying, sitting or standing, each of us is now at his post, and staring
out into the darkness, expecting an attack every moment. We hold our
breath and listen. Is there no sound of approaching footsteps? And now
the light increases. Is it possible? Yes, our eyes do not deceive us.
The enemy is gone.

Surprise and joy are on every face. One hears on all sides the
exclamation, "If only Cronje would make the attempt now." It was the
morning of the 25th of February.

But the enemy were not to leave us alone for long. By nine o'clock they
were advancing upon us again, with both right and left wing reinforced.
I had only a few shots left for the Krupp, and thirty for the
Maxim-Nordenfeldt, and this last ammunition must now be expended on the
wings. One gun I despatched to the right, the other to the left, and the
English were checked in their advance. I had ordered the gunners, as
soon as they had fired their last round to bring their guns into safe
positions in the direction of Petrusberg. Very soon I observed that this
order was being executed, and thus learnt that the ammunition had run
out.

The burghers who, with their rifles, had attempted to hold back the
wings, now having no longer any support from the big guns, were unable
to stand their ground against the overpowering forces of the enemy, and
shortly after the guns were removed, I saw them retreat.

What was I to do? I was being bombarded incessantly, and since the
morning had been severely harassed by small-arm fire. All this, however,
I could have borne, but now the enemy began to surround me. It was a
hard thing to be thus forced to abandon the key to General Cronje's
escape.

In all haste I ordered my men to retire. They had seen throughout that
this was unavoidable, and had even said to me:

"If we remain here, General, we shall be surrounded with General
Cronje."

All made good their retreat, with the exception of Veldtcornet Speller,
of Wepener, who, to my great regret, was taken prisoner there with
fourteen men. That occurred owing to my adjutant forgetting, in the
general confusion, to give them my orders to retreat. When Speller found
that he, with his fourteen men, was left behind, he defended himself, as
I heard later, with great valour, until at last he was captured by
overpowering numbers. It cost the English a good many dead and wounded
to get him out of his _schanzes_.

Although I had foreseen that our escape would be a very difficult and
lengthy business, I had not thought that we should have been in such
danger of being made prisoners. But the English had very speedily taken
up positions to the right and left, with guns and Maxims, and for a good
nine miles of our retreat we were under their fire. Notwithstanding the
fact that during the whole of this time we were also harassed by
small-arm fire, we lost--incredible as it may appear--not more than one
killed and one wounded, and a few horses besides. The positions which we
had abandoned the British now occupied, hemming in General Cronje so
closely that he had not the slightest chance of breaking through their
lines.

No sooner had we got out of range of the enemy's fire, than the first of
the reinforcements, which we had expected from Bloemfontein, arrived,
under the command of Vechtgeneraal Andreas Cronje. With him were
Commandants Thewnissen, of Winburg, and Vilonel, of Senekal.

A council was at once held as to the best method of effecting the
release of General Cronje. It was decided to recapture the positions
which I had abandoned. But now the situation was so changed that there
were _three_ positions which it was necessary for us to take. We agreed
that the attack should be made by three separate parties, that General
Philip Botha, with Commandant Thewnissen, should retake the positions
which we had abandoned at Stinkfontein, General Froneman the position
immediately to the north of these, and I, with General Andreas Cronje,
others still further north.

The attack was made on the following morning. General Botha's attempt
failed, chiefly owing to the fact that day dawned before he reached his
position; a hot fight ensued, resulting in the capture of Commandant
Thewnissen and about one hundred men. As I was so placed as to be unable
to see how affairs were developing, it is difficult for me to hazard an
opinion as to whether Commandant Thewnissen was lacking in caution, or
whether he was insufficiently supported by General Botha. The burghers
who were present at the engagement accused General Botha, while he
declared that Thewnissen had been imprudent. However that may be, we had
failed in our essay. The position had not been taken, and Commandant
Thewnissen, with a hundred whom we could ill spare, were in the hands of
the enemy, And to make matters still worse, our men were already seized
with panic, arising from the now hopeless plight of General Cronje and
his large force.

I, however, was not prepared to abandon all hope as yet. Danie Theron,
that famous captain of despatch-riders, had arrived on the previous day
with reinforcements. I asked him if he would take a verbal message to
General Cronje--I dare not send a written one, lest it should fall into
the hands of the English. Proud and distinct the answer came at
once--the only answer which such a hero as Danie Theron could have
given:

"Yes, General, I will go."

The risk which I was asking him to run could not have been surpassed
throughout the whole of our sanguinary struggle.

I took him aside, and told him that he must go and tell General Cronje
that our fate depended upon the escape of himself and of the thousands
with him, and that, if he should fall into the enemy's hands, it would
be the death-blow to all our hopes. Theron was to urge Cronje to
abandon the laager, and everything contained in it, to fight his way out
by night, and to meet me at two named places, where I would protect him
from the pursuit of the English.

Danie Theron undertook to pass the enemy's lines, and to deliver my
message. He started on his errand on the night of the 25th of February.

The following evening I went to the place of meeting, but to my great
disappointment General Cronje did not appear.

On the morning of the 27th of February Theron returned. He had performed
an exploit unequalled in the war. Both in going and returning he had
crawled past the British sentries, tearing his trousers to rags during
the process. The blood was running from his knees, where the skin had
been scraped off. He told me that he had seen the General, who had said
that he did not think that the plan which I had proposed had any good
chance of success.

At ten o'clock that day, General Cronje surrendered. Bitter was my
disappointment. Alas! my last attempt had been all in vain. The stubborn
General would not listen to good advice.

I must repeat here what I have said before, that as far as my personal
knowledge of General Cronje goes, it is evident to me that his obstinacy
in maintaining his position must be ascribed to the fact that it was too
much to ask him--intrepid hero that he was--to abandon the laager. His
view was that he must stand or fall with it, nor did he consider the
certain consequences of his capture. He never realized that it would be
the cause of the death of many burghers, and of indescribable panic
throughout not only all the laagers on the veldt, but even those of
Colesberg, Stormberg and Ladysmith. If the famous Cronje were captured,
how could any ordinary burgher be expected to continue his resistance?

It may be that it was the will of God, who rules the destinies of all
nations, to fill thus to the brim the cup which we had to empty, but
this consideration does not excuse General Cronje's conduct. Had he but
taken my advice, and attempted a night attack, he might have avoided
capture altogether.

I have heard men say that as the General's horses had all been killed,
the attempt which I urged him to make must have failed--that at all
events he would have been pursued and overtaken by Lord Roberts' forces.
The answer to this is not far to seek. The English at that time did not
employ as scouts Kaffirs and Hottentots, who could lead them by night as
well as by day. Moreover, with the reinforcements I had received, I had
about sixteen hundred men under me, and they would have been very useful
in holding back the enemy, until Cronje had made his escape.

No words can describe my feelings when I saw that Cronje had
surrendered, and noticed the result which this had on the burghers.
Depression and discouragement were written on every face. The effects of
this blow, it is not too much to say, made themselves apparent to the
very end of the war.

[Footnote 22: "How is it with you?"]

[Footnote 23: Eleven or twelve days after, Commandant Spruit was again
with us. When he appeared, he seemed to us like one risen from the dead.
We all rejoiced, not only because he was a God-fearing man, but also
because he was of a lovable disposition. I heard from his own mouth how
he had escaped. He told me that the day after his capture, he was sent,
under a strong escort, from Lord Roberts' Headquarters to the railway
station at Modder River, and that he started from there, with a guard of
six men on his road to Cape Town. During the night as they drew near De
Aar, his guards fell asleep, and our brave Commandant prepared to leave
the train. He seized a favourable opportunity when the engine was
climbing a steep gradient and jumped off. But the pace was fast enough
to throw him to the ground, though fortunately he only sustained slight
injury. When daylight came he hid himself. Having made out his bearings
he began to make his way back on the following night. He passed a house,
but dared not seek admission, for he did not know who its occupants
might be. As he had no food with him, his sufferings from hunger were
great, but still he persevered, concealing himself during the day, and
only walking during the hours of darkness. At last he reached the
railway line to the north of Colesberg, and from there was carried to
Bloemfontein, where he enjoyed a well-earned rest. In the second week of
March he returned to his commando, to the great delight of everybody.]




CHAPTER VII

The Wild Flight from Poplar Grove


The surrender of General Cronje only made me all the more determined to
continue the struggle, notwithstanding the fact that many of the
burghers appeared to have quite lost heart. I had just been appointed
Commander-in-Chief, and at once set my hand to the work before me.

Let me explain how this came about.

As I have already said, General C.J. Wessels had been appointed
Commander-in-Chief at Kimberley. In the month of January he was
succeeded by Mr. J.S. Ferreira, who at once proceeded to make Kimberley
his headquarters. On the relief of that town, one part of the besieging
force went to Viertienstroomen, another in the direction of Boshof,
while a small party, in which was the Commander-in-Chief himself, set
out towards Koedoesrand, above Paardeberg.

It was while I was engaged in my efforts to relieve Cronje, that a gun
accident occurred in which General Ferreira was fatally wounded. Not
only his own family, but the whole nation, lost in him a man whom they
can never forget. I received the sad news the day after his death, and,
although the place of his burial was not more than two hours' ride from
my camp, I was too much occupied with my own affairs to be able to
attend his funeral.

On the following day I received from President Steyn the appointment of
Vice-Commander-in-Chief. I had no thought of declining it, but the work
which it would involve seemed likely to prove anything but easy. To have
the chief command, and at such a time as this! But I had to make the
best of it.

I began by concentrating my commandos, to the best of my ability, at
Modderrivierpoort (Poplar Grove), ten miles east of the scene of
Cronje's surrender. I had plenty of time to effect this, for Lord
Roberts remained inactive from the 24th of February to the 7th of March,
in order to rest a little after the gigantic task he had performed in
capturing Cronje's laager. His thoughts must have been busy during that
period with even more serious matters than the care of his weary troops;
for, if we had had two hundred killed and wounded, he must have lost as
many thousands.

Those few days during which our enemy rested were also of advantage to
me in enabling me to dispose of the reinforcements, which I was now
receiving every day, and from almost every quarter.

While I was thus engaged, I heard that General Buller had relieved
Ladysmith on the 1st of March, that General Gatacre had taken Stormberg
on the 5th, and that General Brabant was driving the Boers before him.

These were the first results of General Cronje's surrender.

But that fatal surrender was not only the undoing of our burghers; it
also reinforced the enemy, and gave him new courage. This was evident
from the reply which Lord Salisbury made to the peace proposals made by
our two Presidents on March 5th. But more of this anon.

Our last day at Poplar Grove was signalized by a visit paid to us by
President Kruger, the venerable chief of the South African Republic. He
had travelled by rail from Pretoria to Bloemfontein; the remaining
ninety-six miles of the journey had been accomplished in a
horse-waggon--he, whom we all honoured so greatly, had been ready to
undergo even this hardship in order to visit us.

The President's arrival was, however, at an unfortunate moment. It was
March the 7th, and Lord Roberts was approaching. His force, extending
over ten miles of ground, was now preparing to attack my burghers, whom
I had posted at various points along some twelve miles of the bank of
the Modder River. It did not seem possible for the old President even to
outspan, for I had received information that the enemy's right wing was
already threatening Petrusburg. But as the waggon had travelled that
morning over twelve miles of a heavy rain-soaked road, it was absolutely
necessary that the horses should be outspanned for rest. But hardly had
the harness been taken off the tired animals when a telegram arrived,
saying that Petrusburg was already in the hands of the English.
President Kruger was thus compelled to return without a moment's delay.
I saw him into his waggon, and then immediately mounted my horse, and
rode to the positions where my burghers were stationed.

Again I was confronted with the baleful influence of Cronje's surrender.
A panic had seized my men. Before the English had even got near enough
to shell our positions to any purpose, the wild flight began. Soon every
position was evacuated. There was not even an attempt to hold them,
though some of them would have been almost impregnable. It was a flight
such as I had never seen before, and shall never see again.

I did all that I could, but neither I nor my officers were able to
prevent the burghers from following whither the waggons and guns had
already preceded them. I tried every means. I had two of the best horses
that a man could wish to possess, and I rode them till they dropped. All
was in vain. It was fortunate for us that the advance of the English was
not very rapid. Had it been so, everything must have fallen into their
hands.

In the evening we came to Abraham's Kraal, a farm belonging to Mr.
Charles Ortel, some eighteen miles from Poplar Grove. The enemy were
encamped about an hour and a half's ride from us.

The next morning the burghers had but one desire, and that was to get
away. It was only with the greatest difficulty that I succeeded in
persuading them to go into position. I then hastened to Bloemfontein, in
order to take counsel with the Government about our affairs generally,
and especially to see what would be the most suitable positions to
occupy for the defence of the capital. Judge Hertzog and I went out
together to inspect the ground; we placed a hundred men in the forts,
with Kaffirs to dig trenches and throw up earthworks.

I was back at Abraham's Kraal by nine o'clock on the morning of March
the 18th. I found that our forces had been placed in position by
Generals De la Rey, Andreas Cronje, Philip Botha, Froneman and Piet de
Wet, the last-named having arrived with his commandos from Colesberg a
few days before the rout at Poplar Grove.

We had not long to wait before fighting began, fighting confined for the
most part to the artillery. The English shells were at first directed
against Abraham's Kraal, which was subjected to a terrific bombardment;
later on they turned their guns upon Rietfontein, where the Transvaalers
and a part of the Free State commandos, under General De la Rey, were
posted. The attack upon these positions was fierce and determined; but
De la Rey's burghers, though they lost heavily, repulsed it with
splendid courage. I will not say more of this. It is understood that
General De la Rey will himself describe what he and his men succeeded in
accomplishing on that occasion.

From ten in the morning until sunset the fight continued, and still the
burghers held their positions. They had offered a magnificent
resistance. Their conduct had been beyond all praise, and it was hard to
believe that these were the same men who had fled panic-stricken from
Poplar Grove. But with the setting of the sun a change came over them.
Once more panic seized them; leaving their positions, they retreated in
all haste towards Bloemfontein. And now they were only a disorderly
crowd of terrified men blindly flying before the enemy.

But it was Bloemfontein that lay before them, and the thought that his
capital was in peril might well restore courage in the most disheartened
of our burghers. I felt that this would be the case, and a picture arose
before me of our men holding out, as they had never done before.

Before going further I must say a few words about the peace proposals
which our Presidents made to the English Government on the 5th of March.
They called God to witness that it was for the independence of the two
Republics, and for that alone, that they fought, and suggested that
negotiations might be opened with the recognition of that independence
as their basis.

Lord Salisbury replied that the only terms he would accept were
unconditional surrender. He asserted, as he did also on many subsequent
occasions, that it was our ultimatum that had caused the war. We have
always maintained that in making this assertion he misrepresented the
facts, to use no stronger term.[24]

Naturally our Government would not consent to such terms, and so the war
had to proceed.

It was decided to send a deputation to Europe. This deputation,
consisting of Abraham Fissher,[25] Cornelius H. Wessels,[26] and Daniel
Wolmarans,[27] sailed from Delagoa Bay.[28]

The reader may ask the object which this deputation had in view. Was it
that our Governments relied on foreign intervention? Emphatically, no!
They never thought of such a thing. Neither in his harangue to the
burghers at Poplar Grove, nor in any of his subsequent speeches, did
President Steyn give any hint of such an intention. The deputation was
sent in order that the whole world might know the state of affairs in
South Africa. It fulfilled its purpose, and was justified by its
results. It helped us to win the sympathy of the nations.

But I must return to my narrative.

A few days before the flight from Poplar Grove, I had appointed Danie
Theron captain of a scouting party. I now left him and his corps behind,
with instructions to keep me informed of Lord Roberts' movements, and
proceeded myself to Bloemfontein. There I disposed the available forces
for defence, and kept them occupied in throwing up _schanzes_. These
_schanzes_ were erected to the west and south of the town, and at
distances of from four to six miles from it.

On the evening of the 12th of March, Lord Roberts appeared, and a few
skirmishes ensued south of the town, but no engagement of any importance
took place. We awaited the morrow with various forebodings.

For myself, I believed that that 13th of March should see a fight to the
finish, cost what it might! for if Bloemfontein was to be taken, it
would only be over our dead bodies.

With this before my eyes, I made all necessary arrangements, riding at
nightfall from position to position, and speaking both to the officers
and to the private burghers. They must play the man, I told them, and
save the capital at any cost. An excellent spirit prevailed amongst
them; on every face one could read the determination to conquer or to
die.

But when, about an hour before midnight, I reached the southern
positions, I heard a very different story. They told me there that
Commandant Weilbach had deserted his post early in the evening. What was
I to do? It was impossible to search for him during the night, and I was
compelled to take burghers away from other commandos, and to place them
in the abandoned positions. On their arrival there, they discovered that
no sooner had Weilbach failed us than the enemy had seized his post--the
key to Bloemfontein! We did all that we could, but our situation had
been rendered hopeless by the action of a Commandant who ought to have
been dismissed out of hand for his conduct at Poplar Grove.

That night I did not close an eye.

       *       *       *       *       *

The morning of the 13th of March dawned.

Hardly had the sun risen, when the English in the entrenchments which
Commandant Weilbach had deserted, opened a flank fire on our nearest
positions.

First one position and then another was abandoned by our burghers, who
followed one another's example like sheep; few made any attempt to
defend their posts, and in spite of my efforts and those of the officers
under me, they retreated to the north.

Thus, without a single shot being fired, Bloemfontein fell into the
hands of the English.

[Footnote 24: This correspondence will be found in Chapter XXX.]

[Footnote 25: Member of the Free State Volksraad and Executive Council.]

[Footnote 26: Member of the Free State Volksraad and Executive Council,
and also President of the Volksraad.]

[Footnote 27: Member of the first Volksraad of the South African
Republic.]

[Footnote 28: This harbour, then the only harbour in South Africa open
to us, was subsequently forbidden us by the Portuguese Government, whose
officials even went so far as to arrest eight hundred of our burghers
(who, for want of horses, had taken refuge in Portuguese territory), and
to send them to Portugal. The ports of German West Africa cannot be
counted among those which were available for us. Not only were they too
far from us to be of any service, but also, in order to reach them, it
would have been necessary to go through English territory, for they were
separated from us by Griqualand West, Bechuanaland, and isolated
portions of Cape Colony. We had, therefore, during the latter portion of
the war, to depend for supplies upon what little we were able to capture
from the enemy.]




CHAPTER VIII

The Burghers Receive Permission to Return to their Homes


Thus Bloemfontein had fallen into the hands of the English; but whatever
valuables it contained were spared by the enemy. I did not myself
consider the place much superior to any other town, and I would not have
thought it a matter of any great importance if it had been destroyed.
Still, I felt it to be very regrettable that the town should have been
surrendered without a shot.

How can I describe my feelings when I saw Bloemfontein in the hands of
the English? It was enough to break the heart of the bravest man amongst
us. Even worse than the fall of our capital was the fact that, as was
only to be expected, the burghers had become entirely disheartened; and
it seemed as if they were incapable now of offering any further
resistance. The commandos were completely demoralized. Indeed! the
burghers from Fauresmith and Jacobsdal had already returned home from
Poplar Grove without asking for permission to do so; and now all the
others were hurrying back in the greatest disorder to their own
districts.

I felt sure that Lord Roberts' troops would remain for some time in the
capital, in order to obtain the rest they must have sorely needed. And I
now asked myself what I could do whilst the English were remaining
inactive. For notwithstanding all that had happened, I had not for a
single moment the thought of surrender. It seemed to me that my best
course was to allow the burghers, who had now been away from their
families for six months, an opportunity to take breath![29]

After everything had been arranged I went to Brandfort and thence to
Kroonstad, at which place I was to meet President Steyn, who had left
Bloemfontein the evening before it fell.

On my road to Kroonstad I fell in with General P.J. Joubert, who had
come to the Free State, hoping to be able to discover some method for
checking the advance of Lord Roberts. He was anything but pleased to
hear that I had given my men permission to remain at home till the 25th
of March.

"Do you mean to tell me," he asked, "that you are going to give the
English a free hand, whilst your men take their holidays?"

"I cannot catch a hare, General, with unwilling dogs," I made reply.

But this did not satisfy the old warrior at all. At last I said:

"You know the Afrikanders as well as I do, General. It is not our fault
that they don't know what discipline means. Whatever I had said or done,
the burghers would have gone home; but I'll give you my word that those
who come back will fight with renewed courage."

I knew very well that there were some who would not return, but I
preferred to command ten men who were willing to fight, rather than a
hundred who shirked their duties.

Meanwhile President Steyn had proclaimed Kroonstad as the seat of the
Government, so that in future all matters were to be settled there.

On March 20th, 1900, a war council was held, which was attended by
from fifty to sixty officers. President Steyn presided; and there
sat beside him that simple statesman, grown grey in his country's
service--President Kruger.

The chief officers at this council were Commandant General Joubert,
Generals De la Rey, Philip Botha, Froneman, C.P. Cronje, J.B. Wessels,
and myself. A number of the members of both Governments also put in an
appearance at this meeting.

Do not let it be imagined that the object we had in view was to come to
an agreement on any peace proposal made by the English. Nothing could
have been further from our minds than this. Lord Salisbury's letter to
our two Presidents, demanding unconditional surrender, had rendered any
thought of peace impossible. On the contrary, we were concerned to
discover the best method of continuing the war. We knew, I need scarcely
say, that humanly speaking ultimate victory for us was out of the
question--that had been clear from the very beginning. For how could our
diminutive army hope to stand against the overwhelming numbers at the
enemy's command? Yet we had always felt that no one is worthy of the
name of man who is not ready to vindicate the right, be the odds what
they may. We knew also, that the Afrikanders, although devoid of all
military discipline, had the idea of independence deeply rooted in their
hearts, and that they were worthy to exist as a Free Nation under a
Republican form of Government.

I shall not enter upon all that happened at that meeting. I shall merely
note here that besides deciding to continue the war more energetically
than ever, we agreed unanimously that the great waggon-camps should be
done away with, and that henceforth only horse-commandos should be
employed. The sad experience we had gained from six months' warfare,
and more especially the great misfortune that had overtaken the big
waggon-camp of General Cronje, were our reasons for this new
regulation.[30]

I left the meeting firmly determined that, come what might, I should
never allow another waggon-camp. But, as the reader will see before he
has concluded the perusal of these pages, it was not until many months
had elapsed that the waggons were finally suppressed. All the mischief
that they were destined to bring upon the African Nation was not yet
completed.

One of the effects of this council was to produce an unusually good
spirit among the officers and burghers. There was only one thought in my
mind, and only one word on every tongue: "FORWARD!"

I proceeded from Kroonstad to the railway bridge at Zand River, and
remained there until the 25th of March, when the commandos reassembled.
What I had foreseen occurred. The burghers were different men
altogether, and returned with renewed courage to the fight. They
streamed in such large numbers on this and the following days, that my
highest hopes were surpassed. It is true that certain burghers had
remained behind. Such was the case with the men from Fauresmith and
Jacobsdal, and with a large proportion of the commandos from
Philippolis, Smithfield, Wepener, and Bloemfontein. But with these
burghers I was unable to deal on account of Lord Roberts' Proclamations,
which made it impossible for me to compel the burghers to join the
commando; and I decided that I had better wait until I had done some
good work with the men I had, before I made any attempt to bring the
others back to the commando.

On the 25th of March we went to Brandfort. The arrival of the burghers
at the village doubled and even trebled its population. I was forced to
close the hotels, as I discovered that my men were being supplied with
drink. From this I do not wish the reader to infer that the Afrikanders
are drunkards, for this is far from being the case. On the contrary,
when compared with other nations, they are remarkable for their
sobriety, and it is considered by them a disgrace for a man to be drunk.

[Footnote 29: The men I still had with me belonged to commandos from
Bloemfontein, Ladybrand, Wepener, Ficksburg, Bethlehem and Winburg. They
were respectively under Commandants Piet Fourie, Crowther, Fouche, De
Villiers, Michal Prinsloo and Vilonel; and these Commandants took orders
from Vechtgeneraals J.B. Wessels, A.P. Cronje, C.C. Froneman, W. Kolbe
and Philip Botha.

The Colesberg and Stormberg commandos had received the order to go
northwards in the direction of Thaba'Nchu and Ladybrand. These commandos
also had been panic-stricken since General Cronje's surrender.

The Kroonstad, Heilbron, Harrismith and Vrede burghers, under
Commander-in-Chief Prinsloo, were directed to remain where they were,
and guard the Drakensberg.

General De la Rey followed my example, and gave his men permission to
return home for some time.]

[Footnote 30: This council also enacted that officers should be very
chary in accepting doctors' certificates. The old law had laid it down
that if a burgher produced a medical certificate, declaring him unfit
for duty, he should be exempted from service. That there had been a
grave abuse of this was the experience of almost every officer. There
were several very dubious cases; and it was curious to note how many
sudden attacks of heart disease occurred--if one were to credit the
medical certificates. I remember myself that on the 7th of March, when
the burghers fled from Poplar Grove, I had thrust upon me suddenly eight
separate certificates, which had all been issued that morning, each
declaring that some burgher or other was suffering from disease of the
heart. When the eighth was presented to me, and I found that it also
alleged the same complaint, I lost all patience, and let the doctor know
that was quite enough for one day. When this question of certificates
was discussed at the council, I suggested in joke that no certificate
should be accepted unless it was signed by three old women, as a
guarantee of good faith. The system had indeed been carried to such
lengths, and certificates had been issued right and left in such a
lavish manner, that one almost suspected that the English must have had
a hand in it!]




CHAPTER IX

Sanna's Post


On the 28th of March a council of war was held. The first business
transacted referred to disciplinary matters; the council then proceeded
to lay down the conditions under which the commandos were to operate. It
was decided that General De la Rey with his Transvaalers should remain
at Brandfort with certain Free State commandos under General Philip
Botha, and that the remaining troops, under my command, should withdraw
in the evening.

Great was the curiosity of the officers and burghers concerning our
movements, but no man learnt anything from me. I was determined that in
future my plans should be kept entirely secret. Experience had taught me
that whenever a commanding officer allows his intentions to become
public something is sure to go wrong, and I made up my mind to hold the
reins of discipline with a firmer hand.

It is, of course, true that scarcely anything could be done without the
free co-operation of the burghers. They joined the commando when they
wished, or, if they preferred it, stayed away. But now I intended that
the men who joined the commando should be under a far stricter
discipline than formerly, and success rewarded my efforts.

We left Brandfort on the same evening. My object was to surprise the
little garrison at Sanna's Post, which guarded the Bloemfontein Water
Works, and thus to cut off the supply of water from that town.

I started in the direction of Winburg, so as to throw every one off the
scent. On all sides one heard the question, "Where are we really going?
What can we have to do at Winburg?"

The following day I concealed my commando, and that evening some spies,
on whom I could rely, and who were aware of my secret intentions,
brought me all the information I required.

At this point I had a great deal of trouble with Commandant Vilonel. It
appeared that, notwithstanding the express interdiction of the council
of war, there were some thirty waggons, belonging to burghers from
Winburg who were under his orders. I reminded him of the decision to
which the council had come; but he replied that he did not wish his
burghers to have to undergo the hardship of travelling without waggons.
We started that evening, and, sure enough, there he was with his lumber
following behind us.

I gave him notice in writing the next morning that he must send back the
waggons that very night when we were on the march. This provoked from
him a written request that a war council should be summoned to revise
the decision come to at Kroonstad. I answered that I absolutely declined
to do any such thing.

In the course of that day I received a number of reports. I was informed
that General Olivier was driving General Broadwood from Ladybrand
towards Thaba'Nchu. A little later I heard from General Froneman and
Commandant Fourie how matters stood at Sanna's Post. I had disclosed my
plan to them, and sent them out to reconnoitre. There were--so they told
me--according to their estimation, about two hundred English troops
which were stationed in such and such positions.

I at once summoned Generals A.P. Cronje, J.B. Wessels, C.C. Froneman,
and Piet de Wet, and took council with them, telling them of my plans
and enjoining strict secrecy. I then gave orders that Commandant P.
Fourie and C. Nel, with their burghers, three hundred and fifty in
number, should proceed under my command to Koorn Spruit, and be there
before break of day.

[Illustration: SANNA'S POST.

FROM A SKETCH BY THE AUTHOR.]

We settled that Generals Cronje, Wessels, Froneman, and Piet De Wet
should proceed with the remaining burghers, numbering eleven hundred and
fifty, to the ridges east of the Modder River, right opposite Sanna's
Post. They were to take with them the guns, of which we had four or
five, and bombard Sanna's Post as soon as it was light.

The English, I expected, would retreat to Bloemfontein, and then from my
position in Koorn Spruit I should be able to decimate them as they
passed that ravine. I had sent a large number of burghers with the four
generals so that our force might be sufficiently strong to turn General
Broadwood, in case he should hear that there was fighting at Sanna's
Post and come up to reinforce the garrison.

Here again I had trouble with Commandant Vilonel. I had little time to
argue--the sun was already setting, and we had to be off at once. I had
declined to allow a single waggon to go with me, but the Commandant
declared that he would not abide by the decision of the council of war.
He also refused to allow his burghers to go into positions which he
himself had not reconnoitred. He asked that the attack should be
postponed until he had examined Sanna's Post through his telescope.

My patience was now at an end. I told Commandant Vilonel that he must
obey my orders, and that if he did not do so I should dismiss him,
unless he himself resigned. He preferred to resign. My secretary
procured paper, and the Commandant wrote out his resignation. I at once
gave him his dismissal, and felt that a weight had been taken off my
shoulders now that I was free from so wrong-headed an officer.

There was no time now for the burghers to elect a new Commandant in the
usual way. I therefore assembled the Winburg commando, and told them
that Vilonel had resigned, that an opportunity of choosing a substitute
should be given to them later on, but that in the meanwhile I should
appoint Veldtcornet Gert Van der Merve. Nobody had anything to say
against "Gerie," who was a courageous and amiable man; and, after he had
given orders that the waggons should be sent home, we continued our
march.

I met some of my spies at a _rendezvous_ which I had given them on the
road to the Water Works, and learnt from them that the force under
General Broadwood had come that evening from the direction of Ladybrand
and now occupied Thaba'Nchu.

I had ordered my generals to take up positions opposite Sanna's Post and
east of the Modder River. I now left them and rode on to Koorn Spruit,
not knowing that General Broadwood had left Thaba'Nchu after nightfall
and had proceeded to the Water Works. My advance was made as quietly as
possible, and as soon as we reached Koorn Spruit I hid my burghers in
the ravine, placing some to the right and some to the left of the
drift[31] on the road from Thaba'Nchu and Sanna's Post to Bloemfontein.

As soon as it became light enough to see anything we discovered that
just above the spruit[32] stood a waggon, with some Kaffirs and a number
of sheep and cattle beside it. The Kaffirs told us that the waggon
belonged to one of the "hands-uppers" from Thaba'Nchu, and that they had
been ordered to get it down to Bloemfontein as quickly as possible and
to sell it to the English. The owner of the sheep and of the cattle,
they said, was with General Broadwood, whose troops had just arrived at
Sanna's Post.

The light grew brighter, and there, three thousand paces from us, was
Broadwood's huge force.

I had only three hundred and fifty men with me; the other generals, to
the east of the Modder River, had not more than eleven hundred and fifty
between them.

The numbers against us were overwhelming, but I resolved to stand my
ground; and, fortunately, the positions which I had chosen were much to
our advantage--there would be no difficulty in concealing my burghers
and their horses.

I ordered that every one should still remain hidden, even when our party
to the east of the Modder River began to shoot, and that not a round was
to be fired until I gave the command.

General Broadwood was preparing to strike camp. It was then that I told
my men to allow the British troops to get to close quarters and
"hands-up" them, without wasting a single bullet.

Then our guns began to fire.

The result was a scene of confusion. Towards us, over the brow of the
hill, came the waggons pell-mell, with a few carts moving rapidly in
front. When the first of these reached the spruit its occupants--a man
with a woman beside him--became aware that something was wrong.

I was standing at the top of the drift with Commandants Fourie and Nel.
I immediately ordered two of my adjutants to mount the cart and to sit
at the driver's side.

The other carts came one after the other into the drift, and I ordered
them to follow close behind the first cart, at the same time warning the
occupants that if they gave any signal to the enemy, they would be shot.

The carts were filled with English from Thaba'Nchu. I was very glad that
the women and children should thus reach a place of safety, before the
fighting began.

So speedily did the carts follow each other that the English had no
suspicion of what was occurring, and very shortly the soldiers began to
pour into the drift in the greatest disorder. As soon as they reached
the stream they were met by the cry of "Hands up!"

Directly they heard the words, a forest of hands rose in the air.

More troops quickly followed, and we had disarmed two hundred of them
before they had time to know what was happening. The discipline among
the burghers was fairly satisfactory until the disarming work began. If
my men had only been able to think for themselves, they would have
thrown the rifles on the bank as they came into their hands, and so
would have disarmed far more of the English than they succeeded in
doing. But, as it was, the burghers kept on asking:

"Where shall I put this rifle, General? What have I to do with this
horse?"

That the work should be delayed by this sort of thing sorely tried my
hasty temper.

Very soon the enemy in the rear discovered that there was something
wrong in the drift, for one of their officers suddenly gave orders that
the troops should fall back. But in the meantime, as I have already
stated, we had disarmed two hundred men; while, about a hundred paces
from us on the banks of the spruit stood five of their guns, and more
than a hundred of their waggons, in one confused mass. A little further
off--two or three hundred paces, perhaps--two more of the enemy's guns
had halted.

The English fell back some thirteen hundred yards, to the station on the
Dewetsdorp-Bloemfontein railway. I need scarcely say that we opened a
terrific fire on them as they retreated. When they reached the station,
however, the buildings there gave them considerable protection. I little
knew when I voted in the Volksraad for the construction of this line,
that I was voting for the building of a station which our enemies would
one day use against us.

An attempt was made by the English to save the five guns, but it was far
beyond their powers to do so. They did succeed, however, in getting the
other two guns away, and in placing them behind the station buildings.
From there they severely bombarded us with shrapnel shell.

While the English troops were running to find cover in the buildings,
they suffered very heavily from our fire, and the ground between the
station and the spruit was soon strewn with their dead and wounded,
lying in heaps. But having arrived at the railway they rallied, and
posting themselves to the right and left of the station, they fired
sharply on us.

The eleven hundred and fifty burghers who were to the east of the Modder
River now hurried up to my assistance. But unfortunately, when they
attempted to cross the river, they found that the Water-Works dam had
made it too deep to ford. So they proceeded up stream over some very
rough ground, being much inconvenienced by the dongas which they had to
cross. When they had covered three miles of this they were again
stopped, for an impassable donga blocked the way. They had therefore to
retrace their steps to the place whence they had started. Ultimately
they crossed the river below the dam, in the neighbourhood of the
waggon-drift.

This delay gave General Broadwood a good three hours in which to tackle
us. And had it not been for the excellent positions we had taken on the
banks of the spruit, we would have been in a very awkward predicament.
But, as it was, only two of my men were hit during the whole of that
time.

As soon as our reinforcements had crossed the river, General Broadwood
was forced to retire; and his troops came hurrying through Koorn Spruit
both on the right and on the left of our position. We fired at them as
they passed us, and took several more prisoners. Had I but commanded a
larger force, I could have captured every man of them. But it was
impossible, with my three hundred and fifty men, to surround two
thousand.

Our men on the Modder River now attacked the enemy with the greatest
energy, and succeeded in putting them to flight, thus bringing the
battle to an end.

The conduct of my burghers had been beyond praise. I had never seen
them more intrepid. Calm and determined, they stood their ground, when
the enemy streamed down upon them like a mighty river. Calm and
determined they awaited their arrival, and disarmed them as they came.
It was a fresh proof to me of the courage of the Afrikander, who indeed,
in my judgment, is in that quality surpassed by no one.

Our loss was three killed and five wounded. Among the latter was
Commandant General Van der Merve, who, although very seriously injured,
fortunately recovered. I had no time myself to note the enemy's losses,
but, from their own report, it amounted to three hundred and fifty dead
and wounded. We captured four hundred and eighty prisoners, seven guns,
and one hundred and seventeen waggons.

Here again I had the greatest trouble in unravelling the medley. Many of
the horses, mules and oxen had been killed, whilst some of the waggons
were broken. Everything was in a state of indescribable confusion, and
at any moment a force might arrive from Bloemfontein.

But, fortunately, no reinforcement appeared. Our burghers who had
pursued the retreating English, saw, at about twelve o'clock, a body of
mounted troops approaching from Bloemfontein. But this force at once
came to a halt, remaining at the spot where we had first seen it.[33]

When everything was over a party of troops from General Olivier's
commando arrived on the scene of the recent operations. They had been
following General Broadwood, and on hearing the firing that morning, had
hastened in our direction, maintaining on their arrival, that it was
quite impossible for them to have come any sooner.

[Footnote 31: Ford.]

[Footnote 32: Water-course or ravine.]

[Footnote 33: I may note here that it seemed very strange to me and to
all whose opinion I asked, that Lord Roberts, with his sixty thousand
men, sent no reinforcements from Bloemfontein. The battle had taken
place not more than seventeen miles from the capital, and it had lasted
for four hours; so that there had been ample time to send help. The
English cannot urge in excuse that, owing to our having cut the
telegraph wire, Lord Roberts could know nothing of General Broadwood's
position. The booming of the guns must have been distinctly heard at
Bloemfontein, as it was a still morning. In addition to this plain
warning, the English had an outpost at Borsmanskop, between Koorn Spruit
and Bloemfontein. I do not mention these things with the object of
throwing an unfavourable light upon Lord Roberts' conduct, but merely to
show that even in the great English Army, incomprehensible
irregularities were not unknown, and irregularities of such a character
as to quite put in the shade the bungles we were sometimes guilty of.
But the Republics, young though they were, never thought of boasting
about the order, organization, or discipline of their armies; on the
contrary they were perhaps a little inclined to take too lenient a view
when irregularities occurred.]




CHAPTER X

Four Hundred and Seventy English taken Prisoner at Reddersburg


In the evening of the day on which the events described in the last
chapter occurred, I handed over the command to Generals Piet de Wet and
A.P. Cronje, and taking with me three of my staff, rode to Donkerpoort,
in the direction of Dewetsdorp, on a reconnoitring expedition.

Early the following morning I came to a farm called Sterkfontein, where,
at noon, I received the news that a party of English, coming from
Smithfield, had occupied Dewetsdorp.

It was thirty miles from Sterkfontein to my commando, but,
notwithstanding this, I sent an order that 1,500 men, under Generals
J.B. Wessels, C.C. Froneman and De Villiers, should come up with all
haste and bring three guns with them.

During the time that must necessarily elapse before the arrival of this
force, I sent men out to visit the farms of those burghers who had gone
home after the fall of Bloemfontein, with orders to bring them back to
the front.

By the evening of the 1st of April I had all the men of the district
together; but it was then too late to make a start.

At ten o'clock the following morning the English left Dewetsdorp, and
marched towards Reddersburg. Directly I received news of this, I sent
word to the Generals, that they must hasten to Reddersburg; while I,
with the men who had rejoined, made my way to the north, so as to take
up a position on the enemy's flank. I had with me one hundred and ten
men in all. Many of them were without rifles, having given up their arms
at Bloemfontein. Others were provided with serviceable _achterlaaiers_,
but had little or no ammunition, because they had already fired off
their cartridges in mere wantonness in the belief that they might have
to give up their rifles any day. My handful of burghers were thus as
good as unarmed.

During our march I kept the English continually under surveillance. They
were unable to advance very rapidly, as the bulk of their force was made
up of infantry. But they were too far ahead for the commandos whom I had
sent in pursuit to be able to get at them; and for me, with the handful
of almost unarmed burghers which I commanded, to have attempted an
attack would have been worse than folly.

On the evening of the 2nd of April, the English encamped on the hill to
the west of a farm called Oollogspoort; whilst we off-saddled to the
north of them, on Mr. Van der Walt's farm. The enemy, however, was not
aware of the position of our laager.

The following morning, at four o'clock, I sent a third report to the
commandos. They had been some way on the road to Dewetsdorp, and thus,
far out of the course to Reddersburg, when my second report reached
them; and now my despatch rider met only Generals Froneman and De
Villiers with seven hundred men and three guns, and was too late to
prevent General Wessels from going on to Dewetsdorp.

Shortly after sunrise General Froneman received my report. He had been
riding all night through without stopping, and many of his horses were
already tired out. But as my order was that the Generals were to leave
behind those who were unable to proceed, and to hasten on at once
without so much as off-saddling, he did not wait to be told twice, but
pushing forward with all speed, arrived on the 3rd of April at
Schwarskopjes on the Kaffir River. He had left Sanna's Post on the
afternoon of the previous day.

Those who consider that he was marching with seven hundred men and three
Krupp guns, and that his horses were so exhausted that some of them had
to be left behind, will agree with me that he did a good day's work in
those twenty-four hours.

Fortunately for us, it was not at that time the habit of the English to
start on their march before the sun had risen. And, by another lucky
chance, our opponents were off their guard, and quite unsuspicious of
attack, although they must, undoubtedly, have heard something of what
had happened at Sanna's Post.

General Froneman gave me to understand that it was necessary to
off-saddle the horses, and to give them a long rest, as he had been
riding without any break since the previous evening.

"However necessary it may be," I replied, "it is impossible;" and I
pointed out to him that if we were to delay, the English would occupy
the ridge between Muishondsfontein and Mostertshoek, and thus obtain the
best position. I, therefore, ordered the men to proceed with all speed,
and to leave behind those who could not go on. The General did not
appear to be "links"[34] at this, but called out with his loud voice,
"Come on, burghers!"

We were fortunate in being able to keep up with the enemy by riding
along a little plain, which was hidden from them by an intervening hill.
Our course ran in a direction parallel to their line of march, and at a
distance of about six miles from it. But unluckily, the English were the
first to reach the ridge. When we appeared at the point where the hill
which had concealed us from them came to an end, their vanguard had just
passed the eastern end of the ridge at which we were both aiming; and we
had still some four or five miles to go before we could reach it.

I saw that the enemy was not strong enough to occupy the whole ridge, so
I at once gave orders to General De Villiers to advance, and to seize
the western end at a point just above the farmstead of Mostertshoek.
The enemy, observing this manoeuvre, took up their position on the
eastern extremity of the ridge. Whereupon I divided the remaining
burghers into small companies, with orders to occupy kopjes from six to
seven hundred paces still further to the east; leaving to myself and
Commandant Nel the task of seizing a small ridge which lay south-east of
the English lines.

All these positions would have to be taken under fire, and before making
the attempt I sent the following note to the British Commanding
Officer:--

     "SIR,--

     "I am here with five hundred men, and am every moment expecting
     reinforcements with three Krupps, against which you will not be
     able to hold out. I therefore advise you, in order to prevent
     bloodshed, to surrender."

I sent this note post haste, and then rested a little while awaiting the
return of the despatch rider.

And now a shameful incident occurred. The messenger had received the
answer to my letter, and had covered about a hundred paces on his way
back, when the enemy opened so heavy a fire upon him that it is
inexplicable how he managed to come through unscathed.

The answer which he brought from the officer was in the following
terms:--

"I'm d----d if I surrender!"

I at once ordered my men to rush the positions which I had already
pointed out to them; and notwithstanding the fierce opposition of the
enemy, they succeeded in carrying out my orders.

But although we had thus gained very good positions, those which the
English held were quite as good, and perhaps even better, except for the
fact that they were cut off from the water. However, when they had first
become aware of our presence--that is, while they were at
Muishondsfontein--they had taken the precaution of filling their
water-bottles.

Our guns did not arrive until so late in the afternoon that only a few
shots could be fired before it became dark.

Acting upon my orders, the burghers kept such good watch during the
night that escape was impossible for the English. I also sent a strong
guard to a point near Reddersburg, for I had heard that a reinforcement
of from thirteen hundred to two thousand British troops had come from
the direction of Bothathanie railway station, and were now encamped at
Reddersburg.

I had begun operations with only four hundred men under me, but before
the sun rose on the following day my force had been doubled by the
addition of those who had been compelled to remain behind and rest their
tired horses.

On the previous evening it had seemed to me highly improbable that we
should be able to storm the ridge in the morning. I had expected that
the force at Reddersburg--which lay only about four or five miles from
Mostertshoek--would have seen the fight in progress, or heard the
cannonading, and would have hastened to the assistance of their
comrades.[35] Nevertheless, I had given orders that as soon as it was
daylight, every one must do his utmost to force the English to
surrender.

It was now rapidly growing lighter, and I ordered the gunners to keep up
a continuous fire with our three Krupps. This they did from half-past
five until eleven o'clock, and then the enemy hoisted the white flag.

My men and I galloped towards the English, and our other two parties did
the same. But before we reached them, they again began to shoot, killing
Veldtcornet Du Plessis, of Kroonstad. This treacherous act enraged our
burghers, who at once commenced to fire with deadly effect.

Soon the white flag appeared above almost every stone behind which an
Englishman lay, but our men did not at once cease firing. Indeed! I had
the greatest difficulty in calming them, and in inducing them to stop,
for they were, as may well be imagined, furious at the misuse of the
white flag.

Strewn everywhere about on the ground lay the English killed and
wounded. According to the official statement, they had a hundred
casualties, the commanding officer himself being amongst the killed.

We took four hundred and seventy prisoners of war, all of them belonging
to the Royal Irish Rifles and the Mounted Infantry. But I cared nothing
to what regiment they belonged or what was the rank of the officer in
command. Throughout the whole war I never troubled myself about such
matters.

Our loss, in addition to Veldtcornet Du Plessis, whose death I have just
described, was only six wounded.

I had no longer any need to fear a reinforcement from Reddersburg, but
nevertheless there was no time to be lost, for I had just heard from a
prisoner of war that a telegram had been sent from Dewetsdorp to the
garrison at Smithfield, bidding them consult their own safety by
withdrawing to Aliwal North. I made up my mind to capture that garrison
before it could decamp. I waited until I saw that the English ambulances
were busy with their wounded, and then with all speed rode off.

As the direct road might prove to be held by Lord Roberts, I caused the
prisoners of war to be marched to Winburg via Thaba'Nchu. From thence
they were to be sent forward by rail to Pretoria.

[Footnote 34: Vexed.]

[Footnote 35: I have never been able to understand why the great force,
stationed at Reddersburg, made no attempt to come to the aid of the
unfortunate victims at Mostertshoek. Their conduct seems to me to have
been even more blameworthy than the similar negligence which occurred at
Sanna's Post. They were not more than five miles off, and could watch
the whole engagement--and yet they never stirred a foot to come and help
their comrades. And it was fortunate for us that it was so, for we
should have stood no chance at all against a large force.

To oppose successfully such bodies of men as our burghers had to meet
during this war demanded _rapidity of action_ more than anything else.
We had to be quick at fighting, quick at reconnoitring, quick (if it
became necessary) at flying! This was exactly what I myself aimed at,
and had not so many of our burghers proved false to their own colours,
England--as the great Bismarck foretold--would have found her grave in
South Africa.]




CHAPTER XI

An Unsuccessful Siege


My object now was to reach Smithfield. We set out at once and late in
the evening I divided my commandos into two parties. The first, some
five hundred men in all, consisted chiefly of Smithfield burghers under
Commandant Swanepoel, of Yzervarkfontein, but there were also some
Wepener men amongst them. I gave General Froneman the command over this
party, and ordered him to proceed without delay and attack the small
English garrison at Smithfield. With the second party I rode off to join
the burghers who were under General J.B. Wessels.

I came up with Wessels' division on the 6th of April at Badenhorst, on
the road from Dewetsdorp to Wepener. Badenhorst lies at a distance of
some ten miles from a ford on the Caledon River, called
Tammersbergsdrift, where Colonel Dalgety, with the highly renowned
C.M.R.[36] and Brabant's Horse were at that time stationed. I call them
"highly renowned" to be in the fashion, for I must honestly avow that I
never could see for what they were renowned.

During the fight at Mostertshoek on the previous day I had kept them
under observation, with the result that I learnt that they had
entrenched themselves strongly, and that they numbered about sixteen
hundred men, though this latter fact was a matter of indifference to me.
The history of Ladysmith, Mafeking, and Kimberley, however, served me as
a warning, and I asked myself whether it would be better to besiege the
wolf or to wait and see if he would not come out of his lair.

But the wolf, on this occasion, was not to be enticed out on any
pretext; and moreover it was probable that Lord Roberts would be able to
send a relieving force from Bloemfontein; so I decided to attack at
once. First, however, I despatched some of my best scouts in the
direction of Bloemfontein and Reddersburg, while I ordered the commandos
under Generals Piet de Wet and A.P. Cronje to take up positions to the
east and south-east of the capital.

Early in the morning of the 7th of April I made an attack on two points:
one to the south-west, the other to the south-east of Dalgety's
fortifications, opening fire on his troops at distances of from five to
fifteen hundred paces. I dare not approach any nearer for lack of
suitable cover. The place was so strongly fortified that many valuable
lives must have been sacrificed, had I been less cautious than I was.

After a few days I received reinforcements, and was thus enabled to
surround the English completely. But their various positions were so
placed that it was impossible for me to shell any of them from both
sides, and thus to compel their occupants to surrender.

Day succeeded to day, and still the siege continued.

Before long we had captured some eight hundred of the trek-oxen, and
many of the horses of the enemy. Things were not going so badly for us
after all; and we plucked up our courage, and began to talk of the
probability of a speedy surrender on the part of the English.

To tell the truth, there was not a man amongst us who would have asked
better than to make prisoners of the Cape Mounted Rifles and of
Brabant's Horse. They were Afrikanders, and as Afrikanders, although
neither Free-Staters nor Transvaalers, they ought, in our opinion, to
have been ashamed to fight against us.

The English, we admitted, had a perfect right to hire such sweepings,
and to use them against us, but we utterly despised them for allowing
themselves to be hired. We felt that their motive was not to obtain the
franchise of the Uitlanders, but--five shillings a day! And if it should
by any chance happen that any one of them should find his grave
there--well, the generation to come would not be very proud of that
grave. No! it would be regarded with horror as the grave of an
Afrikander who had helped to bring his brother Afrikanders to their
downfall.

Although I never took it amiss if a colonist of Natal or of Cape Colony
was unwilling to fight with us against England, yet I admit that it
vexed me greatly to think that some of these colonists, for the sake of
a paltry five shillings a day, should be ready to shoot down their
fellow-countrymen. Such men, alas! there have always been, since, in the
first days of the human race, Cain killed his brother Abel. But Cain had
not long to wait for his reward!

Whilst we were besieging these Afrikanders, news came that large columns
from Reddersburg and Bloemfontein were drawing near. So overwhelming
were their numbers that the commandos of Generals A.P. Cronje and Piet
de Wet were far too weak to hold them in check, and I had to despatch
two reinforcing parties, the first under Commandant Fourie, the second
under General J.B. Wessels.

General Froneman had now returned from Smithfield, whither I had sent
him to attack the garrison. He told me that he had been unable to carry
out my orders, for, on his arrival at Smithfield, he had discovered that
the garrison--which had only consisted of some two or three hundred
men--had just departed. He learnt, however, that it was still possible
to overtake it before it reached Aliwal North. Unfortunately, he was
unable to persuade Commandant Swanepoel, who was in command of the
burghers, to pursue the retreating troops. He therefore had to content
himself with the fifteen men he had with him. He came in sight of the
enemy at Branziektekraal, two hours from Aliwal North; but with the
mere handful of men, which was all that he had at his command, an attack
upon them was not to be thought of, and he had to turn back.

His expedition, however, had not been without good result, for he
returned with about five hundred of those burghers who had gone home
after our commandos had left Stormberg.

We had to thank Lord Roberts for this welcome addition to our forces.
The terms of the proclamation in which Lord Roberts had guaranteed the
property and personal liberty of the non-combatant burghers had not been
abided by. In the neighbourhood of Bloemfontein, Reddersburg, and
Dewetsdorp, and at every other place where it was possible, his troops
had made prisoners of burghers who had remained quietly on their farms.
The same course of action had been pursued by the column which fell into
our hands at Mostertshoek--I myself had liberated David Strauss and four
other citizens whom I had found there. While peacefully occupied on
their farms they had been taken prisoners by the English column, which
was then on its way from Dewetsdorp to Reddersburg.

This disregard of his proclamations did not increase the respect which
the burghers felt for Lord Roberts. They felt that the word of the
English was not to be trusted, and, fearing for their own safety, they
returned to their commandos. I sent President Steyn a telegram,
informing him that our burghers were rejoining, and adding that Lord
Roberts was the best recruiting sergeant I had ever had!

General Froneman and the men whom he had collected soon found work to
do. The enemy was expecting a reinforcement from Aliwal North, and I
sent the General, with six hundred troops, to oppose it. He came into
touch with it at Boesmanskop, and a slight skirmish took place.

In the meanwhile I received a report from General Piet de Wet, who was
at Dewetsdorp, notifying me that the English forces outnumbered his own
so enormously that he could not withstand their advance. He suggested
that I ought at once to relinquish the siege and proceed in the
direction of Thaba'Nchu.

I also received discouraging news from General Piet Fourie, who had had
a short but severe engagement with the troops that were coming from
Bloemfontein, and had been compelled to give way before their superior
forces.

Piet de Wet's advice appealed to me all the more strongly since
reinforcements were pouring in upon the enemy from all sides. But I was
of opinion that I ought to go with a strong force after the enemy in the
direction of Norvalspont, as I was convinced that it was no longer
possible to check their advance. But General Piet de Wet differed from
me on this point, and held that we ought to keep in front of the
English, and I was at last compelled to give in to him.

Accordingly I issued orders to General Froneman to desist from any
further attack upon the reinforcement with which he had been engaged,
and to join me. When he arrived I fell back on Thaba'Nchu.

My siege of Colonel Dalgety, with his Brabant's Horse and Cape Mounted
Rifles, had lasted for sixteen days. Our total loss was only five killed
and thirteen wounded. The English, as I learnt from prisoners, had
suffered rather severely.

[Footnote 36: Cape Mounted Rifles.]




CHAPTER XII

The English Swarm over our Country


On April 25th we arrived at Alexandrie, six miles from Thaba'Nchu. The
latter place was already occupied by English outposts. General Philip
Botha now joined me; he had been engaging the enemy in the triangle
formed by Brandfort, Bloemfontein and Thaba'Nchu. My commandos numbered
some four thousand men, and I decided that it was time to concentrate my
forces.

Lord Roberts was about to carry out the plans which he had formed at
Bloemfontein, namely, to outflank us with large bodies of mounted
troops. He attempted to do this to the north-east of Thaba'Nchu, but at
first was not successful. On a second attempt, however, he managed,
after a fierce fight, to break through our lines. It was during this
action that Commandant Lubbe was shot in the leg, and had the misfortune
to be taken prisoner. At Frankfort also, Lord Roberts met with success,
and General De la Rey was forced to retreat northwards.

I was now firmly convinced, although I kept the belief to myself, that
the English would march to Kroonstad; and I could see, more clearly than
ever, the necessity of operating in their rear. I had suggested to
President Steyn when he had visited us at Alexandrie, that I should
proceed to Norvalspont, or even into Cape Colony, but he was against any
such project. This, however, was not because he disapproved of my
suggestion in itself, but because he feared that the Transvaalers might
say that the Free-Staters, now that their own country was in the
enemy's hands, were going to leave them in the lurch. Yet in spite of
his opposition, I had ultimately to carry out my own ideas, for, even if
I was misunderstood, I had to act as I thought best. I can only say that
each man of us who remained true to our great cause acted up to the best
of his convictions. If the results proved disastrous, one had best be
silent about them. There is no use crying over spilt milk.

We now pushed our commandos forward to Zand River. At Tabaksberg General
Philip Botha had a short but severe engagement with Lord Roberts'
advanced columns. I was the last of the Generals to leave Thaba'Nchu.

I was very anxious to prevent the "granary"[37] of the Orange Free State
from falling into the hands of the English; with this object in view, I
left behind me at Korannaberg General De Villiers, with Commandants De
Villiers, of Ficksburg, Crowther, of Ladybrand, Roux, of Wepener, and
Potgieter, of Smithfield, and ordered the General to carry on operations
in the south-eastern districts of the Free State.

This valiant General did some fine work, and fought splendidly at
Gouveneurskop and Wonderkop, inflicting very serious losses upon the
English. But nevertheless he had to yield to the superior numbers of the
enemy, who ultimately gained possession of the "granary" districts. But
he made them pay for it dearly.

General De Villiers followed the English to Senekal and Lindley, and at
Biddulphsberg, near the first named village, he again engaged them
successfully, killing and wounding many of them. But a grave misfortune
overtook us here, for the General received a dangerous wound on the
head.

There was still another most deplorable occurrence. In some way or other
the grass caught fire; and as it was very dry, and a high wind was
blowing, the flames ran along the ground to where many of the English
wounded were lying. There was no time to rescue them; and thus in this
terrible manner many a poor fellow lost his life.

General De Villiers' wound was so serious, that the only course open was
to ask the commanding officer of the Senekal garrison to let him have
the benefit of the English doctors' skill. This request was willingly
granted, and De Villiers was placed under the care of the English
ambulance. Sad to say, he died of his wound.

Some time later I was informed that the man who had carried the request
into Senekal was ex-Commandant Vilonel, who was then serving as a
private burgher. A few days later he surrendered, so that one naturally
inferred that he had arranged it all during his visit to Senekal.

Shortly after he had given up his arms, he sent a letter to one of the
Veldtcornets, asking him to come to such and such a spot on a certain
evening, to meet an English officer and himself. The letter never
reached the hands of the person to whom Vilonel had addressed it; and
instead of the Veldtcornet, it was Captain Pretorius with a few
burghers, who went to the appointed place. The night was so dark that it
was impossible to recognize anybody.

"Where is Veldtcornet--?" asked Mr. Vilonel.

"You are my prisoner," was Captain Pretorius' reply, as he took
Vilonel's horse by the bridle.

"Treason! treason!" cried poor Vilonel.

They brought him back to the camp, and sent him thence to Bethlehem. A
court-martial[38] was shortly afterwards held at that town, and he was
condemned to a long term of imprisonment.

In the place of General De Villiers I appointed Deacon Paul Roux as
Vechtgeneraal. He was a man in whom I placed absolute confidence. As a
minister of religion he had done good service among the commandos, and
in the fiercest battles he looked after the wounded with undaunted
courage. His advice to the officers on matters of war had also been
excellent, so that he was in every way a most admirable man. But his
fighting career unfortunately soon came to an end, for he was taken
prisoner in a most curious way near Naauwpoort, when Prinsloo
surrendered.

I must now retrace my steps, and give some account of what I myself had
been doing during this time.

I proceeded to the west of Doornberg, and only halted when I reached the
Zand River. What memories does the name of that river bring back to me!
It was on its banks that in 1852 the English Government concluded a
Convention with the Transvaal--only to break it when Sir Theophilus
Shepstone annexed that country on the 12th of April, 1877. But this
Convention was re-established by Gladstone--greatest and noblest of
English statesmen--when he acknowledged the independence of the South
African Republic.

Here on the banks of this river, which was so pregnant with meaning, we
should stand, so I thought, and hold the English at bay. But alas! the
name with all its memories did not check the enemy's advance.

On the 10th of May Lord Roberts attacked us with his united forces; and
although his losses were heavy, he succeeded in breaking through our
lines near Ventersburg, at two points which were held by General
Froneman. And thus the English were free to advance on Kroonstad.

I gave orders to my commando to move on to Doornkop, which lies to the
east of Kroonstad. I myself, with Commandant Nel and some of his
adjutants, followed them when the sun had set. We rode the whole of that
night, and reached the township on the following morning. We immediately
arranged that the Government should withdraw from Kroonstad, and that
very day it was removed to Heilbron. President Steyn, however, did not
go to Heilbron, but paid a visit to General Philip Botha, whose commando
had held back the English outposts some six miles from Kroonstad.

The President, before leaving the town, had stationed police on the
banks of the Valsch River with orders to prevent burghers from entering
the dorp[39]; he had only just crossed the drift before my arrival. I
came upon some burghers who, as they had been ordered, had off-saddled
at the south side of the river, and I asked them if they had seen the
President. As they were Transvaalers, they answered my question in the
negative.

"But has nobody on horseback crossed here?" I said.

"Oh, yes! the Big Constable[40] crossed," one of them replied. "And he
told us not to pass over the drift."

"What was he like?" I inquired.

"He was a man with a long red beard."

I knew now who the "Big Constable" had been; and when I afterwards told
the President for whom he had been taken, he was greatly amused.

General Philip Botha discussed the state of affairs with me, and we both
came to the conclusion that if Lord Roberts attacked us with his united
forces, his superior numbers would render it impossible for us to hold
our disadvantageous positions round Kroonstad. We had also to take into
consideration the fact that my commando could not reach the town before
the following day. Whilst we were still talking, news arrived that there
was a strong force of cavalry on the banks of the Valsch River, six
miles from Kroonstad, and that it was rapidly approaching the town.

On hearing this, I hastened back to the south of the township, where a
body of Kroonstad burghers had off-saddled, and I ordered them to get
into their saddles immediately, and ride with me to meet the enemy. In
less time than it takes to describe it, we were off. As we drew near to
the English we saw they had taken up a very good position. The sun had
already set, and nothing could be done save to exchange a few shots with
the enemy. So, after I had ordered my men to post themselves on the
enemy's front till the following morning, I rode back to Kroonstad.

When I arrived there, I found that the last of the Transvaal commandos
had already retreated through the town and made for the north. I at once
sent orders to the burghers, whom I had just left, to abandon their
positions, and to prepare themselves to depart by train to
Rhenosterriviersbrug.

At Kroonstad there was not a single burgher left. Only the inhabitants
of the township remained, and they were but too ready to "hands-up."

One of these, however, was of a different mould. I refer to Veldtcornet
Thring, who had arrived with me at Kroonstad that morning, but who had
suddenly fallen ill. On the day following he was a prisoner in the hands
of the English.

Thring was an honourable man in every way. Although an Englishman by
birth, he was at heart an Afrikander, for he had accepted the Orange
Free State as his second fatherland. Like many another Englishman, he
had become a fellow-citizen of ours, and had enjoyed the fat of the
land. But now, trusty burgher that he was, he had drawn his sword to
defend the burghers' rights.

His earliest experiences were with the Kroonstad burghers, who went down
into Natal; later on he fought under me at Sanna's Post and
Mostertshoek, and took part in the siege of Colonel Dalgety at
Jammersbergsdrift. He had stood at my side at Thaba'Nchu and on the
banks of the Zand River. I had always found him the most willing and
reliable of officers, and he had won the respect and trust of every man
who knew him.

He was faithful to the end. Although he might well have joined our
enemies, he preferred to set the seal of fidelity upon his life by his
imprisonment. Long may he live to enjoy the trust of the Afrikander
people!

I remained late that evening in the town. It was somewhat risky to do
so, as the place was full of English inhabitants, and of Afrikanders who
did not favour our cause. In fact, I was surrounded by men who would
have been only too pleased to do me an injury.

I said farewell to Kroonstad at ten o'clock that night, and was carried
to Rhenosterriviersbrug, thirty-four miles from Kroonstad, by the last
train that left the town. But before I departed, I took care that the
bridge over the Valsch River should be destroyed by dynamite.

In the meantime, those portions of the Heilbron and Kroonstad commandos
which had gone into Natal at the beginning of the war, received orders
to leave the Drakensberg. Obeying these orders they joined me, and, with
my other troops, had occupied splendid positions on either side of the
railway line. Commandant General Louis Botha was also there with his
Transvaal burghers, having arrived in the Free State a few days
previously. Captain Danie Theron was still with me as my trustworthy
scout, and he constantly kept me informed of Lord Roberts' movements.

For a few days Lord Roberts remained at Kroonstad, but about the 18th
of May he again began to move his enormous forces. He sent out four
divisions. The first he despatched from Kroonstad to Heilbron; the
second from Lindley to the same destination; the third from Kroonstad to
Vredefort and Parijs, and the fourth from Kroonstad along the railway
line.

The two Governments had agreed that Commandant General Louis Botha
should cross the Vaal River, and that we Free-Staters should remain
behind in our own country. And this was carried out, with our full
approval.

The Governments had also decided that even if the English entered the
Transvaal, the Free State commandos were not to follow them. I had long
ago wished that something of this nature should be arranged, so that we
might not only have forces in front of the enemy, but also in their
rear. Thus the orders of the Governments exactly coincided with my
desires.

Lest any one should think that the Transvaalers and the Free-Staters
separated here on account of a squabble, or because they found that they
could not work harmoniously together, let me state that this decision
was arrived at for purely strategic reasons. We had now been reduced to
a third of the original number of forty-five thousand burghers with
which we had started the campaign. This reduction was due partly to
Cronje's surrender, and partly to the fact that many of our men had
returned to their farms. How, then, could we think of making a stand,
with our tiny forces, against two hundred and forty thousand men, with
three or four hundred guns? All we could do was to make the best of
every little chance we got of hampering the enemy. If fortune should
desert us, it only remained to flee.

To flee--what could be more bitter than that? Ah! many a time when I was
forced to yield to the enemy, I felt so degraded that I could scarcely
look a child in the face! Did I call myself a man? I asked myself, and
if so, why did I run away? No one can guess the horror which overcame
me when I had to retreat, or to order others to do so--there! I have
poured out my whole soul. If I did fly, it was only because one man
cannot stand against twelve.

After the Transvaalers had crossed the Vaal River, I took twelve hundred
men to Heilbron, where there was already a party of my burghers. General
Roux with other Free-Staters was stationed east of Senekal, and the
remainder of our forces lay near Lindley. But the commandos from Vrede
and Harrismith, with part of the Bethlehem commando, still remained as
watchers on the Drakensberg.

When I arrived at Heilbron, late at night, I received a report that
fighting was taking place on the Rhenoster River, between Heilbron and
Lindley, and that General J.B. Wessels and Commandant Steenekamp had
been driven back. But on the following morning, when the outposts came
in, they stated that they had seen nothing of this engagement. I
immediately sent out scouts, but hardly had they gone, before one of
them came galloping back with the news that the enemy had approached
quite close to the town. It was impossible for me to oppose a force of
five or six thousand men on the open plain; and I could not move to
suitable positions, for that would involve having the women and children
behind me when the enemy were bombarding me. I had therefore to be off
without a moment's delay. I had not even time to send my wife and my
children into a place of safety.

Our whole stock of ammunition was on the rail at Wolvehoek. I had given
orders to Mr. Sarel Wessels, who had charge of the ammunition, to hold
himself in readiness to proceed with it by rail, through the Transvaal,
to Greylingstad as soon as he received orders to do so.

But now the ammunition could not remain there, as Sir Redvers Buller was
gaining ground day by day towards the veldt on the Natal frontier and
the ammunition would thus be in danger of being taken. Therefore there
was nothing left for me but to get it through by way of Greylingstad
Station. It had to be done, and,--I had no carriages by which I could
convey it, as I had not sufficient hands to take carriages from the
trucks.[41] There was only one way (course) open; the commandos from
Smithfield, Wepener and Bethulie still had, contrary to the Kroonstad
resolution, carriages with them at Frankfort; I hastened to that village
and sent the necessary number of these carriages under a strong escort,
to fetch the ammunition from Greylingstad.

In order to do this responsible work I required a man whom I could
trust. Captain Danie Theron was no longer with me, because he, being a
Transvaaler, had gone with General Louis Botha. But there was another:
Gideon J. Scheepers.[42] To him I entrusted the task of reconnoitring
the British, so that the carriages which were going to fetch the
ammunition could do in safety what they were required to do, and I knew
that he would do it.

[Footnote 37: This "granary" lay in the Ladybrand, Ficksburg and
Bethlehem districts, and not only supplied the Free State, but also the
greater part of the Transvaal. If the districts of Wepener, Rouxville,
Bloemfontein, and Thaba'Nchu be included, this "granary" was the source
of a very large yield of corn, and there had been an especially rich
harvest that year. As the men were away on commando, the Kaffirs reaped
the corn under the supervision of the Boer women; and where Kaffirs were
not obtainable the women did the work with their own hands, and were
assisted by their little sons and daughters. The women had provided such
a large supply, that had not the English burnt the corn by the thousand
sacks, the war could have been continued. It was hard indeed for them to
watch the soldiers flinging the corn on the ground before their horses'
hoofs. Still harder was it to see that which had cost them so much
labour thrown into the flames.

In spite of the fact that the English, in order to destroy our crops,
had let their horses and draught oxen loose upon the land, there was
still an abundant harvest--perhaps the best that we had ever seen. And
so it happened that whilst the men were at the front, the housewives
could feed the horses in the stable. But Lord Roberts, acting on the
advice of unfaithful burghers, laid his hand upon the housewives' work,
and burnt the grain that they had stored.]

[Footnote 38: This Court was not composed of officers, but consisted of
three persons, one of whom was a lawyer.]

[Footnote 39: Township.]

[Footnote 40: Police Agent.]

[Footnote 41: Railway trucks.]

[Footnote 42: Everyone will know him, this brave man of pure Afrikander
blood, subsequently a famous Commander, a martyr. I appointed him
Captain of Scouts, and from the moment that he commenced his work I saw
that a _man_ had come forward. It was sad to think in what manner such a
man was deprived of his life. I shall speak more of him later on, for,
as our proverb says, "I had eaten too much salt" to pass over his career
unnoticed]




CHAPTER XIII

Our Position at the End of May, 1900


Once more it became necessary that the seat of Government should be
changed, and towards the latter part of May our administrative
headquarters were established at a place between Frankfort and Heilbron.
The object of our Government in choosing this position was to be able to
keep up telegraphic communication with the Transvaal. And their choice
was soon to be justified, for after Johannesburg had been taken on May
31st and Pretoria on July 5th, the only telegraphic connexion between
the Free State and the South African Republic was via Frankfort,
Greylingstad and Middlesburg. The terminus, at the Transvaal end, was
situated not far from Pretoria.

But, for the moment, it looked as if fortune were again going to smile
on us, after our long spell of ill luck. On May the 31st Lindley and its
garrison of Yeomanry fell into the hands of General Piet de Wet. The
Yeomanry lost heavily, and five hundred of them, including, as I was
told, several noblemen, were taken prisoner. These were the last
prisoners of war that we were able to send into the South African
Republic. Soon afterwards, when Pretoria was on the point of falling
into the enemy's hands, the prisoners there had to be sent further east,
but--owing either to the stupidity of the Transvaal Government, or to
the treachery of the guards--a great many of them were left behind for
Lord Roberts to release and re-arm against us. Our burghers grumbled
much at this, and blamed the negligence of the Transvaalers.

Before we had had time to get the captured Yeomanry through into the
Transvaal, Sir Redvers Buller had forced his way over the Natal
frontier, crossing the Drakensberg between Botha's Pass and Laing's Nek.
This event, which happened on June the 17th, caused yet another panic
among our commandos.

"We are now," they said, "surrounded on all sides. Resistance and escape
are equally impossible for us."

Never during the whole course of the war were President Steyn and I so
full of care and anxiety as at this time. With Buller across our
frontier, and the enemy within the walls of Johannesburg and Pretoria,
it was as much as we could do to continue the contest at all. However
brave and determined many of our burghers and officers might be, and, in
fact, were, our numerical weakness was a fact that was not to be got
over, and might prove an insuperable obstacle to our success. Moreover,
the same thing was now going on in the Transvaal after the capture of
Pretoria, as we had witnessed in the Free State after the fall of
Bloemfontein--nearly all the burghers were leaving their commandos and
going back to their farms. Plenty of officers, but no troops! This was
the pass to which we were come.

It was only the remembrance of how the tide had turned in the Free State
that gave us the strength to hold out any longer.

President Steyn and I sent telegram after telegram to the Government and
to the chief officers, encouraging them to stand fast. Meanwhile the two
Generals, De la Rey and Louis Botha, were giving us all a splendid
example of fortitude. Gazing into the future unmoved, and facing it as
it were with clenched teeth, they prosecuted the war with invincible
determination.

       *       *       *       *       *

That the reader may the better appreciate the actual condition of our
affairs at this time, I think it well to make a short statement as to
the various districts of the Orange Free State, and the number of men
in each on whom we could still rely!

The burghers of Philippolis and Kaapstad had surrendered _en masse_ to
the English. In the first named of these districts, only Gordon Fraser
and Norval, in the second only Cornelius du Preez and another, whose
name has escaped my memory, remained loyal to our cause. I mention these
men here, because their faithfulness redounds to their everlasting
honour.

In the district of Boshof, we could still reckon on Veldtcornet
Badenhorst,[43] and twenty-seven men.

Jacobsdal was represented by Commandant Pretorius (who had succeeded
Commandant Lubbe, after the latter had been wounded and taken prisoner
at Tabaksberg), and forty men.

In the district of Fauresmith, Commandant Visser and some seventy men
had remained faithful.

In Bethulie, Commandant Du Plooij, with nearly a hundred men, were still
in arms.

Bloemfontein was represented by Commandant Piet Fourie and two hundred
burghers.

The commandos of Rouxville, Smithfield, Wepener and Ladybrand, fell far
short of their full complement of men, as a great number had remained
behind at home.

Of the burghers from Winburg, Kroonstad and Heilbron, many had already
laid down their arms, and the drain upon our troops in these districts
was still continuing.

None of the burghers belonging to the districts of Ficksburg,
Bethlehem,[44] Harrismith and Vrede had yet surrendered--their turn was
to come.

All told, we were 8,000 burghers.

After my men had gone northwards, those burghers of Hoopstad, Jacobsdal,
Fauresmith, Philippolis, Bethulie, Smithfield, Rouxville, Wepener,
Bloemfontein and the southern part of Ladybrand, who had laid down their
arms and remained at home between the beginning of March and the end of
May, were left undisturbed by Lord Roberts--so far as their private
liberty was concerned.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was now camped at Frankfort, waiting for the ammunition, which ought
to have already arrived from Greylingstad Station. It was about this
time that the Government decided, on the recommendation of some of the
officers, that the rank of Vechtgeneraal should be abolished. In
consequence of this decision all the officers of that rank resigned. I
did not approve of this course of action, and obtained from the
Government the rank of Assistant Commander-in-Chief. I was thus able to
re-appoint the old Vechtgeneraals, Piet de Wet, C.C. Froneman, Philip
Botha and Paul Roux, and I at once proceeded to do so.

[Footnote 43: Afterwards Commandant, and, still later, Assistant
Commander-in-Chief.]

[Footnote 44: At the conclusion of peace it was the Bethlehem commando
which had the greatest number of burghers under arms.]




CHAPTER XIV

Roodewal


The ammunition arrived safely, and towards the end of May I made my way
to a certain hill, some twelve miles from Heilbron, to which we had
given the name of Presidentskopje, and where Commandants Steenekamp and
J.H. Olivier were posted.

Here I left the greater part of my commandos. But I myself, on the 2nd
of June, set out in the direction of Roodewal Station, taking with me
six hundred burghers, mounted on the best horses that were to be
obtained. I reached the farm of Leeuwfontein the same night, and found
it an excellent place in which to hide my men out of sight of the
Heilbron garrison. The farm stood about nine miles to the south of that
town.

The following evening we moved on as far as Smithsdrift, which is a
drift on the road from Heilbron to Kroonstad. There again I concealed my
men.

On the afternoon of the next day, June the 4th, news was brought me that
a convoy was on its way to Heilbron from Rhenoster River. This convoy
encamped that evening at the distance of a mile from the farm of
Zwavelkrans; the spot chosen was about five hundred paces from the
Rhenoster River, and quite unprotected.

Before sunrise I sent a party of burghers down to the river, some five
hundred paces from where the convoy was encamped, and by daybreak we had
entirely surrounded the enemy.

No sooner had the sun appeared than I despatched a burgher with a white
flag to the English officer in command. I ordered my messenger to
inform the officer that he was surrounded, that escape was out of the
question, and that if he wished to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, his only
course was to surrender.

[Illustration: ROODEWAL.

FROM A SKETCH BY THE AUTHOR.]

On hearing this one of their men came to me with the object of demanding
certain conditions. It goes without saying that my answer
was--"Unconditional surrender!"

He asked for time to communicate this to the officer in command. I
granted this request, and he returned to the convoy.

We were not left in suspense for long. The white flag was hoisted almost
immediately, and two hundred _Bergschotten_,[45] with fifty-six heavily
laden waggons, fell into our hands.

Fortunately, all this occurred out of sight of Roodewal Station and
Heilbron, and, as not a single shot had been fired, I had no reason so
far to fear that there was any obstacle in the way of my main
project--the capture of the valuable booty at Roodewal.

I at once returned with my capture to the spot where we had been the
previous night. General Philip Botha conducted the prisoners and the
booty to the President's camp, returning to our laager on the following
morning.

On the evening of the 6th of June I started on my road to Roodewal. At
Walfontein I divided my troops into three parties. The first party,
consisting of three hundred men with one Krupp, I despatched under
Commandant Steenekamp to Vredefort Road Station, with orders to attack
it the following day at sunrise. General Froneman, with Commandants Nel
and Du Plooij, were in command of the second party, which consisted of
three hundred burghers, with two Krupps and one quick-firing gun. My
orders were that, at daybreak, they were to attack an English camp which
was lying a mile to the north of the railway station at Rhenoster River,
and close to some brick-coloured ridges. The third party I commanded
myself. It consisted of Commandant Fourie and eighty burghers, with one
Krupp; and with this force I pushed on to Roodewal Station.

At Doorndraai I left behind me a few waggons, with twenty men to guard
them. I had previously stationed a hundred burghers there, with the
object of keeping in touch with the enemy.

The information which Captain Scheepers had gained while scouting was
amply sufficient to show me how the land lay.

Although I had heard that there were not more than fifty of the enemy at
Vredefort Road Station, I had nevertheless sent three hundred burghers
there. This was because I was aware that the main English force lay to
the north of the station, so that these fifty men might be reinforced at
the shortest possible notice. The numbers which General Froneman had to
encounter were much greater, and the enemy held safe positions. But as
General Froneman was himself able to take quite as good positions, I
only gave him the same number of troops as I had assigned to Commandant
Steenekamp. I also gave orders that two guns should proceed with him.

I was informed that there were only one hundred of the English at
Roodewal, but that these hundred were very securely entrenched. My
information was, however, at fault, for I discovered later on that there
were at least double that number.

I arrived at Roodewal very early in the morning of the 7th of June. I
brought my men up to within eight hundred paces of the station, and
ordered them to unharness the horses which were attached to the Krupp,
and to place it in position.

But listen! There is the crack of rifles in the distance! That must be
the sound of the enemy's fire on General Froneman. Again, and yet again,
the sound meets my ears. Then all is quiet once more.

It was still two hours before the sun would rise, and I took full
advantage of the opportunities which the darkness gave me. I ordered
four of my burghers to approach as close to the station as was possible,
and to find out everything they could about the enemy's position.
Following my directions, they crept with extreme caution towards the
English lines, until only a hundred paces separated them from the
station. They returned before it was light, and brought back word that
unless the enemy had thrown up unusually high _schanzes_, there must be
an untold quantity of provisions piled up there. Everything had been
very quiet, and they had seen no one stirring.

The day now began to dawn, and as soon as it was light I sent a message
to the enemy demanding their surrender. The answer came back at once. On
the back of my note these words had been written:

"We refuse to surrender."

I instantly opened a hot fire upon them, bringing the Krupp as well as
the Mausers into action. But the reply of the enemy was no less severe.

We had no cover. There was only a shallow _pan_[46]--so shallow that it
scarcely afforded protection to the horses' hoofs! A thousand paces to
the north-west of the railway I had observed a deep _pan_ where the
horses would have had better cover, but even there our men would have
been just as exposed as they now were. I had decided against taking up
my position in this _pan_, because I should have been obliged to cross
the line to reach it, and in doing so should have run the risk of being
observed by the English.

Thus it was that the burghers were compelled to lie flat down in order
to afford as little mark as possible to the enemy. But the men who
served the Krupp were naturally unable to do this; and, seeing that the
gun must be moved, I gave this order: "Inspan the gun, gallop it three
thousand paces back; then blaze away again as fiercely as you can!"

Under a hail of bullets the horses were attached to the gun. Whilst
this was being done, I ordered my men to fire upon the English
entrenchments with redoubled energy, and thus, if possible, prevent the
enemy from taking careful aim.

Incredible though it may appear, Captain Muller got the gun away without
a single man or horse being hit. When he had covered three thousand
paces, he halted, and turning the Krupp on the enemy, he shelled them
with good effect.

At about ten o'clock, General Froneman succeeded in forcing the English
troops which he had attacked to surrender. I therefore ordered the two
Krupps which he had with him to be brought up with the utmost despatch.
At half-past seven they arrived, and immediately opened fire on the
English.

When the enemy had been under the fire of three guns and eighty Mausers
for an hour, they thought it best to hoist the white flag. We
accordingly ceased firing, and I rode out towards the station. Before I
had reached it, I was met by two of the officers. They told me that they
were willing to surrender, on condition that they were allowed to retain
their private property and the mail bags, for it appeared that there
were two English mails under their charge.

I replied that so far as their private belongings were concerned, they
were welcome to keep them, as I never allowed the personal property of
my prisoners to be tampered with in my presence.[47] But I told them
that the letters were a different matter, and that I could not allow
them to reach their destination--unless they were directed to a bonfire!

There was nothing left for the officers to do, except to agree to my
terms then and there; for had they hesitated even for a moment, I should
certainly have stormed the station.

But they wisely surrendered.

On our arrival at the station, we were all filled with wonder at the
splendid entrenchments the English had constructed from bales of cotton,
blankets and post-bags. These entrenchments had been so effectual that
the enemy's loss was only twenty-seven killed and wounded--a remarkably
small number, when it is remembered that we took two hundred of them
prisoners.

I had expected that our booty would be large, and my expectations were
more than realized. To begin with, there were the bales of clothing that
the English had used as entrenchments. Then there were hundreds of cases
of necessaries of every description. Of ammunition, also, there was no
lack, and amongst it there were projectiles for the Naval guns, with
which Lord Roberts had intended to bombard Pretoria.

Some of the burghers attempted to lift these gigantic shells, but it
took more than one man to move them.

I read in the newspapers afterwards that I had inflicted a loss of three
quarters of a million sterling on the English Government--let that give
the extent of my capture.

But at that moment we did not realize how much harm we had done to them.
We had little time for anything which did not directly forward our
cause. I was, however, very sorry that I could not carry away with me
the blankets and boots which we found in large quantities, for they
would have been most valuable for winter use. But there was no time for
this, as the English held the railway and could at any moment bring up
reinforcements from Bloemfontein, from Kroonstad, or from Pretoria. So,
as I could not take the booty away with me, I was obliged to consign it
to the flames.

But before I did this I gave the burghers permission to open the
post-bags, and to take what they liked out of them. For in these bags
there were useful articles of every description, such as underclothing,
stockings, cigars and cigarettes.

Very soon every one was busy with the post-bags--as if each burgher had
been suddenly transformed into a most zealous postmaster!

Whilst my men were thus pleasantly occupied, two prisoners asked me if I
would not allow them also to open the post-bags, and to investigate
their contents. I told them to take just what they fancied, for
everything that was left would be burnt.

It was a very amusing sight to see the soldiers thus robbing their own
mail! They had such a large choice that they soon became too dainty to
consider even a plum-pudding worth looking at!

Although I had ordered my men to wreck the bridges both to the north and
to the south of us, I still did not feel secure--any delay on our part
was fraught with danger, and the sooner we were off the better.

But before we could start, I had to find some method of removing the
ammunition which I wished to take with me. Since I possessed no waggons
available for this purpose, my only course was to order my burghers to
carry away the quantity required. But my burghers were busily engaged in
looting.

Those who have had any experience of our commandos will not need to be
told that it was a difficult task to get any men to help me in the work.
I did succeed, however, in dragging a few of the burghers away from the
post-bags. But the spirit of loot was upon them, and I was almost
powerless. Even when I had induced a burgher to work, he was off to the
post-bags again the instant my back was turned, and I had to go and hunt
him up, or else to find some other man to do the work. Yet, in spite of
this, I succeeded in removing the gun and Lee-Metford ammunition. We
carried away some six hundred cases of this ammunition,[48] and hid it
at a spot about three hundred paces from the station.

When the sun set, the burghers were again on the march. But what a
curious spectacle they presented!

Each man had loaded his horse so heavily with goods that there was no
room for himself on the saddle; he had, therefore, to walk, and lead his
horse by the bridle. And how could it be otherwise? For the burghers had
come from a shop where no money was demanded, and none paid!

But the most amusing thing of all was to watch the "Tommies" when I gave
them the order to march. The poor Veldtcornet, who was entrusted with
the task of conducting them to our camp, had his hands full when he
tried to get them away from the booty; and when at last he succeeded,
the soldiers carried such enormous loads, that one could almost fancy
that every man of them was going to open a store. But they could not
carry such burdens for long, and soon they were obliged to diminish
their bulk, thus leaving a trail of parcels to mark the road they had
taken!

And now it was time for the fire to do its work, and I ordered fifteen
men to set the great heap of booty alight. The flames burst out
everywhere simultaneously--our task was completed.

In an instant we had mounted our horses and were off.

When we had covered fifteen hundred paces, we heard the explosion of the
first shells, and wheeled round to view the conflagration. The night was
very dark, and this rendered the sight that met our eyes still more
imposing. It was the most beautiful display of fireworks that I have
ever seen.

One could hear, between the thunder of the big bombs, the dull report of
exploding cordite. Meanwhile the dark sky was resplendent with the red
glow of the flames.

I must now give some description of General Froneman's engagement to the
north of Rhenosterriviersbrug.[49]

The firing we had heard before sunrise came from the English outposts,
as they were retreating to their camp. The burghers and the English had
both seized positions on small hills and in abandoned Kaffir kraals.[50]

Although the English had very good positions, and out-numbered our men
by two to one, they found it impossible to hold out against our fire.
They had no guns, whilst we possessed, as the reader knows, two Krupps
and a quick-firing gun, which latter had the same effect as a
Maxim-Nordenfeldt. Thus the enemy was forced to surrender; and five
hundred of them were taken prisoner, among whom were Captain Wyndham
Knight and several other officers. Their casualties amounted to the
large total of one hundred and seventy killed and wounded, Colonel
Douglas being one of the killed.

Commandant Steenekamp had also met with success, for he had captured the
English camp at Vredefortweg Station, and taken thirty prisoners,
without firing a shot.

Thus we had made eight hundred of the enemy our prisoners, and destroyed
an enormous amount of their ammunition, and this with scarcely any loss
on our side. At Roodewal only two of my men had been wounded, whilst
General Froneman had lost but one killed--a burgher named Myringen--and
two slightly wounded.

It had been a wonderful day for us--a day not easily forgotten.

We were deeply thankful for our success. Our only regret was that it had
been impossible for us to keep more of the clothing and ammunition. But
although we had not been able to retain it, neither had the enemy. It
was winter, and we had managed to burn their warm clothing. The English
would certainly feel the want of it; and some time must elapse before
they could receive a fresh supply from Europe.

Undoubtedly Lord Roberts would be very angry with me; but I consoled
myself with the thought that his anger would soon blow over. I felt sure
that after calm consideration he would acknowledge that I had been
altogether within my rights, and that he had been rather unwise in
heaping together at one place so large a quantity of insufficiently
protected stores. He should have kept his supplies at Kroonstad, or,
better still, at Bloemfontein, until he had reconstructed all the
railway bridges which we had blown up on the line to Pretoria. Lord
Roberts had already begun to trust the Free-Staters too much; and he had
forgotten that, whatever else we may have been thinking about, never for
a single moment had we thought of surrendering our country.

I received a report the following day that thirty English troops had
been seen eight miles to the west of Roodewal, and moving in the
direction of Kroonstad. I despatched General Froneman with thirty of the
burghers to fetch them in.

The next day, which was the 9th of June, I went with our prisoners to
within three miles of the railway, and left them there under Veldtcornet
De Vos,[51] ordering him to conduct them the rest of the way.

It was now my duty to bring away the ammunition which I had left at
Roodewal and to put it into some safe place. With this in view, I sent
the Commandants, when night had fallen, to Roodewal, each with two
waggons, and ordered them to bring it to my farm at Roodepoort, which
was three miles away from the railway bridge over the Rhenoster River.

There was a ford near my farm with sandy banks; and I told the
Commandants to bury the ammunition in this sand, on the south side of
the river, and to obliterate all traces of what they had done by
crossing and re-crossing the spot with the waggons. I found out
subsequently that the Commandants had left some of the ammunition behind
at Roodewal.

Before I conclude this chapter I have to record an event which filled me
with disgust.

Veldtcornet Hans Smith, of Rouxville, contrived to have a conversation
with Captain Wyndham Knight, who, as I have already stated, was one of
our prisoners. The Veldtcornet obtained from him a "free pass" to
Kroonstad through the English lines, and also a written request to the
British authorities there to allow him and twenty burghers to proceed
without hindrance to Rouxville. Alas! that any Free State officer should
be capable of such conduct!

Captain Wyndham Knight will be held in high esteem by all who truly
serve their country, for he was a man who never deserted the cause of
his fatherland, no matter what dangers he encountered.

Veldtcornet Hans Smith with his twenty burghers decamped on the night of
the 10th of June, but some days had passed before I discovered the mean
trick he had played.

It was far easier to fight against the great English army than against
this treachery among my own people, and an iron will was required to
fight against both at once. But, even though one possessed an iron will,
such events caused many bitter moments; they were trials which, as an
African proverb[52] says, no single man's back was broad enough to
carry.

[Footnote 45: Highlanders.]

[Footnote 46: A pond which only contains water during "the rains."]

[Footnote 47: The _Uitschudden_ (stripping) of the enemy had not become
necessary at that date. I can say for myself that when, at a later
period, it came into practice, I never witnessed it with any
satisfaction. Yet what could the burghers do but help themselves to the
prisoners' clothing, when England had put a stop to our imports, and cut
off all our supplies?]

[Footnote 48: At this time the burghers were beginning to use the rifles
which they had taken from the enemy.]

[Footnote 49: Rhenoster River bridge.]

[Footnote 50: These dated back to the time of Moselekatze (Umzilygazi).]

[Footnote 51: He was afterwards appointed Commandant.]

[Footnote 52: Literally the proverb runs as follows: "There are some
trials which will not sit in one man's clothes."]




CHAPTER XV

I Make Lord Kitchener's Acquaintance


On the morning of June the 10th my anticipations were realized by the
approach of a large English force from Vredefortweg and Heilbron.
Commanded by Lord Kitchener, and numbering, as I estimated, from twelve
to fifteen thousand men, this force was intended to drive us from the
railway line.

I gave orders that the few waggons which we had with us should proceed
in the direction of Kroonstad, to the west of the line; once out of
sight, they were to turn sharply to the west, and continue in that
direction. This manoeuvre, I hoped, would serve to mislead the enemy,
who was on the look-out for us.

So much for the waggons. For the rest, I felt that it would never do for
us to withdraw without having fired a shot, and I therefore got my men
into position on some kopjes (where Captain Wyndham Knight had been four
days previously, and which lay to the north of Rhenosterriviersbrug) on
my farm Roodepoort, and on the Honingkopjes.

The English, with their well known predilection for a flank attack on
every possible opportunity, halted for an hour, and shelled our
positions with Lyddite and other guns. This did _not_ have the desired
effect of inspiring terror in the burghers who were under my command at
Honingkopjes.

Then the enemy began to move. I saw masses of their cavalry making for a
piece of rising ground to the north of Roodepoort. As the burghers there
were hidden from me, I was unable to observe from where I stood the
effect of this flank movement. Knowing that if they were able to give
way and to retreat along the river we should have no means of
discovering the fact until it was too late and we were surrounded, I
came to the conclusion that it was essential for me to go to Roodepoort
to assure myself that the cavalry had not yet got round. But it was most
important that no suspicion of the danger which threatened us should be
aroused in the burghers--anything calculated to weaken their resistance
was to be avoided on such an occasion. Accordingly I merely told them
that I was going to see how affairs were progressing at Roodepoort, and
that in the meantime they must hold their position.

I rode off, and discovered that the English were already so close to our
troops at Roodepoort that fighting with small arms had begun. I had just
reached an eminence between Roodepoort and the Honingkopjes when I saw
that the burghers in the position furthest towards the north-west were
beginning to flee. This was exactly what I had feared would happen.
Immediately afterwards the men in the centre position, and therefore the
nearest to me, followed their comrades' example. I watched them
loosening their horses, which had been tethered behind a little hill;
they were wild to get away from the guns of the English and from the
advance of this mighty force.

It was impossible for me now to go and tell the burghers on the
Honingkopjes that the time had come when they too must retreat. My only
course was to order the men near me not to effect their escape along the
well protected banks of the river, but to the south, right across the
stream, by a route which would be visible to burghers on the
Honingkopjes. They obeyed my orders, and rode out under a heavy gun and
rifle fire, without, however, losing a single man. The men on the
Honingkopjes saw them in flight, and were thus able to leave their
position before the enemy had a chance of driving them into the river or
of cutting them off from the drift.

Unfortunately, seven burghers from Heilbron were at a short distance
from the others, having taken up their position in a _kliphok_.[53]
Fighting hard as they were, under a deafening gun-fire from the enemy,
who had approached to within a few paces of them, they did not observe
that their comrades had left their positions. Shortly afterwards,
despairing of holding the _kliphok_ any longer, they ran down to the
foot of the hill for their horses, and saw that the rest of the burghers
were already fleeing some eight or nine hundred paces in front of them,
and that their own horses had joined in the flight. There was now only
one course open to them--to surrender to the English.[54]

I ordered the burghers to retreat in the direction of Kroonstad, for by
now they had all fled from Roodepoort and Honingkopjes--a name which,
since that day, has never sounded very _sweet_ to me.[55]

During the morning I received a report informing me that there were
large stores at Kroonstad belonging to the English Commissariat, and
that there was only a handful of troops to protect them. I had no
thought, however, of attempting to destroy the provisions there, for I
felt sure that the British troops, who had but just now put us to
flight, would make for Kroonstad. They would know that the stores stood
in need of a stronger guard, and moreover they would naturally think
that we should be very likely to make an attack at a point where the
defence was so weak.

Obviously, under these circumstances, it would never do for us to go to
Kroonstad.

Accordingly, as soon as darkness came on, I turned suddenly to the west,
and arrived at Wonderheuve late at night. I found there Veldtcornet De
Vos with the prisoners of war.

Meanwhile, as I had anticipated, the vast English army marched up along
thirty-four miles of railway to Kroonstad. Lord Kitchener, as I heard
later on, arrived there shortly after noon on the following day.

We left Wonderheuve early in the morning, and advanced along Rietspruit
until we reached the farm of Vaalbank, where we remained until the
evening of the next day, June the 13th. That night I saw clearly that it
was necessary for us to cross the line if we wanted to keep ourselves
and our prisoners out of the clutches of Lord Kitchener; he had failed
to find us at Kroonstad, and would be certain to look for us in the
country to the west of the line.

I also felt myself bound to wreck this line, for it was the only railway
which Lord Roberts could now utilize for forwarding the enormous
quantities of stores which his vast forces required.[56] I resolved
therefore to cross it at Leeuwspruit, north of Rhenoster River bridge
(which the English had recently repaired), and then, in the morning, to
attack the English garrisons which had again occupied Roodewal and
Rhenoster River bridge.

I had given orders that all the cattle along the railway line should be
removed; General Louis Botha had made the same regulation in regard to
the country round Pretoria and Johannesburg. If only our orders had been
carried out a little more strictly, and if only the most elementary
rules of strategy had been observed in our efforts to break the English
lines of communication, Lord Roberts and his thousands of troops in
Pretoria would have found themselves in the same plight as the
Samaritans in Samaria--they would have perished of hunger. It was not
their Commander-in-Chief's skill that saved them, not his habit of
taking into account all possible eventualities--no, they had to thank
the disobedience of our burghers for the fact that they were not all
starved to death in Pretoria.

I arranged with General Froneman that he should cross the line at the
point I had already selected, that is to say, north of Rhenoster River
bridge, and that in the morning he should attack, from the eastern side,
the English who were posted at Leeuwspruit Bridge. I, in the meanwhile,
would make my way with a Krupp to the west side of the line, and having
found a place of concealment near Roodepoort, would be ready to fall
upon the English as soon as I heard that the other party had opened fire
on them from the east.

But my plan was to come to nothing. For when, during the night, Froneman
reached the line, a skirmish took place then and there with the English
outposts at Leeuwspruit railway bridge. At the same time a train arrived
from the south, on which the burghers opened such a fierce fire that it
was speedily brought to a standstill. General Froneman at once gave
orders to storm the train, but his men did not carry out his orders.

_Had they done so, Lord Kitchener would have fallen into our hands!_

Nobody knew that he was in the train, and it was only later that we
heard how, when the train stopped, he got a horse out of one of the
waggons, mounted it, and disappeared into the darkness of the night.

Shortly afterwards the train moved on again, and our great opportunity
was gone!

General Froneman succeeded in overpowering the garrison at the railway
bridge, and took fifty-eight prisoners. He then set fire to the bridge,
which was a temporary wooden structure, having been built to replace
another similar one, which had been blown up with gunpowder.

Three hundred Kaffirs were also made prisoners on this occasion. They
protested that they had no arms, and had only been employed in work upon
the railway line. This absence of rifles was their saving. Possibly they
had really been in possession of arms, and had thrown them away under
cover of the darkness; but the burghers could not know this, and
therefore acted upon the principle that it is better to let ten culprits
escape than to condemn an innocent man to death.

General Froneman went on towards the east of Doorndraai. He was very
well satisfied with his bridge-burning and his capture of prisoners, and
in his satisfaction he never gave thought to me.

I waited in my hiding-place, expecting that, as we had agreed, the
firing would begin from the east, but nothing happened. I did not care
to make an attack on my own account from the west, for my positions were
not practicable for the purpose, and being short of men, I feared that
such an attempt might end in disaster.

It was now ten o'clock.

A few English scouts appeared on the scene, and four of my men attacked
them. One of the enemy was shot, and the rest taken prisoners. And still
I did not hear anything from General Froneman.

At last I came to the conclusion that he must have misunderstood my
instructions. If that were the case, I must do the best I could myself.
Accordingly I opened fire on the English with my Krupp.

Still no news of General Froneman!

Then I ordered my burghers to advance. Our first movement was over the
nearest rise to the north-west; we halted for a moment, and then made a
dash for Leeuwspruit Bridge--but we found nothing there.

Late in the evening I met General Froneman, and heard from him the
narrative which I have given above.

The following day I sent well on to twelve hundred prisoners of
war--including Kaffirs--to the President's camp, which lay east of
Heilbron. We then advanced to a point on the Rhenoster River, near
Slootkraal, remaining in concealment there until the night of the 16th
of June. The following morning we occupied some ridges at Elandslaagte,
on the look-out for a large English force which was marching from
Vredefortweg to Heilbron.

My intention was to give them battle at Elandslaagte, and to hold on to
our positions there as long as possible; and then, if we could not beat
them off, to retire. If only the burghers had carried out my orders
strictly, we should certainly have inflicted heavy losses on the
English, even if we had not won a complete victory.

The English had not sent out their scouts sufficiently far in advance,
and came riding on, suspecting nothing. We occupied positions on the
right and left of the road along which they were advancing, and my
orders were that the burghers should let the troops get right between
our ridges, which were about three hundred paces from each other, and
then fire on them from both sides at once.

Instead of doing this, however, the burghers began to fire when the
English were five hundred paces from them--before, that is to say, they
had got anywhere near the door of the trap which I had set for them.

The enemy wheeled round, and galloped back for about fifteen hundred
paces. They then dismounted, and fired on us. But, having no sort of
cover, they were soon compelled to mount their horses again and retire
to their guns, which were about three thousand yards from us. These guns
now opened a heavy fire upon our ridges; we replied with our three
Krupps, with which we made such good practice that we might have been
able to hold out there indefinitely, had not a Lyddite and an Armstrong
gun happened just then to arrive from Heilbron, which lay about ten
miles behind us. Thus attacked both in front and rear, there was nothing
to do but retire. Fortunately, we had not lost a single man.

First we rode in a southerly direction, but as soon as we got into cover
we struck off to the east, setting our faces towards Heilbron.

Then, to our immense relief, the sun went down. How often during our
long struggle for independence had not the setting of the sun seemed to
lift a leaden weight from my shoulders! If, on a few occasions, the
approach of night has been to our disadvantage, yet over and over again
it has been nothing less than our salvation.

We got back safely, under cover of the darkness, to our little camp near
Slootkraal, and there remained in hiding until the following day. It was
there that Commandant Nel handed in his resignation. In his place the
burghers of Kroonstad chose Mr. Frans Van Aard as their Commandant.

That night we set out for Paardenkraal, twenty miles to the north-east
of Kroonstad, staying there until the evening of the 19th.

The time for my attack on the railway line having now come, I divided my
men into three parties for that purpose. I sent on Commandant J.H.
Olivier, who had joined me at Paardenkraal, to Honingspruit Station,
General Froneman to America Siding, while I myself made my way to
Serfontein Siding.

At daybreak General Froneman wrecked the line near America Siding, and I
did the same at other places, also destroying the telegraph poles. Each
pole was first shot through with the Mauser, and then pulled until it
snapped at the point where the bullet had pierced it.

Things did not go so well with Commandant Olivier. He attacked the
station, but, unfortunately, not so early as had been arranged.
Consequently he was not able to bring his gun into action before the
enemy had observed him. When I came up to him there was a strong English
reinforcement from Kroonstad close at hand. We had too few men with us
to be able to offer resistance, and had to retreat, returning to
Paardenkraal at nightfall.

[Footnote 53: I.e. the ruins of Kaffir stone huts, built in the time of
Moselekatze.]

[Footnote 54: Among these seven burghers were Willie Steyn, Attie Van
Niekerk, and a certain young Botha. It was Steyn and Botha, with two men
of the name of Steytler, and two other Free-Staters whose names I have
forgotten, who managed to escape from the ship that lay anchored in the
harbour of Ceylon. They swam a distance of several miles to a Russian
ship, by which they were carried to one of the Russian ports, where they
received every hospitality. I shall always be grateful to the Russians
for this. They then travelled through Germany into Holland, being
subsequently conveyed in a German ship to German West Africa. Thence
they made their way through Boesmansland to Cape Colony, and, after many
adventures, joined General Hermanus Maritz's commando. Botha,
unfortunately, was killed in a skirmish some time later. What will the
world say of these young burghers? Surely, that more valiant and
faithful men than they have never lived. I regret that I do not remember
the names of all Willie Steyn's comrades. I travelled with him by train
from the Free State to Cape Town, where I had to join General Louis
Botha and J.H. De la Rey, so as to accompany them to Europe on my
nation's behalf. He promised then to give me all the particulars of his
escape, but I suppose there has been some obstacle in the way.]

[Footnote 55: The word _honing_ means honey.]

[Footnote 56: At that time the Natal and Delagoa Bay railways were still
in our possession.]




CHAPTER XVI

Bethlehem is Captured by the English


It was at this time that I decided to make my way to Lindley, which had
been retaken by the English a few days after General Piet de Wet had
captured the Yeomanry in that town. The object of my journey was to
discover if it were not possible to again seize the place. On the 21st
of June I covered half the distance to Lindley, and the following day I
arrived within ten miles of the town.

I rode round the town with Piet de Wet the next day, in order to find
out our best method of attacking it.

Commandant Olivier had been sent by me that morning in the direction of
Kroonstad to oppose a strong English column, which I had been informed
was approaching. But my plan must have leaked out in some way or other,
for the enemy carefully chose so well protected a route that they gave
Commandant Olivier no chance of attacking them. Thus the following
morning the English arrived safely at Lindley, and now there was no
possibility of capturing the town.

In the meantime President Steyn's laager had moved from the east of
Heilbron and joined us. He himself, with the members of the Government,
had gone to Bethlehem. General Marthinus Prinsloo was there too; he had
resigned his post of Commander-in-Chief of the commandos which guarded
the Drakensberg. Commandant Hattingh of Vrede had been chosen in his
place, and he also was at Bethlehem.

A difficulty now arose as to Prinsloo's position. The President
declared that Prinsloo was nothing more than a private burgher; but
Commandant Olivier was not satisfied with this, and asked that there
might be an election of a Commander-in-Chief. This request, however, the
President refused to grant.

I did not wish the office of Commander-in-Chief to devolve upon myself,
for I knew that I did not possess the confidence of the officers. And as
some eight miles to the east of Lindley there was telegraphic
communication with Bethlehem, I was able to hold a conversation with the
President over the wires. I accordingly again asked him to permit an
election. But it was all in vain; the President declined to allow an
election to take place.

I now took matters into my own hands. I collected the officers together
with the object of holding a secret election. Thus I should discover
what their opinion of me might be as chief of the Free State forces. I
was firmly resolved that should the majority of the officers be against
me, and the President should still refuse his consent to an election,
that I would send in my resignation, and no longer continue to hold the
post of Commander-in-Chief.

Commander-in-Chief Hattingh, Vechtgeneraal Roux, and all the oldest
commandants of the Free State, were present at this meeting. The voting
was by ballot; and the result was that there were two votes for General
Marthinus Prinsloo, one for General Piet de Wet, and twenty-seven for
myself.

I at once wired to the President, and told him what had occurred. He was
ready to abide by the decision, and I was satisfied now that I knew
exactly where I stood. Mr. Marthinus Prinsloo was also contented with
the turn events had taken. And I must say this of him, that it was not
he who had insisted on an election.

It soon became apparent that the enemy's object was the capture of
Bethlehem. The English forces round Senekal advanced towards Lindley,
and having been joined by the troops stationed there, had proceeded in
the direction of Bethlehem; consequently a very large British force was
marching on that town.

We on our part now numbered over five thousand men, for General Roux had
joined us with some[57] of his burghers.

The English were unopposed until they reached Elandsfontein, but there a
battle took place in which big guns played the main role, although there
was also some heavy fighting with small arms.

In this engagement Commandant Michal Prinsloo did a brave deed. I
arrived at his position just after the burghers had succeeded in
shooting down the men who served three of the enemy's guns. With a
hundred men he now stormed the guns, hoping to be able to bring them
back with him to our lines. Whilst he charged, I cannonaded the enemy,
with a Krupp and fifteen pound Armstrong, to such good effect that they
were forced to retreat behind a ridge. In this way Commandant Prinsloo
reached the guns safely, but he had no horses with him to drag them back
to us. He could do nothing but make the attempt to get them away by the
help of his burghers, and this he tried to accomplish under a fierce
fire from the English. But he would still have succeeded in the
endeavour, had not unfortunately a large force of the enemy appeared on
the scene, and attacked him and his hundred burghers. I was unable to
keep the English back, for both my guns had been disabled. The nipple of
the Armstrong had been blown away, and--for the first time--the lock of
the Krupp had become jammed. Had it not been for this mishap, Commandant
Prinsloo would certainly have been able to remove the guns to the other
side of a ridge, whither teams of our horses were already approaching.
But, as it was, he had to hurry away as fast as possible, and leave the
guns behind.

When the enemy arrived they had outflanked us so far to the north, that
we had nothing open to us but again to abandon our positions. We
therefore retired to Blauwkop, and on the following day to Bethlehem.

In the meantime I had once more become encumbered with a large waggon
camp, which proved a source of great danger. During the last few weeks
waggons had been accumulating round me without attracting my attention.
The reason that the burghers were so anxious to bring their waggons with
them, was to be found in the fact that the English, whenever they
arrived at one of our farms, always took the waggons and oxen. The Boers
felt it very hard to be robbed in this way of their property; and they
hoped to be able to save their waggons and carts by taking them to the
commando.

It was natural for them to wish to save all they could; but I was
convinced that the waggons could only be saved at the expense of our
great cause. But nobody could see it in that light. And as I could only
appeal to the free will of my burghers, I dare not attempt to get rid of
the waggons by force. If I had made any such attempt, serious
consequences would certainly have followed, even if a revolt had not
ensued. The great fault of the burghers was disobedience, and this came
especially to the fore when their possessions were in jeopardy.

I now made up my mind to defend the town of Bethlehem. The following
morning I went with the Generals and Commandants to reconnoitre the
country, so that I might be able to point out to each of them the
position that I wished him to occupy.

Our line of defence began at the south of Wolhuterskop (a kop to the
south-west of Bethlehem), and extended from there to the north-west of
the town.

When I had given my instructions to the officers, they returned to
their commandos, which were stationed behind the first ridges to the
south of Bethlehem, and brought them to the positions I had assigned to
them.

So many of the horses were exhausted, that a large number of the
burghers had to go on foot. Such of these _Voetgangers_[58] as were not
required to attend to the waggons, I placed at Wolhuterskop.

When I had done this I gave notice to the inhabitants of Bethlehem, that
as the dorp would be defended, I must insist on the women and children
leaving it at once. It was not long before a number of women and
children, and even a few men, started out on their way to Fouriesburg.
The prisoner Vilonel, also, was conducted to this town.

At four o'clock that afternoon the advance guards of the enemy
approached; and fifteen of their scouts made their appearance on the
ridge to the north of the town. The burghers reserved their fire until
these men were almost upon them. Then they let their Mausers speak, and
in a moment there were nine riderless horses. The other six English made
their escape, although they must have had wounds to show for their
rashness.[59]

Only a few moments had passed before the roar of guns was mingled with
the crack of rifles, and the whole air was filled with the thunder of
battle.

Everywhere the burghers fought with the utmost valour; the _Voetgangers_
on Wolhuterskop were perhaps the bravest of them all. Whenever the enemy
approached our positions, they were met by a torrent of bullets. And
thus the day came to a close.

But the next day a large force of English appeared from the direction of
Reitz. This had come from the Transvaal, and, if I remember rightly, was
commanded by General Sir Hector Macdonald. He had come up and joined
Generals Clements, Hunter, Broadwood and Paget, with the object of once
and for all making an end of the Free-Staters.

Our positions were now exposed to a most terrific bombardment, but
fortunately without any serious consequences. I must describe here the
fearful havoc that one lyddite shell wrought. It fell into the position
held by Commandant Steenekamp, to the north-west of Bethlehem, and
struck a rock behind which twenty-five of our horses were standing.
Without a single exception every horse was killed!

The attack was pressed with the greatest vigour on the positions held by
Commandants Van Aard and Piet Fourie. It became impossible for these
officers to maintain their ground; and, at about twelve o'clock, before
I was able to send them any reinforcements, they were compelled to give
way.

Thus retreat became inevitable, and the enemy entered Bethlehem.

One of our guns we were unable to remove; but before we withdrew it was
thrown down the _krans_[60] of the mountain, and broken to pieces.

I knew at the time the number the English had lost, but now it had
slipped my memory. I obtained the information from a man named Bland,
who acted as our telegraphist. He had tapped the telegraph wire at
Zwingkrans, and before General Clements had detected that he was not
communicating with Senekal, he had received from that General a full
list of the English killed and wounded.

We withdrew our commandos in a southerly direction to Retiefsnek,
whither President Steyn and the Government had already preceded us.

[Footnote 57: He had left the remainder of his burghers at Witnek and at
Houtnek, near Ficksburg.]

[Footnote 58: Infantry.]

[Footnote 59: As I have already stated, I intend to write on another
occasion a book dealing with the art of scouting; and the above incident
will there form a striking proof of how foolishly the English scouts did
their work.]

[Footnote 60: Precipice.]




CHAPTER XVII

The Surrender of Prinsloo


The English, now that they had taken Bethlehem, were in need of rest;
and this was especially the case with General Macdonald, who had come up
by forced marches from the far-off Transvaal. A short breathing space
was also a great benefit to us, for we had many preparations to make in
view of probable events in the near future. I did not deceive myself as
to the meaning of the present situation; now that all of us, except two
small parties at Commandonek and Witnek, had retreated behind the lofty
Roodebergen, I could see that, in all probability, we must before long
be annihilated by the immense forces of the enemy.

The Roodebergen, which now separated us from the English, is a vast
chain of mountains, extending from the Caledon River on the Basuto
frontier to Slabbertsnek, then stretching away to Witzeshoek, where it
again touches Basutoland. The passes over this wild mountain range are
Commandonek, Witnek, Slabbertsnek, Retiefsnek, Naauwpoort and
Witzeshoek. These are almost the only places where the mountains can be
crossed by vehicles or horses; and, moreover, there are long stretches
where they are impassable even to pedestrians.

It is plain enough, therefore, that nothing would have pleased the
English more than for us to have remained behind the Roodebergen. If
those Free-Staters--they must have been thinking--try to make a stand
there, it will be the last stand they will ever make.

And the English would have been quite right in their anticipations. To
have stayed where we then were would, without doubt, have been the end
of us. Therefore, when the proposal was made that we should take
positions in the mountains, I opposed it as emphatically as I could,
alleging incontrovertible arguments against it. It was then decided that
all our forces, with the exception of a small watch, should issue forth
from behind the mountains.

We also arranged to divide the whole of the commandos[61] we had with us
into three parts:--

I was in supreme command of the first division, which was to march under
the orders of General Botha. It consisted of burghers from Heilbron,
under Commandant Steenekamp, and of Kroonstad men, under Commandant Van
Aard. Besides these, there were also five hundred men from Bethlehem,
under Commandant Michal Prinsloo; the burghers from Boshof, under
Veldtcornet Badenhorst; a small number of Colonials from Griqualand,
under Vice-Commandant Van Zyl; and some Potchefstroom burghers, who
happened to be with us. Further, I took with me, for scouting purposes,
Danie Theron and his corps of eighty men, recruited from almost every
nation on the face of the earth; Captain Scheepers and his men also
served me in the same capacity.

The Government and its officials were placed under my protection;
and I was to set out, on July the 15th, in the direction of
Kroonstad-Heilbron.

The second division was entrusted to Assistant Commander-in-Chief Paul
Roux, with P.J. Fourie and C.C. Froneman as Vechtgeneraals. It was
composed of burghers from Fauresmith, under Commandant Visser; from
Bloemfontein, under Commandant Du Plooij; from Wepener, under Commandant
Roux; from Smithfield, under Commandant Potgieter; from Thaba'Nchu,
under Commandant J.H. Olivier; from Jacobsdal, under Commandant H.
Pretorius; and of the Deetje Bloemfontein commando, under Commandant
Kolbe.

This force was to wait until the day after my departure, that is, until
the 16th, and then proceed in the evening in the direction of
Bloemfontein. From the capital it was to go south, and during its
advance it was to bring back to the commandos all those burghers in the
southern districts who had remained behind.

General Crowther was given the command over the third division, which
consisted of the burghers from Ficksburg, under Commandant P. De
Villiers; from Ladybrand, under Commandant Ferreira; from Winburg, under
Commandant Sarel Harebroek; and from Senekal, under Commandant Van der
Merve.

This division was to start on the 16th, and marching to the north of
Bethlehem, was to continue advancing in that direction until it fell in
with the commandos from Harrismith and Vrede under Commander-in-Chief
Hattingh. It would then operate, under his directions, in the
north-eastern districts.

The remainder of Commandant Michal Prinsloo's Bethlehem men--that is to
say, the burghers of Wittebergen--were to stay behind as a watch, and to
take orders from Mr. Marthinus Prinsloo. This watch was divided into
three sections: the first to occupy a position at Slabbertsnek, the
second at Retiefsnek, and the third at Naauwpoort. They were forbidden
to use waggons; thus if the enemy should appear in overwhelming numbers,
it would always be possible for them to escape across the mountains.

My reason for selecting these men in preference to others, was that they
belonged to the district, and thus were well acquainted with every foot
of this rough and difficult country. Their duties were simply to protect
the large numbers of cattle which we had driven on to the mountains, and
I anticipated that there would be no difficulty about this, for now that
all our commandos had left those parts, the English would not think it
worth while to send a large force against a mere handful of watchers.

Thus everything was settled, and on the 15th of July I set out through
Slabbertsnek, expecting that the other generals would follow me,
conformably to my orders and the known wishes of the Government.

But what really happened?

Immediately after my departure, some of the officers, displeased that
Assistant Commander-in-Chief Roux should have been entrusted with the
command, expressed the wish that another meeting should be held and a
new Assistant Commander-in-Chief elected. This would have been
absolutely illegal, for the Volksraad had decreed that the President
should be empowered to alter all the commando-laws. But even then, all
would have gone well if Roux had only stood firm. Unfortunately,
however, he yielded, and on July the 17th a meeting was called together
at which Mr. Marthinus Prinsloo was chosen Assistant Commander-in-Chief.
He had a bare majority even at the actual meeting, and several officers,
who had been unable to be present, had still to record their votes.

Not only, therefore, had Prinsloo been elected irregularly, but his
election, such as it was, could only be considered as provisional.
Nevertheless, for the moment, power was in his hands. How did he use it?

He surrendered unconditionally to the English.

On the 17th and 18th of July the enemy had broken through at
Slabbertsnek and Retiefsnek, causing the greatest confusion among our
forces.

Many of the officers and burghers were for an immediate surrender, as
appears from the fact that the same assembly which, in defiance of the
law, elected Mr. Prinsloo as Commander-in-Chief, also decided, by
seventeen votes to thirteen, to give up their forces to the enemy. But
this decision was at once rescinded--an act of policy on the part of the
officers--and it was agreed to ask for an armistice of six days, to
enable them to take counsel with the Government.

A more senseless course of action could hardly be imagined. The Boer
Army, as anybody could see, was in a very tight place. Did its officers
think that the English would be so foolish as to grant an armistice at
such a time as this--when all that the burghers wanted was a few days in
which to effect their escape? Either the officers were remarkably
short-sighted, or ... something worse.

It was still possible for the commandos to retire in the direction of
Oldenburg or of Witzeshoek. But instead of getting this done with all
speed, Mr. Prinsloo began a correspondence with General Hunter about
this ridiculous armistice, which the English general of course refused
to grant.

It was on July the 29th, 1900, that Prinsloo, with all the burghers on
the mountains, surrendered unconditionally to the enemy.

The circumstances of this surrender were so suspicious, that it is hard
to acquit the man who was responsible for it of a definite act of
treachery; and the case against him is all the more grave from the fact
that Vilonel, who was at that time serving a term of imprisonment for
high treason, had a share in the transaction.

Prinsloo's surrender included General Crowther, Commandants Paul De
Villiers, Ferreira, Joubert, Du Plooij, Potgieter, Crowther, Van der
Merve, and Roux; and about three thousand men.

The most melancholy circumstance about the whole affair was that, when
the surrender was made, some of the burghers had reached the farm of
Salamon Raath, and were thus as good as free, and yet had to ride back,
and to go with the others to lay down their arms.

As to Roux, the deposed Commander-in-Chief, there is a word to be added.
I had always heard that he was a very cautious man, and yet on this
occasion he acted like a child, going _in person_ to General Hunter's
camp to protest against the surrender, on the ground that it was he
(Roux), and not Prinsloo, that was Commander-in-Chief. One can hardly
believe that he really thought it possible thus to nullify Prinsloo's
act. But he certainly behaved as if he did, and his ingenuous conduct
must have afforded much amusement to the English general.

If any one is in doubt as to what was the result of General Roux's
absurd escapade, I have only to say that the English had one prisoner
the more!

Those who escaped were but few. Of all our large forces, there were only
Generals Froneman, Fourie and De Villiers (of Harrismith); Commandants
Hasebroek, Olivier, Visser, Kolbe, and a few others; a small number of
burghers, and six or seven guns, that did not fall into the hands of the
English.

What, then, is to be our judgment on this act of Prinsloo and of the
other chief officers in command of our forces behind the Roodebergen?

That it was nothing short of an act of murder, committed on the
Government, the country, and the nation, to surrender three thousand men
in such a way. Even the burghers themselves cannot be held to have been
altogether without guilt, though they can justly plead that they were
only obeying orders.

The sequel to Prinsloo's surrender was on a par with it. A large number
of burghers from Harrismith and a small part of the Vrede commando,
although they had already made good their escape, rode quietly from
their farms into Harrismith, and there surrendered to General Sir Hector
Macdonald.--One could gnash one's teeth to think that a nation should so
readily rush to its own ruin!

[Footnote 61: The Harrismith and Vrede commandos had also received
orders to join us.]




CHAPTER XVIII

I am Driven into the Transvaal


As I have already stated, I led my commando, on the 15th of July,
through Slabbertsnek, out of the mountain district. My force amounted to
the total of two thousand six hundred burghers. The Government travelled
with us, and also alas! four hundred waggons and carts. Whatever I did,
it seemed as if I could not get rid of the waggons!

That night we reached a farm six miles to the east of Kaffirs Kop;
during our march we passed a column of the enemy that had left Bethlehem
in the afternoon.

On the following day I came into contact with some English troops, who
were marching in the direction of Witnek. They sent out a body of
cavalry to ascertain what our plans might be. It was very annoying to me
that they should thus discover our whereabouts, because it made it
impossible to carry out my intention of attacking one or other of the
English forces.

However, nothing was done that day, as neither we nor the enemy took up
the offensive.

In the evening we pushed on to the east of Lindley, and the following
day remained at the spot we had reached. The next evening we marched to
the farm of Riversdale; and the night of the 18th found us on the farm
of Mr. Thomas Naude, to the north-west of Lindley. We discovered that
the English had all left this village and gone to Bethlehem. My scouts
reported to me, the following day, that an English force, some four
hundred men strong, was approaching Lindley. Need I say that these men
had to be captured? With five hundred burghers and two guns I went out
to do this. When I was only a short distance from my camp, I received a
report that a large force of cavalry, numbering seven or eight thousand
men, had arrived on the scene from Bethlehem. This compelled me to
abandon the idea of capturing those four hundred men, and, instead, to
try to escape in a westerly direction from this large body of mounted
troops.

That evening we reached the farm of Mr. C. Wessels, at Rivierplaats. The
next day we were forced to move on, for the mounted troops were coming
nearer to us. They marched, however, somewhat more to the right in the
direction of Roodewal; whereas I went towards Honingspruit, and halted
for the night at the farm of Paardenkraal.

On the following morning, the 20th of July, I let the commando go on,
whilst I stayed behind to reconnoitre from a neighbouring kop. The
President, and also some members of the Government, remained with me. We
had the opportunity of accepting the invitation of Mr. C. Wessels to
take breakfast at his house. It was there that General Piet de Wet came
to me and asked if I still saw any chance of being able to continue the
struggle?

The question made me very angry, and I did not try to hide the fact.

"Are you mad?"[62] I shouted, and with that I turned on my heel and
entered the house, quite unaware that Piet de Wet had that very moment
mounted his horse, and ridden away to follow his own course.

After breakfast we climbed the kop; and when we had made our observation
we followed after the laager. On reaching the commando, I gave orders to
outspan at twelve o'clock.

While this was being done I heard from my sons that Piet de Wet had
told them that we should all be captured that night near the railway
line. He had not known that it was my intention to cross the railway
that night, but he had guessed as much from the direction I let my
commando take.

At two o'clock I received a report that two divisions of English troops
were drawing near. One division was six miles to the left, and the other
eight miles to the right of the road along which we had come.

I gave orders immediately that the laager should break up. What an
indescribable burden this camp, with four hundred and sixty waggons and
carts, was to me! What a demoralizing effect it had upon the burghers!
My patience was sorely tried. Not only were we prevented from moving
rapidly by these hampering waggons, but also, should we have to fight, a
number of the burghers would be required to look after them, and so be
unable to fire a shot.

We marched to the farm of Mr. Hendrik Serfontein, on Doornspruit, and
whilst I was there, waiting for darkness, some burghers, who were not my
scouts, brought a report that there were English camps both at
Honingspruit and at Kaallaagte.

This alarmed the President and the members of the Government, because,
should this report prove true, we should be unable to cross the railway
line without hard fighting, and besides there would be a considerable
risk of being taken prisoner.

For myself, I did not pay any attention to these burghers. I relied on
my own scouts, and I waited for their reports. I knew that if there had
been any truth in what we had been told, that I should have heard the
news already from the men whom I had sent out in the morning in that
direction. At last some of Captain Scheepers' men appeared--he was
scouting in front, and Captain Danie Theron in the rear--and reported
that the railway line was clear, with the exception that at Honingspruit
there were half a dozen tents, and four in the Kaallaagte[63] to the
north of Serfontein, and a few small outposts. This information came as
a great relief to the President and the members of the Government.

If I was to escape from the large force which was dogging my footsteps,
it was now necessary to cross the railway. I had made all preparation
for this move. I had left behind me, that afternoon, on the banks of
Doornspruit a commando of burghers, with orders to keep the enemy back
until we should have crossed the line. And now I only waited until the
darkness should come to my assistance.

As soon as the night came I ordered the waggons to proceed in four rows,
with a force on each side, and with a rearguard and vanguard.
Immediately behind the vanguard followed the President and myself. When
we were about twenty minutes' march from the railway line I ordered the
two wings of my force, which were about three miles apart, to occupy the
line to the right and left of Serfontein Siding.

Before we had quite reached the railway I ordered the vanguard to remain
with the President, whilst I myself, with fifteen men, rode on to cut
the telegraph wire. Whilst we were engaged in this task a train
approached at full speed from the south. I had no dynamite with me, and
I could neither blow it up nor derail it. I could only place stones on
the line, but these were swept away by the cowcatcher, and so the train
passed in safety.

I had forbidden any shooting, for an engagement would have only produced
the greatest confusion in my big laager.

Just as the last waggon was crossing the line, I received a report that
Captain Theron had captured a train to the south of us. Having ordered
the waggons to proceed, I rode over to see what had happened. When I
arrived at the scene of action I found that the train had come to a
standstill owing to the breaking down of the engine, and that on this
the English troops had at once opened fire on my men, but that it had
not been long before the enemy surrendered. Four of the English, but
only one of our burghers, had been wounded.

It was very annoying that the laager was so far off, but it was
impossible to carry off the valuable ammunition which we found on the
train.

I gave orders that the four wounded soldiers, who were under the care of
the conductor of the train, should be taken from the hut in which I had
found them, and placed in a van where they would be safe when I set fire
to the train. After the burghers had helped themselves to sugar, coffee,
and such things, I burned everything that was left. My ninety-eight
prisoners I took with me.

We had not gone far when we heard the small arm ammunition explode; but
I cannot say that the sound troubled me at all!

Thus we crossed the line in safety, and Piet de Wet's prediction did not
come true. He knew that we had a large force behind us, and believing
that the railway line in front of us would be occupied by troops, he had
said: "This evening you will all be captured on the railway line." Yet
instead of finding ourselves captured, we had taken ninety-eight
prisoners, and destroyed a heavily-laden train! How frequently a Higher
Power over-rules the future in a way we least expect!

That night we reached the farm of Mahemsspruit. From there we moved on
to the Wonderheurel; and on the 22nd of July we arrived at the farm of
Vlakkuil. I remained here for a day, for I wished to find out what the
English troops (they had remained where we left them by the railway
line) were intending to do.

Whilst I was waiting I despatched some corn on a few of my waggons to
Mr. Mackenzie's mills near Vredefort, giving orders that it should be
ground.

During the afternoon it was reported to me that a strong column of
English were marching from Rhenosterriviersbrug to Vredefort, and that
they had camped on the farm Klipstapel, some eight miles from my laager.

Shortly after sunrise the following morning a second report was brought
to me. It appeared that the enemy had sent out a force to capture our
grain waggons, and had nearly overtaken them.

In an instant we were in our saddles, but we were too late to save our
corn.

When the enemy saw us they halted at once; and meanwhile the waggons
hurried on, at their utmost speed, to our camp.

The English numbered between five and six hundred men, whilst we were
only four hundred. But although we were the smaller force, I had no
intention of allowing our waggons to be captured without a shot, and I
ordered my burghers to charge.

It was an open plain; there was no possible cover either for us or for
the English. But we could not consider matters of that sort.

The burghers charged magnificently, and some even got to within two
hundred paces of the enemy. They then dismounted, and, lying flat upon
the ground, opened a fierce fire. One of the hottest fights one can
imagine followed.

Fortunately a few paces behind the burghers there was a hollow, and here
the horses were placed.

After an hour's fighting, I began to think that any moment the enemy
might be put to rout. But then something happened which had happened
very often before--a reinforcement appeared.

This reinforcement brought two guns with it; thus nothing was left to me
but retreat. Our loss was five killed and twelve wounded. What the loss
of the English was I do not know, but if the Kaffirs who lived near
there are to be trusted, it must have been considerable.

In the evening I moved my camp to Rhenosterpoort; whilst the English
went back to Klipstapel.

And now the English concentrated their forces. Great Army Corps gathered
round. From Bethlehem and Kroonstad new columns were constantly
arriving, until my force seemed nothing in comparison with them.

I was stationed on the farm of Rhenosterpoort, which is situated on the
Vaal River, twenty miles from Potchefstroom. At that town there was a
strong force of the enemy, on which I had constantly to keep my eye.

But, notwithstanding their overpowering numbers, it seemed as if the
English had no desire to follow me into the mountains of Rhenosterpoort.
They had a different plan. They began to march around me, sending troops
from Vredefort over Wonderheurel to Rhenoster River, and placing camps
all along the river as far as Baltespoort, and from there again
extending their cordon until Scandinavierdrift was reached.

We were forced now either to break through this cordon, or to cross the
Vaal River into the South African Republic. The Free-Stater preferred to
remain in his own country, and he would have been able to do so had we
not been hampered by a big "waggon-camp" and a large number of oxen. As
these were with us, the Boers found it hard to make up their minds to
break through the English lines as a horse-commando, as it necessitated
leaving all these waggons and oxen in the hands of the enemy. But there
we were between the cordon and the Vaal River.

Almost every day we came into contact with the enemy's outposts, and we
had an engagement with them near Witkopjes Rheboksfontein. On another
occasion we met them on different terms, in Mr. C.J. Bornman's house.
Some of his "visitors" were, unfortunately for themselves, found to be
English scouts--and became our prisoners.

We remained where we were until the 2nd of August. On that day we had to
drink a cup of bitterness. It was on the 2nd of August that I received
the news that Prinsloo had surrendered near Naauwpoort.

A letter arrived from General Broadwood in which he told me that a
report from General Marthinus Prinsloo addressed to me had arrived
through his lines. The bearer of it was General Prinsloo's secretary,
Mr. Kotze. And now the English General asked me if I would guarantee
that the secretary should be allowed to return, after he had given me
particulars of the report he had brought.

Mr. Prinsloo's secretary must certainly have thought that he was the
chosen man to help us poor lost sheep, and to lead us safely into the
hands of the English! But I cannot help thinking that he was rather too
young for the task.

I had a strong suspicion that there must have been some very important
screw loose in the forces which we had left stationed behind the
Roodebergen, for on the previous day I had received a letter from
General Knox, who was at Kroonstad, telling me that General Prinsloo and
his commandos had surrendered.

In order to gain more information I gave General Broadwood my assurance
that I would allow Mr. Prinsloo's secretary to return unhurt.

When I had done this the President and some members of the Government
rode out with me to meet the bearer of this report. We did not wish to
give him any opportunities to spy out our positions. Half way between
the English lines and our own we met him. He presented us with this
letter:--

     HUNTER'S CAMP, _30th July, 1900_.

     TO THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, C.R. DE WET.

     SIR,--

     I have been obliged, owing to the overwhelming forces of the enemy,
     to surrender unconditionally with all the Orange Free State laagers
     here.

     I have the honour to be, Sir,
       Your obedient servant,
         M. PRINSLOO,
           _Commander-in-Chief_.

I sent my reply in an unclosed envelope. It ran as follows:--

     IN THE VELDT, _3rd August, 1900_.

     TO MR. M. PRINSLOO.

     SIR,--

     I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated
     the 30th of last month. I am surprised to see that you call
     yourself Commander-in-Chief. By what right do you usurp that title?
     You have no right to act as Commander-in-Chief.

     I have the honour to be,
       C.R. DE WET,
         _Commander-in-Chief_.

Hardly had I written this letter before two men on horseback appeared.
They proved to be burghers sent by General Piet Fourie, who was with
Prinsloo at the time of his surrender. These burghers brought from
Generals Fourie, Froneman, and from Commandant Hasebroek and others, a
fuller report of the surrender of Prinsloo. We learnt from the report
that not all of the burghers had surrendered, but that, on the contrary,
some two thousand had escaped. This news relieved our minds.

President Steyn and myself determined to despatch Judge Hertzog to the
commandos which had escaped, giving him instructions to bring them back
with him if possible. We had been told that these commandos were
somewhere on the Wilgerivier, in the district of Harrismith.

My position had now become very difficult. It seemed, as far as I could
discover, that there were five or six English generals and forty
thousand troops, of which the greater part were mounted, all of them
trying their best to capture the Government and me.

My force numbered two thousand five hundred men.

On the afternoon when I received the above-mentioned letter, there was
still a way of escape open to me, through Parijs[64] to Potchefstroom.
This road crossed the Vaal River at Schoemansdrift, and then followed
the course of the stream between Parijs and Vanvurenskloof. It was now,
however, somewhat unsafe, for that same afternoon a large force of the
enemy was marching along the Vaal River from Vredefort to Parijs. These
troops would be able to reach Vanvurenskloof early the following
morning; whilst the force at Potchefstroom, which I have already
mentioned in this chapter, would also be able to arrive there at the
same hour.

I led my burghers that evening across the Vaal River to Venterskroon,
which lies six miles from Schoemansdrift. The following morning my
scouts reported that the English were rapidly approaching from
Potchefstroom in two divisions; one was at Zandnek: the other had
already reached Roodekraal on its way to Schoemansdrift. One of these
divisions, my scouts told me, might be turning aside to Vanvurenskloof.

Now the road from Venterskroon passed between two mountain chains to the
north of Vanvurenskloof; and I feared that the English would block the
way there. I had to avoid this at all costs, but I had hardly a man
available for the purpose. The greater part of my burghers were still to
the south-east and south-west of the Vaal River.

There was nothing left for me to do except to take the burghers who
remained with me, and, whilst the laager followed us as quickly as
possible, to advance and prevent the enemy from occupying the kloof.
This I did, and took a part of my men to Vanvurenskloof, whilst I sent
another body of burghers to Zandnek.

Everything went smoothly. The enemy did not appear and the laager
escaped without let or hindrance--and so we camped at Vanvurenskloof.

I must have misled the English, for they certainly would have thought
that I would come out by the road near Roodekraal. But I cannot
understand why the force in our rear, which had arrived at Parijs the
previous evening, remained there overnight, nor why, when they did move
on the following morning, they marched to Lindequesdrift, eight miles up
the Vaal River, and not, as might well have been expected, to
Vanvurenskloof.

The burghers whom I sent in the direction of Roodekraal had a fight with
the enemy at Tijgerfontein. A heavy bombardment took place; and my men
told me afterwards that the baboons, of which there were a large number
in these mountains, sprang from cliff to cliff screaming with
fright--poor creatures--as the rocks were split on every side by the
lyddite shells.

The burghers came to close quarters with the enemy, and a fierce
engagement with small arms took place.

It appeared later that the enemy's casualties amounted to more than a
hundred dead and wounded. Our loss was only two men.

As I have already stated, we camped at Vanvurenskloof. The next morning,
while we were still there, we were surprised by the enemy--an unpleasant
thing for men with empty stomachs.

I did not receive any report from my scouts[65] until the English were
not more than three thousand paces from us, and had already opened fire
on the laager, not only with their guns, but also with their rifles. We
at once took the best positions we could find; and meanwhile the waggons
got away as quickly as possible. They succeeded in getting over the
first ridge, and thus gained a certain amount of shelter, whilst we kept
the English busy.

The enemy approached nearer and nearer to us with overpowering forces.
Then they charged, and I saw man after man fall, struck down by our
merciless fire. We were quite unable to hold the enemy back, and so we
had to leave our positions, having lost one dead and one wounded.

That night we marched ten miles to the east of Gatsrand, on the road to
Frederiksstad Station, and the following morning we arrived at the foot
of the mountain. Here we outspanned for a short time, but we could not
wait long, for our pursuers were following us at a great pace. It was
not only the force from the other side of Vanvurenskloof with which we
had to deal. The united forces of the English had now concentrated from
different points with the purpose of working our ruin.

The English were exceedingly angry that we had escaped from them on the
Vaal River, for they had thought that they had us safely in their hands.
That we should have succeeded in eluding them was quite beyond their
calculations; and in order to free themselves from any blame in the
matter, they reported that we had crossed the river at a place where
there was no ford, but this was not true; we had crossed by the waggon
and post ford--the well-known Schoemansdrift.

But whether the enemy were angry or not, there was no doubt that they
were pursuing us in very large numbers, and that we had to escape from
them. That evening, the 7th of August, we went to the north of
Frederiksstad Station, and blew up a bridge with two spans and wrecked
the line with dynamite.

The following day we arrived at the Mooi River. This river is never dry
winter or summer, but always flows with a stream as clear as crystal. It
affords an inexhaustible supply of water to the rich land that lies
along its bank. It is a fitting name for it--the name of Mooi.[66]

At the other side of this river we found General Liebenberg's commando,
which, like ourselves, was in the trap.

The General joined us on our march, and the following day we were nine
miles from Ventersdorp.

Early that morning a report came that the English were approaching and
were extended right across the country.

"Inspan!"

No man uttered a word of complaint; each man did his work so quickly
that one could hardly believe that a laager could be put on the move in
so short a time. And away the waggons and carts skurried, steering their
course to Ventersdorp.

It was impossible to think of fighting--the enemy's numbers were far too
great. Our only safety lay in flight.

We knew very well that an Englishman cannot keep up with a Boer on the
march, and that if he tries to do so, he soon finds that his horses and
oxen can go no further. Our intention was then to march at the very best
pace we could, so that the enemy might be forced to stop from sheer
exhaustion. And as the reader will soon see, our plan was successful.

Nevertheless we had to do some fighting, to protect our laager from a
force of cavalry that was rapidly coming up with us.

They wanted to make an end of this small body of Boers, which was always
retreating, but yet, now and again, offering some slight
resistance--this tiny force that was always teaching them unpleasant
lessons; first at Retiefsnek, then to the north of Lindley, then on the
railway line, then near Vredefort, then at Rhenosterpoort, and then
again at Tijgerfontein. Yes; this sort of thing must come to an end once
for all!

We attacked the approaching troops, and succeeded in checking their
advance. But our resistance could not last long, and soon we had to
retreat and leave one of our Krupps behind us.

Had I not continued firing with my Krupp until it was impossible to save
it, then, in all probability, the laager would have been taken. But
with the loss of this Krupp we saved the laager.

I withdrew my burghers; I released the prisoners whom I had with me.

And now it was my task to make it as difficult as possible for my
pursuers. The winter grass on the veldt was dry and very inflammable,
and I decided to set fire to it, in order that the English might find it
impossible to obtain pasture for their oxen and cattle. I accordingly
set it alight, and very soon the country behind was black.

We hurried on until we reached Mr. Smit's farm, which is one hour on
horseback from the southern slopes of the Witwatersrand--the great
dividing chain of mountains that runs in the direction of Marico.
Crossing this range, we continued on the march the whole night until, on
the morning of the 11th of August, we arrived at the southern side of
the Magaliesberg.

In the afternoon we went over the saddle of the mountain and across the
Krokodil River.

My idea was to remain here and give our horses and oxen a rest, for the
veldt was in good condition, and we could, if it were necessary, occupy
the shoulder of the mountain behind us.

General Liebenberg took possession of the position to the west, near
Rustenburg; but hardly had he done so, before the English made their
appearance, coming over another part of the mountain. He sent me a
report to this effect, adding that he was unable to remain where he was
stationed.

Thus again we had to retreat, and I was unable to give my animals the
rest I had intended to give them.

We now took the road from Rustenburg to Pretoria, and arrived the
following evening close to Commandonek, which we soon found was held by
an English force.

I left the laager behind and rode on in advance with a horse-commando.
When I was a short distance from the enemy, I sent a letter to the
officer in command, telling him that, if he did not surrender, I would
attack him. I did this in order to discover the strength of the English
force, and to find out if it were possible to attack the enemy at once,
and forcing our way through the Nek, get to the east of the forces that
were pursuing me.

My despatch rider succeeded in getting into the English camp before he
could be blindfolded. He came back with the customary refusal, and
reported that although the enemy's force was not very large, still the
positions held were so strong that I could not hope to be able to
capture them before the English behind me arrived.

I had therefore to give up the thought of breaking through these and
flanking the English. Thus, instead of attacking the enemy, we went in
the direction of Zoutpan, and arrived a few hours later at the Krokodil
River.

I had now left the English a considerable distance behind me; and so at
last--we were able to give ourselves a little rest.

[Footnote 62: I put down here the very words I used, for any other
course would not be honest.]

[Footnote 63: Kaallaagte--a barren hollow.]

[Footnote 64: Parijs is situated on the Vaal River.]

[Footnote 65: The reason why Captain Scheepers was so late in sending
his report was because he himself was engaging the enemy with six of his
men near Zandnek. He had come across a convoy of fourteen waggons and
thirty men, and had, after an hour's fight, nearly brought them to the
point of surrendering, when reinforcements arrived. He was thus forced
to retire, and then discovered that the enemy were approaching our
laager; and he had a hair's breadth escape from capture in bringing me
the report.]

[Footnote 66: "Mooi" means beautiful in the Taal language.]




CHAPTER XIX

I Return to the Free State


Whilst we were encamped on the Krokodil River, President Steyn expressed
a wish to pay a visit, with the Members of his Government, to the
Government of the South African Republic, which was then at Machadodorp.
This was no easy task to accomplish, for one would have to pass through
a part of the Transvaal where there was a great scarcity of water--it
was little better than a desert--and where in some places the Kaffirs
were unfriendly. In other words, one would have to go through the
Boschveldt. There would also be some danger from the English, since the
President would have to cross the Pietersburg Railway, which was in that
direction.

However, this plan was approved.

I decided not to accompany the President, but to return at once with two
hundred riders to the Orange Free State. I intended to make it known on
the farms which I passed on the way that I was going back, hoping thus
to draw the attention of the English from our laager.

I called together the Commandants, and informed them of my intention.
They agreed that the course I proposed was the right one. Commandant
Steenekamp was then nominated to act as Assistant Commander-in-Chief,
with the duty of conducting the laager through the Boschveldt.

On August the 14th President Steyn left the laager on his way to
Machadodorp; and I myself took my departure three days later. I took
with me General Philip Botha and Commandant Prinsloo, and 200 men, and
also Captain Scheepers with his corps, which consisted of thirty men.
With the addition of my staff we numbered altogether 246 men.

Thus our ways parted--the President going to the Government of the South
African Republic, the laager to the north, and I back to the Free State.
I had now to cross the Magalies Mountains. The nearest two passes were
Olifantsnek and Commandonek. But the first named was too much to the
west, and the second was probably occupied by the English. I therefore
decided to take a footpath that crossed the mountains between the two
saddles. I was forced to choose this middle road because I had no means
of ascertaining whether Commandonek was, or was not, in the hands of the
enemy.

On August 18th we arrived at a house where some Germans were living--the
parents and sisters of Mr. Penzhorn, Secretary to General Piet Cronje.
They were exceedingly friendly to us, and did all in their power to make
us comfortable.

We did not stay here for long, but were on the march again the same day.
Soon after we had mounted our horses we came in sight of a large English
camp, which was stationed on the road from Rustenburg to Pretoria,
between Commandonek and Krokodil River. This camp lay about six miles to
the south-east of the point where we first saw it. Another great camp
stood about seven miles to the north-west.

The enemy could see us clearly, as it was open veldt, with only a few
bushes cropping up here and there. We now rode on in the direction of
Wolhuterskop, which is close to the Magalies Mountains. I thought I
should thus be able to reach the great road from Rustenburg to Pretoria,
which was eight or nine miles from the footpath across the Magaliesberg.
When we were about two miles east of Wolhuterskop we suddenly came upon
two English scouts. One of them we captured; and he told us that there
was a great force of the enemy in front of us and marching in our
direction. What could we do now? It was impossible to proceed along the
footpath because that road was closed by the enemy. North and west of us
there were other bodies of troops, as I have already said; and there,
directly in front of us, were the chains of the Magaliesbergen. Thus we
found ourselves between four fires.

In addition to this, I was much troubled by the thought that our horses
were now exhausted by all this endless marching. I knew this was also
the case with the English horses, but for all I knew, they might have
obtained fresh ones from Pretoria. They could at all events have picked
the best horses from each camp, and thus send an overpowering force
against me. This was one of those moments when a man has to keep his
presence of mind, or else all is lost.

Whilst I was still thinking the matter over, troops began to come out of
the camps, about two miles to the west of us on the road between
Wolhuterskop and Magaliesberg. The scout who had escaped might now be
with that force. I had therefore to act at once.

I decided on climbing the Magalies Mountains, without a path or road!

Near by there was a Kaffir hut, and I rode up to it. When the Kaffir
came out to me, I pointed to the Magalies Mountains, and asked:--

"Right before us, can a man cross there?"

"No, baas,[67] you cannot!" the Kaffir answered.

"Has a man never ridden across here?"

"Yes, baas," replied the Kaffir, "long ago."

"Do baboons walk across?"

"Yes! baboons do, but not a man."

"Come on!" I said to my burghers. "This is our only way, and where a
baboon can cross, we can cross."

With us was one Adriaan Matthijsen, a corporal who came from the
district of Bethlehem, and was a sort of jocular character. He looked up
at the mountains, 2,000 feet above him, and sighed:--

"O Red Sea!"

I replied, "The children of Israel had faith and went through, and all
you need is faith. This is not the first Red Sea we have met with and
will not be the last!"

What Corporal Matthijsen thought I do not know, for he kept silence. But
he pulled a long face, as if saying to himself:--

"Neither you, nor anybody else with us, is a Moses!"

We climbed up unobserved to a bit of bush which, to continue the
metaphor of the Red Sea, was a "Pillar of Cloud" to hide us from the
English.

We then reached a kloof[68] running in a south-westerly direction, and
ascended by it, still out of sight of the English, till we reached a
point nearly half-way up the mountain. There we had to leave the kloof,
and, turning to the south, continue our ascent in full view of the
enemy.

It was now so precipitous that there was no possibility of proceeding
any further on horseback. The burghers had therefore to lead their
horses, and had great difficulty even in keeping their own footing. It
frequently happened that a burgher fell and slipped backwards under his
horse. The climb became now more and more difficult; and when we had
nearly reached the top of the mountain, there was a huge slab of granite
as slippery as ice, and here man and horse stumbled still more, and were
continually falling.

We were, as I have said, in view of the enemy, and although out of reach
of the Lee-Metfords, were in range of their big guns!

I heard burghers muttering:--

"Suppose the enemy should aim those guns at us--what will become of us
then? Nobody can get out of the road here!"

I told them that this could only be done if the English had a Howitzer.
But I did not add that this was a sort of gun which the columns now
pursuing me were likely enough to possess.

But nothing happened. The English neither shot at us, nor did they
pursue us. Corporal Matthijsen would have said that they were more
cautious than Pharaoh.

We now reached the top of the mountain--entirely exhausted. I have
ascended many a mountain--the rough cliffs of Majuba, the steep sides of
Nicholson's Nek--but never before had I been so tired as I was now; yet
in the depths of my heart I was satisfied. All our toil was repaid by
the glorious panorama that now stretched out before us to the south. We
saw the undulating veldt between the Magaliesbergen where we stood, and
the Witwatersrand. Through a ravine we had a view extending for many
miles, but wherever we cast our eyes there was no sign of anything that
resembled the enemy.

As it was now too late to off-saddle, we began, after having taken a
little rest, to descend the mountain on the other side, my object being
to reach a farm where I hoped to get some sheep or oxen for my men, who
not only were tired out, but nearly famished.

We went down the mountain--well, somewhat quicker than we had climbed
it; however, we could not go very fast, as the incline was steep. In an
hour and a half we reached a Boer farm.

One can imagine how the burghers recovered their spirits as they ate
their supper, and what it meant for them to give their tired limbs a
rest.

The following morning we found good horse-provender, and plenty of it.
It was not as yet the habit of the English to burn everything they came
across--they had not yet begun to carry out that policy of destruction.

I now felt quite easy about the safety of our camp. The attention of
the English would be turned in quite another direction.

I was quite right in this view of the matter. For I heard a few days
later that the enemy had not been able to pursue the laager as their
draft-cattle and horses were so completely exhausted, that they had
fallen down dead in heaps. I heard also that they had soon been made
acquainted with the fact that I was on my way back to the Free State,
where I would soon begin again to wreck railway lines and telegraph
wires. They had also discovered that President Steyn had left the laager
and was on the road to Machadodorp.

It was on the 18th of August, 1900, that we were able to eat our crust
of bread in safety on the farm just mentioned, and to let our horses
have as much food as they wanted. It seemed that for the time being a
heavy burden had fallen from our shoulders. That afternoon we crossed
the Krokodil River, and stopped at a "winkel"[69] under the
Witwatersrand, which had been spared as yet, although it was nearly
empty of stores. Fodder, however, was plentiful, and thus, again, we
could give our horses a good feed.

I now received a report that a strong contingent of the enemy was on the
march from Olifantsnek to Krugersdorp, and accordingly we rode off in
the night. We found that this force was the very one that had flanked
our laager the previous week, when we were passing Ventersdorp. The road
which the enemy were taking was the same which Jameson had marched when
he made his inroad into the South African Republic.

My intention was to cross the enemy's path before daylight the following
morning, which I succeeded in doing; and we heard no more of this force.
I proceeded now in the direction of Gatsrand.

From there I still went on, and crossed the Krugersdorp-Potchefstroom
Railway, about eight or ten miles to the north of Bank Station.

The line was then not guarded everywhere. There were small garrisons at
the stations only, and so one could cross even in the day time. To my
vexation, I had not a single cartridge of dynamite, or any implements at
hand with which I could wreck the line. It was painful to see the
railway line and not be able to do any damage to it! I had made it a
rule never to be in the neighbourhood of a railway without interrupting
the enemy's means of communication.

We arrived now at the farm of Messrs. Wolfaard, who had been captured
with General Cronje; and here I met Commandant Danie Theron, with his
eighty men. He had come to this place to avoid the troops lying between
Mooi River and Ventersdorp. His horses, although still weak, were yet
somewhat rested, and I gave him orders to join me in a few days, in
order to reinforce me until my commandos should come back. My intention
was not to undertake any great operations, for my force was not strong
enough for that. I intended my principal occupation to be to interrupt
the communications of the enemy by wrecking the line and telegraph.

With regard to the main line in the Free State I must remark here that
things there were in a different condition from what they were on the
Krugersdorp line, which we had crossed. The Free State railway was Lord
Roberts' principal line of communication, and he had provided guards for
it everywhere.

During the night of August 21st, we arrived at Vanvurenskloof. How
delightful it was when the sun rose to see once more the well-known
mountains to the south of the Vaal River in our own Free State!

"There is the Free State," we called out to each other when day broke.
Every one was jubilant at seeing again that country which of all the
countries on the earth is the best. From here I despatched General Botha
with the purpose of collecting the burghers of Vrede and Harrismith who
had remained at home, and of bringing them back to join me.

We remained only as long as was necessary to rest the horses, and then
at once went on. The same evening we arrived at the farm of
Rhenosterpoort, where our laager had waited since we had crossed the
Vaal River more than a week ago.

The proprietor of the farm of Rhenosterpoort was old Mr. Jan Botha. It
could not be that he belonged to the family of Paul Botha, of Kroonstad,
for Jan Botha and his household (amongst whom was his son Jan, an
excellent veldtcornet) were true Afrikanders. And even if he did belong
to the family of Paul Botha, then the difference in his feelings and
actions from those of other members of his family was no greater than
that, alas! which frequently occurred in many families during this war.
One member put everything at the disposal of his country, whereas
another of the same name did everything possible against his country and
his people. But there was no such discord here. The two old brothers of
Mr. Botha, Philip and Hekky, were heart and soul with us.

Potchefstroom was not at that time in the hands of the English. I rode
over to the town, and then it was that the well-known photo was taken of
me that has been spread about everywhere, in which I am represented with
a Mauser in my hand. I only mention this so as to draw attention to the
history of the weapon which I held in my hand. It is as follows:--

When the enemy passed through Potchefstroom on their way to Pretoria,
they left a garrison behind them, and many burghers went there to give
up their arms, which forthwith were burnt in a heap. When the garrison
left the dorp the burghers returned. Amongst them were some who set to
work to make butts for the rifles that had been burnt.

"This rifle," I was told by the man who showed it to me, "is the two
hundredth that has been taken out of the burnt heap and repaired."

This made such an impression on me that I took it in my hand, and had my
photo taken with it. I am only sorry that I cannot mention the names of
the burghers who did that work. Their names are worthy to be enrolled on
the annals of our nation.

After having provided myself with dynamite, I left Potchefstroom and
returned to my commando, then quietly withdrew in the night to
Rhenosterkop. From there I sent Veldtcornet Nicolaas Serfontein, of the
Bethlehem commando, in the direction of Reitz and Lindley, to bring the
Kaffirs there to a sense of their duty, for I had heard that they were
behaving very brutally to our women. The remainder of the Bethlehem
burghers under Commandant Prinsloo and Veldtcornet Du Preez, remained
with me to assist me in getting under my supervision the commandos which
had escaped from behind the Roodebergen. These were under the command of
General Fourie, and some were in the south of the State. I left Captain
Scheepers behind me with orders to wreck the line every night.

That evening I went to Mr. Welman's farm, which was to the south-west of
Kroonstad.

There I received a report that the commandos under General Fourie were
in the neighbourhood of Ladybrand. I sent a despatch to him and Judge
Hertzog asking them to come and see me, with a view to bringing the
burghers under arms again, in the southern and south-western districts
of the State.

This letter was taken by Commandant Michal Prinsloo and some despatch
riders to General Fourie. The night that he crossed the line a train was
passing, and he wrecked the railway both in front of it and behind it.
The train could thus neither advance nor retreat, and it fell into the
hands of Commandant Prinsloo, who, after having taken what he wanted,
burnt it.

With regard to myself, I remained in the neighbourhood of Commandant
Nel's farm.

Here I had the most wonderful of all the escapes that God allowed me in
the whole course of the war.

On the third evening at sunset, a Hottentot came to me. He said that his
"baas," whose family lived about twelve miles from the farm of
Commandant Nel, had laid down their arms, and that he could not remain
in the service of the wife of such a bad "baas." He asked me if he could
not become one of my "achterrijders."

As he was still speaking to me, Landdrost Bosman from Bothaville, came
to pay me a visit.

"Good," I said to the Hottentot, "I shall see you about this again." For
I wished to cross-question him. I then went into the house with the
Landdrost, and spent a good deal of time in writing with him. Late in
the evening he went back to Bothaville and I to bed exactly at eleven
o'clock.

I had scarcely laid down when the Hottentot came back to my thoughts,
and I began to grow uneasy. I got up and went to the outhouse where my
Kaffir slept. I woke him up and asked him where the Hottentot was. "Oh,
he is gone," he replied, "to go and fetch his things to go with the
baas."

I at once felt that there was something wrong, and went and called my
men. I told them to saddle-up, and went off with my staff to the farm of
Mr. Schoeman on the Valsch River, to the east of Bothaville.

On the following morning before daybreak, a force of two hundred English
stormed the farm of Commandant Nel. They had come to take me prisoner.

From Schoeman's farm I went to the Rhenoster River and found Captain
Scheepers there. He reported that he had wrecked the line for four or
five consecutive weeks, as I had told him.

I also received there the sad news of the death of the
never-to-be-forgotten Danie Theron, in a fight at Gatsrand. A more brave
and faithful commander I have never seen.

So Danie Theron was no more. His place would not be easily filled. Men
as lovable or as valiant there might be, but where should I find a man
who combined so many virtues and good qualities in one person? Not only
had he the heart of a lion but he also possessed consummate tact and the
greatest energy. When he received an order, or if he wished to do
anything, then it was bend or break with him. Danie Theron answered the
highest demands that could be made on a warrior.

One of Commandant Theron's lieutenants, Jan Theron, was appointed in his
place.

From there I went with Captain Scheepers to the railway line, where I
burnt a railway bridge temporarily constructed with sleepers, and
wrecked a great part of the rails with dynamite. I then proceeded to
various farms in the neighbourhood, and after a few days, with
Commandant Michal Prinsloo, who had joined me, I returned to the same
part of the railway in order to carry out its destruction on a larger
scale.

At twenty-five different places a charge of dynamite was placed with one
man at the fuse, who had to set light to it as soon as he heard a
whistle, that all charges could be ignited at the same time, and every
one be out of the way when the pieces of iron were hurled in the air by
the explosion.

When the signal was heard the lucifers were struck everywhere, and the
fuses ignited.

The English, keeping watch on some other part of the line not far from
us, on seeing the lights fired so fiercely on the burghers that they all
took to their horses and galloped off.

Only five charges exploded.

I waited for a moment, but no sound broke the silence.

"Come on!" I said, "we must fire all the charges."

On reaching the line we had to search in the darkness for the spots
where the dynamite had been placed. And now again the order was given
that as soon as the whistle was blown every one had to ignite his fuse.

Again there was a blunder!

One of the burghers ignited his fuse before the signal had been given,
and this caused such a panic that the others ran away. I and a few of my
staff lay flat on the ground where we were until this charge had
exploded, and then I went to fetch the burghers back.

This time everything went off well, and all the charges exploded.

The bridge I had destroyed had been rebuilt, and so I was forced to burn
it again. When this was done we departed and rode on to Rietspruit,
where we up-saddled, and then pushed on to Rhenosterpoort.

[Footnote 67: Master.]

[Footnote 68: Ravine.]

[Footnote 69: General Store.]




CHAPTER XX

The Oath of Neutrality


Arriving at Rhenosterpoort, I found there Commandant F. Van Aard, with
his commando. He told me that after I had left the laager, the burghers
had not been troubled again by the English. He had gone on to Waterberg,
and after having stayed there for a short time, he had returned to the
laager. He still had some of his waggons with him, but in many cases the
oxen had been so exhausted that the waggons had to be left behind, the
burghers returning on horseback, or even on foot. He also told me that
Vice-Commander-in-Chief Steenekamp had, just before my arrival, crossed
the line in the direction of Heilbron, in which district there were then
no English.

Generals Fourie and Froneman, with Hertzog, were also at Rhenosterpoort,
having left their commandos behind, in the district of Winburg.

They had much to tell me which I had heard already, but which I now
obtained at first hand. It appeared that the burghers who had been taken
prisoner with General Prinsloo had been sent to Ceylon, notwithstanding
the promise that had been given them that their property would be safe,
and that they would be allowed to return to their farms.

It was now that I conceived the great plan of bringing under arms all
the burghers who had laid down their weapons, and taken the oath of
neutrality, and of sending them to operate in every part of the State.
To this end I went with these officers to the other side of the railway
line, in order to meet General Philip Botha in the country to the
south-east of Heilbron, and also, if possible, General Hattingh, who was
in command of the Harrismith and Vrede burghers.

We succeeded in crossing the railway between Roodewal and Serfontein
siding, but not without fighting. Before we came to the railway line the
English opened a cross fire on us from the north-east, from the
direction of Roodewal; and almost directly afterwards another party
fired on us from the south. We succeeded, however, in getting through
with the waggons which Commandant Van Aard had with him, but we lost one
man killed, and three wounded.

On the following day I gave Commandant Van Aard the order to go to his
district (Midden Valsch River) in order to give his burghers an
opportunity of getting their clothes washed, and of obtaining fresh
horses, if any were to be had. For although the enemy already had begun
to burn down our houses, and to carry away our horses, things had not as
yet reached such a pitch that the columns spared nothing that came in
their way.

Commandant Van Aard started off on his errand, but alas! a few days
afterwards I heard that he--one of the most popular of all our
officers--had been killed in a fight near his own farm between Kroonstad
and Lindley. He was buried there, where he had fallen, on his own land.

And now began the great work which I had proposed to accomplish.

I gave instructions to Vice-Commander-in-Chief Piet Fourie to take under
his charge the districts of Bloemfontein, Bethulie, Smithfield,
Rouxville, and Wepener, and to permit the burghers there, who had
remained behind, to join us again. He was not, however, to compel
anybody to do so, because I was of opinion that a coerced burgher would
be of no real value to us, and would besides be untrustworthy. The
following officers were to serve under Fourie: Andrias, Van Tonder and
Kritzinger. The last-named had been appointed in the place of
Commandant Olivier, who had been taken prisoner at Winburg.[70]

I had appointed Judge Hertzog as a second Vice-Commander-in-Chief, to
carry out the same work in the districts of Fauresmith, Philippolis and
Jacobsdal. He had under him Commandant Hendrik Pretorius (of Jacobsdal)
and Commandant Visser. The latter was the man who, when the burghers
from Fauresmith, even before the taking of Bloemfontein, had remained
behind, broke through with seventy or eighty troops. He had always
behaved faithfully and valiantly until, in an engagement at
Jagersfontein, he gave up his life, a sacrifice for the rights of his
nation. His name will ever be held in honour by his people.

These two Vice-Commanders-in-Chief had no easy task to perform. In fact,
as every one will admit, it was a giant's burden that I had laid upon
their shoulders. To lighten it a little I made the following
arrangement: I sent Captain Pretorius, with a small detachment, in
advance of General Fourie, to prepare the road for him, and Captain
Scheepers to do the same for Judge Hertzog. The first had to say: "Hold
yourselves in readiness! Oom Pieter![71] is coming." The other had to
say: "Be prepared! The Rechter[72] is at hand!"

All went well. General Fourie set to his task at once and did excellent
work. He had not been long in his division before he had collected seven
hundred and fifty men, and had had several skirmishes with the enemy. It
was on account of his acting so vigorously that the English again put
garrisons into some of the south-eastern townships, such as Dewetsdorp,
Wepener, and others.

With General Hertzog things went even better. He had soon twelve hundred
men under arms. General Fourie had not succeeded in getting together an
equally large force in his division, because many burghers from these
districts had been taken prisoner at the time of the surrender of
Prinsloo. General Hertzog also fought more than one battle at
Jagersfontein and Fauresmith.

I ought to add that after I had crossed the Magaliesberg I had sent
Veldtcornet C.C. Badenhorst, with twenty-seven men, on a similar errand
to the districts of Boshof and Hoopstad. I promoted him to the rank of
commandant, and he soon had a thousand troops under him, so that he was
able to engage the enemy on several occasions. He had not been long
occupied in this way, before I appointed him Vice-Commander-in-Chief.
The reader who has followed me throughout this narrative, may very
naturally ask here how it could be justifiable for nearly three thousand
burghers thus to take up arms again, and break their oath of neutrality?
I will answer this question by another--who first broke the terms of
this oath?--the burghers or the English military authorities? The
military authorities without any doubt; what other answer can one give?

Lord Roberts had issued a proclamation saying that, if the burghers took
an oath of neutrality, and remained quietly on their farms, he would
give them protection for their persons and property. But what happened?
He himself ordered them to report to the British military authorities,
should any Boer scout or commandos come to their farms, and threatened
them with punishment if they did not do so. Old people also who had
never stirred one step from their farms were fined hundreds of pounds
when the railway or telegraph lines in their neighbourhood were wrecked.
Besides, instead of protection being given to the burghers, their cattle
were taken from them by the military, at prices they would never have
thought of accepting, and often by force. Yes; and from widows, who had
not even sons on commando, everything was taken away. If then the
English, on their part, had broken the contract, were not the burghers
perfectly justified in considering themselves no longer bound by the
conditions which the oath laid on them?

And then if one goes further into the matter, and remembers that the
English had been employing such people as the National Scouts, and had
thus been arming men who had taken the oath of neutrality, how can one
think that the Boer was still under the obligation of keeping his oath?

There is also the obligation which every one is under to his own
Government; for what Government could ever acknowledge an oath which
their citizens had no right to take?

No! taking everything into consideration, no right-minded burgher could
have acted otherwise than to take his weapons up again, not only in
order to be faithful to his duty as a citizen, but also in order not to
be branded as a coward, as a man who in the future could never again
look any one in the face.

I arranged various matters at Doornspruit, in the district of Kroonstad,
on the 23rd of September, 1900, and then went from there in the
direction of Rietfontein, in order to meet the commando which I had
ordered to be at Heilbron on the 25th.

[Footnote 70: Commandant Van Tender had been made prisoner at the same
time, but he eluded the vigilance of his captors, and running for his
life under a shower of their bullets, got away in safety.]

[Footnote 71: Uncle Peter.]

[Footnote 72: Judge.]




CHAPTER XXI

Frederiksstad and Bothaville


When I was on the road to Heilbron, I heard that the commandos under
General Hattingh (those, namely, of Harrismith and Vrede) were near the
Spitskopje, seven miles to the south-east of Heilbron. I therefore went
out of my course and proceeded in the direction of these commandos. They
were among those who had stood the crucial test, and had not surrendered
with Prinsloo.

It was a real pleasure to me to meet the Harrismith burghers, and to
talk with them over bygone days. This was our first meeting since
December, 1899. The last time we had seen each other was when we were
encamped round Ladysmith, where we were, so to speak, neighbours--our
positions being contiguous.

But what a shock went through my heart when I saw the cumbersome
waggon-camps which had come both from Vrede and Harrismith! For I
remembered what trouble and anxiety the waggons and carts had already
caused me, and how my commandos, in order to save them, had been forced
to fly 280 miles--from Slabbertsnek to Waterberg. As Commander-in-Chief,
I was now determined to carry out most strictly the Kroonstad regulation
and have nothing more to do with the waggons.

I did not think that I should have any difficulty in convincing the
commanders of Harrismith and Vrede that the best thing would be to do
away with these unnecessary impediments, because, shortly before, the
English themselves had given me a text to preach from, by taking away a
great number of waggons from Commandant Hasebroek at Winburg and at Vet
River. Nevertheless, my words fell on unwilling ears.

It was not long after I had arrived in the camp when I got the burghers
together and spoke to them. After thanking the officers and men for not
having surrendered with Prinsloo at Naauwpoort, I congratulated them on
their success at Ladybrand, where they had driven the English out of the
town and forced them to take refuge in the caverns of Leliehoek. I then
went on to tackle the tender subject--as a Boer regards it--of
sacrificing the waggons. No! I did not say so much as that--I only
insisted on the waggons being sent home. Now this was very much the same
as saying: "Give up your waggons and carts to the enemy"--an order
which, expressed in that bald manner, would have given offence.

However, I was resolved to have my way, and at the end of my speech, I
said, "I may not ask you, and I will not ask you what you will do with
regard to the waggons. I only tell you that they must disappear."

On the following day I called the officers together, and gave them
direct orders to that effect. I was very polite, but also very
determined that the waggons should be sent off without a moment's delay.
I also gave orders that the Harrismith and Kroonstad burghers under
General Philip Botha should occupy themselves in cutting the English
lines of communication between Kroonstad and Zand River. The Bothaville
burghers were to carry out similar operations in their own district.

On that same afternoon I rode with my staff to the Heilbron burghers,
who now had returned to their farms. (They had had permission to go home
after they had got back from Waterberg.) They had assembled in very
strong force.

The enemy also had arrived in this part of the country, and we were
therefore obliged at once to get ourselves ready to fight in case it
should be necessary, or to retreat if the enemy should be too strong for
us.

With the Heilbron, Harrismith and Vrede commandos, I had now a very
considerable force at my command.

When I met the burghers on the 25th of September I found that I must
send a force in the direction of Kroonstad, in order to oppose outposts
which the enemy had stationed some six miles from that town.

I at once sent orders to General Hattingh that he was to come over to me
with his burghers. But what did I hear? The burghers had not been able
to make up their minds to part with their waggons; most of the men from
Vrede and Harrismith had gone home with these waggons, although there
was a Kaffir driver and a leader for almost every one, and although I
had given express orders that these Kaffirs were to be the ones to take
back the waggons. How angry I was! At such moments as these one would be
well nigh driven mad were there not a Higher Power to hold one back.

And, to make the situation still more serious, the English now came on
from all sides, and I had no troops! The Kroonstad burghers were in
their own district. I allowed those from Bethlehem to leave me in order
to carry on operations in their part of the country; the same likewise
with the Winburgers and the valiant Commandant Hasebroek, while the
burghers of Vrede and Harrismith had gone home.

I had therefore with me only a small contingent from those districts, in
addition to the burghers from Heilbron.

The reader will understand that, under these circumstances, the forces
which now began to concentrate on us were too great for us to withstand;
and that no other course lay open to me than to go through
Schoemansdrift; and, in case I should be pursued, to Bothaville, in
order to enter the _zandveld_ (desert) through which it would be
difficult for the enemy to advance.

We continued in the direction of Wolvehoek Station, and on the
following night crossed the line between Vredefortweg and Wolvehoek,
where I wrecked the railway at various points, and also took prisoner a
small force of thirteen who had been lying asleep in their tents. This
last incident happened early in the morning of September 30th.

We had crossed the line, and were about three miles on the further side
of it, when a train came up and bombarded us with an Armstrong and a
Maxim-Nordenfeldt, without however doing any damage. Our guns were too
far behind the vanguard, and the poor horses too tired to go back for
them, or we should have answered their fire. However, we got an
opportunity of using our big guns against 200 mounted men, who had
pursued us, but who, when they saw we were ready to receive them, turned
round and--took the shortest road to safety!

That evening we marched to a place a little to the south of Parijs, and
the following day to the kopjes west of Vredefort. There we stayed a few
days until the enemy again began to concentrate at Heilbron.

I then divided my commando into two parts. One part I took with me,
while I sent the Harrismith burghers (those at least who had not gone
home with the waggons) under General Philip Botha, in the direction of
Kroonstad, where he would meet the commando of that district, which had
received orders to operate to the west of the railway line. General
Philip Botha nominated Veldtcornet P. De Vos as Commandant of the
Kroonstad contingent instead of Commandant Frans Van Aard. He made a
good choice, for Commandant De Vos was not only a valiant officer, but
also a strictly honourable man.

For some days the enemy remained encamped on the farm called Klipstapel,
which lies to the south-east of Vredefort. Then they attacked us. We
held our own for a day and a half, but at last had to retreat to the
Vaal River, whither the English, doubtless thinking that we were again
going to Waterberg, did not pursue us. This was on the 7th of October,
1900.

I now received a report from General Liebenberg that General Barton and
his column were in the neighbourhood of Frederiksstad Station. He asked
me (as he was too weak to venture anything alone) whether I would join
him in an attack upon the English General. I decided to do so, and sent
him a confidential letter saying that I would join him in a week's time.

In order to mislead the English, I retreated ostentatiously through
Schoemansdrift to the farm of Baltespoort, which stands on the banks of
the Rhenoster River, fifteen miles from the drift. The following night I
returned by the way I had come, and crossed the river a little to the
west of Schoemansdrift.

When on the following night we were again in the saddle I heard from
many a mouth, "Whither now?"

Our destination was Frederiksstad Station, where we were to engage
General Barton. Previous to an attack, thorough scouting should always
take place. Accordingly I sent out my scouts, and discovered that
General Liebenberg had entirely cut off the English from their
communications, so that, except for heliographic messages, they were
entirely out of touch with the rest of their forces. Now I do not know
if they had "smelt a rat," but they were certainly well entrenched near
the station on ridges to the south-east and to the north.

We had therefore to besiege General Barton in his entrenchments. For the
first five days we held positions to the east, to the south, and to the
north-west. On the fifth day I agreed with General Liebenberg that we
should take up a new position on the embankment north-west of the
strongest part of the English encampment. This position was to be held
by two hundred men, of whom I gave eighty to General Froneman and one
hundred and twenty to General Liebenberg. It was a position that we
could not leave during the day without great danger, and it needed a
large force to hold it, for its garrison had to be strong enough to
defend itself if it should be attacked.

If only my arrangements had been carried out all would have gone well.

But what happened?

I thought that two hundred men had gone in accordance with my orders to
that position. Instead of this there were only eighty there when, on the
following morning, a very strong reinforcement of English, ordered up by
General Barton, appeared from the direction of Krugersdorp. I did not
hear of this reinforcement till it was so close that there was no chance
for me to keep it back. In fact, when I got the report the enemy were
already storming the unfortunate handful of burghers and firing fiercely
upon them. If these burghers had only had enough ammunition they would
have been able to defend themselves, but as they were obliged to keep up
a continuous fire on the storming party their cartridges were speedily
exhausted. When this happened there was nothing for them to do but to
fly. This they did under a fierce fire from three guns, which had been
bombarding them continuously since the morning--doing but little damage
however, as our burghers were behind the railway embankment. But now
they had to fly over open ground, and on foot, as they had gone down
without their horses because there was no safe place for the animals.

If two hundred burghers--the number I had arranged for--had been in the
position, there would have been no chance of the enemy's reinforcement
being able to drive them out: and in all probability General Barton
would have been obliged to surrender. Instead of this we had a loss of
thirty killed and wounded, and about the same number were taken
prisoners. Among the dead was the renowned Sarel Cilliers, grandson of
the worthy "voortrekker"[73] of the same name. Veldtcornet Jurie
Wessels was the most distinguished of the prisoners.

It was a miserable affair altogether: General Froneman ought to have
called his men back when he saw that General Liebenberg had not sent his
contingent. I have heard however that Captain Cilliers refused to leave
the position until it became no longer tenable. It was hard indeed for
him to lose a battle thus, when it was nearly won, and to be compelled
to retreat when victory was all but within his grasp.

We retired towards Vanvurenskloof, and on arriving there the following
evening heard that a great English force had come from Schoemansdrift
and captured Potchefstroom, that another force was at Tijgerfontein, and
a third at Schoemansdrift.

Early next morning we crossed the Vaal River at Witbanksfontein. There
we off-saddled.

Now I had sent out scouts--not, however, Commandant Jan Theron's men,
but ordinary burghers whom the Commandants had sent out--and just as we
had partaken about noon of a late breakfast, these burghers came
hurriedly into the camp, shouting: "The enemy is close at hand!"

It was not long before every one had up-saddled, and we were off. The
English had taken up positions on the kopjes due north of the Vaal
River, whilst we had for our defence only kraals and boundary walls. As
these offered no shelter for our horses, we were forced to retreat. And
a most unpleasant time of it we had until we got out of range of their
guns and small arms. During this retreat we lost one of our guns. This
happened while I was with the left wing. One of the wheels of the
carriage fell off, and the gun had to be left behind. Another incident
of our flight was more remarkable. A shell from one of the enemy's guns
hit an ox waggon on which there were four cases of dynamite, and
everything was blown up.

The oxen had just been unyoked and had left the waggon, or else a
terrible catastrophe would have occurred.

We lost also two burghers, who, thinking that it would be safe to go
into a dwelling house, and hide themselves there, gave an opportunity to
some English troops who were on the march from Schoemansdrift, to take
them prisoner.

We retired for some distance in an easterly direction, and when it
became dark, swerved suddenly to the west, as if aiming for a point
somewhat to the south-west of Bothaville. The following evening we
stayed at Bronkhaistfontein, near the Witkopjes. From there we went on
next morning to the west of Rheboksfontein, remaining that night at
Winkeldrift, on the Rhenoster River.

There I received a report that President Steyn with his staff was coming
from Machadodorp, where he had met the Transvaal Government. The
President requested me to come and see him, and also to meet General De
la Rey, who would be there.

I told the commandos to go on in the direction of Bothaville and went
with my staff to the President. We met on the 31st of October near
Ventersdorp. From him I heard that when he came to Machadodorp President
Kruger was just ready to sail from Lourenco Marques, in the man-of-war
_Gelderland_, which had been specially sent by Queen Wilhelmina to bring
him over to the Netherlands. This was shortly before Portugal ceased to
be neutral--the old President got away only just in time.

General De la Rey had been prevented from coming: and on the 2nd of
November I went with the President towards Bothaville.

I had received reports from General Fourie, Judge Hertzog, and Captain
Scheepers, that the burghers in their districts had rejoined; this made
me think that the time had now come to make another dash into Cape
Colony. President Steyn had expressed a wish to go with us.

We marched on with the intention of crossing the railway line somewhere
near Winburg. On the morning of the 5th we arrived at Bothaville, where
we found General Froneman, who had been marching with the commandos from
Rhenoster River. Little did we know that a terrible misfortune was
awaiting us.

That very afternoon a strong English force, which indeed had been in
pursuit of us all the time, came up, and a skirmish took place, after
which the English withdrew out of reach of our guns, while we took up a
position under cover of the nearest hill. Without suspecting any harm we
went into camp about seven miles from the English, keeping the Valsch
River between us and them.

I placed an outpost that night close to the river and told them to stay
there till the following day. The burghers of this watch returned in the
morning and reported that they had seen nothing but wreaths of smoke
ascending from the north bank of the river. They believed that these
came from the English camp.

We were still safe then--so at least we all believed.

But the corporal who had brought this report had but just left me, and
was scarcely one hundred paces off when I heard the report of rifles. I
thought at first that it was only some cattle being shot for food, but
all at once there were more shots, and what did we see? The English were
within three hundred paces of us, on a little hill near Bothaville, and
close to the spot from whence my outpost had just returned.

It was early morning. The sun had not risen more than twenty minutes and
many of the burghers still lay asleep rolled up in their blankets.

The scene which ensued was unlike anything I had ever witnessed before.
I heard a good deal about panics--I was now to see one with my own eyes.
Whilst I was looking for my horse to get him up-saddled a few of the
burghers were making some sort of a stand against the enemy. But all
those who had already up-saddled were riding away at break-neck speed.
Many even were leaving their saddles behind and galloping off bare-back.
As I up-saddled my horse I called out to them:--

"Don't run away! Come back and storm the enemy's position!" But it was
no use. A panic had seized them, and the victims of that panic were
those brave men who had never thought of flight, but only of resisting
the enemy!

The only thing I could do was to leap into the saddle and try to
persuade the fugitives to return. But I did not succeed, for as I
stopped them at one point others galloped past me, and I was thus kept
dodging from point to point, until the whole commando was out of range
of the firing.

The leader of the enemy's storming party was Colonel Le Gallais, without
doubt one of the bravest English officers I have ever met. On this
occasion he did not encounter much resistance, for only a very few of
the burghers attacked him, and that only at one point of his position.
Among these burghers were Staats-Procureur Jacob De Villiers, and
Veldtcornet Jan Viljoen. As for the rest of our men, it was useless to
try to get them to come back to the fight. The gunners however did
everything they could to save their guns, but had not enough time to get
the oxen inspanned.

Our loss was, as far as I could make out, nine killed, between twenty
and thirty wounded, and about one hundred prisoners. Among the dead were
Veldtcornets Jan Viljoen, of Heilbron, and Van Zijl, of Cape Colony; and
among the wounded, Staats-Procureur Jacob De Villiers and Jan Rechter,
the latter of whom subsequently died. The wounded who managed to escape
included General Froneman, who was slightly wounded in the chest; Mr.
Thomas Brain, who had been hit in the thigh; and one of my staff who was
severely wounded, his shoulder being pierced by a bullet.

According to English reports, Dr. De Landsheer, a Belgian, was killed in
this engagement. The English newspapers asserted that the doctor was
found dead with a bandolier round his body. I can vouch for the fact
that the doctor possessed neither rifle nor bandolier, and I am unable
to believe that he armed himself on the battlefield.

Six of our Krupp guns were captured in this battle, but as our
ammunition for these pieces was nearly exhausted, the loss of them made
little difference to us.

I feel compelled to add that, if the burghers had stood shoulder to
shoulder we should certainly have driven back the enemy, and the mishap
would never have occurred. We were eight hundred men strong, and the
enemy numbered not more than one thousand to one thousand two hundred.
But a surprise attack such as theirs had been usually produces
disastrous consequences.

[Footnote 73: Pioneer.]




CHAPTER XXII

My March to the South


The horses of the burghers were in a very weak condition; and as the
Boer is only half a man without his horse--for he relies on it to get
him out of any and every difficulty--I had now to advance, and see if I
could not find some means of providing my men with horses and saddles. I
went on this errand in the direction of Zandriviersbrug to the farm of
Mr. Jacobus Bornman.

Here, however, I divided the commandos. General Froneman, with the Vrede
and Heilbron burghers, I sent back to cross the railway lines between
the Doorn and Zand Rivers, with orders to operate in the northern
districts of the State. I took with me Commandant Lategan of Colesberg,
with about one hundred and twenty men, and Commandant Jan Theron, with
eighty men, and proceeded on the 10th or 11th of November across the
railway line between Doorn River and Theronskoppen, with the intention
of executing my plan of making an inroad into the Cape Colony.

We wrecked the railway line and blew up a few small bridges, and then
proceeded in the direction of Doornberg, where I met Commandant
Hasebroek and his burghers. I sent orders to General Philip Botha to
come with the Harrismith and Kroonstad burghers, which he had with him.
They arrived about the 13th of November.

We then marched, with about fifteen hundred men, in the direction of
Springhaansnek, to the east of Thaba'Nchu. At the northern point of
Korannaberg, Commandant Hasebroek remained behind, waiting for some of
his men to join him.

We took with us one Krupp with sixteen rounds--that was our whole stock
of gun ammunition!

By the afternoon of the 16th we had advanced as far as Springhaansnek.
The English had built a line of forts from Bloemfontein to Thaba'Nchu
and Ladybrand. And just at the point where we wanted to pass them, there
were two forts, one to the south and the other to the north, about 2,000
paces from each other, on the shoulder of the mountain.

My first step was to order the Krupp to fire six shots on one of these
forts; and, very much to the credit of my gunners, almost everyone of
these shots found its mark. Then I raced through.

All went well. The only man hit was Vice-Assistant-Commandant Jan
Meijer, of Harrismith, who received a wound in the side. He was shot
while sitting in a cart, where he had been placed owing to a wound which
he had received a few days before, in the course of a hot engagement,
which General Philip Botha had had at Ventersburg Station.

We now rode on through Rietpoort towards Dewetsdorp, staying, during the
night of the 17th of November, at a place on the Modder River. The
following day we only went a short distance, and halted at the farm of
Erinspride.

On the 19th I made a point of advancing during the _day_, so as to be
observed by the garrison at Dewetsdorp.

My object was to lead the garrison to think that we did not want to
attack them, but wished first to reconnoitre the positions. This would
have been quite an unnecessary proceeding, as the town was well known to
me, and I had already received information as to where the enemy was
posted.

The garrison could only conclude that we were again flying, just as we
were supposed to have done--by readers of English newspapers--at
Springhaansnek. They would be sure to think that after reconnoitring
their positions at Dewetsdorp we had gone on to Bloemfontein. Indeed, I
heard afterwards that they had sent a patrol, to pursue us to the hills
on the farm of Glengarry, and that this patrol had seen us march away in
the direction of Bloemfontein. In fact the enemy seemed to have a fixed
impression that I was going there. I was told that they had said: "De
Wet was either too wise or too frightened to attack Dewetsdorp; and if
he did, he would only be running his head against a wall." And again,
when they had received the telegram which informed them that I had gone
through Springhaansnek, they said: "If De Wet comes here to attack us,
it will be the last attack he will ever make."

We came to the farm of Roodewal, and remained there, well out of sight,
the whole of the 20th of November. Meanwhile our friends (?) at
Dewetsdorp were saying: "The Boers are ever so far away."

But on the evening of the same day I marched, very quietly, back to
Dewetsdorp, and crept up as close as I dared to the positions held by
the enemy's garrison. My early days had been spent in the vicinity of
this town, which had been named after my father by the Volksraad; and
later on I had bought from him the farm[74] where I lived as a boy.

By day or by night, I had been accustomed to ride freely in and out of
the old town; never before had I been forced to approach it, as I was
now, _like a thief_! Was nothing on this earth then solid or lasting? To
think that I must not enter Dewetsdorp unless I were prepared to
surrender to the English!

I was _not_ prepared to surrender to the English. Sooner than do that I
would break my way in by force of arms.

At dawn, on the 21st of November, we took possession of three positions
round the town.

General Botha, who had with him Jan and Arnoldus Du Plessis as guides,
went from Boesmansbank to a _tafelkop_,[75] to the south-east of the
town. On this mountain the English had thrown up splendid _schanzes_,
and had also built gun forts there, which would have been very
advantageous to us, if we had only had more ammunition. The English had
undoubtedly built these forts with the intention of placing guns there,
and thus protecting the town on every side should danger threaten. But
they did not know how to guard their own forts, for when General Botha
arrived there he found only three sentries--and they were fast sleep!
Two of them escaped, leaving their clothes behind, but the third was
killed.

Commandant De Vos and I occupied a position on the ridge which lies to
the north of the town; from this point we could shoot into the town at a
range of about 1,600 paces.

Commandant Lategan was stationed on the hill to the west of the town,
close to the farm of Glengarry, whose owner, Mr. B.W. Richter--father of
my valiant Adjutants, B.W. and Jan Richter--must have been much
surprised that morning when he discovered that something very like an
attack was being made on Dewetsdorp.

The enemy held strong positions on points of the ridge to the south-east
(above the Kaffir location) to the south-west and to the north-west.
Their _schanzes_ were built of stones, and provided with trenches. On
the top of the _schanzes_ sandbags had been placed, with spaces left
between them for the rifles.

Of Major Massey, who was in command, and his force, consisting of parts
of the Gloucestershire regiment, the Highland Light Infantry, and the
Irish Rifles, five hundred all told, I have only to say that both
commanding officer and men displayed the greatest valour.

Although Commandants Hasebroek and Prinsloo had not arrived,
nevertheless I had as many as nine hundred men. But I was obliged to
send a strong patrol to Roodekop, eighteen miles from us in the
direction of Bloemfontein, in order to receive reports in time, should
reinforcements be coming up to the help of the English. I had also to
send men to keep watch out towards Thaba'Nchu, Wepener and Reddersburg;
nor could I leave the President's little camp (which I had allowed to
proceed to the farm called "Prospect") without some protection. Thus it
was that of my nine hundred men, only four hundred and fifty were
available for the attack.

It delighted me to see how courageous our burghers were at Dewetsdorp.
As one watched them creeping from _schanze_ to _schanze_, often without
any cover whatever, and in danger at every moment of falling under the
enemy's fire, one felt that there was still hope.

On the first day we advanced until we were close to the _schanzes_ on
the south-east and on the north; we remained there during the night in
our positions, our food being brought to us.

The second day, November 22nd, firing began very early in the morning,
and was kept up until the afternoon. Our most advanced burghers, those
of Harrismith, had come to within about one hundred paces of the first
_schanze_.

I saw one of our men creeping on till he was close under the enemy's
fort. Directly afterwards I observed that rifles were being handed over
the _schanze_ to this man. Later on it appeared that the man who had
done this valiant deed was none other than Veldtcornet Wessels, of
Harrismith. He was subsequently promoted to the rank of Commandant, to
take the place of Commandant Truter; later on again, he became
Vice-Commander-in-Chief.

Our burghers could now enter this fort without incurring much danger.
But they had hardly done so, when the two English guns, which had been
placed to the west of the town, opened fire on them. When this
happened, I gave orders to my men that a great _schanze_ of the English,
about eighty paces from the one which we had just taken, should be
stormed. This was successfully carried out by Veldtcornet Wessels, who
had with him about twenty-five men. The enemy meanwhile kept up a heavy
fire on our storming party, from some _schanzes_ which lay still further
away; our men, therefore, had nothing left them but to take these also.
Then while our men kept in cover behind the fort which they had just
taken, the English left the _schanzes_ upon which the storming party had
been firing so fiercely; this, however, Veldtcornet Wessels and his
burghers did not know, because, after having rested a little, and
desiring to renew the attack, they only saw that everything was quiet
there, and that they were now only under the fire of guns from the
western forts, which lay right above the town. I also had not observed
that the forts had been abandoned.

Just as the sun was setting, and when it was too late to do anything,
General Philip Botha, with his two sons, Louis and Charlie, rushed up to
Veldtcornet Wessels and told him what the real state of affairs was.

I now saw columns of black smoke rising from the mill of Mr. Wessels
Badenhorst, to the south of the town. Everybody was saying: "The English
are burning their commissariat; they are going to surrender!"

The English had a strong fort on the north, near the place where
Commandant De Vos was stationed. In order to take this _schanze_ one
would have been obliged to cross 200 metres of open ground. Moreover, it
was so placed that it was the only part of the English possession which
De Vos's guns commanded. Accordingly, when the sun had gone down, I sent
orders to him that he was to storm this _schanze_ before daybreak on the
following morning.

My orders were duly carried out.

Commandant De Vos crept stealthily up to the fort, and was not observed
by the enemy until he was close to them. They then fired fiercely on
him, killing two of his burghers, but our men would not be denied; they
leapt over the _schanze_ and compelled the enemy to surrender. The
English losses on this occasion were six killed, a few wounded, and
about thirty taken prisoner.

While this was going on, Veldtcornet Wessels, in accordance with orders
which I had given him the previous evening, had taken possession of the
river bank exactly opposite to the town, which he was now preparing to
storm.

The English had only a few _schanzes_ to the west of him, and these were
not more than two hundred paces off.

I had been to the laager at "Prospect" the night before, with the
intention of returning so as to be in time for the storming of the town.
I had arranged to go there very early in the morning, because my journey
could be accomplished with much less risk if carried out in the dark.
Unfortunately, however, daylight overtook me when I had got no further
than the Kaffir location, and I had to race from there, over country
where I had no sort of cover, to the ravine near the town. From this
ravine to where Veldtcornet Wessels was waiting for me on the river
bank, I rode in comparative safety.

The reader can easily imagine how delighted I was to meet again the
Dewetsdorp folk, to whom I was so well known. But I could not show
myself too much. That would not have been safe. After I had visited
three houses--those of the Schoolmaster, Mr. Otto, of Mr. Jacobus Roos,
and of old Mr. H. Van der Schijf--and had partaken in each of a cup of
coffee, I hurried off to my burghers.

The remaining English _schanzes_ had been so well constructed that their
occupants could still offer a very stubborn resistance, and they did so.
It was not until about three o'clock on the afternoon of the 23rd of
November that we saw the white flag go up, and knew that the victory was
ours.

We took four hundred and eight prisoners, amongst whom were Major Massey
and seven other officers. We also took fifty Kaffirs. Two Armstrong guns
with more than three hundred rounds of ammunition, some waggons, horses
and mules, and a great quantity of Lee-Metford cartridges also fell into
our hands.

We never knew the exact numbers of the English dead and wounded, but
they must have lost something between seventy and one hundred men.

Our own loss was heavy. Seven of the burghers were killed and fourteen
wounded; most of these, however, slightly.

The sun had already set before we had put everything in order, and it
was late in the evening when we returned to our laager at "Prospect."
There I received a report that a great column was marching from the
direction of Reddersburg, in order to relieve Major Massey--but they
were too late!

Very early the following morning we made preparations to intercept the
advance of this column. We took up positions to the west of Dewetsdorp,
and the day was spent in exchanging shots with the enemy's guns. During
the night we remained in our positions, but when the sun rose I
discovered that the column, which was already too strong for us, was
expecting a reinforcement, and as no attack was attempted on their side,
I decided to leave the position quietly, and to march on. My inroad into
Cape Colony must no longer be delayed.

Our positions at Dewetsdorp were so situated that I could leave them
unnoticed. I thought it well, however, to leave behind a small number of
burghers as a decoy, so that the English should not pursue us at once.

[Footnote 74: Nieuwjaarsfontein.]

[Footnote 75: A table-shaped hill.]




CHAPTER XXIII

I Fail to Enter Cape Colony


The enemy gave us plenty of time in which to effect our escape, and by
nightfall we had abandoned our positions at Platkop. Taking with us the
prisoners of war (whom I intended to set free on the far side of the
Orange River), we marched towards Vaalbank, arriving there on the
following morning. That day the English attacked us unawares. While I
was at Dewetsdorp, Captain Pretorius had come up to give me a report of
his recent doings. I had sent him, two months previously, from the
district of Heilbron to Fauresmith and Philippolis, in order to fetch
two or three hundred horses from those districts; he had told me that he
had brought the horses, and that they were with his 200 men at
Droogfontein.

It was about eight o'clock in the morning after our night march that our
outpost at Vaalbank saw a mounted commando riding from Beijersberg in
the direction of Reddersburg. I was at once informed of this, but as I
was expecting Pretorius from that direction, I merely said: "It is sure
to be Captain Pretorius."

"No; this is an _English_ commando."

English or Australian--it made very little matter--they were enemies.

I had no need to give the order to off-saddle, the burghers did it at
once of their own accord. But before we were ready for him, the enemy
opened fire on us from the very ridge on which our outpost had been
stationed.

Off went the burghers, and I made no effort to stop them, for the spot
where we were did not command a good view of the surrounding country,
and I already had my eye on some ridges, about half an hour's ride away.
There we should be able to reconnoitre, especially towards Dewetsdorp,
whence I expected the enemy at any moment. During the retreat
Veldtcornet de Wet was severely wounded. Moreover, some of our horses
had to be left behind, being too exhausted to go any further.

We marched on towards Bethulie. When in the neighbourhood of this town,
and of the farm of "Klein Bloemfontein," I fell in with General Piet
Fourie and Captain Scheepers, and took them with me. While on this farm
I set free the Kaffirs whom I had taken prisoner at Dewetsdorp; they
pretended they had not been fighting, but were only waggon-drivers. I
gave them a pass to go into Basutoland.

We then proceeded towards Karmel, and just as we were approaching the
farm of "Good Hope," we caught sight of an English column which had come
from Bethulie, and was making for Smithfield. I at once opened fire upon
them from two sides, but they were in such good positions that we failed
that day to drive them out. On the morrow, early in the morning, the
fight began afresh.

About four o'clock in the afternoon General Charles Knox, with a large
reinforcement, arrived from Smithfield, and we had once more to retire.
It was here that I sustained a loss upon my staff--my nephew, Johannes
Jacobus de Wet. It was sad to think that I should never again see
Johannes--so brave and cheerful as he had always been. His death was a
great shock to me.

Our only other casualties were four burghers wounded, whereas the enemy,
unless I am much mistaken, must have lost heavily.

Whilst this fight was in progress General Hertzog joined me. We arranged
that he should with all speed make an inroad into Cape Colony, between
the Norvalspont and Hopetown railway bridges, and that I should do the
same between the railway bridges at Bethulie and Aliwal North. He was to
operate in the north-western part of the country, I in the eastern and
midland parts.

That night we continued our march towards Karmel, under a heavy downpour
of rain. Next morning it was still raining when we started to continue
our march; later on in the day we off-saddled for a short time and then
went on again, so as to be able to cross the Caledon River before it
became impossible to do so. I can assure you that it rained so hard
while we were fording the Caledon, that, as the Boers say, "It was
enough to kill the big devils and cut off the legs of the little ones."
We then marched on--still through heavy rain.

Commandant Truter, who was in command of the rear-guard, had left a
Krupp and an ammunition waggon behind. I was not at all pleased about
this, but, as we had not a single round of Krupp ammunition left, the
gun would only have hampered us.

That evening we reached the Orange River, at a point some three miles to
the north of Odendaalsstroom, but, alas! what a sight met our eyes! The
river was quite impassable owing to the floods, and, in addition, the
ford was held by English troops stationed on the south bank.

Our position was beginning to be critical, for there was an English
garrison at Aliwal North, so that I could not cross the Orange River by
the bridge there. It was also highly probable that the Caledon would be
in flood, and I knew that General Charles Knox had left a division of
his troops at Smithfield--they would be sure to be holding the bridge
over the Caledon at Commissiedrift. Moreover, Jammerbergsdrift, near
Wepener, was doubtless well guarded, so that there, too, I would have no
chance of crossing the river. There was still Basutoland, but we did not
wish to cross its borders--we were on good terms with the Basutos and
we could not afford to make enemies of them. Surely we had enough
enemies already!

To make the best of a bad job I sent Commandant Kritzinger[76] and
Captain Scheepers, with their three hundred men, to march in the
direction of Rouxville with orders that as soon as the Orange River
became fordable, they were to cross it into Cape Colony without delay. I
entertained no doubt that they would succeed.

Everything is as it must be, and unless one is a sluggard--who brings
trouble upon himself by doing nothing to avoid it--one has no reason to
complain.

Such were my thoughts as I contemplated our situation.

The Orange River was in flood--the Government and I, therefore, could
not possibly remain where we were for long. The English were so fond of
us that they would be sure to be paying us a visit! No, to wait there
until the river was fordable was not to be thought of.

The reader will now perceive how it was that my projected inroad into
Cape Colony did not become a fact. My dear old friend, General Charles
Knox, was against it, and he had the best of the argument, for the river
was unfordable. What then was I to do? Retreat I could not, for the
Caledon also was now full. Again, as I have already explained, it would
not do for me to take refuge in Basutoland. But even that would be
better than to attempt to hold out where I was--in a narrow belt of
country between two rivers in flood--against the overpowering force
which was at General Knox's disposal, and which in ten or twelve days
would increase tenfold, by reinforcements from all parts of the country.

I knew that the Orange and the Caledon Rivers sometimes remained
unfordable for weeks together. How could I then escape?--Oh, the English
had caught me at last! They hemmed me in on every side; I could not get
away from them. In fact they had "cornered" me, to use one of their own
favourite expressions. That they also thought so appears from what I
read afterwards in the _South African News_, where I saw that Lord
Kitchener had given orders to General Charles Knox "not to take any
prisoners there!" For the truth of this I cannot positively vouch; but
it was a very suspicious circumstance that Mr. Cartwright, the editor of
the newspaper to which I have referred, was afterwards thrown into
prison for having published this very anecdote about Lord Kitchener.

Our prospects were then by no means bright; I knew very well that those
trusty counsellors of the English--the National Scouts--would have
advised their masters to seize the bridges and thus make escape
impossible for Steyn and De Wet.

Without delay I proceeded to the Commissiedrift bridge over the Caledon.
As I feared, it was occupied by the enemy. Entrenchments had been dug,
and _schanzes_ thrown up at both ends.

Foiled here, I at once sent a man down to the river to see if it was
still rising. It might be the case that there had not been so much rain
higher up. The man whom I had sent soon returned, reporting that the
river was falling, and would be fordable by the evening. This was good
news indeed.

On the other hand, our horses were exhausted. They had now for three
days been obliged to plough their way through the wet, muddy paths. We
had no forage to give them, and the grass was so young as yet that it
did not seem to strengthen them at all.

Nevertheless, we had to be off. And there was but one road open to
us--we must somehow get across the Orange River and thus obtain
elbow-room. Accordingly we returned to make for Zevenfontein, a ford ten
or twelve miles further up the river. If it were not already in the
enemy's hands, we would surely be able to get across there. Shortly
before sunset, on the 8th of December, we arrived at Zevenfontein. To
our immense joy, it was unoccupied and fordable.

I at once marched towards Dewetsdorp, intending, if only General Knox
and his huge force would give me the chance, to rest my horses, and then
make another attempt to enter Cape Colony.

But it was not to be.

The English were afraid that if President Steyn and I were in Cape
Colony their troubles would be doubled. General Knox therefore
concentrated all his available forces in order to drive us northwards.
It was disappointing, but there was a bright side to it. If the English
were pursuing me, they would have to leave Commandant Kritzinger and
Captain Scheepers, who would thus be able to cross the Orange River.

These two officers, however, were not left entirely in peace. While they
rested for a time near Zastron, in order to give their horses a chance
of recovering their strength, there came a division of Brabant's Horse
to pay them a visit. The result was that about sixty of the visitors
were wounded or taken prisoner, while the rest found it as much as they
could do to get back to Aliwal North, whence they had started.
Commandant Kritzinger and Captain Scheepers had then another opportunity
for rest until the day should come when they could make an inroad into
Cape Colony according to my instructions.

Although, as I have already said, the English were passionately devoted
to President Steyn and myself, I was deprived of their endearments for
the space of two whole days, during which I was at Wilgeboomspruit. Here
I was joined by Commandant Hasebroek with his commando, and all of
us--horses as well as men--enjoyed a little rest. But very soon General
Knox was again at our heels, and, to escape him, I marched west in the
direction of Edenburg, hoping at last to be able to get into Cape
Colony. Not only were the forces of General Knox _behind_ us, but, when
we arrived at the farm of "Hexrivier," and thus were within two hours'
march of Edenburg, I heard from my scouts, whom I had sent on in
advance, that there was a great English column in _front_ of us at that
town.

In the evening, therefore, I turned off towards the east, and marched in
the direction of Wepener.

The following morning the enemy was again on our track; but, as we had
covered twenty miles during the night, we were so far ahead that it was
unnecessary for us to move very fast during that and the following day.

At mid-day, the 13th of December, we took up excellent positions--placed
in a line of about eight miles from end to end--on the farm called
"Rietfontein," which is in the district of Wepener, north-east of
Daspoort. We were so strongly posted that the enemy had to halt and wait
for the arrival of the rearguard. I had calculated on this, and knew
that darkness would come to our aid before the English were ready to
attack us. But in front of us there was a strong line of forts,
extending from Bloemfontein through Thaba'Nchu and Springhaansnek, to
Ladybrand. Through this line we should have to fight our way; this would
be difficult enough, and it would never do to have General Knox at our
heels, to increase the difficulty. Our only plan, then, was to make a
long night march, and thus to get well out of the way.

Accordingly, I gave orders to the men to hold their positions until
dark, and to let the enemy see that they were doing so. I had even had
_schanzes_ built, so as to impress them with the idea that I intended to
attack them the following day if they advanced towards my positions. And
just before the night came on, I ordered the burghers to show themselves
from behind all our _schanzes_.

Then night fell, and I at once gave orders to march off.

The burghers could not understand this, and began to grumble about
it--what could their General mean? Why this sudden change in his plans?
I said nothing, but thought to myself, "You shall know why to-morrow."

We marched directly towards Springhaansnek. It was very slow work, for
many of the burghers' horses were so weak that their owners had to go on
foot. General Philip Botha and I were with the rearguard, and did not
expect to reach the line of forts until ten o'clock on the following
morning.

We had not advanced very far before we were joined by Commandant Michal
Prinsloo, who had with him three hundred of the Bethlehem burghers. He
had come down from Springhaansnek, and as his horses were in good
condition I ordered him to go in advance of us, to pass through
Springhaansnek, and then to occupy positions to the north of the lines
of forts and east of Thaba'Nchu.

My object in making this arrangement was that when on the following
morning we were crossing the mountains, he might be able to hinder the
enemy at Thaba'Nchu from either checking our advance, or sending
reinforcements to the Springhaansnek forts.

And in point of fact, Prinsloo's commando proved to be our salvation;
for the English, from their high position at Thaba'Nchu, spied us as
soon as day broke, and indeed sent troops to reinforce the point for
which we were making. But Prinsloo succeeded in holding them in check,
so that when we arrived at Springhaansnek we had to fight against strong
positions, but against nothing else--but I must not anticipate.

Before it began to be light on the morning of the 14th of December,
Commandant Prinsloo passed through the enemy's lines between the forts.
The English fired upon him, but he did not turn back. Then a small
outpost of the enemy, which lay half-way between the forts, made an
attempt to turn the oncoming burghers by shooting at them from the
front. The Commandant only gave strict orders that the men must force
their way through. The consequence was that two of the enemy, who did
not get out of the way in time, were literally ridden over. The burghers
thought that these two unfortunate men had been trodden to death by the
horses, but it was not likely that any of them would dismount to see if
this were actually the case.

As I have already said, General Botha and I were in the rearguard. We
knew, however, that Vice-Commandant-in-Chief Piet Fourie--a man whom
nothing on earth would stop, if he had once made up his mind--was
leading the van, and that he was supported by Veldtcornet Johannes
Hattingh, who was as resolute and undaunted as his chief.

Fourie did not wait for us to catch him up, but at once went down the
mountain side. When we saw this, General Botha and I rode with all speed
ahead, telling the burghers to come on more gently with their weary
horses. I did not fear thus to leave them behind, because I knew that
General Knox was still a long way in the rear.

Just as General Fourie, leading the first storming-party, had passed
between the forts, we came up with him, our burghers still straggling on
behind us. As soon as we had crossed over the first piece of rising
ground, I halted my men, and ordered them to leave their horses out of
sight of the enemy, and to return to the brow of the hill, so as to be
able to fire into the forts on the right and left hand, which were from
eight hundred to nine hundred paces from us. From this hill we kept up
as fierce a fire as we could, and this to a great extent prevented the
enemy in those forts from firing on our burghers who were still coming
on in a long train.

It is necessary, in order that the reader may understand the task which
we had set ourselves to accomplish, to say a few words about
Springhaansnek. At either side of the way by which we must pass, there
were two strong forts, at a distance of from a thousand to twelve
hundred paces from each other. In the space between them there was
absolutely no cover; and the distance from the point where the burghers
were first visible to the men in these forts, to the point where they
again disappeared from view, was at least three thousand paces.

Over these terrible three thousand paces our burghers raced, while a
storm of bullets was poured in upon them from both sides. And of all
that force--eight thousand strong--no single man was killed, and only
one was wounded!

Our marvellous escape can only be described to the providence and
irresistible protection of Almighty God, who kept His hand graciously
over us.

What the enemy's loss was I never heard.

In addition to the burghers, a few carts and waggons, as well as one of
the two guns which had been taken at Dewetsdorp, got safely through the
English lines. The other gun was left behind by the sergeant of the
artillery, before he reached the fighting line. He sent the horses of
the gun-carriage with the gunners, back to Commandant Hasel, who
subsequently followed us to Ijzernek, to the west of Thaba'Nchu.

My ambulance with Dr. Fourie and Dr. Poutsma, were stopped by the
English. Dr. Fourie had, as was quite proper, remained outside the
fighting line, with the intention of coming through afterwards. This he
was permitted to do on the following day. He brought me a message from
General Knox to the effect that Commandant Hasebroek had lost heavily in
an engagement with Colonel White, who had marched out from Thaba'Nchu.
But I had already received information that the Commandant had got
through the enemy's lines unhurt, and that on the contrary it was he who
had killed some of Colonel White's men, while they were attacking him.

We decided to retreat still further, in order to reach a place of safety
where we might rest our horses, in preparation for that long dash into
Cape Colony, which I still intended to carry out on the first
opportunity. I felt sure, however, that my commandos would be allowed
no rest by the enemy as long as the President and I were with them.
Accordingly I planned that as soon as we got to the north of Winburg he
and I should absent ourselves from the commandos for some time, while I
proceeded to arrange certain matters (to be set down in a later chapter)
by which I hoped to effectually "settle"[77] the English.

On our arrival at a certain farm to the south of Senekal we discovered
that General Knox was once more at our heels. We had several small
engagements with him, in one of which a son of Commandant Truter, of
Harrismith, was killed.

On the afternoon of Christmas Day, 1900, we left the farm, and rode on
to the Tafelkop, nine miles to the west of Senekal.

[Footnote 76: He was subsequently appointed Vice-Commander-in-Chief in
Cape Colony.]

[Footnote 77: In the original a Kaffir word is used here. The literal
meaning of the phrase is "to throw the knuckle bones"--the Kaffir
equivalent for dice.]




CHAPTER XXIV

Wherein Something is Found About War against Women


It was decided here, on the 26th December, to divide the large
commando into two. The one part was to be under the command
of Assistant-Chief-Commander P.H. Botha, and the other
Assistant-Chief-Commander Pete Fourie.

I entrusted to President Steyn a bodyguard under Commander Davel, who
went with the Government in the direction of Reitz.

As regards myself, I went to Assistant-Chief-Commander C.C. Froneman,
who was with the Heilbron Commander, L. Steenekamp, in the neighbourhood
of Heilbron. It was my intention to take with me from there a strong
escort, and to dig up the ammunition at Roodewal taken on the 7th of
June, as both our Mauser and our Lee-Metford ammunition were nearly
exhausted, although we still had a fairly large supply of Martini-Henry
Giddy cartridges.

I then started from Tafelkop, on the 27th of December, and arrived two
days later at General Froneman's commando, close to Heilbron. I had to
wait there till the evening of the 31st December, until the necessary
carriages and oxen had been got together for carrying the ammunition
with us. Carriages were now no longer to be got easily, because the
British had not only taken them away from the farms, but had also burnt
many of them. Where formerly in each farm there were at least one
carriage and a team of oxen, and in some two, three or even more, there
were now frequently not a single one. Even where there were carriages
the women had always to keep them in readiness to fly on them before the
columns of the enemy, who had now already commenced to carry the women
away from their dwellings to the concentration camps within their own
lines, in nearly all villages where the English had established strong
garrisons. Proclamations had been issued by Lord Roberts, prescribing
that any building within ten miles from the railway, where the Boers had
blown up or broken up the railway line, should be burnt down. This was
also carried out, but not only within the specified radius, but also
everywhere throughout the State. Everywhere houses were burnt down or
destroyed with dynamite. And, worse still, the furniture itself and the
grain were burnt, and the sheep, cattle and horses were carried off. Nor
was it long before horses were shot down in heaps, and the sheep killed
by thousands by the Kaffirs and the National Scouts, or run through by
the troops with their bayonets. The devastation became worse and worse
from day to day. And the Boer women--did they lose courage with this
before their eyes? By no means, as when the capturing of women, or
rather the war against them and against the possessions of the Boer
commenced, they took to bitter flight to remain at least out of the
hands of the enemy. In order to keep something for themselves and their
children, they loaded the carriages with grain and the most
indispensable furniture. When then a column approached a farm, even at
night, in all sorts of weather, many a young daughter had to take hold
of the leading rope of the team of oxen, and the mother the whip, or
vice versa. Many a smart, well-bred daughter rode on horseback and urged
the cattle on, in order to keep out of the hands of the pursuers as long
as at all possible, and not to be carried away to the concentration
camps, which the British called Refugee Camps (Camps of Refuge). How
incorrect, indeed! Could any one ever have thought before the war that
the twentieth century could show such barbarities? No. Any one knows
that in war, cruelties more horrible than murder can take place, but
that such direct and indirect murder should have been committed against
defenceless women and children is a thing which I should have staked my
head could never have happened in a war waged by the civilized English
nation. And yet it happened. Laagers containing no one but women and
children and decrepit old men, were fired upon with cannon and rifles in
order to compel them to stop. I could append here hundreds of
declarations in proof of what I say. I do not do so, as my object is not
to write on this matter. I only touch upon it in passing. There are
sufficiently many righteous pens in South Africa and England to pillory
these deeds and bring them to the knowledge of the world, to remain on
record for the future. For what nation exists, or has existed, which has
not a historical record whether to its advantage or to its disadvantage?
I cannot do it here as it should be done. And too much cannot be said
about this shameful history.

I had to unburden my heart. Now let me proceed.

On the evening of the 1st of January, 1901, I pushed on towards Roodewal
Station, for I had obtained all the waggons I needed for my purpose.
Perhaps that night the outposts were asleep; but however that may be, we
reached the railway without the enemy being aware of our movements. The
hour was growing late, and so we had no choice but to remain where we
were, nine miles from the spot at which we aimed. But the following
evening we were again on the march, and reached the place where the
ammunition had been buried. We found it untouched, and just where we had
left it, a few miles from the railway, and quite close to the English
camp, at Rhenosterriviersbrug.

We were very careful to recover every cartridge, since it was clear that
the war must still continue for a long space of time. _We_ could have no
thought of giving up the struggle, whilst the pride of England would not
allow her to turn back.

We loaded our waggons with the ammunition, and I gave to General
Froneman the task of conducting it across the railway line. I myself
proceeded to the Vredefort commandos, which were stationed some fifteen
miles away, for the state of affairs amongst these commandos called for
my presence. On the 4th of January, when night had fallen, I crossed the
railway near Vredefortweg, unnoticed by the enemy.

Two days later I was back again with General Froneman's commando, where
I found that the ammunition had arrived in safety. I was informed that
General Knox had divided his forces into three parts, one of which had
engaged General Fourie and Commandant Prinsloo, near Bethlehem. We had
given the enemy a good beating, but had lost two men in the affair. I
regret to say that one of them was that clever officer, Vice-Commandant
Ignatius du Preeij. He was a man whom every burgher loved, for he was
goodness personified. The second of General Knox's division had set out
in the direction of Heilbron, whilst the third had pursued General
Philip Botha along the Liebenbergsvlei.[78]

This division had attempted to mislead General Botha by all sorts of
tricks, but on January the 3rd he had put up notices outside different
farmhouses, stating that he did not like such familiarity.

On one occasion the General, with only fifty burghers, had charged one
hundred and fifty of the bodyguard, and had taken one hundred and
seventeen prisoners, leaving the whole of the remainder either killed or
wounded.

A panic now occurred among General Knox's forces. The division that was
marching to Heilbron suddenly turned aside towards Kroonstad, only to
meet with General Botha, who left them in anything but an undamaged
condition.

The division which had been despatched to deal with General Fourie and
Commandant Prinsloo entered Senekal.

When I arrived at General Botha's camp, which was situated six miles to
the east of Lindley, I found that General Knox had already taken
Kroonstad.

After this we allowed ourselves a rest.

On the 8th of January I received reports from Commandant Kritzinger and
Captain Scheepers dealing with the state of affairs in Cape Colony. They
informed me that they had safely crossed the Orange River by a
foot-path. There was another footpath, more to the south, which an
English outpost of eight men was guarding. These soldiers occupied a
house near by, and the first warning they had that we had crossed the
river was when the door of their abode opened, and they heard the order
to "hands up."

Commandant Kritzinger and Captain Scheepers also assured me that the
sympathies of the Colonial burghers were strongly with us. Like every
other right-minded man, I had expected this to be the case, for "blood
is thicker than water."[79]

Although the Colonials were well aware what a dangerous course they
would be pursuing if they joined us, and how, later, they would be sure
to be treated as rebels, they nevertheless threw in their lot with ours.

From Judge Hertzog I received a very encouraging report as to the
burghers in the north-western parts of Cape Colony. This news decided me
on leaving behind, in their own districts, parts of the commandos from
all the various divisions, and on taking others to join with me in a
second expedition into Cape Colony. The following were the officers I
took with me, ordering them to assemble at Doornberg, in the district of
Winburg, on the 25th of January, 1901: Generals Piet Fourie, Philip
Botha and Froneman; Commandants Prinsloo (Bethlehem), Steyn (Ficksburg),
Hasebroek (Winburg), De Vos (Kroonstad), Merve (Parijs), Ross
(Frankfort), Wessel Wessels[80] (Harrismith), Kolbe (Bloemfontein), and
Jan Theron, with the renowned Theron Scouts.

From the 8th to the 25th of January we were in the north-western
districts of the Free State. We were waiting for a suitable opportunity
to make a dash into Cape Colony.

[Footnote 78: _Vlei_--a valley with stagnant water in it.]

[Footnote 79: The Boer proverb is:--"Blood creeps where it cannot
walk."]

[Footnote 80: I had appointed him in place of Commandant Truter, who had
resigned.]




CHAPTER XXV

I Again Attempt to Enter Cape Colony


I was now about to make a second attempt to march into Cape Colony. I
had great fears that my plans would leak out, since I was obliged to
mention them to the commandants. But I was not able to confine all
knowledge of my future movements entirely to the commandants. For I had
sent many a burgher home to fetch a second horse; and the burghers began
to make all sorts of guesses as to why they had to fetch the horses; and
one could hear them mutter: "We are going to the Colony."

But nevertheless they were all in good spirits, with the exception of
some, who had for commander a most contradictory and obstinate officer.

By January the 25th nearly the whole of my commandos had assembled; only
General Philip Botha, with the burghers from Vrede under Commandant
Hermanus Botha, had yet to arrive in order to complete our numbers; and
he had been prevented coming.

President Steyn and the Government decided to go with me and my two
thousand burghers.

At Doornberg the council of war was called together by the Government.
President Steyn then communicated to the meeting that his term of office
would soon expire. He pointed out that the provisions of the law
designed to meet this contingency could not be carried out, because a
legally constituted Volksraad could not be summoned at the present
moment.

The council of war decided to propose a candidate to the burghers
without any delay, at the same time giving them the option of
nominating candidates of their own. Further, it was decided that the
candidate who should be elected should be sworn in as Vice-States
President, and retain that title until the time arrived when the
condition of the country should make it possible to hold an election in
conformity with the law.

After the voting had taken place, it was found that the former
President, Marthinus Theunis Steyn, had been unanimously re-elected.

At the burghers' meeting the voting resulted in the same way, except at
a meeting at which Mr. Cecil Rhodes was proposed as a candidate. This
proposal was not seconded!

President Steyn was declared elected. And he was then sworn in.

The executive Raad now consisted of the President, as chairman, with T.
Brain, Secretary of State, W.J.C. Brebner, Secretary of State, A.P.
Cronje, Jan Meijer and myself as members. Mr. Rocco De Villiers was
Secretary of the War Council, and Mr. Gordon Fraser, Private Secretary
to the States President.

No States-Procureur had been appointed since Mr. Jacob De Villiers had
been taken prisoner at Bothaville; but the Council appointed Mr. Hendrik
Potgieter, Landdrost of Kroonstad, as Public Prosecutor.

Various causes had made it impossible for a legally constituted
Volksraad to sit. Some members had, as we called it, "hands-upped";
others had thought that they had done quite enough when they had voted
for the war. I would be the last to assert that they had done wrong in
voting thus. The whole world is convinced that, whatever the Boers might
have done, England was determined to colour the map of South Africa red!
And England succeeded beyond her expectations! For South Africa was
stained with the blood of burghers and defenceless women and children,
and with the blood of English soldiers who had died in a quarrel for
which they were not responsible, and which could have been avoided!

There were other members--and I had no patience with them--who had said:
"We will give our last drop of blood for our country," and then had
taken good care that no one should have a chance of getting even the
first drop! They preferred to remain quietly at home, and wait for the
English to come and make them prisoners of war!

Only a minority of the members had remained faithful to our cause, and
these did not constitute a quorum; and so no sitting could take place.
This small party, as far as I can recollect, consisted of the following
ten members: C.H. Wessels Bishop, Chairman; Wessel Wessels (Vrede); J.B.
Wessels (Winburg); A.P. Cronje (Winburg); Jan Steijl (Bloemfontein); Jan
Meijer (Harrismith); J.J. Van Niekerk (Fauresmith); Daniel Steyn
(Heilbron); Hendrik Ecksteen (Vrede); and Hendrik Serfontein
(Kroonstad).

We marched from Doornberg on the 26th of January to Commandant Sarel
Hasebroek's farm, which is eight miles to the north of Winburg.

There was a strong English force seven or eight miles to the east of
Winburg, and another body of the enemy eleven or twelve miles still
further to the east. In addition, a column was marching northwards from
Ventersburg, west of our position.

It was perfectly plain that the enemy were aware of our intentions; but
this, as I have already said, could not be helped. Our army was so
constituted that no secret could be kept; and I decided for the future
to tell no one of any further plans I might form.

On the 27th of January I reconnoitred to the east of Winburg, and took
care to let myself be seen, for I wished to make it appear that it was
my intention to proceed in that direction in the evening. Meanwhile I
secretly sent my scouts to the west.

That night I marched to the west of Winburg, crossing the branch
railway without meeting with any opposition, and arrived on the
following morning at the Vet River--to the south of the town. We did not
advance very fast,[81] as we expected that we should soon once more have
to face the difficulty of marching with exhausted horses.

In the afternoon we continued our way till we had passed Tabaksberg. The
following morning, January 28th, I received a report that the English
were advancing in two divisions. I ordered my burghers to up-saddle and
to occupy positions to the east of Takasberg.

The enemy's right wing was to the east, and we stationed ourselves on
some ridges that lay in front of them, but were unable to deliver an
attack. We charged their left wing, however, and captured a
Maxim-Nordenfeldt, which was in perfect order, at the cost of one killed
and three wounded. Our other losses amounted to a very small number.

As to the enemy's losses, they took some of their dead and wounded away,
but they left behind them several of their dead at the spot where we had
captured the gun.

To remain there and continue the fighting the next day could not even be
thought of; for if we had waited the English would have had time to
bring up reinforcements, and my plan of entering Cape Colony would have
been rendered impossible.

Our position was difficult enough. The enemy were at our heels, and we
had to get away as best we could. In front of us there was the line of
fortifications from Bloemfontein to Ladybrand, which had been greatly
strengthened since we had forced our way through it at Springhaansnek.
It was impossible to get through at Springhaansnek now.

I decided to march towards Thaba'Nchu. But in order to deceive the
English I sent a strong patrol on the following day in the direction of
Springhaansnek, ordering them to make no attempt to conceal their
movements.

I could advance for eight miles without attracting the enemy's notice;
but if I had gone further I should have been seen from the forts. I need
scarcely say that it was greatly to my advantage not to give the English
a chance of seeing me. And so when we had covered eight miles we
off-saddled. If I had allowed the English to discover what I was doing
they would have brought up troops from Thaba'Nchu, Sanna's Post and
Bloemfontein; and these troops in combination with the force behind me
might have put me into a very awkward position.

My old friend, General Knox, whose duty it had been to prevent me
entering Cape Colony on a previous occasion, was again entrusted with
the same task. Any person who has had dealings with this General will
acknowledge that he is apt to be rather a troublesome friend; for not
only does he understand the art of marching by night, but he is also
rather inclined to be overbearing when he measures his strength with
that of his opponents.

And now, as we were in camp, congratulating ourselves that we were safe
for the time being, my scouts reported that this same General Knox was
approaching. I at once ordered the burghers to up-saddle, and to inspan
the ten waggons we had with us laden with ammunition and flour.

I left behind me a portion of my commando under General Fourie, whose
duty it was to check General Knox, whilst I myself was going forward to
clear a road through the enemy's forts.

It was lucky for us that General Knox had been deceived by the strong
patrol I had sent in the direction of Springhaansnek, and that he had
come to the conclusion that my commando was marching to the same place.
He therefore started off in that direction and continued until he
discovered his mistake. Then he turned aside and came in contact with
General Fourie. Our men held him back for a few hours, and lost two men,
very badly wounded in the engagement.

Whilst this was occurring I had reached the forts between Thaba'Nchu and
Sanna's Post. When I was there a reinforcement of cavalry approached
from the direction of Bloemfontein.

I immediately opened fire (with a gun and a Maxim-Nordenfeldt at a range
of 4,000 paces) on the fort, which obstructed my road. After we had
fired a few shots the English abandoned that fort and fled to the
nearest fort to the east. Shortly afterwards this fort was also
abandoned.

The fort to the west was captured by Commandant Steenekamp and the
Heilbron burghers. They succeeded in taking a few prisoners; but most of
the enemy fled to Sanna's Post. Only one of the Heilbron burghers was
wounded--Piet Steenekamp, the son of the Commandant.

And now our road was clear; and we passed through! General Fourie joined
us two hours after sunset. Then we marched on to Dewetsdorp[82] where we
arrived on January 31st.

General Knox, I heard, proceeded to Bloemfontein; thence he sent his
troops to the railway bridge across the Orange River, near Bethulie. He
was now aware that we were determined to enter the Colony at all costs,
and so he stationed troops everywhere to turn us back. He placed forces
not only at Bethulie railway bridge, but also at Springfontein, and
Norvalspont. Thus he could easily prevent us crossing at the fords.

I had now to find some trump card which would spoil the game he was
playing!

I ordered General Froneman to proceed from the source of the Kaffir
River in the direction of Jagersfontein Road Station, to the west of
Dewetsdorp: General Fourie I despatched in the direction of
Odendaalsstroom, on the Orange River, to the farm of Klein
Kinderfontein, to the west of Smithfield.

I then sent scouts to the neighbourhood of Odendaalsdrift. They told me
that there was an English patrol at the drift, and that they had heard
that the enemy expected that we should try and cross into Cape Colony at
that spot.

The following day I ordered a patrol to ride up and down the river; and
I caused a report to be spread to the effect that I considered it too
dangerous to cross the Orange River below its junction with the Caledon,
owing to the river being already very full and quite unfordable if there
was any rain at all; and that I had for this reason decided to recall
General Froneman, and to take Odendaalsstroom by force, or else to
attack the enemy at the Aliwal-north Bridge.

I felt quite sure that this rumour would reach General Knox that very
day, for he had plenty of friends in the neighbourhood of the Caledon
and the Orange River.

General Froneman had orders to march in the direction of Zanddrift,
which is about half-way between Norvals Pont railway bridge and that of
Hopetown. He succeeded in capturing a train close to Jagersfontein Road
Station, by the simple device of blowing up the line both in front of it
and behind it. In this train the burghers found a great quantity of
things they greatly needed.

It should not be forgotten that there were scarcely any factories in
South Africa, and this was more especially the case in the two
Republics. And, as all imports had been stopped for some considerable
time, it was natural that any booty which consisted of such things as
saddles, blankets and ammunition was very acceptable.

When the burghers had helped themselves to what they wanted, the train
was burnt.

For the space of a day I remained quiet, so that I might be quite sure
that the English had received the report I had spread.

I soon discovered that my plan had been quite successful. The English
marched off in the direction I wished, believing, no doubt, that the
rumours they had heard were true; whilst I, on the evening of the 5th of
February, 1901, took some of the burghers, with the guns and waggons, to
a spot between the stations of Springfontein and Jagersfontein, and the
following day remained in hiding.

I left General Fourie behind me with a horse-commando, with orders to
remain there for two days, and to carry on manoeuvres in the direction
of Odendaalsstroom.

I crossed the railway line that evening without any mishap to my force,
but to my great sorrow the valiant Lieutenant Banie[83] Enslin, one of
the best of my scouts, was severely wounded the same night, and fell
into the hands of the English. He had ridden in advance with one of
Theron's Scouting Corps, with the object of finding a favourable spot
where he could lead us across the railway. The night was very dark, and
he had lost his way. We crossed, as I have already said, without
hindrance; but he and his companions rode into an outpost of the enemy a
few miles to the north. The English opened fire on them, with the
unhappy result that the estimable Banie was so seriously wounded that he
had to be left behind. His comrades joined us the following morning,
bringing the sad news with them.

We now continued our march at as rapid a pace as was possible; but the
road was so soaked by rain that it was difficult for the oxen and the
mules to draw the waggons and the guns.

On the 8th of February we overtook General Froneman at Lubbesdrift, six
miles to the north of Philippolis. We pushed on that evening towards
Zanddrift, which we reached on the 10th of February. Then we crossed
over into Cape Colony.

When we had crossed the river, I received a report from my scouts that
there were about twenty of the enemy in a strong _schanze_ on a kopje,
which was about half an hour's march further up stream. I gave orders
that a veldtcornet and twenty-five men, among whom was one of my staff,
Willem Pretorius, should go and capture the _schanze_.

The veldtcornet preferred not to approach beyond a certain distance, and
consequently Willem Pretorius and four other men were left to do the
work.

Willem climbed the hill from one side, and the others, dividing into
two, climbed it from the other side at two different points. They were
met by a severe fire from the fort, but when they got to close quarters
up went the white flag, and the English shouted "We surrender!"

Thus Willem Pretorius and four burghers captured twenty prisoners and a
like number of horses, saddles, bridles, rifles and bandoliers, not to
mention some three thousand cartridges.

When the veldtcornet at last arrived with his twenty men, he certainly
proved himself very useful in carrying away the booty!

This veldtcornet was shortly afterwards "Stellenbosched."[84] I then
nominated in his place Willem Pretorius[85] as veldtcornet.

We left the river that afternoon behind us, and marched south to Mr.
Bezuidenhout's farm. The following day we waited there for General
Fourie to join us. He arrived the next day--and now we were ready to
begin the game once more!

Our position was embarrassing, for not only was there a large English
force at General Fourie's heels, but also there were two strong columns
on the north from Colesberg, which were making for Hamelfontein. And
these two columns were some twelve miles from us.

I at once set out in the direction of Hamelfontein, and the following
day I discovered that the enemy's columns had divided into two parties;
one of them had gone in a westerly direction, whilst the other was
marching straight towards us. Meanwhile the force which had pursued
General Fourie had crossed the river at Zanddrift.

My intention had been to divide my force into three divisions directly I
arrived in the Colony. But I had been obliged to wait till General
Fourie could join me; and when he had come, there was such large numbers
of the enemy on every side that they gave me no opportunity of carrying
out my original intention.

I may mention here that Lieutenant Malan, who became afterwards
Commandant, and ultimately Vechtgeneraal, had penetrated into the Colony
with fifty or sixty men, and had advanced considerably farther than I
had done.

That afternoon I ordered the small waggon to proceed to a point between
Philipstown and Petrusville.

We had several slight skirmishes with the English; and at sunset we
nearly fell into their hands, but fortunately we were successful in
holding the enemy in check until our small laager had passed.

During that night we marched to Hondeblaf River. The following morning
we found that there was no grass for the horses, for the locusts had
eaten it all. The horses, poor creatures, were very hungry, and also
much exhausted by all those forced marches. When we had been at Winburg,
the pasture had been very poor although it had rained every day. This,
of course, was very good for the veldt; but unfortunately it did not
rain grass--the veldt required time to produce it.

All this was most unlucky. Already some of my men had to go on foot, and
there were no horses to be obtained in that district.

The number of my burghers had now been diminished by nearly six hundred
men. Commandant Prinsloo had remained behind with three hundred men,
Vice-Commandant Van Tonder with one hundred, and lastly, Commandant De
Vos at the Orange River with two hundred.

There was now only one course open to us--and that was to cross as
quickly as possible the railway line near Hopetown, for if an English
force was brought down by rail, it would mean our utter destruction.

We accordingly moved away at once from Hondeblaf River. The following
day the English were again hot on our track. I ordered General Fourie
and General Froneman to oppose the enemy, for it was necessary that
something should be done to save our rearguard from being cut off. These
Generals had several sharp engagements with the English, resulting in
the capture of a number of prisoners, and a considerable loss in dead
and wounded to the English.

After we had been on the march for a short time, a "Broodspioen"[86]
came rushing up to me. (Had not my scouts been riding in a different
direction they would have given me notice of his proximity.) He told me
that he and a friend of his of the same calling had gone to a farm near
by to buy bread, but when they had approached the house, a number of
English soldiers appeared at the door and called out "hands up!" His
friend had been captured, but he having been some fifteen paces from the
house, had managed to escape under a hail of bullets. He had had to
gallop one thousand paces before he could get out of range behind a
ridge that stretched between us and the farm. I ordered the burghers to
halt behind the ridge, and sent a small body of men ahead to determine
the strength of the enemy. We could now see that the English had hidden
their horses behind some fruit-trees. When they caught sight of our men
on the top of the ridge, they took up positions behind kraals and a
dam-wall not far from the house, knowing well that escape was
impossible.

I thought it best to send a note to this handful of men, advising them
to surrender, for I did not wish that any of my burghers' lives should
be sacrificed in an unnecessary attack. Whilst I was writing the letter
they punctuated it by an incessant fire, to which the burghers replied
by a few shots, although none of the enemy were visible. As soon,
however, as my despatch rider appeared with a white flag, their firing
ceased. The answer they returned left something to be desired--"We shall
not surrender!"

I immediately ordered fifty of my men to attack them. Hardly had I given
the order, when a number of young burghers sprung on their horses and
galloped at break-neck pace towards the kraals.

And now there was an end to all boasting, for without firing a single
shot the enemy surrendered.

We took twenty prisoners there, and an equal number of rifles and
bandoliers. The horses we captured--again twenty in number--were in
excellent condition, and all up-saddled. We now had made ninety men our
prisoners since we crossed the Orange River.

The joy of the Broodspioen, who had been for fifty minutes in the hands
of the English, was very great; and I believe he never returned again to
his very doubtful profession.

The following day we came to a farm about six miles to the east of
Houtkraal Station, which we christened Moddervlei,[87] on account of the
experience we had on the night following our arrival.

The great English force was close behind us, and when night fell the
enemy were not more than five miles from us.

It was at the hour of sunset, shortly before we came to the swamp, which
I shall presently describe, that my scouts came across fifteen of the
enemy. When the English saw our men they turned round at once. But they
did not get away before one was shot from his horse, and another
seriously wounded, and several of them taken prisoner.

I now sent two patrols to blow up the railway, seven miles at each side
of the point where I intended to cross. I had no wish that an armoured
train should appear and prevent my crossing.

But, before we could reach the railway line a swamp lay in our way. This
swamp was about one thousand paces broad, and was covered knee deep with
water, and in some places even deeper; for heavy rain had fallen during
the afternoon. The water, however, would have been a matter of very
little consequence, had it not been that the bottom of the swamp was of
such a nature that the horses sank in it up to their knees, and even
sometimes up to their girths. But we fourteen hundred riders had to get
over it somehow or other!

Let the reader try to picture to himself the condition of the swamp when
the last burgher had crossed!

Many of the men lost their balance as their horses struggled in the mud,
and several of the burghers had to dismount and lead their poor
tired-out animals.

The guns and the waggons caused us a great deal of trouble. We inspanned
thirty oxen to each gun; but if it got stuck fast in the mud, fifty oxen
were sometimes not sufficient to move it.

At last we got the guns through, and succeeded in getting a trolley,
and the little waggon which carried my documents and papers, safely to
the other side. But the ammunition and flour-waggons were impossible to
move when they had once entered the swamp.

It was a night which I shall never forget!

We had now to determine what we should do with the waggons. The day
would soon break and we could only cross the railway line when darkness
covered our movements. It would be disastrous to us if, while we were
still between the swamp and the railway, troops should be brought up by
rail from De Aar and Hopetown.

It was perfectly clear that those who had crossed the swamp must go on.
And so I advanced, at the same time giving General Fourie orders to
remain behind with a hundred of the men whose horses were less exhausted
than those of the other burghers, and to try to get the waggons through.
In the event of the enemy arriving before his task was completed, I told
him to leave the waggons and make his escape to the south.

Having given these orders, I proceeded with my commando to the railway
line. Only the weakest of the horses were with us, so that many of my
burghers had to go on foot.

The ninety prisoners we had taken were with me. I could not release
them, because I did not want them to tell the enemy how exhausted our
horses were. Should the English know this they would know exactly where
our weak point lay.

I pitied the poor "Tommies," but what else could I do but order them to
march with me? I treated them as well as I could, and made no difference
between them and the burghers. And after all, many of our own men had to
go on foot.

Any delay was dangerous, and so we hurried on as fast as possible. When
we reached the railway line, day had already begun to break.
Fortunately, we met with no opposition; the patrols had followed my
orders and broken the line.

When the sun rose one could see what a terrible condition the burghers
were in. On every man's face utter exhaustion could be read. But how
could it have been otherwise? The men had had fighting to do the
previous day, and had only once been able to off-saddle, and that not
long enough to cook a piece of meat. Rain had also been falling in
torrents, and most of the men were wet to the skin, for very few of them
had waterproofs. And to make matters still worse, the burghers were
covered with the mud from the swamp that still clung to them.

Twenty-four hours had passed without the men being able to lie down and
rest; and sleep, of course, had been entirely impossible.

Three miles beyond the railway line I gave orders to off-saddle,
although there was no grass for the horses. Hardly had we dismounted
when I was told that we should find grass about one hour's ride further
on. And so we mounted again, fatigued though we were, and found pasture
at last for the poor animals. I thought it better that the masters
should endure more hardships than that the horses should go without
grass. We were rewarded for our short ride by the knowledge that our
horses had something to eat, and we could sleep in peace without having
to think that our animals were starving.

But before we could sleep hunger compelled us to kill a sheep which we
had bought from a farmer living near. In that part of Cape Colony
sheep-farming is almost the only occupation, and so well adapted is this
district for rearing sheep that it is quite an exception to see a lean
one. It may interest some of my readers to know that the African sheep
has a very remarkable peculiarity; it possesses a huge tail, which
sometimes weighs as much as ten pounds.

We were unable to obtain bread, and our flour had remained behind in the
waggons. The sound of an explosion had told us that General Fourie had
not been able to save them, and that by now they must have been burnt.

I heard later on that General Fourie had been attacked by the English
and had not been able to set fire to the waggons himself. But the
English, so my scouts informed me, had done the work for him, and so
thoroughly that they had also burnt some of their own waggons which had
got into the swamp.

After we had helped ourselves to a good "African boutspan," and had
slept with our saddles as pillows, we were all in good spirits again,
although we could not forget our experiences in the swamp.

The burghers whom I had with me were of the right stamp, and were
prepared to sacrifice everything for the freedom of the people. If any
one had asked them whether they were ready to undergo any further
hardships, they would have replied that a hundred swamps would not
discourage them. They knew that freedom was a pearl of such value that
no man since the world began had been able to set a price upon it.

When General Fourie had abandoned the waggons, he retreated to the
south, crossing the railway at De Aar. He joined me again near
Petrusville when I was returning to the Free State.

As the English had to march round the swamp, leaving their waggons
behind, we were not pressed for time, or obliged to march very far. We
took advantage of this respite to give our horses a little rest.

I now proceeded to the west of Hopetown, in the direction of
Strijdenburg. The following day the English were again on our heels in
greater numbers than ever, and advancing more speedily than before. I
was obliged to engage their vanguard for nearly the whole of that day.

That evening we arrived at a spot about ten or twelve miles to the
north-west of Strijdenburg. Here I left Commandant Hasebroek behind
with three hundred men, till the following morning, with orders to watch
the enemy and hold them back if necessary. This would give my burghers
who were on foot, or whose horses were exhausted, a chance of getting
away.

I might here explain to the uninitiated our methods of checking the
advance of the enemy.

The burghers who had the best horses would remain behind any rise or
kopje they could find in the neighbourhood. When the enemy approached
and saw ahead of them two or three hundred burghers they would halt and
bring their guns (which were usually placed in the middle of the column)
to the front. When they had got the guns in position, they would bombard
the ridge behind which the burghers were stationed. But as our men had
no wish to remain under fire, they would then quietly withdraw out of
sight. But the English would continue bombarding the hill, and would
send flanking parties to the right and left. Sometimes it would take the
English several hours before they could make sure that there were no
Boers behind the rise.

It was tactics such as the above that gave my burghers who were
handicapped by the condition of their horses, time to retreat.

It sometimes happened, in these rearguard actions, when the position was
favourable, that the enemy were led into an ambush, and then they were
either captured or sent racing back under our fire to bring up their
guns and main force. Had we not acted in some such way as this, all my
men would have been taken prisoner in this and in many other marches.

The large forces which the English on all occasions concentrated round
me deprived me of any chance of fighting a great battle; and I could
only act in the way I did.

If the reader is eager to know how it was that I kept out of the enemy's
hands until the end of the war, I can only answer, although I may not
be understood, that I ascribed it to nothing else than this:--It was not
God's will that I should fall into their hands.

Let those who rejoice at my miraculous escapes give all the praise to
God.

[Footnote 81: Our forethought proved later on to have been of little
avail. For notwithstanding the bountiful rains which had fallen at the
end of November and the beginning of January in the southern and western
parts of the State we found, when we arrived there, that the grass had
been entirely destroyed by the locusts. Neither could we obtain any
fodder; and so the difficulty of providing for our horses was as great
as ever.]

[Footnote 82: At this date the English had not re-garrisoned the town.]

[Footnote 83: Barend.]

[Footnote 84: Stellenbosched: this was the word the English applied to
officers, who, on account of inefficiency, or for other reasons, had to
be dismissed. Stellenbosch was a place where only very unimportant work
was performed.]

[Footnote 85: I must give a short account of Willem Pretorius, for he
was a dear friend of mine. He had only reached the age of twenty when I
made him a Veldtcornet. His courage certainly could not be surpassed,
yet he never let it go beyond his reason. About twenty days before the
conclusion of Peace, he was killed by a bullet at a range of 1,100
paces. Throughout the whole previous course of the war fortune had
favoured him almost miraculously: six horses had been killed and many
more wounded under him; yet he had never received more than a scratch.
But in the end he, like so many other brave men, was destined to die for
the country that he loved so dearly. Poor Willem! You and the other
heroes in our struggle will live for ever in our memories.]

[Footnote 86: Broodspioen: _literally_ a bread spy. This was the name
applied to a burgher, who, with or without an order from his officer,
rode in advance of his commando to obtain bread for himself and his
comrades. He was frequently a man who placed the interests of his
stomach before the safety of his commando.]

[Footnote 87: A swamp.]




CHAPTER XXVI

Darkness Proves my Salvation


Commandant Hasebroek held the enemy in check whilst we continued our
march to a place called Vrouwpan. On the following day we struck the
Brak River at a point ten miles south-east of its confluence with the
Orange River, to the east of Prieska. It was not fordable, and we had to
off-saddle.

There was absolutely no chance of getting across--the best of swimmers
would have been helpless in that swollen torrent, which rushed down to
the Orange River, its great waves roaring like a tempestuous sea.

About two hours before sunset Commandant Hasebroek reported that the
English were rapidly approaching. The question was, "Which way shall we
go?" It was impossible to escape either to the south of the river or in
the direction of the enemy, for the veldt was too flat to afford us any
cover. If we were not to be cornered against an impassable torrent, we
must make our way down stream to the north-west; and even then we should
be in danger of being driven on to the Orange River, which was only ten
miles distant. By taking this road the English would not see us, on
account of a ridge which lay between us and them.

My plan was to get behind this ridge and to march under its shelter
until darkness came on; then, proceeding up the Orange River, to attack
the enemy in the rear. They were, however, only nine miles from us, and
should their advance be rapid, they would reach the friendly ridge
before night came on; and the danger would then be that before I had
fulfilled my purpose, we should be hemmed in between two swollen rivers
with the most fatal consequences. The risk was great, but no other
course was open to us. There was no time to seek advice from any one; I
had but a moment to spare in which to acquaint President Steyn with my
scheme. He said at once: "General, do as you think best."

My mind had been already made up; but my respect for the President was
so great, and we had always worked in such harmony, that I did not like
to do anything without his knowledge; besides which, his advice was
often of great value. Joshua of old prayed that the day might be
lengthened: but here the case was different; we had reason to be
thankful that the day was passed and night had begun to fall before the
vanguard of the enemy had reached the ridge, from the summit of which
they might have observed us.

That night was the darkest I had ever known. And this was in our favour.
Very quietly we retreated in a line parallel with the English column
until, on the following morning, we were not only out of sight but a
good nine or ten miles behind the enemy, who were marching on, fully
expecting to corner us between the two rivers.

The English army had been enormously reinforced, and it was clear that
now more than ever they were putting forth all their powers to silence
President Steyn and myself effectually.

From their point of view they were right; for had things turned out in
such a way that we could have remained in Cape Colony, then I am
convinced we should have made matters very awkward for them.

But what were we to do now? With so many burghers on foot or provided
only with worn-out horses, it was useless to think of circumventing the
enemy, and thus getting once more to the south of them; whereas to go up
stream along the banks of the Orange River until we could discover a
ford, and then to return across it into the Free State, would mean the
upsetting of my plan of campaign.

I was obliged to make the best of a bad bargain; and I decided to find a
way across the Orange River before the enemy had discovered my
whereabouts.

That day, the 20th of February, we set out along the river, looking for
a ford. The river was falling, but as there was no feasible crossing we
had no choice but to go on, trusting that we should find one near the
confluence of the two rivers. Here again we were disappointed; the punts
which should have been there had been destroyed some time before by the
English, but we heard of a boat six miles higher up, so on we marched.
When found, it was only a small boat, capable of holding, at most,
twelve men, but we got to work at once, and by the evening of the 22nd
there were two hundred dismounted burghers on the other bank of the
river. Some crossed by swimming, in attempting which a man of the name
of Van de Nerwe was drowned.

A few of those who crossed in the boat succeeded in pulling their horses
after them.

On the morning of the 23rd I received a report that the English forces
were close on our heels. We did not expect them so soon, but they had
made a long night's march. Without delay we off-saddled, and proceeded
along the river, while the rearguard covered our retreat. The force of
the enemy was, however, too great, and the rearguard had, after a short
engagement, to give way.

Fortunately the veldt was broken, and we could (as we had done a few
days previously) march ahead out of sight of the enemy. Towards two
o'clock in the afternoon we were obliged to off-saddle, but could only
do so for one hour, for the English were upon us again. Our gun and
Maxim-Nordenfeldt we had to leave behind for the enemy; the draught
cattle had become exhausted, and we had no dynamite with which to blow
up the guns.

But what did it matter? England had already so many big guns that two
more could not make much difference, if added to the four hundred which
that country--one of the oldest and strongest of Empires--had brought
against a small nation, fighting only to defend its sacred rights.

Nevertheless, it cut me to the heart to give up my guns[88] on that
day--the 23rd of February--the commemoration day of the independence of
the Orange Free State. In happier times we had celebrated this day
amongst our friends, to the accompaniment of salvoes of rifles. Now we
were obliged to celebrate it by giving up the only two guns with which
we could still shoot, and which we were now to see turned upon
ourselves.

My feelings on that day I can never forget! Those Englishmen who go by
the name of "Pro-Boers" are the best fitted to describe the anguish
which then overpowered me, for they stood up for justice even against
their own people. And this not because they were hostile to their
Government, or to the greatness of England's power, but only because
they were not without moral sense, because they could not stifle
conscience at the expense of justice, nor identify themselves with
iniquitous actions.

But the day will come--of this I am convinced--when not Pro-Boers only,
but all England will acknowledge our rights--the rights which we shall
then have earned by our quiet faithfulness and obedience. I cannot
believe that any father will look without pity on a child who comes to
him as a child should--obedient and submissive.

The 23rd of February, 1901, the forty-seventh anniversary of the Orange
Free States, had been a disastrous day for us indeed, but it was to end
in another miraculous escape, for in the darkness of that evening it
again happened that we were delivered from an apparently unavoidable
misfortune. As I have said already, the English were firing on my
rear-guard; at the same time my scouts came in to tell me that, just in
front of us, at a distance of not quite four miles, there was another
great army of the enemy. I had intended to march that night to the west
of Hopetown. But now if I went in that direction I should only run
straight on to this army. If we went to the left we could only advance
2,000 paces before being visible to the English on the kop close to
Hopetown, from where they could make known our movements by heliograph.
At our front, at our back, on our left, the outlook was hopeless; and to
the right lay the cruel river. Stand still we could not--the enemy were
upon us--it was impossible that anything could save us--no, not
impossible--a rescue was at hand.

The sun was just going down, and by the time we could be seen from
Hopetown, night would have covered us with its sheltering wings.

We should then be able to execute a flank movement, and make a detour
round the enemy who were before us. But now I knew that we must be
prepared to march nearly the whole night through, in order that we might
be able, early on the following morning, to cross the railway lines. If
we did not do this, then we should have the enemy close in our rear, and
perhaps an armour train threatening us in front. But ... there were the
burghers on foot and those who had weak horses; and I had not the heart
to make them march on foot for so long a time, yet the thought of
allowing such trustworthy patriotic burghers to fall into the hands of
the enemy was unbearable. I therefore decided on letting them take a
cross road to the north, to the banks of the Orange River about five
miles from our position. There, on the banks of the river, were many
bushes amongst which they could hide themselves until the enemy had
passed by. They could then proceed along the banks of the river and
cross it by means of the boat. I cautioned them not to march in one
troop, or in one trail, but to spread out, so that the English could not
easily follow their tracks. In this the poor burghers succeeded; they
already, on that memorable and sad day, had marched eighteen miles; but
they had yet to cover another five miles to the river before they could
take their night's rest. They accomplished this feat (on the second day)
under the valiant and true Commandant Hasebroek, whose horse, although
tired, was still able to proceed. As for me, I marched away in the
evening, and after we had rested that night for a few hours, we arrived
at a place a short distance to the south of Hopetown. About eight
o'clock we crossed the line, which was fortunately at that point not as
yet guarded by forts, and off-saddled about six miles beyond. We had
eaten nothing since the previous day, and it will easily be understood
that we were so hungry that we, as the Boer proverb says,--"could have
eaten off a nail's head." There we got some sheep, and it was not long
before they were killed, broiled, and eaten; what a meal we made!

Towards mid-day we headed once more for the Orange River. We thought
that by the time we arrived it would be fordable, for we had seen on the
previous morning that it was falling rapidly, but what was our
disappointment! there must have been rain higher up the stream, as the
river had become fuller, and there was still no chance of crossing.

The English were approaching. We had, however, to use our field glasses
to enable us to see them, as we were fifteen or sixteen miles in front
of them. Once more there were burghers whose horses were tired and who
had to march on foot. We thought now that there would be a better chance
at Limoensdrift; and every one who knew this ford said that it was a
shallow one. The following day saw us there, and--the river was quite
full! We then tried higher up, still with the same result--every drift
was unfordable.

At last we reached the Zanddrift, where we had crossed seventeen days
before. We knew that this was a shallow drift, and on arriving there I
got two young burghers,--of whom the one, David Heenop, was an excellent
swimmer,--to make a trial. The water had not appeared to be so deep as
we found it to be, when the two burghers plunged into it. They could not
remain on their horses' backs, but had to swim alongside of them to the
other side of the river. All thought of their return was out of the
question; they had risked their lives in crossing, and I gave them
orders from my side of the river not to attempt the passage back. But
they had not a stitch of clothing on them, for they had stripped
themselves before entering the water! In this state, then, they were
obliged to mount their horses and proceed, and this under a burning sun,
which scorched them with its rays. About three-quarters of an hour's
ride from there was a Boer farm; their only course, they thought, was to
ask for gowns from the ladies there, in which to dress themselves. When
they arrived at a short distance from the house (such was the account
they gave on joining me later on) they halted and shouted to the house
for clothing. A Boer vrouw[89] named Boshof, sent to each one through
her son--not a gown, but a pair of trousers and a shirt of her
husband's, which she had been able to hide from the English, who had
passed there, and who generally took away, or burnt, all male attire.

The enemy had, in the meantime, approached quite close to us, and we
were again obliged to look for a drift up stream. We had hopes that if
the river did not all of a sudden rise, we should find one. We came so
close to the English that we had to open fire on their advance guard
before we could proceed.

Here General Judge Hartzog met us with his commandos from the
south-west of Cape Colony, and with him, General Fourie.

That night we marched about fourteen miles.

In the night, after crossing the Zeekoe River, we arrived at a Boer
farm, to which (we are told) twenty English scouts had paid a visit
shortly after sunset, and, having asked for information concerning us,
had gone away by the same road we were following. About four or five
miles from there we had to cross a ridge. It was dark, and I had
forgotten those twenty English. I had sent out no scouts before me, but
rode, as was my habit, with my staff, in front of the commandos. As we
approached the summit of the mountain I saw a group of horses fastened
together, and some men lying in front of them. The horses and men were
not twenty paces to the left of the path, among the bushes. I thought at
first that they were some of my burghers who had ridden on in advance,
and were now lying there asleep; I myself had rested for a while at the
foot of the mountains, to give the burghers, who were on foot, a chance
of coming up with me. The thought angered me, for it would have been
against all orders that any burghers, without special permission, should
go in advance. I proceeded to wake them up.

"What do you mean by riding ahead like this?" I called out to them.
Nearly all with one accord sprang up and asked, "Who are you?" "Hands
up!" I called out; as one man their hands went up. They explained that
they were seven of the twenty scouts before mentioned,--but here the
remainder opened fire upon us from about two hundred paces to the front.
I called out to the burghers, "Charge!"

The burghers did so, but as they came to the little hill where we had
seen the sparks from the guns they found nobody. The English had fled,
and, as the moon had just gone down, it was too dark to pursue them.
Taking with us the seven prisoners, we continued on our way until the
following morning. We allowed them to retain their clothes. It was
still before the "uitschuddings"[90] period.

The day broke, and after having been turned back on the banks of the
Brak River, we marched to the fifteenth ford. "If we could only get
across here," we said. We knew that once across we should have a respite
from the enemy, and could with thankful hearts take breath even if it
were only for three or four days.

When we came to the river I at once ordered a few burghers to undress
and go in. Alas! when the horses entered the ford, the water came over
their backs, and they had almost to swim. "Now they will have to swim!"
we cried, but presently we saw that the farther they went the shallower
it became, and that they walked where we expected them to swim, until at
last the water reached only to the horses' knees.

What a scramble there was now among the burghers in order to cross! Soon
the river was one mass of men from bank to bank.

I can hardly describe the different exclamations of joy, the Psalms and
the songs that now rose up from the burghers splashing through the
water. "Never will we return," "No more of the Colony for me," "The Free
State," "On to the Free State!" "The Free State for ever!" Then again,
"Praise the Lord with cheerful song," "Hurrah!" These were among the
expressions which met my ears.

Although this was only an old waggon-ford, which had not been used for
the last few years, my little waggon and a few carts got across. One of
the carts was drawn by two small donkeys. Somebody told me that the
little donkeys had to swim a short distance where it was deep, and at
one time disappeared beneath the water; but that the driver was so full
of joy--or of fear--that he went on whipping the water!

A fearful experience we had had! We asked each other in wonder, "Is it
possible? How could we have endured it?" But as I have only been
hinting at things, the reader will perhaps say, "O come! it hasn't been
as bad as all that!"

Give me leave then, dear reader, to place before you the whole of the
circumstances. England's great power pitted against two Republics,
which, in comparison with European countries, were nearly uninhabited!
This mighty Empire employed against us, besides their own English,
Scotch and Irish soldiers, volunteers from the Australian, New Zealand,
Canadian and South African Colonies; hired against us both black and
white nations, and, what is the worst of all, the national scouts from
our own nation sent out against us. Think, further, that all harbours
were closed to us, and that there were therefore no imports. Can you not
see that the whole course of events was a miracle from beginning to end?
A miracle of God in the eyes of every one who looks at it with an
unbiassed mind, but even more apparent to those who had personal
experience of it. Yet, however that may be, I had to declare again that
if there had been no national scouts and no Kaffirs, in all human
probability matters would have taken another turn. But as things have
turned out, all that can now be said is, that we have done our best, and
that to ask any one to do more is unreasonable. May it be the cry of
every one, "God willed it so--His name be praised!"

[Footnote 88: There were still two Krupps left, but we had no ammunition
for them.]

[Footnote 89: Farmer's wife.]

[Footnote 90: Stripping.]




CHAPTER XXVII

Was Ours a Guerilla War?


Something almost miraculous now happened! Hardly had we been three hours
across the river when it became completely unfordable!

We knew that we should have now a few days at least in which to rest
ourselves, and we marched slowly to the farm of Lubbeshoop. From there I
sent General Fourie to operate in the south-eastern districts, where he
had been before, and despatched Judge Hertzog to the south-western
districts.

We were of the opinion that we should be able to do better work if we
divided the commandos up into small parties. We could not risk any great
battles, and, if we divided our forces, the English would have to divide
their forces too.

The commandos were now divided as follows:

1. The district of Kroonstad: the men under Commandants Philip De Vos,
Jan Cilliers and Maree.

Sub-district of Heilbron: the men under Commandants F.E. Mentz, Lucas
Steenekamp and J. Van de Merwe.

All of these were under Vice-Commander-in-Chief Johannes Hattingh.

2. The district of Vrede: the men under Commandants Ross and Manie
Botha.

Sub-district of Harrismith: the men under Commandants Jan Meijer, Jan
Jacobsz,[91] and (at a later period) Brukes.

All of these were under Vice-Commander-in-Chief Wessel Wessels.

3. The district of Winburg: the men under Commandant Hasebroek.

The sub-district of Ladybrand: the men under Commandant Koen.

The sub-district of Ficksburg: the men under Commandant Steyn.[92]

The sub-district of Bethlehem: the men under Commandant Michal Prinsloo.

All of these men were under Vice-Commander-in-Chief C.C. Froneman.

4. The district of Boshof: the men under Commandant J.N. Jacobsz, P.
Erasmus and H. Theunissen.[93]

Sub-district of Hoopstad: the men under Commandants Jacobus Theron (of
Winburg) and A.J. Bester (of Brandfort).

All of these were under Vice-Commander-in-Chief C.C.J. Badenhorst.

5. The district of Philippolis: the men under Commandants Munnik and
Hertzog.

Sub-district of Fauresmith: the men under Commandant Charles Nieuwouwdt.

Sub-district of Jacobsdal: the men under Commandant Hendrik Pretorius.

Sub-district of Petrusburg: the men under Commandant Van du Berg.

All of these were under Vice-Commander-in-Chief Judge J.B.M. Hertzog,
who also was in command of the western part of Bloemfontein.

6. The district of the southern part of Bloemfontein: the men under
Commandants Ackerman and Willem Kolbe.

Sub-district of Thaba'Nchu: the men under Commandant J.P. Strijl (a
member of the Volksraad).

Sub-districts of Bethulie and Smithfield: the men under Commandant
Gideon Joubert.

Sub-district of Rouxville: the men under Commandant Frederik Rheeders.

Sub-district of Wepener: the men under Commandant R. Coetzee.

All of these were under Vice-Commander-in-Chief Piet Fourie, and later
on under George Brand.

Not long after this arrangement had been made the district under General
Froneman was divided into two divisions, and Commandant Michal Prinsloo
was promoted to be Vice-Commander-in-Chief of Bethlehem and Ficksburg as
separate sub-districts. Bethlehem was then given three Commandants,
namely, Commandants Olivier, Rautenbach and Bruwer.

All this new arrangement of our forces made it impossible for great
battles to be fought; it offered us the opportunity of frequently
engaging the enemy in skirmishes, and inflicting heavier losses upon
them than would otherwise have been the case. For the same reason our
losses grew larger from month to month, but they did not increase in the
same proportion as those of the enemy. Again, we captured more prisoners
than formerly. It is much to be regretted that we were unable to keep
them, for had we been in a position to do so, the world would have been
astonished at their number. But unfortunately we were now unable to
retain any of our prisoners. We had no St. Helena, Ceylon or Bermuda,
whither we could send them. Thus, whilst every prisoner which the
English captured meant one less man for us, the thousands of prisoners
we took from the English were no loss to them at all, for in most cases
it was only a few hours before they could fight again. All that was
required was that a rifle should be ready in the camp on a prisoner's
return, and he was prepared for service once more.

The fact that we fought throughout the Free State in small detachments,
put the English to some trouble, for they felt themselves obliged to
discover a vocabulary of names to apply to us!

Thus when Lord Roberts on the 24th of May, 1900, proclaimed the Orange
Free State (and afterwards the Transvaal) as annexed by the British
Crown, he described those who continued to fight as rebels. Then again
we were called "Sniping Bands" and "Brigands." But the list of epithets
was not exhausted yet, for it appeared that we were "Guerillas," and our
leaders "Guerilla Chiefs!"

I was always at a loss to understand by what right the English
designated us "Guerillas." They had, however, to withdraw the
_soubriquet_ at the Peace Negotiations, when they acknowledged that our
leaders formed a legal government.

Let me say a few words more about this term "Guerillas." We will suppose
that England has captured New York, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Paris,
Amsterdam, or any other capital of a free and independent State, Kingdom
or Empire, and that the Government of such State, Kingdom or Empire
still continues to defend itself. Would England then be entitled to call
their antagonists "Guerillas"? Or, we will suppose that England's
capital has been taken by another nation, but the English Government
still remains in existence. Could England then be considered to be
annexed by the other nation, and could the enemy term the English
"Guerillas"? Surely it would be impossible!

The only case in which one can use this word, is when one civilized
nation has so completely vanquished another, that not only is the
capital taken, but also the country from border to border is so
completely conquered that any resistance is out of the question.

But that nothing like this had happened in South Africa is clear to
every one who recalls the names of Lindley,[94] Roodewal, Dewetsdorp,
Vlakfontein, Tafelkop[95] and Tweefontein, not to speak of many other
glorious battle-fields on which we fought _after_ the so-called
annexation.

Nor must we forget to mention the defeat that Lord Methuen received at
the hands of General De la Rey immediately before the conclusion of
peace; a defeat which put the crown on all our victories.

But, as I have already said, it very soon appeared that when England
stamped us as "Guerillas," they really did not mean to use the word at
all.

[Footnote 91: Veldtcornet Franz Jacobsz was afterwards appointed in the
place of this Commandant, who resigned.]

[Footnote 92: When this Commandant resigned, Veldtcornet J.J. Van
Niekerk was appointed in his place.]

[Footnote 93: When, at a later period, Commandant Theunissen was put in
command of the burghers of Fauresmith, Commandant Mijburg was appointed
in his place. This latter Commandant was afterwards killed.]

[Footnote 94: Where the yeomanry were captured.]

[Footnote 95: (District Vrede)--encounter with Brabant's Horse.]




CHAPTER XXVIII

Negotiations with the Enemy


It was the intention of President Steyn to remain for some time in the
division of Vice-Commander-in-Chief Judge Hertzog. Meanwhile, I went to
the northern commandos, in order to keep in touch with Generals Louis
Botha and De la Rey and our Government. When I was about twelve miles to
the south of Petrusburg, I received a letter from General Botha,
informing me that Lord Kitchener desired to have a conference held, at
Middelburg, in the middle of February, as the English Government wanted
to make a Peace Proposal. General Botha asked the President and myself
to come yet nearer, so that, in case we might be wanted, we should be
within reach.

I sent on his letter to President Steyn, giving him my opinion of it,
and asking if he would come. The President, who was always ready to do
anything for his country or people, did not lose one moment, but came at
once. Meanwhile, I went on ahead with my staff, taking with me also
Captain Louis Wessels, and five of his men.

About the 15th of March I crossed the railway line, ten miles to the
north of Brandfort, during the night. There we placed some charges of
dynamite under the rails, but before we had completed our work, a train
came up so quietly that one might call it a "scouting train." It was a
dark night, and there was no lantern at the head of the engine, so that
we did not see it until it was close upon us. We had, therefore, no
chance to ignite the fuse. We retired to a distance of about one hundred
paces from the line, when a fierce fire was opened upon us from the
train. We replied to this as the train went past, to be succeeded
immediately afterwards by a second one. As soon as this also had passed
us, we fired the fuses and blew up the railway line at different places
close to each other.

Immediately after this two trains came up, stopping close to the place
where the explosions had occurred, and fired on us for about ten minutes
without intermission. We paid them back in their own coin, and then each
train went its way, leaving the repairing of the line to the following
day.

From there we marched on, without accident, except that a German
received a slight wound, and one horse was killed. We soon reached
Senekal (which had been abandoned by the English), where for the first
time I met Dr. Reich and his wife. The doctor received us very heartily;
although he did not belong to our Field Ambulance, he did everything
that he could for our wounded, as he had done for those of the enemy.

From Senekal I went on to pay a visit to the Heilbron commando, after
which I proceeded to Vrede, arriving there on the 24th of February.

It was at Vrede that I had asked Louis Botha to meet me, if he could
manage it, and the day after my arrival this meeting took place. The
General told me that the negotiations between him and Lord Kitchener had
resulted in nothing.

Although this was not very satisfactory, still it was just as well that
I should meet the Commandant-General of the Transvaal. We had much to
discuss and, after a long talk, we parted with the firm determination
that, whatever happened, we would continue the war.

On the 27th General Botha returned to the Transvaal, and I to the
Heilbron commando. After a few days President Steyn came from the south
of the Free State, in order to meet the Transvaal Government at Vrede.
After this meeting had taken place he went off to a camp of his own,
for it was thought better that he should not remain with the commandos
any longer. I gave him fifty burghers, under the command of Commandant
Davel, to serve as a bodyguard.

I had but just returned from my meeting with General Botha when a
serious matter arose at Petrusburg, demanding my immediate presence
there. It was three hundred and sixty miles there and back, and the
journey promised to be anything but a pleasure trip--far less a safe
excursion--for me; but the country's interest requiring it, I started on
the 8th of April, although much fatigued by my inroad into Cape Colony.

My staff succeeded in capturing an outpost of sixteen men on the railway
line near Vredefort, the English losing one killed and two wounded.

I visited the commando at Vredefort, arranged everything at Petrusburg,
and started on my return journey on the 17th. I crossed the railway line
between Smaldeel and Ventersburg Road Station, and after paying
Commandant Hasebroek a short visit, I came back to the Heilbron
commando.

Our tactics of dividing our commandos, and thus keeping the English busy
in every part of the Free State, or, where they were too numerous for
us, of refusing to allow them to give us battle, so enraged them that
they no longer spared the farmhouses in the north and north-western
districts. Even in the south and south-west many of the houses were
wrecked, but the work of destruction was not carried out with the same
completeness as in the afore-mentioned districts. The enemy, moreover,
did not spare our cattle, but either drove them off or killed them for
food. As for our women-folk--any of them who fell into the hands of the
enemy were sent off to the concentration camps.

I have no space here, however, to write about the treatment of the
women; it is such a serious matter that it would require whole chapters
to deal with it adequately. Abler pens than mine will deal with it in
full detail. I will only remark here that the Boer women were shamefully
treated, and that if England wishes to efface the impression which these
cruelties have left upon the hearts of our people, she will have to act
as every great conquering race must act, if it is ever to be reconciled
with the nations it has vanquished.

Our winter season had now begun. We had no provisions except meat, bread
and maize. Even these were rather scarce, but we could not yet say that
we were altogether destitute. Coffee and sugar--except when we had an
opportunity of helping ourselves from the enemy's stores--were unknown
to us. With regard to the first-named commodity, however, the reader
must know that in the district of Boshof there grows a wild tree, whose
roots make an excellent substitute for coffee. Broken up into small
pieces and roasted, they supplied us with a delicious beverage. The only
pity was that the tree was so scarce that the demand for this concoction
very greatly exceeded the supply. We therefore invented another
drink--which we also called coffee--and which was composed of corn,
barley, maize, dried peaches, sweet potatoes, and miscellaneous
ingredients. My own favourite beverage was abundant--especially after
heavy rain!

The question of clothing was now beginning to be a very serious one. We
were reduced to mending our trousers, and even our jackets with leather.
For the tanning of this leather the old and feeble were employed, who,
as soon as the enemy approached, fled, and as soon as they had passed,
returned to their tanning. At a later period the English had a trick of
taking the hides out of the tanning tubs and cutting them to pieces, in
the hope, I suppose, that we should then be compelled to go barefoot and
unclothed.

It was to obviate such a catastrophe as this that the custom of
_Uitschudden_[96] now came into force. The burghers, although against
orders, stripped every prisoner. The English had begun by taking away,
or burning, the clothes which the burghers had left in their
houses--that was bad enough. But that they should cut up the hides,
which they found in the tanning tubs, was still worse; and--the burghers
paid them back in the same coin by stripping the troops.

Towards the end of May I crossed the railway line to Parijs and
Vredefort, intending to go on from there to see General De la Rey, and
discuss our affairs with him. I had come to the conclusion that it would
be good policy to send small commandos into Cape Colony; for small
bodies of men can move rapidly, and are thus able to get out of the way
if they are threatened by overpowering numbers. Moreover, such small
detachments would compel the English to divide their forces.

When I reached Vredefort I received a despatch from President Steyn,
summoning me to him. I had thus to abandon my idea of visiting General
De la Rey; instead of this, I wrote him a letter requesting him to come
to the President. I also sent for Judge Hertzog.

De la Rey was the first to arrive, and, without waiting for Judge
Hertzog, we at once proceeded to take into consideration the following
letter from the Government of the South African Republic.

     GOVERNMENT OFFICES,
       IN THE FIELD,
         District Ermelo,
     South African Republic,
       _May 10th, 1901_.

     TO THE GOVERNMENT SECRETARY, O.F.S.

     SIR,--

     I have the honour to report to you that to-day the following
     officers met the Government, namely, the Commandant-General,
     General B. Viljoen, General J.C. Smuts (Staats-Procureur), the
     last-named representing the western districts. Our situation was
     seriously discussed, and, among others, the following facts were
     pointed out:--

     1. That small parties of burghers are still continually laying down
     their arms, and that the danger arising from this is becoming every
     day more threatening, namely, that we are exposed to the risk of
     our campaign ending in disgrace, as the consequence of these
     surrenders may be that the Government and the officers will be left
     in the field without any burghers, and that, therefore, heavy
     responsibility rests upon the Government and War Officers, as they
     represent the nation and not themselves only.

     2. That our ammunition is so exhausted that no battle of any
     importance can be fought, and that this lack of ammunition will
     soon bring us to the necessity of flying helplessly before the
     enemy. And that through this same lack it has become impossible for
     us to afford adequate protection to our people and their cattle,
     with the result that the general population is being reduced to
     poverty and despair, and that even the troops will soon be unable
     to be supplied with provisions.

     3. That through the above-mentioned conditions the authority of the
     Government is becoming more and more weakened, and that thus the
     danger arises of the people losing all respect and reverence for
     lawful authority, and falling into a condition of lawlessness. And
     that to prolong the war can only lead to hastening the ruin of the
     people, and making it clear to them that the only authority in the
     country is that of the enemy.

     4. That not only is our nation becoming disorganized in the manner
     above referred to, but that it will also most certainly happen that
     the leaders of the nation, whose personal influence has hitherto
     kept it together, will fall into utter contempt, and lose that
     influence which is our only hope for reviving the national spirit
     in the future.

     5. That the people are constantly demanding to be told what hope
     still exists of successfully prosecuting the war, and that they
     have the right to expect to be informed in an honest and
     straightforward manner that their cause is hopeless, whenever this
     has become evident to the Government and the Leaders.

     Up to the present time the Government and the nation have been
     expecting that, with the co-operation of their Deputation and by
     the aid of European complications, there would be some hope for the
     success of their cause, and the Government feels strongly that
     before taking any decisive step, an attempt should again be made to
     arrive with certainty at the results of the Deputation and the
     political situation in Europe.

     Having taken all the facts into consideration, the Government,
     acting in conjunction with the above-mentioned officers, have
     arrived at the following decision:

     Firstly, that a request should be addressed this very day to Lord
     Kitchener, asking that through the intervention of ambassadors sent
     by us to Europe, the condition of our country may be allowed to be
     placed before President Kruger, which ambassadors are to return
     with all possible speed.

     Secondly, that should this request be refused, or lead to no
     results, an armistice should be asked for, by which the opportunity
     should be given us of finally deciding in consultation with your
     Government, and the people of the two States, what we must do.

     This second proposal is, however, subject to any solution which
     your Government, taking into consideration the above-mentioned
     grievances, may be able to suggest.

     The Government feels very keenly that it would no longer be right
     to allow things to go on as they have been going on, and that the
     time has arrived for taking some definite steps; it will,
     therefore, be glad to receive an answer from your Government as
     soon as possible.

     I have the honour to be,
       Yours, etc.,
         F.W. REITZ,
           _Secretary of State._

The answer which the President sent to this letter was formerly in my
possession, but has been lost with many of my documents. I am able,
however, to give an extract, which I received from the Rev. J.D.
Kestell. It was to the following effect:--

The President was much disappointed with the letter of the Transvaal
Government; he said that although there had been in the past some
surrenders in the Free State, this difficulty had now been overcome.
Moreover, although the ammunition had for a long time been scarce,
nevertheless, after every fight, there had been enough to begin the next
with. To the question, What probability was there of their being able to
continue the struggle? he would reply by asking another question--What
hope had the two little Republics, at the beginning of the war, of
winning the fight against the might of England? If they had trusted in
God at the beginning, why did they not continue to trust in Him?

He also pointed out that if the Boer cause was really quite hopeless,
the Deputation would have been sure to send word to that effect.
Further, he assured the Transvaal Government that if an armistice were
to be obtained, and if during it the people of the Free State were to be
asked for their opinion, the decision of the burghers who were still in
the field would be to continue the war.

He could not approve of the decision of the Transvaal Government to ask
Lord Kitchener to allow ambassadors to be sent to Europe, for, by so
doing, the Government would be showing its hand to the enemy; he added
that he was very sorry that such a decision had been taken without first
consulting the Free State.

As to the fear expressed by the Transvaal Government, that the
Authorities and the Officers in the field would be left without
burghers, the President said, that even if the Government and the
Officers of the Free State were to surrender, the nation would not do
so. It would be a great misfortune, he added, if the Orange Free State,
which had not only lost its property and the lives of many of its
burghers but also even its very independence, in the defence of the
sister Republic, should now be abandoned by that Republic; that then all
confidence in one another and all co-operation between Afrikanders would
come to an end for ever: and that, under such circumstances, it would be
too much to expect that the African nation should ever be able to rise
again. If then the Boers wished to remain a nation, it was absolutely
necessary to continue the war.

After having quoted various appropriate passages from the newspapers,
the President went on as follows:--

"All these considerations combine to make me believe that we should be
committing a National murder if we were to give in now. Brethren! Hold
out a little longer. Let not our sufferings and our struggles be in
vain; let not our faith in the God of our fathers become a byword. Do
all that you can to encourage one another."

The President concluded this very remarkable and powerful letter with
the question:--

"Are we again to leave the Colonial burghers in the lurch? God forbid."

We decided to set out for the Transvaal in order to discuss the matter
with the Government; and on the evening of the 5th of June we marched
four or five miles from Liebenbergsvlei, to a place opposite
Verkijkersdorp. We were, all told, between sixty and seventy men,
including the staff and part of the bodyguard of President Steyn, the
staff of General De la Rey, and eight of my staff officers.

The following morning, an hour and a half after sunrise, a burgher came
galloping up to tell us that the enemy had just captured a laager of
women.[97]

It seemed impossible to ride over to the rescue of these women, for our
horses had still to make the long journey into the Transvaal. I asked
our guest, General De la Rey, what he thought about the matter. He at
once replied that we must go and liberate the women. As we were already
up-saddled in readiness for our march, I had nothing to do but to give
the order to start. The President, with his staff and some of the
bodyguard, remained behind; while General De la Rey, Commandant Davel
and I, with fifty-five men, hurried off. The retired General, Piet
Fourie, was also with us.

The enemy had marched with the laager on to a hill near the Kaffir
kraal, consisting of four or five huts and a building made of sods.

We first caught sight of the English when we were at a distance of four
miles from them; they were then busy drawing up the waggons of the women
in rows of ten or twelve. The oxen belonging to the first row stood
close against the kraal, as we saw later on; those of the second row
being behind them, and so on.

The women told us afterwards that they had asked to be allowed to retire
to a place where they would not run the risk of being shot by us (for
the English had taken cover barely one hundred paces behind the waggons
and were preparing to fight us from there), but that they were ordered
to remain behind the soldiers. They were thus exposed to the danger of
being hit by us, if we shot a little too high. It was, they said, the
most terrible day they had ever spent.

When we came within range of the English, they opened a hot fire upon
us. We had to gallop over ground as smooth as a table with no cover
until we were close up to them, and protected by a small hill. We left
our horses here, and ran as fast as we could up the incline. At the top
we were within forty paces of the place where the English were lying in
wait for us. As soon as our heads appeared over the brow of the hill
they fired on us; but there was only one round fired, for our reply was
so sharp and severe that many of them were at once mowed down. The rest
jumped up and retreated behind the last row of waggons, several of them,
however, being killed during their flight.

Our men dashed through between the waggons, but the English were the
first to reach the kraal. They had made loopholes in its walls, through
which they now fired on us. The only shelter we had was a Kaffir hut,
which as is well known, always has a round wall. There was no chance for
us to make loopholes--the wall was too solid--so that if a burgher
wanted to shoot he had to expose his whole body, while the English lay
ready behind their loopholes to fire on us. So it happened that eleven
burghers were killed and seven wounded. Among the dead was Captain
Thijnsma, and among the wounded, Lieutenant H. Howell.

In the meantime we had got the waggons away, except the row which was
nearest to the kraal, and which were too close to the enemy for us to be
able to approach them safely.

No sooner had the English taken refuge in the kraal than the women fled
with the waggons; and it is astonishing to relate that only one little
boy of thirteen years was killed, and a woman and a girl slightly
wounded. One of the burghers whom the English had taken prisoner was
also killed.

I have no exact figure as to the losses of the English, but judging from
the number of dead and wounded lying on the battlefield, I should say
that their casualties must have been about eighty.

The fight lasted from eleven till three o'clock, and then a
reinforcement of cavalry, from eight hundred to one thousand men strong,
appeared with some guns. The force with which we had been engaged,
numbering about two hundred men, belonged to the column which was now
coming up. As we could not drive the English from the kraal before the
arrival of the reinforcements, we had to give way.

Although I had given orders that all the waggons which had managed to
escape should be sent on to Reitz, in the actual event only a few carts
went there. The women had left the waggons behind, close to the hill at
the foot of the English position, where I could not see them, in order
to await the result. They had forgotten what I had told them, namely,
that they were to get away as quickly as possible. This order I had
given in the expectation that a reinforcement might arrive at any
moment.

After I had ordered a few men to bring the wounded into a safe place, I
retired with the remainder, some forty-five in number. Among these was
Veldtcornet Serfontein and his burghers.

The English now directed their fire upon the women's laager, to compel
it to come to a standstill. Whether any of the women and children were
killed or wounded I was unable to ascertain, but it was horrible to see
the bombs bursting over their heads. Thus the women again fell into the
hands of the enemy.

With four of my adjutants and Piet Fourie, I succeeded in driving away
quite one thousand five hundred head of cattle. The bombs fell heavily
on them also, but I got them safely away. Late that evening we arrived
at the spot where we had left President Steyn, only to find that he had
gone away. He had been obliged to retreat before the force which the
previous evening had been at Duminy Drift, and which had passed near him
during the day. The President had accordingly gone some twelve miles in
the direction of Lindley.

It was one of the coldest nights we had that winter, and our pack-horses
which were carrying the blankets were with the President. It was
impossible for us to sleep without any covering on such a night as that,
and so we were obliged to march on. We had moreover to look for
something to eat, for we had had nothing since breakfast. Our horses had
never had their saddles off from the time we went out to fight until we
arrived about midnight at the President's camp.

[Footnote 96: Stripping.]

[Footnote 97: The previous evening we had received a report of two
English camps on the Wilge River: One at Duminy Drift, the other at
Steildrift--under General Elliott. They were led by Piet de Wet and
other National Scouts.]




CHAPTER XXIX

President Steyn's Narrow Escape


The following morning we had to continue our journey to the Transvaal.
It being necessary to keep out of sight of the enemy, we marched first a
short distance to the south, and then went south-east. After a few days
we reached Vrede. There Commandant Manie Botha spared us a few burghers
who knew this part of the country well to serve as guides across the
railway line. We headed to the north of Volksrust, and on the second
evening after we had left Vrede, we struck the railway line at a spot
which was guarded by an outpost. They opened fire on us at once. General
De la Rey and I then came to the decision that after the burghers had
exchanged a few shots, we would quietly retreat a short distance, and
then, with a sweep, try and cross the line at another spot. This ruse
was successful and we crossed unobserved. But the first of our men had
hardly got seventy paces from the railway line, when a fearful explosion
of dynamite took place, not thirty paces from the spot where we had
crossed. Whether this was managed by electricity or whether the hindmost
horses had struck on the connecting wire of some trap set by the enemy,
I cannot say; at all events, we escaped with only a fright.

On the fourth day after this we met the Transvaal Government and held a
conference at once, in accordance with the letter mentioned in my last
chapter. It grieved us much that things should have taken this turn, for
it nearly always happened that somehow matters of this sort came to the
ears of the English.

But the Transvaal Government had again taken courage, as they had
received an answer to the cable which they had sent to the Deputation,
which answer instructed them to hold out; and also because two
successful battles had taken place shortly before--one fought by General
Kemp, and the other by Commandant Muller. We remained there for two
days, and after it had been settled by the two Governments that the war
should be continued with all our might, and also that days of
thanksgiving and humiliation should be appointed, we went away
accompanied by the genial and friendly Commandant Alberts, of
Standerton, who brought us across the Natal-Transvaal railway. Captain
Alberts was renowned as a valiant soldier; we now also found him to be a
most sociable man. He beguiled the time with agreeable narratives of
events in which he had taken part, and almost before we realized it we
had reached the railway line. We crossed in safety and took a hearty
farewell of our friendly Commandant and his burghers.

On our march to Zilverbank--a farm on the Waterval River--I did not
require any guide, for I knew the surroundings, having lived there for
two years. After breakfast on the following morning we went on to within
four or five miles south of Hexrivier farm, about three miles to the
north of the Vaal River. There we off-saddled; and shortly after General
De la Rey took leave of us. He wanted to cross the railway at a place
between Vereeniging and Meyerton Station. This would lead him by a
shorter road to his commandos than if he went through the Free State.
Our farewell was affectionate--all the more so because we did not know
whether we should see each other again on this earth. Then we continued
on our way with light hearts; having been inspirited, not only by the
pleasant company of the last few days, but also by the decision taken by
the two Governments, that, come what might, our independence should not
be sacrificed by us.

I crossed the Vaal River at Villiersdorp and remained there that evening
and through the following day. Then President Steyn and I parted. He
went to Bezuidenhoutsdrift, and I, by way of Frankfort, to the Heilbron
commando. I remained at Frankfort for one night, with Commandant Ross
and his men, and had a very enjoyable time.

With the Heilbron people I stayed a few days only, because I had
important work to accomplish in the Winburg district; to this district
therefore I went.

As the commandos were now so scattered there was enough work for each of
us in his own district, and I had much more riding to do than formerly.
I found Commandant Hasebroek and his men at Doornberg a few days later.
Whilst there I received from President Steyn a report of his narrow
escape at Reitz, on the 11th of July, 1901, when he and some of his
bodyguard escaped, whilst, unfortunately, Commandant Davel and all the
members of the Government, except Mr. W.C.J. Brebner, who was absent,
were taken prisoners.

From Winburg I paid a visit to Vice-Commandant-in-Chief J. Hattingh, of
the Kroonstad commando, and then went to President Steyn. My joy in
finding that the President was safe, was only equalled by my grief at
the loss of such old friends as General Cronje, Member of the Executive
Council; General J.B. Wessels; T. Brain, Secretary to the Government;
Commandant Davel; Rocco De Villiers, Secretary to the Executive Council;
Gordon Fraser, Private Secretary to the President; MacHardy, Assistant
Secretary; Pieter Steyn, brother of the President and Veldtcornet of the
staff; and my other friends in the bodyguard. It was sad to think that
such men were prisoners, and were lost to us so long as the war
continued. We had become rather accustomed to such experiences, but what
made this so hard to bear was that treachery had a hand in it--when the
English took the Government and President Steyn's bodyguard prisoners,
they had had a Free State burgher as their guide.

The vacant posts in the Government had now to be filled up, and the
President appointed the following persons:--In the place of A.P. Cronje,
General C.H. Olivier, as Member of the Executive Council; and in place
of Mr. T. Brain, Mr. W.C.J. Brebner, as Government Secretary. Mr.
Johannes Theron he appointed Secretary to the Executive Council, instead
of Mr. Rocco De Villiers; and Mr. B.J. Du Plessis Private Secretary to
himself in place of Mr. Gordon Fraser.

The President also decided to have, in future, only thirty burghers as
his bodyguard, and appointed Captain Niekerk as their Commandant.




CHAPTER XXX

The Last Proclamation


I now impressed upon my officers as forcibly as I could the importance
of intercepting the communications of the enemy by blowing up their
trains. A mechanical device had been thought of, by which this could be
done. The barrel and lock of a gun, in connexion with a dynamite
cartridge, were placed under a sleeper, so that when a passing engine
pressed the rail on to this machine, it exploded, and the train was
blown up. It was terrible to take human lives in such a manner; still,
however fearful, it was not contrary to the rules of civilized warfare,
and we were entirely within our rights in obstructing the enemy's lines
of communication in this manner.

Owing to this, the English were obliged to place many more thousands of
soldiers along the railway line, in order to keep the track clear. Even
then, the trains, for a considerable time, could not run by night. The
English soon discovered how we arranged these explosions, and the guards
carefully inspected the lines each day to find out if one of these
machines had been placed beneath the rails. We knew that one had been
found and removed, whenever we saw a train pass over the spot without
being blown up. This, however, only made us more careful. We went to the
spot which we had fixed upon for the explosion, hollowed out the gravel,
placed the machine under the sleeper, and covered it up again, throwing
the gravel that was left to a good distance from the line. After this,
the guards could not discover where the machine was placed. They trebled
the troops on the line in consequence.

The month of July had passed, and we wondered what August held in store
for us. The customary fights of the different commandos still went on;
here five, here ten, here thirty of the English were killed, wounded or
made prisoners. If these numbers had been put down they would have
mounted up to a considerable total; but the war was not of such a nature
that an office could be opened to record them. Reports of battles were
sent to me, and after I had allowed them to accumulate for three or four
weeks, they were sent to the different Vice-Commandants-in-Chief for
their general information, and then torn up.

Many reports and much correspondence concerning the beginning of the war
have been preserved. I gave them to a trustworthy friend with
instructions to bury them, but do not know where he placed them, as he
was taken prisoner later on, and I have never been able to find out
where he was sent to. These documents are of great value, and ought to
be published.

I was on the farm of Blijdschap, between Harrismith and Bethlehem--my
English friends, Generals Knox, Elliott and Paget, with their Colonels
Rimington, Byng, Baker, etc., etc., will not have forgotten where
Blijdschap is--when I received a letter from Lord Kitchener, enclosing
his Proclamation of the 7th of August, 1901.

This proclamation was as follows:

     "By his Excellency Baron Kitchener of Khartoum, G.C.B., K.C.M.G.,
     General Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty's forces in South Africa;
     High Commissioner of South Africa, and Administrator of the
     Transvaal, etc.

     "Whereas the former Orange Free State and South African Republic
     are annexed to His Majesty's possessions;

     "And whereas His Majesty's forces have now been for some
     considerable time in full possession of the Government seats of
     both the above-mentioned territories, with all their public
     offices and means of administration, as well as of the principal
     towns and the whole railway;

     "And whereas the great majority of burghers of the two late
     Republics (which number thirty-five thousand over and above those
     who have been killed in the war) are now prisoners of war, or have
     subjected themselves to His Majesty's Government, and are now
     living in safety, in villages or camps under the protection of His
     Majesty's forces;

     "And whereas the burghers of the late Republics, now under arms
     against His Majesty's forces, are not only few in number, but have
     also lost nearly all their guns, and war requisites, and are
     without proper military organization, and are therefore not in a
     position to carry on a regular war, or to make any organized
     resistance against His Majesty's forces in any part of the country;

     "And whereas the burghers who are now still under arms, although
     not in a position to carry on a regular war, continue to make
     attacks on small posts and divisions of His Majesty's forces, to
     plunder and to destroy farms, and to cut the railway and telegraph
     lines, both in the Orange River Colony and in the Transvaal and
     other parts of His Majesty's South African possessions;

     "And whereas the country is thus kept in a state of unrest, and the
     carrying on of agriculture and industries is hindered;

     "And whereas His Majesty's Government has decided to make an end of
     a situation which involves unnecessary bloodshed and devastation,
     and which is ruining the great majority of the inhabitants, who are
     willing to live in peace, and are desirous of earning a livelihood
     for themselves and their families;

     "And whereas it is only just that steps should be taken against
     those who still resist, and principally against those persons who
     are in authority, and who are responsible for the continuance of
     the present state of disorganization in the country, and who
     instigate their fellow citizens to persist in their hopeless
     resistance against His Majesty's Government;

     "I, Horatio Herbert Baron Kitchener, of Khartoum, G.C.B., K.C.M.G.,
     General Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty's forces in South Africa;
     High Commissioner in South Africa, on behalf of His Majesty's
     Government, proclaim and make known as follows:

     "All Commandants, Veldtcornets and leaders of armed bands--being
     burghers of the late Republics--still resisting His Majesty's
     forces in the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal, or in any part
     of His Majesty's South African possessions, and all members of the
     Government of the late Orange Free State and of the late South
     African Republic, shall, unless they surrender before the 15th
     September of this year, be banished for ever from South Africa; and
     the cost of maintaining the families of such burghers shall be
     recoverable from, and become a charge on, their properties, whether
     landed or movable, in both Colonies.

     "GOD SAVE THE KING.

     "Given under my hand at Pretoria, the seventh day of August, 1901.

     "KITCHENER, GENERAL,
       _High Commissioner of South Africa._"

I answered Lord Kitchener very carefully in the following words:--

     "EXCELLENCY,--

     "I acknowledge the receipt of your Excellency's missive in which
     was enclosed your Proclamation, dated the 7th August, 1901. I and
     my officers assure your Excellency that we fight with one aim
     only--our independence, which we never can or will sacrifice!"

It would have been childish to fear that letter and that Proclamation.
From the short answer which I sent to Lord Kitchener, the reader will
clearly see the opinion that I and my officers held concerning it:
"Bangmaak is nog niet doodmaak,"[98] as our proverb says.

It was curious to see how this Proclamation was taken by the burghers.
It had no effect whatsoever. I heard many burghers say that it would now
be seen whether the officers had the cause of their country really at
heart or not, and whether they were themselves to surrender and lay down
their arms before the 15th of September. I must here declare that I know
of no single case where an officer in consequence of this proclamation
surrendered; on the contrary, when the day fixed by Lord Kitchener for
the surrender had passed, the burghers had more reason to trust in their
officers than before; and I can assure my readers that if at the
beginning of the war we had had officers of the same kind as we had
towards the end of the strife, it would have been easier to have
maintained discipline.

September the 15th was thus fixed upon by Lord Kitchener as the last day
on which we should have an opportunity of surrendering. The President
and Commander-in-Chief of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State
returned answer that they would still continue the war, and subsequent
events put a seal to their answer.

Three battles were fought--one by General Brand at Blakfontein, another
by General De la Rey in the west of the Transvaal, and yet another by
General Botha at Itala, all in the month of September.

President Steyn sent Lord Kitchener a long letter, in which he showed
most clearly what the causes of the war had been, and what was the
condition of matters at that time. The letter was as follows:--

     IN THE VELDT, _August 15th_, 1901.

     TO HIS EXCELLENCY, LORD KITCHENER, ETC.

     EXCELLENCY,--

     I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Excellency's
     letter, dated Aug. 7th, 1901, enclosing your Excellency's
     Proclamation of the same date.

     The conciliatory tone of your Excellency's letter encourages me to
     speak freely, and to answer it at some length. I have noticed that
     not only your Excellency in your letter asserts, but that also
     responsible statesmen in your country assert, that the declaration
     of war from the South African Republic, and the inroad on the
     British territory, had been the cause of the war. I hardly believe
     it necessary to remind your Excellency that, in 1895, when the
     South African Republic was unarmed and peaceful, and had no thought
     but that their neighbours were civilized nations, an unexpected
     attack was made on them from the British territory. I do not
     consider it necessary to point out to your Excellency that the mad
     enterprise--for surely the instigators of it could not have been
     sane--miscarried, and the whole body of invaders fell into the
     hands of the South African Republic. The South African Government,
     trusting in the integrity of the English nation, handed over to His
     Majesty's Government all the persons whom they had taken prisoner,
     notwithstanding that, in conformity with international law, these
     persons had merited death.

     I also do not consider it necessary to remind your Excellency that
     after an honest judge had condemned the leaders of this expedition
     to imprisonment, the most prominent of them were not compelled to
     serve the whole of their time, but, previous to its termination,
     were liberated for various most insufficient reasons. Neither need
     I remind your Excellency that when a Parliamentary Commission was
     nominated, to investigate the causes and reasons of the said
     expedition, this Commission, instead of investigating the matter,
     would not allow the proofs to come to light, and that, when the
     Commission, notwithstanding the high influence at work during its
     sitting, had found the chief conspirator, Mr. Rhodes, guilty, and
     had reported him as such to Parliament, Mr. Chamberlain, who was
     one of the members of the Commission, contradicted his own
     report[99] by defending Mr. Rhodes.

     Your Excellency will have to acknowledge that the South African
     Republic as well as the civilized world was perfectly justified in
     coming to the conclusion that the Jameson expedition, which we
     first believed to have been undertaken by irresponsible persons,
     and without the cognizance of His Majesty's Government, was well
     known, if not to all, yet still to some members of His Majesty's
     Government. I need not remind your Excellency that since that time,
     not only has no reasonable indemnity been paid to the South African
     Republic, as was at that time promised, but also that the Republic
     has been harassed with despatches and threats concerning its
     internal Government. I also need not tell your Excellency that
     outside influence was used in order that memorials to His Majesty's
     Government might be drawn up concerning alleged grievances, so that
     His Majesty's Government might have the desired opportunity of
     interfering with the inner policy of the South African Republic.

     As I have said, I do not think it necessary to remind your
     Excellency of the above-mentioned facts, because I am of opinion
     that they are well known to you. I, however, should like your
     Excellency to be good enough to pay attention to the following
     facts:--

     When, at the time of the circulation of the last-mentioned
     Memorial, I could see that a certain party was working hard to
     involve the British Government in a war with the South African
     Republic, I stepped into the breach, and endeavoured, by bringing
     the parties together, and by using my influence with the South
     African Republic, to induce the latter to give in to the demands of
     His Majesty's Government in order to maintain the peace.

     I succeeded in getting the Transvaal to yield, not because I was of
     the opinion that the English Government had any right to make such
     demands, but only in order to prevent bloodshed. When the British
     Government was still not satisfied, then the South African
     Government made concession after concession to the ever-increasing
     demands made upon them, until at last there came a request that the
     law on franchise should be laid before a Commission. On the behest
     of the British Agent in Pretoria, the South African Republic made a
     proposal granting far more than was demanded by the High
     Commissioner. As this proposal was not accepted by His Majesty's
     Government, who made yet further demands, the South African
     Republic withdrew their proposal, and declared themselves willing
     to accept England's proposal to lay the law before the Commission.
     The British Government then closed all correspondence, and wrote to
     the South African Republic saying that they would make their
     demands later on. In other words, the British Government then gave
     to the South African Republic an ultimatum, and it was clear that
     they were only prevented from commencing the war at once by the
     fact that they had not then landed sufficient troops in the
     country.

     The Orange Free State Government then again came to the rescue, in
     order to attempt at the last moment to avoid the war, and cabled
     through the High Commissioner direct to the British Government,
     asking for information as to the nature of the demands which were
     to be made upon the South African Republic; which cable, to my
     sorrow, was never sent in its entirety. The only answer to my cable
     was the continual arrival of transports of troops from all quarters
     of the globe, which were massed, not only on the frontier of the
     South African Republic, but also on the frontiers of the still
     friendly Orange Free State. Then, when the South African Republic
     saw that England had no intention of repairing the alleged
     grievances, but had only brought them up as an excuse for depriving
     the Republic of its independence, they requested that the troops
     might be taken from their frontiers, and that all disputes might be
     settled by arbitration. This happened about three weeks after the
     British Government had issued their ultimatum, and about one month
     after the Orange Free State Government had received a wire asking
     them to remain neutral, thus clearly giving them to understand that
     the British Government intended to make war on the South African
     Government. This telegram was sent to the Orange Free State because
     they knew that the latter had made a defensive alliance with the
     South African Republic since the year 1899.

     Then the South African Republic decided that they must defend their
     frontiers against the enemy who threatened their borders, and I was
     obliged to take a most painful step, namely, that of severing the
     bonds of friendship that existed between us and the British
     Government, and, true to our alliance with the Transvaal, to help
     the sister Republic. That we were perfectly correct in our surmise
     that the British Government had firmly decided to wipe out the two
     Republics has been clearly proved since the breaking out of the
     war. It was not only made evident from the documents that fell into
     our hands, although there it was easy to gather that since 1896,
     that is from Jameson's raid, the British Government was firmly
     determined to make an inroad into the two Republics: only lately it
     has been acknowledged by Lord Lansdowne that he in June, 1899, had
     already discussed with Lord Wolseley (then Commander-in-Chief of
     His Majesty's troops), the best time at which to make an attack on
     the two Republics. Your Excellency will thus see that it was not we
     who drew the sword, but that we only put it away from our throats.
     We have only acted in self-defence--one of the holiest rights of
     man--in order to assert our right to exist. And therefore I think,
     with all respect, that we have a right to trust in a just God.

     I again observe that your Excellency reverts to the impossibility
     of intervention by any foreign power, and that your Excellency
     interprets our resistance as only based on the hope of such
     intervention.

     With your Excellency's permission, I should like to clear up our
     position with regard to intervention. It is this: We hope, and
     still are hoping, that the moral feeling of the civilized world
     would protest against the crime which England is now permitting in
     South Africa, namely, that of endeavouring to exterminate a young
     nation, but we were still firmly determined that, should our hopes
     not be realized, we would exert our utmost strength to defend
     ourselves, and this decision, based on a firm trust in a merciful
     God, is still unshaken in us.

     I further notice that your Excellency thinks that our fight is
     hopeless. I do not know on what grounds this assumption is based.
     Let us for a moment compare our mutual situations of to-day with
     those of a year ago, after the surrender of General Prinsloo. Then,
     the Cape Colony was altogether quiet, and free from our commandos.
     The Orange Free State was almost entirely in your hands, not only
     as regards the principal townships, railway lines and villages, but
     also the whole country, except where Commandant Hasebroek was, with
     his commando. And in the South African Republic the situation was
     very similar. That country was also mainly held by you, except in
     the parts which General De la Rey and General Botha occupied with
     their commandos, far up in the Boschveldt.

     How do matters stand now?

     The Cape Colony is, so to speak, overrun by our commandos, and they
     are really in temporary possession of the greater part of Cape
     Colony. They go about there as they choose, and many of our
     nationality and others also are continuing to join us there, and
     uniting forces with us against the cruel injustice that is being
     done to the Republics.

     In the Orange Free State I willingly acknowledge that your
     Excellency is in possession of the Capital, the railways, and some
     other towns not on the railways, but that is all that your
     Excellency has got. The whole of the Orange Free State, except the
     parts which I have just mentioned, is in our possession. In most of
     the principal towns there are landdrosts[100] appointed by us; thus
     in this State the keeping of order and the administration of
     justice are managed by us, and not by your Excellency. In the
     Transvaal it is just the same. There also justice and order are
     managed by magistrates appointed by our Government.

     May I be permitted to say that your Excellency's jurisdiction is
     limited by the range of your Excellency's guns. If your Excellency
     will look on the matter from a military point of view then it must
     be acknowledged that notwithstanding the enormous forces that are
     brought against us in the field, our cause, in the past year, has
     made wonderful progress. Therefore we need be in no way
     discouraged, and, if your Proclamation is based on the assumption
     that we are so, then it has now even less justification than it had
     a year ago. I am sorry that anything I say should appear boastful,
     but the assertions in your Excellency's Proclamation compel me to
     speak in this manner.

     With regard to the 35,000 men which your Excellency says are in
     your hands, I cannot speak as to the numbers, but this much I will
     say, I am not referring to those men who were led astray by the
     Proclamation of your Excellency's predecessor, and so failed in
     their duty to their Government; nor to those--thank God they are
     but few--who from treachery or other cause have gone over to the
     enemy; but of the remainder who have been taken, not too honestly,
     as prisoners of war, and are still kept as such. Of these I will
     say that they are either old men and feeble, or young boys not yet
     of age, who were carried off by force from their farms by your
     Excellency's troops, and shut up against their will in your
     Excellency's camps. To say of these therefore, that they are
     "dwelling peacefully with you," is an assertion which can hardly be
     taken seriously. I am able to say with perfect truth, that except
     the prisoners, and the few who have gone over to the enemy, the
     overpowering majority of the fighting burghers are still under
     arms. As regards those who have gone over from us to the enemy--a
     rare occurrence now--I can only say that our experience is not
     unique, for history shows that in all wars for freedom, as in
     America and elsewhere, there were such: and we shall try to get on
     without them.

     As regards the 74,000 women and children who, as your Excellency
     alleges, are maintained in the camps, it appears to me that your
     Excellency must be unaware of the cruel manner in which these
     defenceless ones were dragged away from their dwellings by your
     Excellency's troops, who first destroyed all the goods and property
     of their wretched captives. Yes, to such a pass had it come, that
     whenever your men were seen approaching, the poor sacrifices of the
     war, in all weathers, by day and by night, would flee from their
     dwellings in order that they might not be taken.

     Does your Excellency realize that your troops have not been ashamed
     to fire (in the full knowledge of what they were doing) with guns
     and small arms on our helpless ones when they, to avoid capture,
     had taken flight, either alone or with their waggons, and thus many
     women and children have been killed and wounded. I will give you an
     instance. Not long ago, on the 6th of June, at Graspan, near Reitz,
     a camp of women, falsely reported as a convoy to your Excellency,
     was taken by your troops. This was rescued again by us, whilst
     your troops took shelter behind our women, and when your
     reinforcement came up, they opened fire with guns and small arms on
     that camp, notwithstanding the fact that they knew it contained
     women only.

     I can quote hundreds of cases of this kind, but I do not think it
     necessary, because if your Excellency will take the trouble to ask
     any soldier who respects the truth, he will be compelled to confirm
     my assertion. To say that the women are in your camps of their own
     free will is not in accordance with the facts, and for any one to
     assert that they are brought to the camps because the Boers are
     unwilling to provide for the maintenance of their families as it is
     said that His Excellency the Minister for War has asserted in
     Parliament, is to make himself guilty of calumny, that will do more
     harm to the calumniator than to us, and is a statement which I am
     sure can never meet with your Excellency's approval.

     Now, as regards the Proclamation itself, I can give your Excellency
     the assurance as far as I am myself concerned, that it will make no
     difference to my fulfilling my duty faithfully to the end, for I
     shall be guided by my conscience and not by the enemy. Our country
     is ruined; our hearths and homes are wrecked; our cattle are
     looted, or killed by the thousand; our women and children are made
     prisoners, insulted, and carried away by the troops and armed
     Kaffirs; and many hundreds have already given their lives for the
     freedom of their fatherland. Can we now--when it is merely a
     question of banishment--shrink from our duty? Can we become
     faithless to the hundreds of killed and prisoners, who, trusting in
     our firmness, offered their lives and freedom for the fatherland?
     Or can we lose faith in a just God, who has so wonderfully upheld
     us till now? I am convinced that should we do so, we should be
     despised not only by your Excellency and all honest men, but also
     by ourselves.

     I will close by giving your Excellency the assurance that no one is
     more anxious than I to see peace restored, and I am therefore ready
     to meet your Excellency at any time in order to discuss the terms
     on which this peace can be arranged; but in order that I may not
     mislead your Excellency, I have to say that no peace will be
     accepted by us which imperils the independence of the two
     Republics, or which does not take into consideration the interests
     of our Colonial brethren who have joined us. If it is a crime to
     fight in one's self-defence, and if such a crime is to be punished,
     then I am of opinion that His Majesty's Government should be
     satisfied with the annihilation of the country, the misery of women
     and children and the general desolation which this war has already
     caused. It is in your Excellency's power more than in that of any
     one else, to put a stop to this, and by doing so, to restore this
     unfortunate part of the world to its former happiness. We ask no
     magnanimity, we only demand justice. I enclose a translation of my
     letter in order to avoid any misinterpretation of it by your
     Excellency, as this happened not long ago when a letter which I had
     written to the Government of the South African Republic, and which
     at Reitz fell into your hands, was published in such a way that it
     was nearly unrecognizable, as not only was it wrongly interpreted
     in some places, but sentences were inserted which had never been
     written, and other parts were left out altogether, so that an
     entirely wrong meaning was given to the letter.

     I have the honour, etc.,

     M.T. STEYN,
       _State-President of the Orange Free State._

[Footnote 98: Nobody dies of fright.]

[Footnote 99: The report of the Commission of which he was a member.]

[Footnote 100: Resident Magistrates.]




CHAPTER XXXI

Blockhouses and Night Attacks


While the great events recorded at the end of my last chapter were in
progress, I paid a visit to the Harrismith burghers, who were under the
command of Commandant Jan Jacobsz, and also to some of the Bethlehem
men. On my return I learnt that the enemy were occupied in building a
line of blockhouses from Heilbron to Frankfort.

It has always seemed to me a most unaccountable circumstance that
England--the all-powerful--could not catch the Boers without the aid of
these blockhouses. There were so many other ways in which the thing
might have been done, and better done; and the following incident, which
occurred during the war, serves to show that this policy of the
_blockhouse_ might equally well have been called the policy of the
_blockhead_.

On the 27th of February, 1902, the English made one of their biggest
"catches" in the Free State. They had made a great "kraal"--what they
themselves call a "drive"--and stood, "hand in hand," one might almost
say, in a ring around us, coming from Heilbron, Frankfort, Bethlehem,
and Harrismith, and stretching, on the Transvaal side, from Vrede to the
Drakensberg.

Narrower and narrower did the circle become, hemming us in more closely
at every moment. The result was that they "bagged" an enormous number of
men and cattle, without a solitary burgher (or, for the matter of that,
a solitary ox) having been captured by means of their famous blockhouse
system.

The English have been constantly boasting in the newspapers about the
advantages of their blockhouses, but they have never been able to give
an instance of a capture effected by them. On the contrary, when during
the last stages of the war it happened, as it often did, that they drove
some of our men against one or other of the great blockhouse lines which
then intersected the country, and it became necessary for us to fight
our way through, we generally succeeded in doing so. And that, with
fewer casualties than when, as in the instance I have just given, they
concentrated their forces, and formed a circle around us.

The English then were busy when I returned from the south in building a
blockhouse line from Heilbron to Frankfort. They accomplished this
speedily, and then proceeded to the construction of other similar lines,
not being contented until they had "pegged out" the country as
follows:--

On the Natal frontier there was a line from Vrede to Bothaspas,
continued westward by a series of forts to Harrismith, whence the line
went on, still westward, to Bethlehem, and thence down to the Basutoland
border at Fouriesburg.

Kroonstad was made, so to speak, the "axle," whence a series of "spokes"
proceeded; one to the north-east, to Vrede; a second to the north-west,
through Driekopjes Diamond Mine, to Winkledrift, and thence down the
Rhenoster River to its confluence with the Vaal; a third, to the
south-east, to Lindley; and a fourth, to the south-west, along the
railway line, to the frontier of Cape Colony.

In the western districts there was a line along the left bank of the
Valsch River to the point where it joins the Vaal, and another (also
terminating at the Vaal River) starting from Zand River railway bridge,
and running parallel to the Zand River. There was also a line from
Boshof, across the Cape Colony frontier, to Kimberley.

Last, but not least, came the "White Elephant" with which the reader is
already acquainted--the line from Bloemfontein to Ladybrand, through
Thaba'Nchu.

All these lines were in the Free State. I make no mention here of the
thousands of miles of similar blockhouse lines, which made a sort of
spider's web of the South African Republic.

The blockhouses themselves were sometimes round, sometimes angular,
erections. The roofs were always of iron. The walls were pierced with
loop-holes four feet from the ground, and from four to six feet from one
another. Sometimes stone was used in the construction of these walls, at
other times iron. In the latter case the wall is double, the space of
from six to nine inches between the inner and the outer wall being
filled with earth.

These buildings stood at a distance of from a hundred to a thousand
paces from one another; everything depended upon the lie of the ground,
and the means at the enemy's disposal; a greater distance than a
thousand paces was exceptional. They were always so placed that each of
them could be seen by its neighbours on both sides, the line which they
followed being a zigzag.

Between the blockhouses were fences, made with five strands of barbed
wire. Parallel with these was a trench, three feet deep and four to five
feet across at the top, but narrower at the bottom. Where the material
could be procured, there was also a stone wall, to serve as an
additional obstacle. Sometimes there were two lines of fences, the upper
one--erected on the top of the earth thrown up from the
trench--consisting of three or four strands only.

There was thus a regular network of wires in the vicinity of the
blockhouses--the English seemed to think that a Boer might be netted
like a fish. If a wild horse had been trapped there, I should like to
have been there to see, but I should not have liked to have been the
wild horse.

The building of these blockhouses cost many thousands of pounds, and
still greater were the expenses incurred in providing the soldiers in
them with food, which had to be fetched up by special convoys. And it
was all money thrown away! and worse than thrown away! for when I come
to describe how I broke through these blockhouse lines (see next page),
the reader will see that this wonderful scheme of the English prolonged
the war for at least three months.

Let us turn now to another, and a more successful device of the enemy.

From the first weeks of the winter, 1901--the reader must remember that
our winter commences in _May_--the English began to make night attacks
upon us; at last they had found out a way of inflicting severe losses
upon us, and these night attacks grew more and more frequent during the
last period of the war. But they would never have thought of them at
all, if they had not been instructed in them by the National Scouts--our
own flesh and blood!

These tactics were not always successful. It sometimes happened that the
English got "cornered"; sometimes they had to "right about turn" and run
for their lives. The latter was the case at Witkopjes, five miles to the
south of Heilbron, and again, near Makenwaansstad. But on only too many
occasions they managed to surprise troops of burghers on their camping
places, and, having captured those who could not run away, they left the
dead and wounded on the ground.

We soon discovered that these night attacks were the most difficult of
the enemy's tactics with which we had to deal.

Sometimes the burghers, surprised by a sudden visit from the English at
such an unconventional hour, found it necessary to run away at once as
fast as their legs would carry them, so that they often arrived at the
nearest camp without their hats. Indeed a series of these attacks
produced such a panic among our men that I have known a Boer lose not
only his hat, but also his head.

I come now, in the regular course of my narrative, to an engagement
between my burghers and an English force which had marched from
Bethlehem to Reitz, a distance of thirty miles. This force was guided by
a son of one of the Free State Members of Parliament, and, marching all
night, reached Reitz just as the day began to dawn. This was a smart
piece of business; and though the guide to whom its success was due was
my enemy, I fully appreciated the skill which he then displayed.

The English captured ten or twelve burghers at Reitz, whither they had
perhaps gone in search of the President.

I was ten miles to the west, on the farm of Blijdschap, and did not
receive reports of what had happened until towards noon.

What was I to do? I could not call up men from Heilbron, Bethlehem,
Vrede, or Harrismith: it would have been at least twenty-four hours
before they could have arrived. All I could do was to summon Veldtcornet
Vlok with some of the Parijs commandos and Veldtcornet Louwrens, and
Matthijs De Beer, and the men. With these and my staff we would not
number more than sixty or seventy all told.

I at once gave orders to these veldtcornets to meet me at a certain
place, and they were there by the appointed hour.

My intention was to deliver a flank attack upon the English while they
retreated during the night; for, as they only numbered five hundred men,
I felt sure that they would not care to remain thirty miles away from
their column, but would fall back upon Bethlehem.

In the afternoon I marched to within a short distance of Reitz, in order
to discover the enemy's plans; then, immediately after sunset, I sent a
few burghers quite close to the town, with orders to meet me again at a
certain point about two thousand paces to the south, and to inform me
whither the enemy were going to march. The scouts returned at ten
o'clock that night, and reported that the enemy was on the march towards
Harrismith. In order to reach this town they would have to start by the
Bethlehem road, from which the Harrismith road forks, at about eight
thousand paces from the town.

Our horses stood ready up-saddled; I had only to give the order to
mount.

I meant to cross the Bethlehem road and go to a deep hollow which I knew
of near the Harrismith road; then, when the English appeared against the
horizon, we would fire at them.

But my scouts had blundered. The English were not going to Harrismith
after all. For as we came to the Bethlehem road, we nearly stumbled over
them. They were riding quietly along only a short distance from us. As
we were galloping they knew of our proximity before we were aware of
theirs, and when we were less than two hundred paces from them they
opened fire.

"Charge, burghers!"

They all heard me, but they did not all obey. About fifty of the most
valiant of them galloped straight at the enemy. The rest fled.

After a short but fierce engagement we were forced to retire, as six of
our men had been hit. Fortunately, their wounds were but slight, the
most severe being that of my son Isaac, who had been shot through the
leg below the knee.

We rode away a short distance, and saw looming through the darkness a
company of horsemen approaching us from Reitz. I thought at first that
they were some of my own burghers--the ones who had taken to their
heels--but it turned out to be General Wessel Wessels, who was nearer
than I knew with his staff, in all some twenty men. I, however, could
muster seventy, and we decided to cut off the retreat of the enemy. But
they had, in the meantime, been riding on so fast that we did not reach
them until it had grown quite light. An engagement, short and fierce as
the last, ensued, but as the enemy was from six to seven times as strong
as we were, and had a gun and a Maxim-Nordenfeldt with them, we could
not stand against them, and had to let them go on their road.

We were fortunate in suffering no loss there, and while the English
marched on to Bethlehem we rode off in the opposite direction.

We had now a short period of repose. The English were so busy building
blockhouses that they had no time to fight us. Our poor horses were in a
miserable condition, for so little rain had fallen that the grass was
very dry and sapless. But at least we could now give them the rest which
they sorely needed.




CHAPTER XXXII

My Commando of Seven Hundred Men


Towards the end of September Commandant F.E. Mentz had an engagement
with Colonel Byng's column near Heilbron. A portion of this officer's
force had held a ridge where there were some Kaffir kraals for cover;
and Commandant Mentz had with fifty burghers stormed this ridge,
shooting down from thirty to forty of the enemy, and taking twenty-five
prisoners. We lost two killed and three wounded. The Frankfort burghers
under Commandant Ross had also not been idle, for they had attacked a
division of Colonel Rimington's troops with the result that sixteen
killed and wounded fell into their hands--among these were seven of the
National Scouts.

Thus fighting was taking place all over the country. I do not give any
report of the various engagements, as I was not present at them, and, as
I have already said, I only wish to record my own experiences. But it
will be easily seen, even from the scanty information I can give of
these skirmishes, that our small commandos had a splendid record of
success.

It is my intention to ask all my Vice-Commanders-in-Chief to narrate
their experiences. And when the whole story is told I am convinced that
the world will be astonished at what we were able to accomplish.

But however well these small commandos had fought, I myself believed
that the time had now come to make a great stroke. With this object in
view I gave orders that a number of the burghers should come to
Blijdschap, in the district of Bethlehem, under the command of the
following officers:--General Michal Prinsloo with Commandants Olivier,
and Rautenbach of the Bethlehem Commando; Commandant David Van Coller,
who was in command of the Heilbron burghers in the place of Commandant
Steenekamp, who had resigned; Commandant Hermanus Botha of Vrede;
Commandant Roen of Ladybrand; and Commandant Jan Cilliers of Kroonstad.

By the beginning of November I had a force of seven hundred burghers
under me at Blijdschap.[101]

Although the spring was now far advanced, the veldt was in a very
backward condition. I therefore ordered the various subdivisions of my
commando to go and camp on the different farms in the neighbourhood. I
spread the horses over a large area, as they would thus find better
pasture and so the sooner recover their strength.

When November was drawing to a close I had an engagement with the
English to the south of Lindley. I had with me at that time General
Hattingh, General Wessel Wessels, and General Michal Prinsloo.

An English force had encamped two days previously on the farm of
Jagersrust, which lies some ten miles to the south-east of Heilbron, and
about the same distance from Blijdschap. I had wished to make an attack
on them the night they arrived, but they were too near to Heilbron for
me to venture on it.

The previous week three columns which came from Winburg and Kroonstad
had been operating near the Liebenbergsvlei, and driving a large laager
of women before them towards the north-east of the Liebenbergsvlei. But
they had now left the laager alone and returned to Kroonstad. The women
had arrived at Blijdschap at noon on November 28th on their way back to
Lindley.

The morning following, two hours after sunrise, I received a report from
General Hattingh, who with Commandant Cilliers and a hundred men was
stationed close to Blijdschap. The General reported that the English
from Jagersrust were hotly pursuing the women's laager. And it soon
appeared that the women were being driven to the west of Blijdschap.

When General Hattingh heard that the English were hard by, he was some
twenty minutes' ride from Blijdschap, but he mounted his horse at once
and rode there as quickly as he could. On his arrival he immediately
gave orders to up-saddle, and, having sent me a second report, he
started in pursuit of the enemy.

As soon as I had received General Hattingh's reports, I followed him
with General Wessels and a force of only a hundred men. I was at least
five miles from General Hattingh, and the English were twelve miles
ahead. General Michal Prinsloo was unfortunately a considerable distance
away; and thus it was that I could not at once get together my whole
force of six hundred burghers.

But General Michal Prinsloo had spent the time in attacking the English
force on their left front. Shortly after he had engaged the enemy I came
up behind them and delivered an attack on their right. But the veldt was
very uneven and high hills and intervening hollows made any co-operation
between us impossible, for one force could not tell where the other
force was.

Meanwhile General Hattingh had attacked the enemy in the rear and thus
compelled them to withdraw their vanguard, which was then not far from
the women's laager and had nearly succeeded in capturing it. But now
that the whole force of the enemy was opposed to General Hattingh, he
was forced to give way and leave his positions. We lost two killed and
three wounded. Among the dead was the valiant F.C. Klopper of Kroonstad.

When I, with General Wessels and Commandant Hermanus Botha hurried up,
Commandant Hattingh was just on the point of retreating.

The English I saw numbered about a thousand mounted men and they had
three guns with them. I determined to make a flank attack, and
accordingly marched round to their right, at the same time sending
orders to General Prinsloo to get in the rear, or if he preferred in
front of the enemy, so that we might make a united attack upon them as
they marched in the direction of Lindley.

It now began to rain and a little later a very heavy thunderstorm burst
on our heads. This forced the English to halt on the farm of
Victoriespruit.

The rain continued to fall in torrents and hindered General Prinsloo
carrying out my orders.

And now the sun went down.

As our horses were quite exhausted by the hot pursuit after the English,
and the burghers wet through to the skin, I decided to postpone the
attack to the following day. I was also influenced in my decision by the
consideration that as the English were so far from any point from which
reinforcements could come, it was quite safe to let them alone until the
morning. Nobody could have foreseen that they would escape that night.

We slept about five miles from them to the north-east, whilst General
Prinsloo and his men were not very far away to the south-east.

That night we placed the ordinary outposts, but no "brandwachten."

When on the next morning I sent my scouts out to discover the movements
of the enemy, what was my surprise when they reported that they had
fled. They had gone, my scouts informed me, towards Heilbron, which was
about eighteen miles off, and they had left behind them five laden
waggons and one cart; and where they had crossed Karoospruit they had,
very naturally, lightened their waggons, and flour, seed, oats,
tarpaulins, and tents marked the point where they had crossed the
spruit. The enemy were already so far ahead when I received this report
that it was quite out of the question to catch them before they reached
Heilbron; so all idea of pursuing them had to be abandoned.

So far as I was able to find out, this column was under the command of
Colonel Rimington.

As I was unable now to get in touch with the enemy, I set off with my
commando to what was once the town of Lindley. Alas! it could not any
more be called a town. Every house was burnt down; not even the church
and parsonage were spared.

We found the veldt in very good condition; the early spring rains and
the downpours of the previous day had quite revived the grass. And so I
decided to remain at Lindley as long as possible, to give our horses a
chance of recovering their condition. It was impossible to provide them
with forage, for the amount the English had left behind was entirely
insufficient as a supply for the large number of horses we had with us.

For ten or twelve days we remained at Lindley, and so the horses had a
short breathing time, but not long enough to give the poor animals time
fully to regain their strength. In addition to being overworked, some of
our horses were suffering from a skin disease which we were quite unable
to cure. This disease had never before been known in the Republics.

When I was at Lindley I sent Commandant Johannes Meijer, one of my
staff, with forty men, to Cape Colony. With him went that brave soldier,
Captain Willem Pretorius, of whom I have made mention previously. If
Commandant Meijer had had sufficient time to collect a commando in the
Colony, I am sure that he would have proved that the younger generation
of Free-Staters, to whom he and Willem Pretorius belonged, possess
qualities which were entirely unsuspected before the war began.

On the 8th of December three columns of the enemy appeared from
Kroonstad.

It had been my plan to remain at Lindley and wait my chance of dealing
with Colonel Baker, for he had under him a certain National Scout, who
constantly made raids from Winburg with a band of four or five hundred
Kaffirs. A few months previously a division of Commandant Hasebroek's
commando had been attacked at Doornberg by this man's Kaffirs, and four
burghers had been murdered in a horrible manner. More cases of this
nature had taken place, and I only mention this one in passing. I am not
in a position to give all the instances, but many of them were sworn to
in affidavits, of which copies were sent to Lord Kitchener. The original
affidavits fell into the hands of the English; but fresh ones shall be
drawn up on my return to South Africa, so that I may be able to prove
the statements I have made. The narration of these brutalities I prefer
to leave to persons more conversant With the facts than myself. I have
only alluded to the subject so as to make it clear why I like to keep my
eye on Colonel Baker's column.

I must now continue my story where I left it.

I took up my position to the north-west of Lindley, in front of the
columns which approached from Kroonstad. But after a few skirmishes with
them, I returned to the east till darkness came on. When night had
fallen I went round to the south, behind Kaffirskop, expecting to
receive the news that Colonel Baker was coming up from Winburg, for he
generally carried on his operations in conjunction with the forces at
Kroonstad.

On the following day the enemy marched to Liebenbergsvlei, between
Bethlehem and Reitz. Thence they took the road between Lindley and Reitz
to Kroonstad.

Piet de Wet, of the National Scouts, was with these columns.

After we had remained two days at Kaffirskop, we crossed the Valsch
River. The news then came that a column with a convoy was on the march
from Harrismith to Bethlehem.

I felt that it was my duty to attack this column, but, although I
advanced with all haste, I was not in time to catch the enemy before
they reached Bethlehem. When I saw this, I decided to wait, at a
distance of some fifteen miles to the north-east of Bethlehem, for I
expected that the column would return to Harrismith.

The troops remained in Bethlehem till the morning of the 18th of
December; they then marched out towards Harrismith.

I at once divided my commando into two parts, each consisting of two
hundred and fifty men. One of these divisions I posted behind the
eastern end of the Langberg, about forty miles from Bethlehem; the other
on the banks of the Tijgerkloofspruit, at the point where the road to
Harrismith crosses the stream.

I gave strict orders to both divisions that as soon as I opened fire on
the English with the Maxim-Nordenfeldt, they were to charge down on them
from both sides at the same time.

The enemy, I may mention, were about six or seven hundred men strong,
and had two guns.

I myself, with the Maxim-Nordenfeldt, was now on a high round hill, on
the eastern side of Tijgerkloof. I was very careful to be out of sight
of the English, so that they might get quite close to the burghers
before the gun disclosed my presence.

I succeeded in hiding my burghers so successfully that the English did
not observe them until they were within about twelve hundred paces of my
men in Tijgerkloof.

Some of the enemy's scouts rode on ahead, and when I judged that they
must almost immediately see the burghers, I ordered Captain Muller, who
was standing behind a rise, to come out of cover and open fire; then I
jumped on my horse, and down the hill I went, at full gallop, to my
burghers.

I had scarcely covered half the distance, when Captain Muller opened
fire on the enemy.

As the sound fell on my ears, it seemed to me that nothing now could
save them!

What was now my bitter disappointment when I saw that only one-third of
my burghers were charging. The others were keeping under cover, and do
what I would I could not drive them out.

Everything went wrong.

When the burghers who were charging the English discovered that the
greater part of their comrades had remained, they turned round and
retreated. But before this had happened they had attacked the English at
four different points.

It had been a short but a very hot engagement.

There was no possibility of inducing my men to charge, and so I thought
it wisest to retreat, swallowing my disappointment as best I could.

The burghers re-assembled to the south of the Langberg; and we found
that our loss was two killed and nine wounded, of whom two subsequently
died.

We could not ascertain the English losses, but we saw their ambulances
very busy. We heard afterwards that they had suffered much more severely
than we had done.

[Footnote 101: A court-martial was held at this place, and several
persons appeared before it. A certain De Lange was condemned to death
for high treason.]




CHAPTER XXXIII

A Success at Tweefontein


The column had marched to Harrismith.

It was time that I accomplished something further, and I determined that
the next blow I struck should be a heavy one. I therefore retired to the
north-east of Bethlehem, and concealed my men in the veldt round
Tijgerkloof (which was suited to the purpose) whilst I made my plans.

Colonel Firman's brigade was camped between Bethlehem and Harrismith, at
Elands River bridge, where he was building the line of blockhouses
between the two towns. This camp was so well entrenched that there was
no possibility of storming it, and I knew that so long as Colonel Firman
thought I was still in the neighbourhood he would not dare to come out
and give me an opportunity of attacking him.

I saw that a ruse was necessary to entice him out of his fortress. With
this object in view I sent for Commandant Jan Jacobsz, with his fifty
men from Witzeshoek. When he joined me I confided my secret to him, and
ordered him to go back with his fifty men, and to let Colonel Firman see
him doing so. He also had instructions to let some of his veldtcornets
ride to the Kaffir kraals, which were close to the English camp, in
order to tell these Kaffirs that he had had orders to come to me with
fifty men, but that when he arrived I had commanded him to return to his
district, because I was going to march with my commando to Winburg.

The following day Colonel Firman's scouts were, as might have been
expected, informed by the Kaffirs of what they had heard from the
burghers under Commandant Jacobsz; and the day after--that is, the 22nd
of December--Colonel Firman's column, about six to seven hundred men
strong, marched from Elands River to Tweefontein, half-way between
Elands River and Tijgerkloof. On the farm of Tweefontein there was a
mountain called Groenkop--which has since, for a reason which will soon
be apparent to the reader, received the name of "Christmas Kop."

[Illustration: TWEEFONTEIN.

FROM A SKETCH BY THE AUTHOR.]

I gave Commandant Jacobsz orders to come to me with his fifty men on
Christmas Eve, but this time with the strict injunction that he must
conceal his march from the enemy. I also called up Veldtcornet Beukes,
with his fifty men, from Wilge River, in the district of Harrismith.
Veldtcornet Beukes was a brave man and trustworthy; he was shortly
afterwards promoted to the command of a division of the Harrismith
burghers.

My intention was to attack Colonel Firman early on Christmas morning.

Two days previously I had, with General Prinsloo and the Commandant,
reconnoitred the neighbourhood of Groenkop, on which Colonel Firman was
encamped. I approached as near as possible to the mountain, but could
only inspect it from the west, north, and east, but on the following day
I reconnoitred it also from the south.

My plan of making the attack early the next morning was somewhat spoilt
by the fact that the English had already, on the 21st of December,
quitted their camp on the mountain. Thus they had had four days in which
to entrench themselves.

Whilst we were reconnoitring the mountain from the south, we saw three
horsemen coming cautiously out of the camp, riding in a north-easterly
direction, and thus giving us no chance to intercept them. Commandant
Olivier and Captain Potgieter now made a detour, so that they could cut
off the unsuspecting scouts from their camp, and could also get nearer
to the mountain themselves. I knew that by doing so they would draw the
fire of the two guns, which would tell me precisely where Colonel
Firman's battery stood.

Before these officers could accomplish their purpose they were observed,
and seeing that they could not cut off the three men, they turned their
horses and galloped back. But when they saw that the three scouts had
the temerity to pursue them, they faced round at the first rise and
suddenly confronted them. The three (who were Kaffirs), seeing that the
tables were turned, hastily wheeled round towards their own camp, but
before they could reach it one of their number was caught and shot down.
One gun and the Maxim-Nordenfeldt now fired upon our two officers as
long as they were in sight, and thus we learnt that the guns were placed
on the high western point of the mountain, from which they could shoot
in all directions.

Let me describe Groenkop. On its western side was a precipice, on the
north and south a steep descent, and on the east a gentle slope which
ran down to the plain.

From which side should the attack take place?

Some of the officers were of the opinion that this should take place on
the east, where it was the least steep, but I differed from them, for
through our field-glasses we could see that the walls of the fort were
so built that it was quite clear the enemy had thought that, should they
be attacked, it would be from the east. The forts were built in a
semicircle towards that side, and although this would be of little
importance once the fight had begun (because the defenders had only to
jump over the wall to find themselves still entrenched), still it was to
the advantage of the attacking party to come from a side where they
would not be expected.

These reasons brought me to the conclusion that the English would not
be on the look-out for us from the west, and I therefore decided to make
the attack from this side, the steep side of the mountain. But I did not
then know how steep it really was.

On the western point there were four forts close to each other. Each was
sufficient to give shelter to about twenty five men. To the south there
were four forts, and to the east three.

The top of the mountain was not more than three to four hundred paces in
diameter. To the east in a hollow the convoy was placed, and from every
_schanze_ we could rake it with our fire.

I remained on the spot from which I was reconnoitring, and sent word to
the commando, in the afternoon of the 24th of December, to come to a
certain place at Tijgerkloof, which they could do without being
observed. I ordered them to remain there until nightfall, and then to
advance within four miles of Groenkop, to the north, where I would meet
them.

This was done. I found the commando at the appointed place, and also
General Brand and Commandant Karel Coetzee, who had come on a visit that
day to my commando. They also took part in the attack. My men consisted
of burghers from General Michal Prinsloo, Commandants Hermanus Botha,
Van Coller, Olivier, Rautenbach, Koen, Jan Jacobsz and Mears, in all six
hundred men. Of these I left one hundred in charge of the
Maxim-Nordenfeldt and the pack-horses.

We had not a single waggon with us; every man put what he had with him
on his pack-horse, for long we had made it a rule not to be hampered
with waggons. Yet whenever we picked up reports of engagements in the
camping places of the English we repeatedly saw that they had taken a
Boer camp--and their greatest delight was to say that it was one of De
Wet's convoys.

They could not have been convoys of mine, because for the last fifteen
months I had had no waggon-camp with me. If a waggon-camp was taken, it
could only have been one consisting of women, who were flying in order
to escape capture by the English, and to avoid being sent to the
concentration camps. Everywhere in the State the women were taking to
flight, and their terror was increased tenfold when the news came that
many a woman and child had found an untimely grave in these camps.

The troops which had not remained with the pack-horses now advanced
towards the mountain. Each commando was ordered to ride by itself, and
to leave in single file. My orders were that they were to march quietly
to the western foot of the mountain; here the horses were to be left
behind, and the climb made on foot, the burghers keeping the same order
as that in which they had been riding. Should the English, however,
discover us before we reached the mountain, we must then storm it
altogether, and leave the horses wherever we had dismounted.

We succeeded in coming to the mountain unobserved, and at once began the
climb. It was exactly two o'clock in the morning of December 25th, 1901.

When we had gone up about half-way we heard the challenge of a sentry:--

"Halt; who goes there?"

Then followed a few shots.

My command rang out through the night--

"Burghers, Storm!"

The word was taken up by the burghers themselves, and on all sides one
heard "Storm! Storm!"

It was a never-to-be-forgotten moment. Amidst the bullets, which we
could hear whistling above and around us, the burghers advanced to the
top, calling out, "Storm! Storm!"

The mountain, however, was so steep that it can scarcely be said that we
stormed it; it was much more of a climb. Often our feet slipped from
under us, and we fell to the ground; but in an instant we were up again
and climbed on, and on, to gain the summit.

I think that after the sentry heard us, three or four minutes must have
elapsed before the troops, who were lying asleep in their tents or on
the veldt, were awakened and could come out, because their camp was
about a hundred paces distant from our point of attack.

Directly we reached the top the deafening roar of a heavy fight began,
and lasted from fifteen to twenty minutes. Shortly before this the
Armstrong gun and the Maxim-Nordenfeldt had each fired two shots, but
they fired no more; as we reached the top the gunners were shot down at
their guns.

After a short but desperate struggle the English gave way, or
surrendered, and we took possession of the Armstrong and
Maxim-Nordenfeldt.

We continued to fire on the troops, who had retreated to a short
distance. Again they gave way, and took up another position a little
further on, and so it went on for about two thousand paces, and then the
English took to flight.

As we had no horses with us and it was dark, we did not pursue the
fleeing enemy, but returned to the camp. The whole engagement lasted, so
far as I could judge, for about an hour. I cannot say for certain,
because I made no note of the time.

It was a party of Yeomanry with whom we had been dealing, and I must say
they behaved very gallantly under exceptionally trying circumstances;
for it is always to be expected that when men are attacked during the
night a certain amount of confusion must ensue.

It was heartrending to hear the moaning of the wounded in the dark. The
burghers helped the doctors to bring the wounded into the tents, where
they could be attended to; I gave the doctors as much water as they
liked to take for the wounded.

It was greatly to be deplored that the ambulance had been placed in the
centre of the camp, for this was the cause of Dr. Reid being fatally
wounded.

When the day began to dawn we brought the waggons and guns down the
mountain. I sent them in the direction of Langberg, to the west of
Groenkop.

The enemy lost about one hundred and sixteen dead and wounded, and two
hundred and forty prisoners of war.

Our loss was also heavy--fourteen dead and thirty wounded; among the
dead were Commandant Olivier from Bethlehem and Vice-Veldtcornet Jan
Dalebout from Harrismith; among the wounded was one of my own staff,
Gert de Wet. Later on two more died, one of them being Veldtcornet
Louwrens. I appointed Mr. A.J. Bester as Commandant in the place of
Commandant Olivier.

Besides one Armstrong and one Maxim-Nordenfeldt, our booty consisted of
twenty waggons, mostly ox-waggons, a great quantity of rifle and gun
ammunition, guns, tents, five hundred horses and mules, and one waggon
laden with spirits, so that the burghers, who were not averse to this,
could now satisfy their thirst.

The sun had hardly risen when the enemy opened fire from a mountain two
miles to the north-east of Groenkop, where there was a little camp with
one gun. If I still had had the same numbers as were with me at the
storming of Groenkop, then I could also have taken this little camp. But
it was not to be thought of, for some of my men had been sent away with
the waggons, and the others--well, every one had a horse that he had
taken from the English, and as these horses were in the pink of
condition for rapid retreat, I thought it wiser not to call upon the
burghers to attack. I ordered them, therefore, to go back after the
waggons, and in the evening we camped to the north of Bethlehem. From
here, on the following day, I sent the prisoners of war through
Naauwpoort into Basutoland.

On the same day I gave orders to General Michal Prinsloo to take the
commando and to strike a course between Reitz and Heilbron. I myself
paid a visit to President Steyn and General Wessel Wessels, after which
I put matters straight in our hospital at Bezuidenhoutsdrift, which was
under the charge of Dr. H.J. Poutsma.




CHAPTER XXXIV

I Cut my Way Through Sixty Thousand Troops


The English could not endure the thought that we had their guns in our
possession. And, accordingly, when General Michal Prinsloo came near the
Liebenbergsvlei, on the road between Reitz and Heilbron, he met a strong
force of the enemy which had come from Kroonstad. The English then had a
taste of what it was like to be under the fire of our artillery; and so
well did the gunners do their work that the enemy were forced to
retreat. This occurred shortly before sunset on the afternoon of the
28th of December.

But the forces in front of General Prinsloo were too strong for him, and
so when night came he marched past, and the following morning was twelve
miles to the south-west of them.

The enemy advanced against the position which General Prinsloo had
occupied the previous day, quite unaware that he was now in their rear.
In the meantime the General was watching their movements from behind,
and quietly enjoying their mistake.

I left the hospital that afternoon, and crossing the Liebenbergsvlei to
the rear of the English, I joined the Heilbron commando.

The following day the enemy retreated to the farm of Groenvlei, which
lies just to the north of Lindley. They remained there for a few days
awaiting large reinforcements.

"I quite understand your plan," I said to myself, as I set to work to
split up the great force which the enemy were concentrating. And with
this object in view I sent each Commandant to his own district,
believing that by dispersing my own men I should again induce the
English to divide their troops into smaller parties. Commandant Mears,
with his fifty men, I ordered to remain with the guns and the artillery,
and to guard them by very careful scouting.

In less than a fortnight seven large columns of the enemy were operating
in the district between Heilbron and Bethlehem and Harrismith. These
columns burnt all the houses within their reach, and those which had
been spared before were now given over to the flames. And not only were
the houses destroyed, but every head of cattle was taken.

Towards the end of January, 1902, still more columns arrived and a
"drive" began.

I remained in the neighbourhood until the 2nd of February and stationed
Commandant Mears with the guns to the east of the Wilge River. The
English formed a circle round him, but he succeeded in getting the guns
away in safety. When he was out of their clutches, I sent him orders to
bring the guns through the blockhouse line between Lindley and
Bethlehem, and then to push on towards Winburg.

It was my intention, on arriving there, to collect as rapidly as
possible a commando from the men of Bethlehem, Kroonstad, and Winburg,
and to attack the first column that gave me a chance of doing so.

Commandant Mears carried out my orders at once. A force of the enemy had
been waiting for him for three or four days at the farm of Fanny's Home,
on the Liebenbergsvlei. But before the sun had risen, a strong force
under Colonel Byng had surrounded him and forced him to abandon the
guns. And not only were the guns lost, but Captain Muller and thirteen
gunners were taken prisoner.

Thus the guns had not been of much benefit to us, for the English had
kept us so constantly on the move that it had been impossible to use
them.

The forces of the enemy between Harrismith and Vrede had formed a line
extending from the Harrismith-Bethlehem blockhouses to the blockhouses
between Vrede, Frankfort and Heilbron. And now the troops were advancing
in close contact with each other, hoping thus to force us against one or
other line of blockhouses.

Nearer and nearer they came, until at noon on February the 5th we saw
them to the east of Liebenbergsvlei. As I was watching their movements
from the top of Elandskop, I was informed by heliogram[102] from
Blaauwkop and Verkijkerskop that there was a cordon of the English from
Frankfort to a spot between Bethlehem and Lindley.

The intention of the enemy appeared to be to drive us against the
Heilbron-Kroonstad blockhouses and the railway line. We had therefore to
be prepared to fight our way through the blockhouses. And these, as I
found out lately, had been greatly strengthened.

On the 6th of February I was on the march, intending to advance to
Slangfontein, to the west of Heilbron. I sent orders to Commandants
Mentz, Van der Merwe, and Van Coller, to take a portion of Commandant
Bester's burghers, telling them to go to Slangfontein. For I hoped to
break through at some point or other that night.

Still nearer the enemy came, marching almost shoulder to shoulder.

The Commandants Van Coller and Van der Merwe did not go to Slangfontein.
They broke through the English columns near Jagersrust, and crossed the
Heilbron-Frankfort blockhouse line, where they put a few soldiers to
flight, not, however, without a loss of two burghers, who were killed.

Neither did the burghers under Veldtcornets Taljaart and Prinsloo
arrive. They preferred to go their own way--and all were captured with
the exception of twenty-eight men. But this misfortune was not due to
the blockhouses. On the contrary, they were taken prisoners when they
were attempting to hide themselves in small bodies. In this way more
than a hundred burghers fell into the hands of the English.

There were now with me Commandant Mentz, and portions of the commandos
of Commandants Bester, Cilliers, and Mears.

That afternoon we marched to a farm which was twelve miles from the
Lindley-Kroonstad line of blockhouses. When it was quite dark, we left
the farm with the intention of breaking through this line before
daybreak. There had been five or six hundred head of cattle with us,
but, without my being aware of it, they had gone astray in the darkness.

We intentionally left the path, because we thought that the English
would be most vigilant at points where paths crossed the line.

Suddenly we found ourselves at a wire fence. The darkness was so thick,
that it was only after we had cut the wire that we discovered that we
were close to a blockhouse. Although the house was not more than a
hundred paces from us, we could hear and see nothing. When we were some
four hundred paces on the other side of the line of the blockhouses, I
sent a burgher back to see if all the men and cattle had crossed
safely--for we were riding in a long trail, and amongst us were old men
and youngsters of only ten years, or even less. These boys would have
been taken away from their mothers had they stayed at home; and thus the
only way to keep them from captivity was to let them join the commandos.

The burgher soon returned, and told me that the whole commando and all
the cattle had crossed the line. Then I marched forward again.

At break of day we were close to the Valsch River. Here I made a short
halt, in order to allow the stragglers to come up. It was then that a
man came to me who had been riding far behind, and had thus not seen
that we had cut the wire. He was probably one of those who quite
needlessly feared a blockhouse line.

"General, when shall we come to the blockhouses?" he asked me.

"Oh! we are through long ago!" I answered.

It did not require any deep insight, I can assure you, to see how
delighted this burgher was that we were safely out of it!

We discovered now that the cattle had not crossed the line. When I
investigated the matter more closely, I found that they had gone astray
before we reached the blockhouses. But it was impossible to wait for
them, and there was nothing left but to proceed without them.

When we arrived at the Valsch River, there was a sound of shouting
behind us, and presently the cattle appeared coming over a rise. I heard
from the drivers that they had lost their way, and had only reached the
blockhouses at daylight. But they had succeeded in breaking through
under a fierce rifle fire. Twenty head of cattle had been killed or
wounded, and one of the men's horses had been shot under him.

The burghers who had accomplished this valiant deed were: Jan Potgieter,
Gert Potgieter, Jzoon, and Wessel Potgieter--all from the district of
Heilbron.

I have, myself, seen a report in an English paper of my breaking through
the blockhouse line. This paper declared that I had driven a great herd
of cattle in front of me to break down the fencing!... This is the way
the English write the reports.

This breaking through of my cattle inspired the English, at least so I
thought, to dig trenches everywhere. But they were again wrong; for
although a vehicle might have some difficulty before the trench was
filled in, no riders, pedestrians, or cattle would have been stopped for
a moment.

And now we marched on, till we reached a spot about fourteen miles to
the south of the blockhouse line; and there we remained for three days.

Whilst we were waiting here, I sent two burghers back to the blockhouse
line, to discover in what direction the English columns had marched, so
that I might know where I should go myself. Now, less than ever, was it
advisable to make night marches, for our horses were in a very poor
condition.

The day following I received a heliographic message from these burghers,
who were now on the other side of the line. They signalled that I could
come on with my commando, since the English columns had returned to
Kroonstad and Heilbron.

When night came I started on my way back. I did not go (as before) to
the east of Lindley, but to the farm of Palmietfontein, which lies to
the west. When we were close to the line, I sent some burghers in
advance to cut the wire. But this time there was a reception ready for
us, which we certainly would rather have been without! This was to be
ascribed to the fact that instead of only two scouts, as I had ordered,
about ten had gone to reconnoitre. So large a number had attracted the
attention of the enemy, and the guards had concentrated at the spot
where we wished to break through.

Thus before my commando reached the line a fierce fire was opened on it
from two sides. Yet notwithstanding this the wires were cut and we
reached the other side, but not without loss. One of my burghers was
killed, and one wounded. A boy of ten was also killed, and another of
seven severely wounded. We could not ascertain the losses of the enemy.

It was terrible that children should be exposed to such dangers; but, as
I have already said, if we had not taken them with us they would have
been captured. During the very "drive" I have just described, two
children who had remained at home with their mothers were taken
prisoner by the English. One of these was a boy of nine, the little son
of Jacobus Theron. Notwithstanding the prayers and entreaties of the
poor mother, he was torn from her and carried away. In the same way
another boy, twelve years old, whose name I do not know, was dragged
from his mother's arms.

The chronicling of such inexplicable cruelties I leave to other pens. I
have drawn attention to them to make it clear that it was not without
good cause that children joined the commandos. Some of these little ones
became a prey to the bullets of the enemy, and the South African soil is
stained by the blood of children slain by England.

With the exception of the sad incidents I have described, we came
through in safety.

I afterwards heard that Lord Kitchener had on this occasion gone to
Wolvehoek Station in order to see President Steyn and myself carried
away in the train to banishment! But his calculations were not
altogether correct.

A Higher Power had willed it otherwise.

The burghers had now returned to their own districts. I myself went to a
farm in the neighbourhood of Elandskop belonging to Mr. Hendrick
Prinsloo--the _rooije_.[103] After I had been there a few days I heard
that a strong column was approaching Lindley from Kroonstad. During the
night of the 17th of February this column attacked some burghers who
were posted less than four miles from Elandskop, with the object--as I
heard later--of catching me. And they would have been quite successful
in their attempt had I been sleeping in the house where their
information led them to believe they would find me. But as a matter of
fact, I seldom, if ever, slept in a house, for to tell the truth, there
were scarcely any houses left to sleep in! The women who had escaped
capture lived in narrow shelters, which had been made by placing
corrugated iron sheets on what was left standing of the walls that
remained.

I crossed the Liebenbergsvlei on the 18th of February, and proceeded to
the farm of Rondebosch, which stands to the north-east of Reitz. There I
met the Government.

And now another big "drive" took place. The English columns marched to
the south of the Kroonstad-Lindley blockhouse line in the direction of
Bethlehem. Other troops came from Heilbron, and advanced to the north of
the Heilbron-Frankfort line, driving Commandant Ross across this line to
the south.

Nearer and nearer these two great divisions approached each other, until
at last they stretched without any break from the Bethlehem-Lindley to
the Frankfort-Vrede line of blockhouses. On the 21st of February the
whole column moved towards Vrede and Harrismith.

It seemed to me that my best plan would be to go with President Steyn
and the Government to the Witkopjes, which lay between Harrismith and
Vrede, and then to break through the English columns near Vrede or
Harrismith, or, if it proved impossible to do so at these points, at
least to force a way through somewhere.

On this occasion we had a great deal more difficulty in escaping from
the English than we had had during the previous "drive." Not only had we
to deal with these large forces behind, but also with thousands of
troops which were now approaching from Villiersdorp, Standerton,
Volksrust, and Laingsnek, and which were extended across the country in
one continuous line. The whole cordon thus formed consisted, as the
English themselves acknowledge, of sixty thousand men.

And again on this occasion they did not attempt to drive us against one
or other of the blockhouse lines, but they came, column on column, from
all sides, and formed a big circle round us. They thus made it quite
apparent that they had lost all faith in their blockhouses.

I only received news of the approach of these reinforcements on the
evening of the 22nd of February, after they had passed the blockhouses.
The report was brought to me by Commandant Hermanus Botha, a party of
whose burghers had been driven across the Vrede-Frankfort line during
the previous night. I have already stated that some of the burghers
under Commandant Ross had shared the same experience, and now they were
retreating before the English. I also heard that Commandant Mentz had
gone eastwards, in the belief that the forces behind him would move to
the west, but that unfortunately the columns also moved to the east, so
that he jumped into the lion's mouth, which was only too ready to close!

We marched that night to Cornelius River, and the day following to Mr.
James Howell's farm at Brakfontein. It was my intention to break through
somewhere between Vrede and Bothaspas.

But my scouts brought me word in the evening that there was a very poor
chance of success in that neighbourhood, for the columns had
concentrated there. Other scouts, however, reported that there was a
small opening at Kalkkrans, on the Holspruit; and so I decided to march
to Kalkkrans.

When the sun had set I left Brakfontein and started on my road to
Kalkkrans, with the firm determination to force my way through there,
cost what it might. If I failed in the attempt I knew that it would mean
an irretrievable loss, for not only should I myself be captured, but
also President Steyn and the whole Government.

I had with me a portion of the Harrismith burghers, the commandos from
Vrede and Frankfort, and sections of the commandos from Standerton and
Wakkerstroom, these latter under Commandant Alberts. This Commandant had
come to these districts to obtain horses for his burghers; he was
obliged to be content with the wild horses of the veldt, for there were
no others to be had.

Beside the above burghers, I had with me old men and children, and
others who were non-combatants. These had joined the commando to escape
falling into the enemy's hands.

Altogether I had well-nigh two thousand persons with me. Commandant
Mentz was, like myself, enclosed in the "drive," but some distance away.
General Wessels, Commandant Beukes, and some of the Bethlehem burghers
were in the same predicament to the west of us. I did not know for
certain where these officers were placed, and therefore I could not
inform them of my plan to break through that night, for I had only come
to this determination after the sun had set. But I felt sure that they
would at all costs make their way through the cordon.[104]

Commandant Jan Meijer had met me at Brakfontein, but one party of his
burghers was still six miles to the south. When I decided to break
through, I sent him orders to follow me; and this he was quite capable
of doing, as he was well acquainted with this part of the country. My
orders were that the mounted men were to proceed in advance, taking with
them my little waggon drawn by eight mules.

This waggon had accompanied me into Cape Colony, and since that
time--for fourteen weary months--had never left me. I had even taken it
with me when, a fortnight previously, I had broken through the
blockhouse lines.

Behind the horsemen came the aged and the sick, who occupied the
remaining vehicles, and lastly the cattle, divided into several herds.

In this order we rode on.

When we were approaching the spot at which I expected to find the enemy,
I ordered Commandant Ross and one hundred men, with Hermanus Botha and
Alberts, and portions of their commandos, to go on ahead of us.

After passing through Holspruit we inclined to the west, as the road to
the east would, according to my scouts, have led us right into the
English camp. But it was not with one camp only that we had to deal: the
English were everywhere: a whole army lay before us--an army so immense
that many Englishmen thought that it would be a task beyond the stupid
and illiterate Boer to count it, much less to understand its
significance. I will pander to the English conception of us and say, "We
have seen them: they are a great big lot!"

We had hardly moved three hundred paces from where we had crossed
Holspruit, when the English, lined up about three hundred yards in front
of us, and opened fire. We saw that they did not intend our flight to be
an easy one.

Before we had reached the "spruit,"[105] and while crossing it, the
burghers had kept pushing ahead and crowds had even passed us, but the
enemy's fire checked them and they wheeled round.

Only the men under Commandants Ross, Botha, and Alberts did not waver.
These officers and their veldtcornets with less than one hundred men
stormed the nearest position of the enemy, who were occupying a fort on
the brow of a steep bank.

I shouted to my command: "Charge."

I exerted all my powers of persuasion to arrest the flight of my
burghers; even bringing the sjambok into the argument.

Two hundred and fifty were all that I could bring back to the fight,
whilst, as I have said, the Commandants had a hundred with them when
they charged; the rest, regardless of my attempts to stop them, fled.

I was also without my staff, some of whom had remained under the fire of
the enemy awaiting my orders as to what was to be done with my little
waggon. Others, amongst whom was my son Kootie, who was then acting as
my secretary, had followed me, but had got lost in the confusion of the
moment.

This confusion arose from the fact that the burghers imagined that they
had got through at the first attempt, but had found themselves again
fired at from the front. Meanwhile, I hurried to and fro, encouraging
the burghers in their attempts to break through. When thus engaged I
came across two of my staff, Albertus Theunissen and Burt Nissey. To
them I gave the order: "Get the waggon through at all costs." I also
found my son, Isaac, and kept him with me. The English now were firing
not only from in front but also on our right, and there was nothing for
it but to clear a road for ourselves, and this we eventually succeeded
in doing, and in about forty minutes had at last broken through.

The enemy had dug trenches, thirty to forty paces from each other, which
served as _schanzes_. In each of these trenches were placed ten to
thirty men. They had also a Maxim-Nordenfeldt, which, at first, kept up
a hot fire; but soon was silenced as the gunners were shot down. The
rest of the troops retired with the gun, but had to leave the caisson
behind them. It was evident to me from the way in which they fired that
the English were retreating, and so I dispatched two men to tell the
burghers, who had gone back, to come on; but this they did not do,
thinking perhaps that they could discover a safer route on the following
evening. This was short-sighted policy on their part, for the circle
within which they were caught was daily becoming narrower, and it was
plain that on the third day the enemy would be so close that all hope of
escape would be gone.

The two burghers did not return, and we went on without them, taking
with us our wounded--twelve in number. Two of these, whose injuries were
serious, had been placed by some of my staff on my waggon; one was Van
der Merwe, a member of President Steyn's bodyguard; the other was a boy
of thirteen years old, named Olivier.

We hurried on, and came, shortly after sundown, to the farm called
"Bavaria," on the Bothasberg. There Van der Merwe died.

The boy had already been relieved from his sufferings. Thus, once again,
the soil drank the blood of a child.

Eleven of my men were left dead on the battlefield. We had to leave them
there, for to recover their bodies might have meant the sacrifice of
more lives.

When the burghers and I forced our way through the storm of bullets, we
had with us President Steyn, the Members of the Government, and the Rev.
D. Kestell, minister of the Dutch Reformed Church at Harrismith.

The greater part of the English, indeed all of them, so far as we could
observe, remained, during the 24th, on the spot where we had left them.
We found out, later on, that we had broken through their lines at the
point where Colonel Rimington's force was stationed.

The following day the columns departed. We then went to bury our dead,
but found that the enemy had already done so. But as the graves which
they had made were very shallow, we dug them deeper.

During that night (the 25th) another force of burghers, to the number of
about three hundred and fifty, broke through the English cordon. Our men
only lost two killed, and eleven wounded.

Besides those already mentioned, the burghers under General Wessel
Wessels and Commandant Mentz were also among those who escaped of the
two thousand troops surrounded by the enemy.

With the others it fared but ill.

The English closed in, and the circle became narrower and narrower.

On the 27th of February, 1902--"Majuba Day"--Commandant Van Merwe and
four hundred men fell into the hands of the enemy.[106]

On that very day, in the year 1881, the famous battle of Majuba had been
fought. Nineteen years afterwards, on the same day of the same month, we
suffered a terrible defeat at Paardeberg, where we lost General Piet
Cronje and a great force of burghers.

And now the 27th of February had come round again, and this time it was
the twenty-first anniversary of Majuba that we were celebrating. The day
of our coming of age had thus arrived, if I may be allowed to say so.
But instead of the Republics now attaining their majority--as they
should have done, according to all precedent--_minority_ would have been
a more fitting word to describe the condition in which we now found
ourselves--for, through the losses which we had just sustained, we were
_minus_ not only a large number of burghers, but also an enormous
quantity of cattle, which ought to have served as food to our commandos
and families, but which the enemy had captured.

The cattle which had just been taken from us had formed the greater part
of our cattle in this district. We had always been able, until now, to
get them safely away; the unevenness of the veldt here was greatly in
our favour. This time we could not. How am I to explain the
inexplicable? _We had sinned--but not against England!_

[Footnote 102: We had heliographic communication between Elandskop and
Blaauwkop, which formed a connecting link between Bethlehem and Lindley;
and from Blaauwkop we had communication with Verkijkerskop. There was
also heliographic communication between Bethlehem and Lindley, and
Biddulphsberg, across the line of blockhouses.]

[Footnote 103: "Rooije" is the Taal for "red."]

[Footnote 104: In this I was correct. They contrived to break through
where the enemy were more scattered.]

[Footnote 105: Spruit--rivulet.]

[Footnote 106: Also my son, Jacobus (Kootie). He has now returned from
St. Helena, whither he had been sent as a prisoner, and we have met. He
tells me that on the night when I broke through, he wanted to come with
me, but was unable to do so, because his horse had been shot under
him.]




CHAPTER XXXV

I go to the Transvaal with President Steyn


On the 26th of February I went with the Government to Duminys Drift, on
the Wilge River, and we thus found ourselves again at the farm of
Rondebosch.

The Government remained there for a few days, and then President Steyn
decided to go into the western parts of the State, where Generals
Badenhorst and Nieuwouwdt were then operating. He thought that if he
absented himself from the north-eastern districts the English would
cease their devastations in that part of the country, for it was well
known that the enemy's concentration of forces was principally aimed at
the President and myself.

I, however, did not intend to follow his example, but, on the contrary,
got myself ready to join the Heilbron commando. By March 22nd all my
preparations were made, and I had, alas! to say farewell to my trusty
friend--my little waggon! I saw that it must be relinquished--that I
could not carry it about with me any longer. I left it at a farm, first
taking out my documents and papers; I ordered these to be concealed for
greater safety, in a cave on the farm of General Wessels.

The clothes and ammunition of myself and staff had been hidden in this
cave for some time.

The following day I joined President Steyn, who told me that he wished
me to accompany him in his march to the west. And although it did not
agree with my own ideas--principally, because I did not want the enemy
to think that I was running away from them--I consented to this plan,
and the more willingly because it was some time since I had visited the
western commandos.

It was a long journey that lay before us, and I had only the clothes
that I was then wearing. I would have sent for another suit had I not
heard that the enemy were encamped close to the cave where our treasures
lay hidden.[107]

I had therefore to do the best I could with what I had. There was no
clothing to be got in the western districts, so that when my present
outfit was worn out, I should be compelled to put on "khaki"--although
there was nothing I relished less than to rob a prisoner of war.

We started out that same evening in the direction of the railway line.
Our party consisted of about two hundred men, composed as follows: the
President, with his bodyguard of thirty men, under Commandant H. Van
Niekerk, the Government, Commandant Van de Merwe, of Vredefort, my staff
and myself.

Before daybreak we got through the Heilbron-Frankfort line of
blockhouses without accident; and on the following night (March 5th) we
crossed the railway line, between Wolvehoek and Viljoensdrift. Whilst we
were occupied there in cutting the telegraph wires, the enemy fired a
few rounds on us, at a distance of five hundred or six hundred paces. We
approached nearer, and they then opened fire with a Maxim--but without
doing any damage.

We continued on our road, past Parijs and Vredefort, towards Bothaville,
and we came upon a blockhouse line which extended from Kroonstad to the
Vaal River. We rested for two days, to the north of Bothaville; during
this time my scouts captured from the enemy eighteen horses, most of
which were in good condition.

On the night of March 12th we broke through the blockhouse line, some
five miles to the west of Bothaville. When we were about fifty paces
from the line, somebody to our left challenged us:

"Halt! Who goes there?"

He challenged us a second time, and then fired.

At once seven or eight sentries fired upon us. Shots also were directed
at us from the right. Nevertheless we cut through the barbed wire and
crossed in safety, the firing still continuing, until we were about
fifteen hundred paces on the far side of the line. Fortunately no one
was hit.

Having thus escaped from the last "White Elephant" that we should have
to reckon with, the next obstacle to be encountered was the Vaal River.
For the President, since we had crossed the Valsch River, had decided to
visit De la Rey, in order to place himself under medical advice. His
eyes had become very weak during the last fortnight or so, and he
thought that Dr. Van Rennenkampf might be able to do something for them.

Thus we had to cross the Vaal River.

But we heard that there was a military post at Commandodrift, where we
wanted to cross, and further, that all the other fords were occupied by
the English. We should have been in a great difficulty had not one of
our burghers, Pietersen, who knew this district thoroughly, brought us
across the river by a footpath ford.

We crossed on March 15th. The current was so strong that in places the
horses were almost swimming; in other places the river-bed was strewn
with huge boulders, over which our steeds had to climb. However, we all
managed to get safely over, and arrived at Witpoort on the evening of
the 16th. On the following day we joined General De la Rey.

It was a most interesting occasion. We had a hearty reception, several
impromptu "addresses" being presented to the President, who in turn
spoke to the burghers with much fire and enthusiasm. They were already
in the best of spirits, as they might well be, for their General had but
recently won victories over Von Donop and Lord Methuen.

Dr. Van Rennenkampf, having examined the President's eyes, said that he
must remain for some time under his care. Accordingly I left President
Steyn with De la Rey, and, on the third day after our arrival, set out
with my staff to join General Badenhorst, who was then in the
neighbourhood of Boshof. It was becoming more and more important that I
should see Badenhorst and Nieuwouwdt, and discuss with them how best
they might collect their forces, for I wished to be able to attack the
first English column that should enter the western district of the
State.

I had received reports that, with the exception of the garrison at
Boshof, the west, for the moment, was free from the enemy; and this
information caused me no surprise, for I could well believe that they
had just "packed up their trunks" in the north.

On the 25th of March I joined General Badenhorst on the Gannapan,[108]
thirty miles to the north-east of Boshof. I at once sent an express to
General Nieuwouwdt, ordering him to come to me with all speed, and to
bring about four hundred and fifty of his men with him. Meanwhile,
General Badenhorst received instructions from me to get all his
scattered commandos together.[109]

Before there had been time for these orders to be carried out I
received, on March 28th, a letter from President Steyn, giving me the
following information:

Mr. S.W. Burger, Vice-States President of the South African Republic,
had written to President Steyn, saying that he was at Kroonstad, and
that he wished to meet the Government of the Orange Free State. He also
said that a copy of the correspondence between the Governments of the
Queen of the Netherlands and of the King of England had been sent to him
by Lord Kitchener.

From this correspondence it appeared that the Netherlands Government
(considering the condition of affairs to be exceptional, in that the
Boers who were still fighting were unable to negotiate either with the
British Government or with the Deputation in Europe) felt justified in
offering to act as an intermediary. In this capacity they were prepared
to ask the Deputation if they were willing--supposing that a safe
conduct could be obtained from England--to go to South Africa, and
discuss matters with the Boers, in order to be able subsequently to
return to Europe, empowered to conclude a Treaty of Peace, which would
be binding both in South Africa and in Europe.

Lord Lansdowne, in the name of the British Government, replied that his
Government highly appreciated the humane intentions of the Government of
the Netherlands, but that they had made up their minds to abide by their
former decision, and not to accept any foreign intervention. Further,
that the Deputation could, if they wished, address a request for a safe
conduct to the British Government, but that the matter could not be
decided in England, until the precise nature of the request, and the
grounds on which it was preferred, were fully understood.

Lord Lansdowne also said that the British Government was not quite clear
as to whether the Deputation still retained any influence over the Boer
leaders in South Africa; that they thought that the power to negotiate
for the Orange Free State lay with President Steyn, and, for the
Transvaal, with President Burger; and that they considered that the most
satisfactory arrangement would be for the leaders of the Boers to
negotiate directly with the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in
South Africa, who had been ordered to transmit at once to the British
Government any offers or proposals which might be made to him.

Lord Lansdowne concluded by saying that, if the Boers wished to
negotiate, it must be in South Africa, and not in Europe. For, if the
Deputation were to go to South Africa, at least three months must elapse
before anything could be effected, and, as hostilities must continue
during this delay, much suffering would be caused.

Vice-President Burger went on to say that when he received a copy of
this correspondence he could only conclude that Lord Kitchener,
indirectly at least, if not directly, was asking the Boer leaders to
negotiate with him. Accordingly, he wrote to Lord Kitchener for a free
pass, and, having obtained it, came with his Government by rail to
Kroonstad. He now, accordingly, requested President Steyn to let him
know when and where the two Governments could meet. He also intimated
that he had written to Lord Kitchener, informing him that he
wished--after consulting the Government of the Orange Free State--to
make a Peace Proposal.

President Steyn told me that when the Free State Government received
this letter from President Burger, they had not been able to see their
way to refuse what the latter asked, as the promise of a Peace Proposal
had already been sent. They had regretted, however, that the Transvaal
Government had made use of a safe conduct, and gone through the English
lines--not that they had for one moment distrusted the Government--but
simply because the proceeding had seemed to have been ill-advised.
Nevertheless the Free State, finding itself not only obliged to discuss
the matters in question with the Transvaal, but also, conjointly with
the Transvaal, to make a Proposal to Lord Kitchener, had appointed a
place of meeting in accordance with the request which had been addressed
to it.

This was what I learnt from President Steyn's letter.

On the 5th of April the President received another letter from President
Burger, arranging that the meeting should take place at Klerksdorp. A
safe conduct for the President and Government of the Orange Free State
was sent at the same time.

[Footnote 107: Shortly afterwards I heard that it was Colonel
Rimington's column who were encamped there. They discovered the cave,
and removed the documents and wearing apparel, leaving me with only a
suit of clothes--which I should have liked to preserve as a curiosity!]

[Footnote 108: A salt lake.]

[Footnote 109: Commandant Jacobsz was somewhere not very far from
Kimberley; Commandant Bester, close to Brandfort; Commandant Jacobus
Theron, near Smaldeel; Commandant Flemming, near Hoopstad; and
Commandant Pieter Erasmus, near the Gannapan.]




CHAPTER XXXVI

Peace Negotiations


General De la Rey, who, as a Member of the Transvaal Government, had to
be present at the coming deliberations, accompanied the President to
Klerksdorp, where they arrived on the 9th of April, and found the
Transvaal Government already there awaiting them.

The two Governments held their first meeting in the afternoon
of the same day. The South African Republic was represented
by:--Vice-States-President S.W. Burger; Commandant-General Louis Botha;
Secretary of State F.W. Reitz; General De la Rey; Ex-General L.J.
Meijer; and Mr. J.B. Krogh. Although not a member of the Government, the
States-Procureur, L. Jacobsz, was also present.

On behalf of the Orange Free State appeared:--States-President M.T.
Steyn; Commander-in-Chief C.R. de Wet; Vice-Commander-in-Chief Judge
J.B.M. Hertzog; States-Secretary W.J.C. Brebner; and General C.H.
Olivier.

It was decided that no minutes should be taken. Accordingly, I am only
able to give a summary of the proceedings.

The meeting having been opened with prayer, the Vice-President of the
South African Republic said that the fact that Lord Kitchener had sent
in a copy of the correspondence between the Governments of the
Netherlands and England, was looked upon by himself and his Government
as an invitation on the part of England to the two States to discuss the
matter dealt with in that correspondence, and to see if peace could not
be concluded. Before, however, the meeting could make a proposal, it
would be necessary to hear what the state of affairs really was.

Thereupon, firstly, Commandant-General Louis Botha, then I, and lastly,
General De la Rey, gave a report of how matters stood.

President Burger now asked whether an interview with Lord Kitchener
should be asked for, and (in case Lord Kitchener acceded to this) what
we were to demand, and what we should be prepared to sacrifice. He went
on to ask President Steyn what he thought of the proposal which the
Transvaal had made to the Free State Government in the October of the
previous year.

President Steyn answered that he was still of the same opinion as in
June, 1901, when the two Governments had agreed to stand by
Independence. If the English now refused to grant Independence, then the
war must continue. He said that he would rather surrender to the English
unconditionally than make terms with them.

The remainder of the day was occupied in listening to speeches from
State-Secretary Reitz and President Burger.

On the following day the speakers were:--L.J. Meijer, J.B. Krogh,
myself, State-Secretary Reitz, and Judge Hertzog. The last-named made a
proposal, which was seconded by General C.H. Olivier. This proposal,
after it had been subjected for revision to a Commission, consisting of
the two Presidents, Mr. Reitz, and Judge Hertzog, was accepted on the
following day. It ran as follows:--

     "The Governments of the South African Republic and of the Orange
     Free State, having met, induced thereto by the receipt, from His
     Excellency Lord Kitchener, of the correspondence exchanged in
     Europe between the Government of His Majesty the King of England,
     and that of Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands, referring to
     the desirability of giving to the Governments of these Republics an
     opportunity to come into communication with their plenipotentiaries
     in Europe, who still enjoy the trust of both Governments:

     "And taking into consideration the conciliatory spirit which, as it
     appears from this correspondence, inspires the Government of His
     Britannic Majesty, and also of the desire therein uttered by Lord
     Lansdowne, in the name of his Government, to make an end to this
     strife:

     "Are of opinion that it is now a favourable moment to again shew
     their readiness to do everything possible to bring this war to an
     end:

     "And decide, therefore to make certain proposals to His Excellency
     Lord Kitchener, as representative of the Government of His
     Britannic Majesty, which may serve as a basis for further
     negotiations, having in view the achievement of the desired peace.

     "Further, it is the opinion of these two Governments that, in order
     to expedite the achievement of the desired aim, and to prevent, as
     far as possible, any misunderstanding, His Excellency Lord
     Kitchener should be asked to meet personally these Governments at a
     time and place by him appointed, so that the said Governments may
     lay before him Peace Proposals (as they will be prepared to do), in
     order that, by direct conversation and discussion with him, all
     such questions as shall arise may be solved at once, and also that
     this meeting may further and bring about the desired result."

A letter was now written to Lord Kitchener (who was at Pretoria)
enclosing the above Proposal, and signed by the two Presidents.

In the afternoon the two Governments met again, to consider what
proposals they should make to the British Government. After a lengthy
discussion, it was decided, on the proposal of General De la Rey,
seconded by States-Procureur L. Jacobsz, that the matter in hand should
be entrusted to the Commission, which consisted, as I have already said,
of the two Presidents, States-Secretary Reitz, and Judge Hertzog: and
the next morning this Commission handed in the following report, which
was accepted by the meeting:--

     "The Commission, after having taken into consideration the wish of
     the meeting, namely, that proposals should be drafted (in connexion
     with the letter of yesterday, signed by the two Presidents, to His
     Excellency Lord Kitchener) for eventual consideration by His
     Excellency Lord Kitchener, proposes the following points:--

     "1. The concluding of a Treaty of Friendship and Peace, including:

       "(_a_) Arrangements _re_ a Customs Union.

       "(_b_)      "       _re_ Post, Telegraph and Railway Union.

       "(_c_) Granting of the Franchise.

     "2. Demolition of all States Forts.

     "3. Arbitration in any future differences which may arise between
     the contracting parties; the arbitrators to be nominated in equal
     numbers from each party from among their own subjects; the said
     arbitrators to add one to their number, who is to have the casting
     vote.

     "4. Equal rights for the English and Dutch languages in the schools.

     "5. Reciprocal amnesty."

The same morning a letter enclosing this proposal was sent to Lord
Kitchener, after which Judge Hertzog and Commander Louis Botha addressed
the meeting.

After the latter had finished an address of great importance, General
Wilson, who had the command at Klerksdorp, entered the room where the
meeting was being held and stated that Lord Kitchener was prepared to
grant us an interview, and that we could travel to Pretoria that very
evening.

Accordingly, on the evening of the 11th of April, we went to Pretoria,
where, on the following morning, we met Lord Kitchener and handed in our
proposal.

Lord Kitchener wished for a proposal of a very different character from
that of the two Governments; but as it would not have been proper for
them to make any proposal injurious to Independence, the Presidents
declared that they could not do so, and asked him to send to the English
Government the proposal which they had already laid before him. Lord
Kitchener at last acceded to this request, and the following telegram
was accordingly sent to England:

     FROM LORD KITCHENER TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE.

     "PRETORIA, _April 12th, 1902_.

     "The Boer Representatives desire to acquaint His Majesty's
     Government with the fact that they entertain an earnest wish for
     peace, and that they, therefore, have decided to ask the British
     Government to bring hostilities to an end, and to proceed to
     formulate a Treaty of Peace. They are ready to accept an Agreement,
     by which, in their opinion, all future wars between them and the
     British Government in South Africa may be avoided. They think that
     this aim can be attained if provisions are made in relation to the
     following points:--

     "1. Franchise.

     "2. Equal rights for the Dutch and English languages in Educational
     matters.

     "3. Customs Union.

     "4. Demolition of all the forts in the Transvaal and Free State.

     "5. Arbitration in case of future disagreements, and only subjects
     of the parties to be arbitrators.

     "6. Mutual amnesty.

     "But in case these terms should not be satisfactory, then they wish
     to know what terms the British Government will give them, so that
     the result which they all desire may be attained."

On Monday, April 15th, Lord Kitchener sent to the two Governments a copy
of the following telegram, which he had received from the Secretary of
State:--

     FROM SECRETARY OF STATE TO LORD KITCHENER.

     "LONDON, _April 13th, 1902_.

     "His Majesty's Government shares with all its heart in the earnest
     wish of the Boer Representatives, and trusts that the present
     negotiations will lead thereto. But they have already declared in
     the clearest manner and have to repeat that they cannot take into
     consideration any proposals which have as basis the sanction of the
     Independence of the former Republics, which are now formally
     annexed to the British Crown. And it would be well if you and
     Milner were to meet the Boer Representatives, and make this plain
     to them. You must encourage them to make fresh proposals which we
     will willingly receive."

In this telegram, as the reader will have observed, the name of Lord
Milner is mentioned. Up till now we were dealing with Lord Kitchener
alone, but at our next conversation the first-named was also present.

Both Representatives of the British Government insisted that we should
negotiate with them, taking the surrender of our Independence for
granted. We could not do so. We had repeatedly told Lord Kitchener that,
constitutionally, it was beyond the power of our Governments to discuss
terms based on the giving up of Independence. Only the nation could do
that. Should however, the British Government make a proposal which had,
as a basis, the temporary withdrawal only of the Independence, then we
would lay this proposal before the nation.

Thereupon the following telegram was drawn up and dispatched:--

     FROM LORD KITCHENER TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE.

     "PRETORIA, _April 14th, 1902_.

     "A difficulty has arisen in connexion with the negotiations. The
     representatives declare that, constitutionally, they are not
     entitled to discuss terms which are based on the surrender of their
     independence, as the burghers alone can agree to such a basis. If,
     however, His Majesty's Government can propose terms by which their
     independence shall be subsequently given back to them, the
     representatives, on the matter being fully explained to them, will
     lay such conditions before the people, without giving expression to
     their own opinions."

The reply to this was as follows:--

     FROM THE SECRETARY OF STATE TO LORD KITCHENER.

     "LONDON, _April 16th_.

     "With great astonishment we have received the message from the Boer
     leaders, as contained in your cable. The meeting was arranged in
     accordance with their desires, and they must have been aware, from
     our repeated declarations, that we should not be prepared to
     consider any proposal based on the revival of the independence of
     the two South African States. We, therefore, were justified in
     believing that the Boer representatives had abandoned all idea of
     Independence, and that they would make terms for the surrender of
     the forces still in the Veldt. They now declare that they are not
     constitutionally in a position to discuss any terms which do not
     include the restoration of their Independence, but they ask what
     conditions would be made if, after consulting their followers, they
     should abandon the claim for Independence. This does not seem to us
     a satisfactory way of expediting the end of the hostilities which
     have caused the loss of so many lives and so much money. We are,
     however, as we said before, desirous of preventing any further
     bloodshed and of accelerating the restoration of peace and
     prosperity in the countries harassed by the war, and we empower you
     and Lord Milner to refer the Boer leaders to the offer made by you
     to General Botha more than twelve months ago, and to inform them
     that--although the great decrease which has lately taken place in
     the forces opposed to us, and also the further sacrifices involved
     by the refusal of that offer, would justify us in dictating harder
     terms--we are still prepared, in the hope of a lasting peace and
     reconciliation, to accept a general surrender in the spirit of that
     offer, with such amendments with regard to details as might be
     agreed upon mutually."

It was quite self-evident that the Governments could not accept this
proposal of the British Government, because by it the independence of
the Republics would be sacrificed.

President Steyn pointed out emphatically that it lay beyond our right to
decide and conclude anything that would endanger the independence of the
two Republics. The nation alone could decide on the question of
independence. For this reason, therefore, we asked if we might consult
the people, and it was agreed by Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner that we
should go back to our commandos and hold meetings in every district, in
order to learn thus the will of the nation. It was further agreed that
at the meetings of the nation representatives should be chosen who, on
the 15th of May, 1902, at Vereeniging, should inform the Governments
what course the nation desired them to take.

On the 18th of April Commandant-General Louis Botha, General De la Rey,
and I left Pretoria, provided with a safe conduct for ourselves and for
anyone whom we should appoint, and proceeded to our different commandos.

I went first to the burghers of Vrede at Prankop, where I met General
Wessel Wessels with his commandos on the 22nd of April. The nation was
in a very miserable condition, suffering from the want of all
necessaries, and living only on meat and maize, which food was also
exceedingly scarce, and would only last for a few months more.
Notwithstanding this, the burghers decided, to a man, that they would
not be satisfied with anything less than independence, and that if the
English would not accede to this they would continue to fight.

Mr. Wessel Wessels, Member of the Volksraad, was elected as chairman,
and Mr. Pieter Schravezander as secretary. The representatives chosen
were Commandants A. Ross, Hermanus Botha, and Louis Botha (son of Philip
Botha).

My second meeting I held at Drupfontein, in the district of Bethlehem,
on the 24th of April, with the burghers under the command of Commandants
Frans Jacobsz, Mears, and Bruwer. Mr. J.H. Naude was made chairman, and
Landdrost J.H.B. Wessels secretary. It was unanimously decided that
independence had to be maintained, and Commandants Frans Jacobsz and
Bruwer were chosen as representatives.

The next meeting I held on the 26th of April, at Tweepoort Farm, with
the commandos under General Michal Prinsloo. Mr. Jan Van Schalkwijk was
chosen as chairman, and Mr. B.J. Malan as secretary. Here also the votes
were unanimous, and General Michal Prinsloo, Commandant Rautenbach, and
Commandant J.J. Van Niekerk were elected as representatives.

After that on Roodekraal Farm. I met the burghers under Commandants
Cilliers, Bester, Mentz, and Van Coller. The chairman was B.W. Steyn
(Member of the Volksraad), and the secretary Mr. S.J.M. Wessels. Here
again it was unanimously decided not to surrender the independence, and
Commandants Mentz, Van Coller and Bester were the representatives
chosen.

The fifth meeting I held with the commandos under General Johannes
Hattingh, on the 1st of May, on the Weltevrede Farm, under the
chairmanship of Mr. Jan Lategan, Johannes C. Pietersen being secretary.
As representatives we chose General Hattingh and Commandant Philip De
Vos. The voting was unanimous that the independence should be
maintained.

On the 3rd of May I held my sixth meeting, with the commandos under
General C.C. Froneman, at Schaapplaats. Mr. Jan Maree was chairman, and
Mr. David Ross secretary.

The result was the same as at the other meetings, and General Froneman,
Commandants F. Cronje and J.J. Koen were chosen to represent the
commandos.

From there I went to Dewetsdorp, where I met, on the 5th of May, General
George Brand's commandos. Mr. C. Smith acted as chairman, and Mr. W.J.
Selm as secretary; the representatives chosen were General Brand and
Commander J. Rheeder; and the burghers were equally determined to keep
their independence.

I went on to Bloemfontein, and thence by rail to Brandfort, and
afterwards to the Quaggashoek Farm, where, on the 11th, I held my eighth
meeting, with the commandos of C.C.J. Badenhorst. The chairman was Mr.
N.B. Gildenhuis, and the secretary Mr. H.M.G. Davis. The elected
representatives were General Badenhorst and Commandants A.J. Bester and
Jacobsz. This was my last meeting, and it also decided on maintaining
the independence.

The commandos under the Commandants Van der Merwe and Van Niekerk
(Vredefort and Parijs), Flemming (Hoopstad), Nagel (part of Kroonstad),
and General Nieuwouwdt (Fauresmith, Philippolis, and Jacobsdal), were
visited by Commander-in-Chief Judge Hertzog, Member of the Executive
Council. At meetings held with these commandos the following
representatives were chosen:--General Nieuwouwdt, and the Commandants
Munnik Hertzog, J. Van der Merwe, C. Van Niekerk, Flemming, A.J. Bester,
F. Jacobsz, H. Pretorius, and Veldtcornet Kritzinger.

At these meetings also the burghers were unanimous in their decision not
to give up their independence. I must add that Commandant H. Van Niekerk
was chosen as representative of the bodyguard of President Steyn. It had
been agreed with Lord Kitchener at Pretoria that if the chief officers
of a commando were chosen as representatives, then there would be an
armistice between this commando and the English during the time the
officers were absent at the meeting at Vereeniging. It was also decided
that Lord Kitchener should be informed of the date of the departure of
such officers.

This was done. I sent the following telegram on the 25th of April to
Pretoria:--

     "TO HIS EXCELLENCY, HEADQUARTERS, PRETORIA:

     "At meetings held in the districts of Vrede and Harrismith and in
     that part of Bethlehem east and north-east of the blockhouse lines
     of Fouriesburg, Bethlehem, and Harrismith, General Wessels and the
     Commandants were duly chosen as representatives.

     "I have decided that all the representatives shall leave their
     different commandos on the 11th of May, and therefore, in
     accordance with our mutual agreement, I shall expect an armistice
     to be granted to the different commandos from that date until the
     return of their commandants from the meeting at Vereeniging, on or
     about the 15th of May.

     "I should be glad to receive Your Excellency's sanction to my
     request that each Representative should have the right to take one
     man with him.

     "Your Excellency will greatly oblige by sending a reply to
     Kaffirsdorp in the district of Bethlehem, where I am awaiting an
     answer.

     "C.R. DE WET,
        General Commander-in-Chief, Orange Free State.
          BETHLEHEM, _April 25th, 1902_."

To this I received the following answer from Lord Kitchener:--

     "IMPERIAL RESIDENCY, PRETORIA,
         _April 25th, 1902_.

     "TO GENERAL DE WET, KAFFIRSDORP.

     "In answer to your message, I agree altogether with your demands
     that during the absence of the chosen Representatives from their
     commandos, from the 11th of May until their return, such commandos
     shall not be troubled by us. I also agree that every
     Representative, as you propose, shall be accompanied by one man.

     "I shall also be glad if you would send an officer, at least two
     days before the Meeting, in order to let me know about the number,
     and the necessary arrangements for the treatment of the
     Representatives at this Meeting.

     (Signed) "KITCHENER."

On the 11th of May I sent a telegram to Lord Kitchener, in which I said
that, as all my generals and chief officers had been chosen as
Representatives, the armistice must begin on the 11th of May. The
telegram was as follows:--

     FROM GENERAL DE WET TO HIS EXCELLENCY LORD KITCHENER.

     "PRETORIA, _May 11th, 1902_.

     "The following chief officers have been chosen as Representatives
     for the commandos of the districts: Hoopstad, Boshof, and parts of
     Winburg and Bloemfontein,--districts to the west of the railway
     line.

     "1. General C. Badenhorst.

     "2. Commandant J. Jacobsz.

     "3. Commandant A. Bester.

     "It thus appears that all my generals and chief commanding officers
     are chosen as Representatives to attend at the Meeting of
     Vereeniging, on the 15th inst., and according to our mutual
     agreement at Pretoria, an armistice will be given from to-day (11th
     May, 1902) in all districts of the Orange Free State up to a date
     which shall be agreed upon after the close of the Meeting at
     Vereeniging. Any answer, previous to noon of the 11th inst., will
     reach me at Brandfort.

     "Commander-in-Chief,
        Orange Free State Armies."

In answer to this I received the following telegram:--

     "IMPERIAL RESIDENCY, PRETORIA,
         _May 12th_.

     "TO GENERAL DE WET, BRANDFORT.

     "I have given orders, according to our Agreement, that from
     to-morrow, the 13th inst., all commandos, whose leaders or chief
     officers have been chosen to attend the Meeting at Vereeniging,
     shall be exempted from being attacked by my columns during the
     absence of their leaders, in so far as such commandos withhold from
     offensive operations. But that does not imply that outposts cannot
     be taken prisoner in case they should approach our lines.

     "KITCHENER."

It was rather surprising to me that Lord Kitchener, in this telegram,
spoke only of an armistice beginning on the 13th of May, because in his
telegram of the 25th he had agreed that there should be an armistice
from the 11th of May. I heard also from officers of Heilbron, Vrede,
and Bethlehem, whom I met, on the evening of the 14th of May, at
Wolvehoek Station, that the English columns had operated in their
districts on the 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th. My order was that my
officers should not operate, but should retreat, if the enemy should
unexpectedly operate on the 11th. On the above-mentioned dates houses
were burnt down, cattle carried away, maize and other grain destroyed,
burghers taken prisoner, and (in one instance) shot.

Such a misunderstanding was very regrettable, and all the more so
because we were never indemnified for the damage thus done.




CHAPTER XXXVII

The End of the War


On the morning of the 15th of May, I arrived at Vereeniging with some of
the Free State delegates. The others were already there, together with
the thirty Transvaal delegates, Commandant-General Louis Botha and
General De la Rey. In addition to the above, the following had also
arrived: Vice-State President Burger, States-President Steyn, the
members of the two Governments, and General J.C. Smuts (from Cape
Colony).

I was exceedingly sorry to find that President Steyn was seriously ill.
For the last six weeks he had been in the doctor's hands; and, since his
arrival at Pretoria, had been under the care of Dr. Van der Merwe, of
Krugersdorp. This physician said that serious consequences might ensue
if his patient were to attend our meetings, and advised him to go to his
home at Krugersdorp, where he could be properly nursed. It was sad for
us to receive this news immediately we arrived. We asked ourselves what
we should do without the President at our meetings? At this moment he
seemed more indispensable to us than ever before.

President Steyn was a statesman in the best sense of the word. He had
gained the respect and even the affection of us all. Of him, if of any
man, it may be said that he never swerved from his duty to his country.
No task was too great for him, no burden too heavy, if thereby he could
serve his people. Whatever hardships he had endured, he had never been
known to complain--he would endure anything for us. He had fought in our
cause until he could fight no longer, until sickness laid him low; and
he was worn out, and weak as a child. _Weak_, did I say? Yes! but only
in the body--his mind was still as strong, as brave, as clear as ever.

And thus it was that President Steyn was only able to be present on two
occasions at our meetings; for, on the 29th of May--before the National
Representatives had come to any decision--he went with Dr. Van der Merwe
to Krugersdorp.

As I write these lines--six months after the meetings at
Vereeniging--and think that during all the intervening time he has been
lying on a bed of sickness--I am cheered by the news which I received in
Holland that hopes are now entertained of his ultimate recovery.

The National Representatives began their important deliberations on the
morning of the 13th of May, 1902.

For three days we discussed the condition of our country, and then
proceeded with Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner to Pretoria. This
Commission was composed of Commandant-General L. Botha,
Commander-in-Chief C.R. de Wet, Vice-Commandant-General J.H. De la Rey,
Vice-Commander-in-Chief Judge J.B.M. Hertzog, and States-Procureur J.C.
Smuts.

The negotiations with the representatives of the British Government
continued from the 18th to the 29th of May; and upon their conclusion
the Commission communicated to the National Representatives the terms on
which England was prepared to conclude peace.

On May the 31st we decided to accept the proposals of the English
Government.[110] The Independence of the two Republics was at an end!

I will not attempt to describe the struggle it cost us to accept these
proposals. Suffice it to say that when it was over, it had left its mark
on every face.

There were sixty of us there, and each in turn must answer Yes or No. It
was an ultimatum--this proposal of England's.

What were we to do? To continue the struggle meant extermination.
Already our women and children were dying by the thousand, and
starvation was knocking at the door--and knocking loudly!

In certain districts, such as Boshof and Hoopstad, it was still possible
to prolong the war, as was also the case in the districts of Generals
Brand and Nieuwouwdt, where the sheep and oxen, which had been captured
from the enemy, provided an ample supply of food. But from the
last-named districts all the women and children had departed, leaving
the burghers free to wander at will in search of food--to Boshof, to
Hoopstad, and even into the Colony.

In other parts of the Free State things were very different. In the
north-eastern and northern districts--for instance, in Ladybrand,
Winburg, Kroonstad, Heilbron, Bethlehem, Harrismith and Vrede--there
were still many families, and these could not be sent to Boshof or to
Hoopstad or to the Colony. And when, reduced to dire want, the commandos
should be obliged to abandon these districts, their wives and families
would have to be left behind--to starve!

The condition of affairs in the Transvaal was no better. We
Free-Staters had thought--and I, for one, had supported the view at
Vereeniging--that, before sacrificing our independence, we ought to tell
the owners of these farms, where there were still women and children, to
go and surrender with their families, and thus save them from
starvation. But we soon realized that such a course was not
practicable--it would involve the loss of too many burghers.

Moreover, even if, by some such scheme as this, we had succeeded in
saving the women, we, who remained in the field, would still have been
exposed to the dangers of starvation, for many of us, having no horses,
could not have left want behind us, by removing to Cape Colony or some
other equally prosperous region.

In the large eastern divisions of the Transvaal also, there were many
burghers without horses, while the poor jaded creatures that remained
were far too feeble and exhausted to carry their masters into Cape
Colony, without the certainty of being captured by the enemy.

Our forces were now only twenty thousand in all, of which the Transvaal
supplied ten thousand, the Free State six thousand, while the remainder
came from Cape Colony. But our numerical weakness would not in itself
have caused us to abandon the struggle had we but received encouraging
news from the Colony. But alas! reports which we received from there
left us no room for hope.

No room for hope! that was the message of Vereeniging--a message which
struck a chill in every heart. One after another we painted the
destitution, the misery of our districts, and each picture was more
gloomy than the last. At length the moment of decision came, and what
course remained open to us? This only--to resign ourselves to our fate,
intolerable though it appeared, to accept the British proposal, and to
lay down our arms.

Most bitter of all was the thought that we must abandon our brethren in
Cape Colony and in Natal, who had thrown in their lot with ours. And
many a sleepless night has this caused me. But we could not help
ourselves. There was nothing else to do.

And as things have turned out, may we not hope that the Cape and Natal
Governments, following in the wake of the British Nation, will soon
understand that the wiser course is to forgive and forget, and to grant
as comprehensive an amnesty as possible? It is surely not unjust to
expect this of these Governments, when one remembers that whatever the
Colonists may have done, must be ascribed to the tie that binds them to
us--the closest of all ties--that of blood.

It is now for the two Governments to strive to realize the situation,
and then, by granting a general amnesty, to promote, as far as in them
lies, the true progress of South Africa.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the evening of the 31st of May, 1902, the members of the Government
of both Republics met Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner, in the former's
house, at Pretoria.

It was there that the Treaty of Peace--the British Proposal which the
National Representatives had accepted--was now to be signed.

It was a never-to-be-forgotten evening. In the space of a few short
minutes that was done which could never be undone. A decision arrived at
in a meeting could always be taken into reconsideration, but a document
solemnly signed, as on that night, by two parties, bound them both for
ever.

Every one of us who put his name to that document knew that he was in
honour bound to act in accordance with it. It was a bitter moment, but
not so bitter as when, earlier on the same day, the National
Representatives had come to the decision that the fatal step must be
taken.

On the 2nd June, 1902, the Representatives left Vereeniging, and
returned every man to his own commando. It was now their sad duty to
tell their brave and patient burghers that the independence which they
cherished so dearly was gone, and to prepare them to surrender their
arms at the appointed places.

I left Pretoria on the 3rd of June with General Elliott, who had to
accompany me to the various centres to receive the burghers' arms.

On the 5th of June the first commando laid down their weapons near
Vredefort. To every man there, as to myself, this surrender was no more
and no less than the sacrifice of our independence. I have often been
present at the death-bed and at the burial of those who have been
nearest to my heart--father, mother, brother and friend--but the grief
which I felt on those occasions was not to be compared with what I now
underwent at the burial of my Nation!

It was at Reitz that the commandos of Vrede, Harrismith, Heilbron and
Bethlehem laid down their arms. Accordingly I went there on the 7th of
June, and again had to be a spectator of what I fain would never have
witnessed. Had I then to go on from commando to commando, to undergo
everywhere the martyrdom of beholding ceaseless surrenders? No! I had
had enough, and could bear no more. I decided, therefore, to visit all
the other commandos, in order to acquaint the burghers with what had
taken place, and to explain to them why we, however unsatisfactory the
Peace Proposal was, had felt bound to accept it, and then to leave each
commando before the men handed over their arms to General Elliott.
Everywhere I found the men utterly despondent and dissatisfied.

The whole miserable business came to an end on the 16th of June, when
the burghers who had fought under Generals Nieuwouwdt and Brand, laid
down their arms--the Nation had submitted to its fate!

There was nothing left for us now but to hope that the Power which had
conquered us, the Power to which we were compelled to submit, though it
cut us to the heart to do so, and which, by the surrender of our arms,
we had accepted as our Ruler, would draw us nearer and ever nearer by
the strong cords of love.

       *       *       *       *       *

To my Nation I address one last word.

Be loyal to the new Government! Loyalty pays best in the end. Loyalty
alone is worthy of a Nation which has shed its blood for Freedom!

[Footnote 110: A complete report of the various proceedings in connexion
with the conclusion of peace will be found in the Appendix of this
book.]




CORRESPONDENCE


A LETTER FROM THE STATES-SECRETARY OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN REPUBLIC TO THE
BRITISH AGENT AT PRETORIA

     MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS,
       PRETORIA, _9th October, 1899_.

     SIR,--

     The Government of the South African Republic feel themselves
     compelled to again refer the Government of Her Majesty, the Queen
     of Great Britain, to the London Convention of 1884, concluded
     between this Republic and the United Kingdom, which in Article XIV.
     guarantees certain specified rights to the white inhabitants of
     this Republic, to wit:--

     "All those who, although not born in this Country, yet abide by the
     laws of the South African Republic, (_a_) shall have full freedom
     to come with their families into, to travel in, or to reside in any
     part of the South African Republic; (_b_) shall be entitled to hold
     in possession their houses, factories or warehouses, shops, and
     allotments, either on hire or as their own property; (_c_) may
     transact their business, either in person or through agents, to
     their own satisfaction; (_d_) shall not be subjected to any other
     general or local taxation--with regard to their families or
     properties, or their commerce or trade--than those which shall be
     laid on the burghers of the said Republics."

     Our Government wishes also to draw attention to the fact that the
     above-mentioned rights are the only ones which Her Majesty's
     Government, in the above-mentioned Convention, has stipulated for
     the foreign inhabitants in this Republic, and that only
     contravention of these rights can give the British Government the
     right of diplomatic intervention; whereas, further, the adjustment
     of all other questions concerning the position, or the rights, of
     the foreign inhabitants under the said Convention is vested in the
     Government and National Representatives of the South African
     Republic; among the questions the adjustment of which comes
     exclusively under the authority of the Government and the
     Volksraad, are those of the Franchise and representation in this
     Republic.

     Although, therefore, the exclusive right of this Franchise and
     representation is indisputable, our Government has approved of
     discussing in a friendly way the Franchise and the representation
     with Her Majesty's Government; without, however, acknowledging by
     so doing any right thereto on the side of Her Majesty's Government.
     Our Government has also, by the wording of the already existing
     Voting Law, and the decision concerning the representation, always
     kept this friendly consultation in view.

     On the side of Her Majesty's Government, however, the friendly
     manner of these consultations has made way for a more threatening
     tone; and the minds of the people of this Republic, and of the
     whole population of South Africa, have been brought into a state of
     apprehension; and a state of unusual tension has been created by
     the action of Her Majesty's Government, in no longer abiding by the
     laws concerning the voting right, and the decision concerning the
     representation of this Republic; and lastly, as is expressed in
     your letter of the 25th of September, 1899, in breaking off all
     friendly communication, giving us to understand that Her Majesty's
     Government were about to formulate their own proposals for final
     arrangement. Our Government can see in the before-mentioned
     notification nothing less than a new violation of the Convention of
     1884, which does not reserve to Her Majesty's Government the right
     of a one-sided adjustment of a question which belongs exclusively
     to the inner policy of our Government, and has been already settled
     by them.

     On the grounds of the tension, the considerable loss arising
     therefrom, and the interruption of business in general, which is
     caused by the correspondence on the Franchise and the
     representation of this Republic, Her Majesty's Government has not
     long ago insisted on a speedy adjustment, and finally, through your
     intervention, insisted on an answer--within forty-eight
     hours--(later on somewhat amended)--to your Memorandum of the 12th
     of September, which was answered by the Memorandum of our
     Government of the 15th of September, and by the Memorandum of the
     25th of September, 1899; on which other friendly negotiations were
     interrupted, and our Government received notice that the proposal
     for final arrangement would be made within a short time; but
     although these promises were repeated, no such proposal has as yet
     reached our Government. When the friendly correspondence was still
     going on, a great increase of troops was made by Her Majesty's
     Government, which troops were drawn up in the neighbourhood of the
     frontiers of our Republic. Taking into consideration certain events
     in the history of our Republic, which events need not here be
     recited, our Government found themselves compelled to look upon the
     Army in the neighbourhood of the frontier as a threat to the
     independence of the South African Republic, because they were not
     aware of any circumstances which could justify the presence of such
     a force in South Africa and in the neighbourhood of their frontier.

     In answer to a question concerning this, addressed to His
     Excellency the High Commissioner, our Government received, to their
     great astonishment, the covert accusation that from the State of
     the Republic an attack on Her Majesty's Colonies was being
     arranged, and also a mysterious hint of coming possibilities, by
     which our Government were strengthened in their suspicion, that the
     independence of the Republic was threatened.

     As a measure of defence, they were, therefore, compelled to send a
     body of burghers to the frontiers in order, if required, to be able
     to resist such an eventuality. The unlawful interference of Her
     Majesty's Government in the inner policy of our Republic, in
     defiance of the London Convention of 1884, which interference
     consisted in the exceptional strengthening of troops in the
     neighbourhood of the Republic's borders, has thus created an
     unbearable state of affairs, of which our Government--not only in
     the interests of our Republic, but also in the interests of the
     whole of South Africa,--feel it their duty to bring to an end as
     speedily as possible, and consider themselves called upon to insist
     emphatically and energetically on an immediate conclusion of this
     condition of things, and to ask Her Majesty's Government to give
     them the assurance (_a_) that all points of mutual difference shall
     be adjusted by friendly arbitration, or by any other amicable way
     that may be agreed upon between our Government and that of Her
     Majesty; (_b_) that the troops on the frontiers of the Republic
     shall be recalled at once, and that all reinforcements which, after
     the 1st of June, 1899, have arrived in South Africa, shall be
     removed within a time agreed upon with our Government,--with the
     counter assurance and guarantee from our Government that no attack
     on, or hostilities against, any part of the possessions of the
     British Government shall be undertaken by the Republic during the
     further negotiations within the time which shall be agreed upon by
     the Government--our Government shall, in accordance with this, be
     ready to call back the armed burghers of the Republic from the
     frontiers; (_c_) that Her Majesty's troops, which are now on the
     high sea, shall not be landed in any of the harbours of South
     Africa.

     Our Government has to insist on an immediate and favourable answer
     on the above four points, and urgently requests Her Majesty's
     Government to give an answer in this spirit before, or on,
     Wednesday, October 11th, 1889, before 5 o'clock in the afternoon.
     They wish to add further, that in case, against their expectations,
     no satisfactory answer within this time should be received by them,
     that they, to their great sorrow, would be obliged to look upon the
     actions of Her Majesty's Government as a formal declaration of war,
     for the consequences of which they do not consider themselves
     responsible; and, in case further movements of troops should take
     place within the above-mentioned time in the direction of our
     borders, that our Government will be compelled to look upon this
     also as a formal declaration of war.

     I have the honour to be, etc.,
       F.W. REITZ,
         _State-Secretary._


MR. CHAMBERLAIN'S TELEGRAMS:--


FROM MR. CHAMBERLAIN TO THE HIGH COMMISSIONER, SIR ALFRED
MILNER.

(Sent 7.30 p.m. _10th October, 1899_)

     "10th _October_, No. 7. The British Agent has, in answering the
     demands of the Government of the South African Republic, to say
     that, as the Government of the South African Republic have declared
     in their dispatch, that they will look upon a refusal to consent to
     their demands as a formal declaration of war, he has received
     orders to demand his passport."


FROM MR. CHAMBERLAIN TO THE HIGH COMMISSIONER, SIR ALFRED
MILNER.

(Sent 10.45 p.m. _10th October, 1899_)

     "10th _October_, No. 8. The Government of Her Majesty has received
     with great sorrow the determined demands of the Government of the
     South African Republic contained in your telegram of the 9th of
     October, No. 3. You will, as an answer to the Government of the
     South African Republic, communicate to them that the conditions put
     forward by the Government of the South African Republic are of such
     a nature that the Government of Her Majesty cannot possibly think
     of taking them into consideration."


CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN THE TWO PRESIDENTS AND LORD SALISBURY


FROM THE STATES-PRESIDENT OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN REPUBLIC AND THE
ORANGE FREE STATE TO HIS EXCELLENCY LORD SALISBURY, LONDON.

     "BLOEMFONTEIN, _5th March, 1900_.

     "The blood and tears of the thousands who have suffered through
     this war, and the prospect of all the moral and material ruin which
     now threatens South Africa, render it necessary for both parties
     carrying on the war to ask themselves calmly, and in the faith of
     the Trinity, for what they are fighting and if the aims of both
     justify all this horrible misery and devastation. On this account,
     and with an eye to the assertion of several English Statesmen that
     the war was begun and carried on with the determined end to
     undermine Her Majesty's authority in South Africa, and to establish
     in the whole of South Africa a Government independent of Her
     Majesty's Government, we consider it our duty to declare that this
     War was only commenced as a measure of defence and for the purpose
     of obtaining a guarantee for the threatened independence of the
     South African Republic, and was only continued in order to ensure
     the indisputable independence of both Republics as Sovereign
     International States, and to obtain the assurance that the subjects
     of Her Majesty who have taken part with us in the war will not
     suffer the least hurt either in their lives or their possessions.
     On these conditions alone we demand, as in the past, to see peace
     restored in South Africa, and an end made to the wrong that now
     exists there. But if Her Majesty's Government has decided upon
     destroying the independence of the Republic, nothing remains to us
     and our people but to persist to the bitter end on the road now
     taken, notwithstanding the overpowering might of the British
     Empire, trusting that God, who has lit the inextinguishable fire of
     the love of liberty in our hearts, and in the hearts of our
     fathers, will not abandon us, but will fulfil His work in us, and
     in our descendants.

     "We hesitated to lay this declaration earlier before Your
     Excellency, because we were afraid that as long as the advantage
     was on our side, and our Army had in their occupation positions of
     defence far into the British Colonies, such a declaration would
     have hurt the feelings of the English nation; but now that the
     prestige of the British Empire may be considered to be restored,
     through the capture of one of our armies, and we are compelled by
     this to sacrifice other positions which our armies occupied, this
     difficulty is removed, and we can no longer hesitate to tell you,
     in the face of the whole civilized world, why we are fighting, and
     on what conditions we are prepared to make peace."


FROM LORD SALISBURY TO THEIR EXCELLENCIES THE STATES-PRESIDENTS OF
THE SOUTH AFRICAN REPUBLIC AND ORANGE FREE STATE.

     "LONDON, _11th March, 1900_.

     "I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Honour's
     cable, dated 5th March, from Bloemfontein, of which the purport is
     principally whether Her Majesty's Government will acknowledge the
     indisputable independence of the South African Republic and Orange
     Free State and treat them as Sovereign International States, and
     will offer to conclude the war on these conditions.

     "In the beginning of October of this year, there was peace between
     the Queen and the two Republics, under the Convention which then
     held good. There was a discussion carried on during a few months
     between Her Majesty's Government and the South African Republic, of
     which the purport was the amendment of very serious grievances
     under which English inhabitants suffered in the South African
     Republic. In the course of these negotiations, the South African
     Republic obtained the knowledge that Her Majesty's Government had
     made considerable preparations for war, and had taken steps to
     provide the necessary reinforcements for the English garrisons at
     Cape Colony and Natal. No inroad on the rights guaranteed by the
     Conventions had, until then, taken place on the English side.
     Suddenly the South African Republic, after having two days
     previously issued an insulting ultimatum, declared War on Her
     Majesty; and the Orange Free State, with which there had been no
     disagreement, took a similar step. Thereupon an inroad was made
     into Her Majesty's territory by the two Republics; three towns
     within the British frontier were besieged, a great part of the two
     Colonies was over-run, with great destruction of property and life,
     and the Republics claimed the right to treat the inhabitants of Her
     Majesty's territory as if this territory had been annexed by one of
     these States. The Transvaal having these actions in view, had for
     years stored up, on an enormous scale, military provisions, which
     could only have been destined for use against England.

     "Your Excellencies made some remarks of a negative nature
     concerning the aim for which these preparations were made. I do not
     consider it necessary to discuss the question which you have thus
     raised, but the consequences of the preparations, made in great
     secrecy, have been that the British Empire has found itself forced
     to repel an inroad which has brought on a costly war, and caused
     the loss of thousands of valuable lives. This great misfortune has
     been the punishment that Great Britain has had to undergo during
     the last few years for having suffered the two Republics to exist.
     Keeping in sight the use which the two Republics have made of the
     position presented to them, and the misfortunes which their
     unprovoked attacks on Her Majesty's territory have brought, Her
     Majesty's Government can only reply to Your Honour's telegram by
     saying that they are not prepared to acknowledge the independence
     either of the South African Republic, or of the Orange Free State."




Appendix A

REPORT OF THE MEETING OF THE GENERAL REPRESENTATIVES HELD AT
VEREENIGING, IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN REPUBLIC, ON THE 15TH OF MAY, 1902,
AND THE FOLLOWING DAYS


The first meeting of the representatives of the two Governments took
place at 11.30 a.m. on May 15th.

There were present:--

_For the South African Republic_--His Honour the President, S.W. Burger,
F.W. Reitz, Commandant-General L. Botha, Messrs. J.B. Krogh, L.J.
Meijer, L.J. Jacobs, and His Honour the Staats-Procureur.

_For the Orange Free State_--States-President, M.J. Steyn; Judge, J.B.M.
Hertzog; Secretary of State, W.J.C. Brebner; Commander-in-Chief, C.R. de
Wet; and Mr. C.H. Olivier.

The first matter discussed was the formula for the oath which the
delegates were to take, and it was decided that it should run as
follows:--

     "We, the undersigned, duly swear that we, as special national
     representatives, will remain true to our people, country, and
     Government, and that we will serve them to the best of our ability,
     and fulfil our duties faithfully and with all necessary secrecy, as
     is the duty of all faithful burghers and representatives of the
     nation. So help us God."

The question now arose as to whether the representatives had the right
to decide, if circumstances rendered it necessary, upon any matter
touching the independence of the country, irrespective of the powers
given to the various delegates, for at some of the meetings the
delegates had only received limited powers, whilst at others full
authority had been given them to act according to their own judgment.

After considerable discussion it was decided to lay the matter before
the delegates themselves.

The following representatives were called into the tent, and took the
oath:--

_For the South African Republic._

1. H.A. Alberts, Vechtgeneraal; for Heidelberg.

2. J.J. Alberts, Commandant; for Standerton and Wakkerstroom.

3. J.F. De Beer, Commandant; for Bloemhof.

4. C.F. Beijers, Assistant-Commandant-General; for Waterberg.

5. C. Birkenstock, burgher; for Vrijheid.

6. H.J. Bosman, magistrate; for Wakkerstroom.

7. Christiaan Botha, Assistant-Commandant-General; for Swaziland and the
States Artillery.

8. B.H. Breijtenbach, Veldtcornet; for Utrecht.

9. C.J. Brits, Vechtgeneraal; for Standerton.

10. J.B. Cilluos, Vechtgeneraal; for Lichtenburg.

11. J. De Clercq, burgher; for Middelburg.

12. T.A. Doenges, Veldtcornet; for Dorp Middelburg in Regeeringswacht.

13. H.S. Grobler, Commandant; for Bethal.

14. J.L. Grobler, burgher; for Carolina.

15. J.N.H. Grobler, Vechtgeneraal; for Ermelo.

16. B.J. Van Heerden, Veldtcornet; for Rustenburg.

17. J.F. Jordaan, Commandant; for Vrijheid.

18. J. Kemp, Vechtgeneraal; for Krugersdorp.

19. P.J. Liebenberg, Vechtgeneraal; for Potchefstroom.

20. C.H. Muller, Vechtgeneraal; for Boksburg.

21. J.F. Naude, burgher; for Pretoria, late Commandant with General
Kemp.

22. D.J.E. Opperman, Veldtcornet; for Pretoria.

23. B.J. Roos, Veldtcornet; for Piet Retief.

24. P.D. Roux, Veldtcornet; for Marico.

25. D.J. Schoeman, Commandant; for Lijdenburg.

26. T.C. Stoffberg, Landdrost; for Zoutpansberg.

27. S.P. Du Toit, Vechtgeneraal; for Wolmaransstad.

28. P.L. Uijs, Commandant; for Pretoria.

29. P.R. Viljoen, burgher; for Heidelberg.

30. W.J. Viljoen, Commandant; for Witwatersrand.

_For the Orange Free State._

1. C.C.F. Badenhorst, Vice-Commandant-in-Chief; for Boshof, Hoopstad,
West Bloemfontein, Winburg, and Kroonstad.

2. A.J. Bester, Commandant; for Bethlehem.

3. A.J. Bester, Commandant; for Bloemfontein.

4. L.P.H. Botha, Commandant; for Harrismith.

5. G.A. Brand, Vice-Commandant-in-Chief; for Bethulie, Rouxville,
Caledon River, and Wepener in the eastern part of Bloemfontein.

6. H.J. Brouwer, Commandant; for Bethlehem.

7. D.H. Van Coller, Commandant; for Heilbron.

8. F.R. Cronje, Commandant; for Winburg.

9. D.F.H. Flemming, Commandant; for Hoopstad.

10. C.C. Froneman, Vice-Commandant-in-Chief; for Winburg and Ladybrand.

11. F.J.W.J. Hattingh, Vice-Commandant-in-Chief; for the eastern part of
Kroonstad, in the district of Heilbron.

12. J.B.M. Hertzog, Commandant; for Philippolis.

13. J.N. Jacobs, Commandant; for Boshof.

14. F.P. Jacobsz, Commandant; for Harrismith.

15. A.J. De Kock, Commandant; for Vrede.

16. J.J. Koen, Commandant; for Ladybrand.

17. H.J. Kritzinger, Veldtcornet; for Kroonstad.

18. F.E. Mentz, Commandant; for Heilbron.

19. J.A.P. Van der Merwe, Commandant; for Heilbron.

20. C.A. Van Niekerk, Commandant; for Kroonstad.

21. H. Van Niekerk, Commandant.

22. J.J. Van Niekerk, Commandant; for Ficksburg.

23. I.K. Nieuwouwdt, Vice-Commandant-in-Chief; for Fauresmith,
Philippolis, and Jacobsdal.

24. H.P.J. Pretorius, Commandant; for Jacobsdal.

25. A.M. Prinsloo, Vice-Commandant-in-Chief; for Bethlehem in Ficksburg.

26. L.J. Rautenbach, Commandant; for Bethlehem.

27. F.J. Rheeder, Commandant; for Rouxville.

28. A. Ross, Commandant; for Vrede.

29. P.W. De Vos, Commandant; for Kroonstad.

30. W.J. Wessels, Vice-Commandant-in-Chief; for Harrismith and Vrede.

The meeting now proceeded to choose a chairman, and the following were
proposed:--J. De Clercq, C.F. Beijers, C.C. Froneman, W.J. Wessels, and
G.A. Brand.

The choice of the meeting fell on General C.F. Beijers, who called upon
the Rev. Mr. Kestell to offer prayer.

His Honour, S.W. Burger, now declared that the meeting was formally
opened, and after the Chairman had spoken a few words, the
representatives adjourned until three o'clock.

When they reassembled, the Chairman requested President Burger to
explain the objects for which the meeting had been called.

Then the President spoke a few words of welcome to all; he expressed his
sorrow for the absence of some who would certainly have been present had
they not given their lives for their country. But still there were many
left to represent the two Republics.

"The difficulties which confront us," continued the President, "are like
a great mountain, at the foot of which we have just arrived. Everything
now depends on us who are assembled together here. It is impossible to
deny that the state of affairs is very serious, and that the future
looms dark before us. Our position requires the most careful
consideration, and as there are sure to be differences of opinion, it
will be necessary for us to bear with one another, and yet, at the same
time, to speak our minds freely."

The President proceeded to refer to the correspondence which had taken
place between Holland and England. A copy of this correspondence had
been sent, through Lord Kitchener, to the Governments of the two
Republics. The opinion of the Transvaal Government (which was the first
to receive the correspondence) was that advantage should be taken of
this opportunity. It was proposed to ask Lord Kitchener to allow the
Transvaal Government to meet that of the Orange Free State, so that they
might discuss the desirability of making a peace proposal to England.
The two Governments had accordingly met, and had corresponded with Lord
Kitchener and Lord Milner. As a result of this, a letter, with the above
correspondence annexed, had been sent to the various commandos.

"We felt," continued President Burger, "that we had no power to
surrender our independence, and that we were only justified in making
such terms of peace as would not endanger our national existence.
Whether it is or is not our duty to surrender our independence is a
question that must be left to the decision of our people. And it is to
represent the people that you are here. It is from your lips, then, that
our Governments must learn the opinions of the two nations. It is clear
enough that the English Government has no idea of allowing us to remain
independent--it expresses surprise that we even dare to speak of such a
thing.

"You have now to report upon the condition of the country, and upon the
circumstances in which your wives and children are placed. You have also
to decide whether you are willing to make any further sacrifices. We
have lost so much already that it would be hard, indeed, to lose our
independence as well. But, although this matter is so near to our
hearts, we must still listen to the voice of reason. The practical
question, then, which we have to ask ourselves is, whether we are
prepared to watch our people being gradually exterminated before our
eyes, or whether we should not rather seek a remedy.

"The Government can do nothing without the support of the nation. You,
therefore, must determine our best course. For instance, if you come to
the conclusion that we have exhausted every expedient, will you still
continue the struggle? Are we not to desist until every man of us is in
captivity, in exile, or in his grave? Again let me urge you to speak
freely, and yet with consideration for the feelings of others. For
myself, I can truly say that my spirit is not yet broken; but I would
hear from you what the feeling of the people is."

"At this point, however, a difficulty arises. Some of you, having only
received limited powers from your constituencies, appear to think that
you would not be justified in exceeding your mandates, while others have
been authorized to act as circumstances may seem to require. But I do
not think that this difficulty should be insurmountable. At least I beg
of you not to allow it to cause any dissension among you. Let us all be
of one mind. If _we_ are united, then will the nation be united also;
but if we are divided, in what a plight will the nation find itself?"

A letter was then read from the deputation in Europe, which had been
written five months previously, and which had been brought through the
English lines in safety. It contained little more than an assurance that
our cause occupied a better position in Europe than it had ever done
before.

The Chairman then asked Commandant L. Botha to address the meeting.

Complying with this request, the Commandant said that he wished to be
assured, before anything further was done, that the fact that some of
the representatives had been entrusted with limited powers, whereas
others had been given a free hand, was not going to prove to be an
insurmountable obstacle to united action on their part.

To this Judge Hertzog replied that it was a principle in law that a
delegate is not to be regarded as a mere agent or mouthpiece of his
constituents, but, on the contrary (when dealing with public affairs),
as a plenipotentiary--with the right, whatever his brief might be, of
acting to the best of his judgment.

States-Procureur Smuts concurred in this opinion, which appeared to
satisfy both the Commandant-General and also all the other
representatives, for no further allusion was made to the subject by
anybody.

Commandant-General Botha now made his report.

In the districts of Vrijheid and Utrecht, he stated, the store of maize
was so small that it could not last for more than a short time; but
there was still a great number of slaughter-cattle. In the districts of
Wakkerstroom there was hardly sufficient grain for one month's
consumption. Two other districts had still a large enough number of
slaughter-cattle--enough, in fact, to last for two or three months. In
Ermelo, to the west and north-west of the blockhouses, and in Bethal,
Standerton, and Middelburg, there was grain for one month. But the
Heidelberg and Pretoria commandos had now, for the first time, no corn
remaining for food. In the neighbourhood of Boksburg the only grain left
was the old maize of the previous year, whilst there were no cattle at
all in the district. When he had visited Boksburg he had found that the
commandos had had no meat for three days. In the country between
Vereeniging and Ermelo there were only thirty-six goats, and no cattle
whatsoever. In the Wakkerstroom district, however, there were still a
few slaughter-cattle. The horses were everywhere worn out and exhausted.
They had been so constantly kept on the move, owing to the enemy's
increasing attacks, they could now only cover the shortest distances.

The Kaffir question was becoming from day to day more serious. At
Vrijheid, for instance, there was a Kaffir commando which had already
made several attacks upon the burghers. This attitude of the Kaffir
population was producing a very dispiriting effect upon the burghers.

The women were in a most pitiable state, now that the lines of
blockhouses had been extended in all directions over the country.
Sometimes the commandos had to break through the lines and leave the
women behind alone; and when the burghers later on returned they would
perhaps find that the women had been driven from their houses, and, in
some instances, treated with atrocious cruelty.

Referring to the numbers in the field, he said that there were, in the
whole of the Transvaal, ten thousand eight hundred and sixteen men, and
that three thousand two hundred and ninety-six of them had no horses.
The enemy during the summer had taken many of the burghers prisoner; and
since June, 1901, the commandos had diminished to the extent of six
thousand and eighty-four men. The burghers thus lost to them had either
been killed, or taken prisoner, or had surrendered their arms.

The number of households was two thousand six hundred and forty.

The Commandant-General concluded by saying that the three greatest
difficulties with which they were confronted were their horses, their
food supply, and the miserable condition of their women and children.

Commander-in-Chief de Wet then spoke. He said he would leave it to the
delegates who were officers to make reports. They had come from far and
near, and knew exactly what the condition of things was. He, however,
could state that the number of burghers in the Orange Free State was six
thousand one hundred and twenty, of whom about four hundred were not
available for service. The Basutos, he found, were more favourably
inclined to the Boer cause than ever before.

"General De la Rey," continued General de Wet, "like myself, does not
quite know what task he has to perform here, but he thinks with me that
the duty of making reports belongs to the delegates. However, he feels
bound to state that in his divisions there is a great scarcity of
everything. But precisely the same state of affairs existed there a year
ago. And when his burghers were at that time without food--well, he went
and got it for them." (Cheers.)

General Beijers (Waterberg) then addressed the delegates, telling them
that he would not detain them long. In Zoutpansberg, he stated, they had
still a plentiful supply of food, for they were able to buy from the
Kaffirs. At Waterberg the Kaffirs were neutral, but at Zoutpansberg they
were getting out of hand. Yet, since no co-operation existed amongst
them, they were not to be feared, and any uprising could easily be
quelled.

Besides this trouble, they had many difficulties to face, which were
produced by horse-sickness and fever.

As to the question of grain, there was food enough for the whole of the
Transvaal and the Orange Free State. But now the English were beginning
to buy up the maize at L1 a sack.

General Muller (Boksburg) reported that in his division the burghers had
never suffered from hunger. He could still hold out for a few months
more, as food could be obtained from the Kaffirs. There was, it could
not be denied, a tendency to mutiny amongst the Kaffirs, but he did not
think that this need cause any anxiety. He believed that he would be
able to carry on operations until the end of the winter.

General Froneman (Ladybrand) said that the condition of his divisions,
namely Winburg and Ladybrand, gave no cause for uneasiness. There were
still eighty families in the districts, but they were able to provide
for all their necessities. The Kaffirs were peaceable and well disposed,
and were of great service to the burghers, for whom they bought clothing
in Basutoland. It was possible for the burghers, he considered, to hold
out for more than a year.

General Hattingh (Kroonstad) declared that in one part of the Kroonstad
district there were still plenty of sheep and cattle, and that seed had
been sown for next year's harvest. But another part of the district was
entirely exhausted, and had to obtain its supplies from Bethlehem.

General Badenhorst (Boshof) stated that he could report on the Boshof
district and the parts of the Winburg and Bloemfontein districts to the
west of the railway. There were enough cattle to last his commandos for
years, even if they had no other food at all. Recently he had captured
fifteen hundred head of cattle, and he was in a position to give
assistance to other districts. Grain, however, was not so plentiful as
it had been the previous year, but nevertheless there was still a large
enough supply to permit him to send help to others.

General Nieuwouwdt (Fauresmith) reported that his district was entirely
devastated, and that for the last seven months there had been a dearth
of all provisions; nevertheless, his burghers had contrived to live.
There was, moreover, enough corn left to last them for another year.
There were now only three women in the whole of his district.

General Prinsloo (Bethlehem) declared that he would be telling a
falsehood if he were to say that there was no food in his district. He
possessed slaughter-cattle and corn, and could help other districts. One
of his commandants had recently found a store of maize (consisting of
one hundred and thirty sacks) buried in the ground. The enemy had made
many inroads into his district, and especially during the last few
months. The blockhouses were a source of constant annoyance to him.

General Brand (Bethulie) reported upon the south-western part of the
Orange Free State, where he commanded. There were some parts of his
division, he said, which had been entirely laid waste. Everything had
been carried off; there was not a sheep left; and the burghers had been
without meat for days. But he was able to capture booty, and could still
hold out for a year.

General Wessels (Harrismith) drew attention to the constant passage of
large Kaffir families through the districts of Harrismith and Vrede. He
could tell the delegates that the Kaffirs had been quite astonished that
there were still cattle and sheep and supplies of grain in the
districts. He had not yet come to the end of his provisions; but, even
if everything were taken, he saw a chance of obtaining food from
elsewhere.

Commandant C.A. Van Niekerk (Kroonstad) declared that if there was one
part of the country which was entirely exhausted it was the part where
he was in command, namely Hoopstad and a portion of Kroonstad. But yet,
during the last twelve months, they had been able to obtain food, and
even to sow for the ensuing year. There were no cattle in his district;
but he had taken a thousand sheep and fifty-two cattle from the English.

Commandant Van der Merwe (Heilbron) spoke to the same effect.

General Smuts was the next to address the meeting. He began by saying
that his expedition into Cape Colony had been the outcome of the advice
which the deputation had given in July, 1901, namely to continue the
war. That _he_ had been in command of it had come about in the following
way. News had been received in the Transvaal that affairs in Cape Colony
were taking a favourable turn, and accordingly General De la Rey had
received orders to go thither, and to take over the command there. But
afterwards it was thought wiser to annul these orders, because De la Rey
could not well be spared from the western parts of the Transvaal. Owing
to this, he (General Smuts) took the task upon his own shoulders, and
crossed the Orange River with two hundred men. He had had a difficult
task to accomplish. He had marched through Cape Colony to Grahamstad,
and from thence he had pushed on towards the coast, through Graaff
Reinet. Thence he had proceeded to the neighbourhood where he was now
carrying on operations.

He had visited every commando, and as he had seen that there were signs
of disorder amongst them he had taken them all under his own command. In
this way he had found himself at the head of some fifteen hundred men.
During his expeditions Commandant Lotter had been captured with a
hundred men; this had reduced his force to only fourteen hundred. But
since then the number had nearly doubled, so that they now had two
thousand six hundred men (divided into twenty commandos) under arms in
Cape Colony. In addition to these men there was a division under General
De Villiers operating in Griqualand West, and another under Commandant
Van der Merwe in Bechuanaland. The total numbers of these two divisions
amounted to about seven hundred men.

Passing on to the question whether help was to be expected from Cape
Colony, General Smuts declared that there would be no general rising.
The reports which represented such a rising as possible had exaggerated
matters. There were great difficulties in the way of a general rising.
First, there was the question of horses--and in Cape Colony the want of
horses was as great, if not greater, than in the Republics. Secondly, it
was exceedingly difficult for Colonials to rise, for they knew that not
only would they have to be _voetgangers_,[111] but also that if they
were captured they would be very severely punished by the English. The
scarcity of grass was also greatly against any such attempt. The horses
had to be fed, and, as the enemy had forbidden any sowing, it was almost
impossible to find food for them. A counter proclamation had indeed been
issued by the Republics, but it had been of no avail.

He was of opinion that the small commandos which had already been in
Cape Colony had done the best they could. The question that now arose
was whether the whole of their forces ought to be sent from the
Republics into Cape Colony. He himself thought that there was an opening
for them, but the difficulty was to find a method of getting them there.
The existence of this difficulty, and the facts which he had brought
before the delegates, had forced him to the conclusion that a general
rising in Cape Colony was an impossibility.

As to the continuation of the war and matters of that nature, they must
naturally be settled by the Republics, and not by Cape Colony.

The meeting was then adjourned until eight o'clock in the evening.

       *       *       *       *       *

Upon its reassembling, Commandant Nijs (Pretoria, North) said that in
that part of the district of Pretoria which lay to the north of the
Delagoa Bay Railway there were still cattle enough to last for a
considerable time, but that the store of grain would be exhausted within
a fortnight. The number of horses also was insufficient. The district
could muster one hundred and fifty-three mounted men and one hundred and
twenty-eight _voetgangers_. In the division of Onderwijk, Middelburg,
there were twenty-six mounted men and thirty-eight _voetgangers_.

Commandant Grobler (Bethal) stated that in his district they had not
been left undisturbed during the summer. Only a short time previously he
had lost sixty-three men in an engagement, where he had been besieged in
a kraal, out of which he, with one hundred and fifty-three burghers, had
managed to escape. Bethal had been laid waste from one end to the other,
and he had no provisions for his commandos. He had on his hands three
hundred women and children; these were in a serious position, owing to
the lack of food; some of the women had also been assaulted by Kaffirs.

General Christiaan Botha (Swaziland) then reported on the condition of
the Swaziland commando. They had no provisions in hand, and were simply
living by favour of the Kaffirs. They had no women there. His commando
of one hundred and thirteen men was still at Piet Retief. As there was
no grain to be had, they were compelled to go from kraal to kraal and
buy food from the Kaffirs, and this required money. Yet somehow or other
they had managed to keep soul and body together. "I have fought for the
Transvaal," he concluded, "for two and a half years, and now, since I
hear that there is food in the Free State, I shall fight for the Free
State for two and a half years more."

General Brits (Standerton) said that he had still provisions for two
months, but no cattle. He had sixty-five families with him, and found it
very difficult to provide them with the necessaries of life. Altogether,
things were in a most critical state.

Mr. Birkenstock (Vrijheid) spoke as follows:

"I shall go deeper into some of the points which the Commandant-General
has brought forward in his general report of the matter. At Vrijheid we
have been harassed by large forces of the enemy for six or eight months,
and the district is now completely devastated. The presence of women and
children causes great difficulty, for of late the English have refused
to receive the families which, compelled by absolute famine, wished to
take refuge with them. There is also continual danger from the Kaffirs,
whose attitude towards us is becoming positively hostile. Both horses
and grain are scarce; but as far as the latter is concerned there will
be sufficient, provided that the enemy does not return. One morning
recently a Kaffir commando, shortly before daybreak, attacked a party of
our men, who lost fifty-six killed out of a total of seventy. That peace
must be made at all costs is the opinion of all the families in my
district, and I feel it my duty to bring this opinion before you."

Commandant Alberts (Pretoria and Middelburg) said that his burghers had
had no rest for a year, and that during that period no ploughing or
sowing had been done in the district. Consequently a commando would not
be able to find the means of subsistence there. On three occasions he
had been forced to take refuge in a kraal, but fortunately had always
been able to make his escape. They had no cattle which they could use
for food, although he had received some, through Commandant Roos, from
the Free State. Their horses were in the worst possible condition.

Landdrost Bosman (Wakkerstroom) then gave an account of the condition of
affairs in his district. They were dependent for everything, except
meat, upon the Kaffirs, giving them meat in exchange. This year there
had been a very poor crop of mealies, and, such as it was, it had been
much damaged by the enemy. Still the burghers might manage, with what
mealies they had, to last out for another two months; but the women and
children also needed to be provided for. The cattle were beginning to
run short, and the few horses that they had were so weak that they would
require a fortnight's rest before they could be used. It might become
necessary for the commandos to leave the district, and if so, what was
to become of the families?

Mr. De Clercq (Middelburg) regretted that he was unable to give as
cheery a report as some of the gentlemen present had done. The part of
Middelburg which he represented was in an almost hopeless condition.
There were no slaughter-cattle, and only enough grain to last for a very
short time. Out of five hundred horses only one hundred now remained,
and these could do no work, being too weak even to get away when it
became necessary to retreat from the enemy. The state of the burghers
was very discouraging; if they should be compelled to leave the district
the question would arise whether, considering the condition of their
horses, it would be possible for them to reach their new destination.
There were fifty families in Middelburg, and things were going very
badly with them. The district would have to be abandoned, and what would
then be the fate of the families, which even now could only be scantily
provided for? The women had wished to go on foot to the English, but he
had advised them to wait until the results of the present negotiations
should become known.

Commandant David Schoeman (Lijdenburg) said that although but a short
time ago there had been eight hundred head of cattle in his district,
they had now all been carried off. Grain there was none. Should fighting
be continued, he was at a loss to know how he could provide for the
women.

Commandant Opperman (Pretoria, South) reported on that part of the
Pretoria district which lies south of the line. What he said agreed
substantially with the report of Commandant Alberts. (See page 343.)

Commandant Liebenberg (Potchefstroom) stated that during the last eight
or nine months blockhouses had been erected in his district. All that
was now left to him was a strip of country about twelve miles long; here
he could still exist. A good deal of seed had been sown, but the crops
had of late fallen into the hands of the English. The grain was
altogether spoilt; some of it had been burnt, the rest trodden down by
the horses. There were ninety-three households in his district. Between
Lichtenburg and Potchefstroom there were some women from the Orange Free
State who were reduced to the most dire straits. They had told him that
if things did not improve they intended to go on foot to Klerksdorp,
and he had replied that they must wait for the result of the
negotiations. He had still four hundred mounted men, in addition to one
hundred _voetgangers_. He could hold out for a short time longer, and
then would have to look for some way out of his difficulties.

General Du Toit (Wolmaransstad) said that there were five hundred
families in his district, but little enough for them to live on. Though
his horses were weak, he would be able to save himself by strategy if he
should get into a tight corner. His commandos were small--only four
hundred and fifty mounted men. The cattle were in good condition, but
grain was scarce.

Commandant De Beer (Bloemhof) had still under his command as many as
four hundred and forty-four mounted men and one hundred and sixty-five
_voetgangers_. Both grain and cattle were scarce, but then Bloemhof had
never possessed many head of cattle. So far the families had not
suffered from want. He would be able to hold out for another year.

General Kemp reported that he had under him Krugersdorp, Rustenburg, and
parts of Pretoria and Johannesburg. In the district of Krugersdorp no
more sowing was possible, and the majority of cattle had been carried
away. Yet there was no want. Why should he lack for anything when he was
in possession of a great "commissariat" extending as far as the
Zoutpansberg, where General Beijers was in command? He took what he
wanted from the Kaffirs--it was not their property; he was only taking
back what really belonged to the burghers.

Commandant-in-Chief de Wet here asked why the eastern divisions of the
Transvaal could not do like General Kemp, and take what they required
from the Kaffirs?

General Kemp replied that the fact that in the eastern parts the Kaffirs
were united with the English made the difference. The Kaffirs there, he
said, gave all they looted to the English, who then sold them the cattle
back again. If then cattle were taken in those parts, it would be cattle
which was really the property of the Kaffirs. Moreover, the Zulus were
Kaffirs of a different sort to those with which he (the General) had to
deal. General Botha also had said that among the Kaffirs in the Eastern
Transvaal there were not to be found any cattle belonging to the
burghers.

Mr. J.L. Grobler (Carolina) had not as yet had to complain of any lack
of cattle or grain in his district. The English, however, by their
system of blockhouses, had cut the burghers off from the greater part of
the crop. If nothing happened, the newly-sown crops ought to produce a
good harvest; but he did not like the temper of the Kaffirs. His men
could still hold out for another six or seven months. The three hundred
horses still remaining to them were in a weak condition; such as they
were, there was not one apiece for the burghers.

Mr. J. Naude (Pretoria) said that he represented a part of Pretoria and
General Kemp's flying column. In his district sowing and harvesting went
on as usual. There were fortunately no women and children. Although the
commandos had not a superabundance of cattle, yet no one lacked for any
of the necessaries of life.

The meeting was then closed with prayer, and adjourned until the
following morning.

[Footnote 111: Infantry.]


FRIDAY, MAY 16TH, 1902.

The meeting opened with prayer a little after nine a.m. The
correspondence which the two Governments had addressed to the burghers,
in order that it might be communicated to their representatives at one
of these meetings, was first read. It was then debated whether the
meeting should request Lord Kitchener to put it into communication with
the deputation in Europe. After speeches _pro_ and _con_, it was decided
not to do so.

Thereupon General Froneman proposed the following resolution:

"This meeting is of opinion that the Governments should be asked in the
first place to thank His Majesty the King of England and Her Majesty the
Queen of the Netherlands, through Lord Kitchener, for the efforts which
(as appears from the correspondence between the said Governments) they
have made to set on foot negotiations for peace; and, in the second
place, to express to them the regret of this meeting that His Majesty's
Government has not accepted the proposal of Her Majesty's Government
that the representatives of the two Republics now in Europe (who still
enjoy the full confidence of their fellow-countrymen) should be allowed
to return home, and also that Lord Kitchener has declined a similar
request addressed to him by the Governments of the two Republics."

This proposal was seconded by Commandant Flemming, and carried.

After another proposal, made by H.J. Bosman, and seconded by J.L.
Grobler, had been rejected, the correspondence referred to above came
under discussion.

The first speaker was Mr. P.R. Viljoen, who spoke as follows:

"We can apply to our own country those words of Scripture, 'The place
whereon thou standest is holy ground.' The soil on which we are now
standing, wet as it is with the blood and tears of our forefathers and
also of the many who have fallen in this present struggle, may well be
regarded as 'holy ground.'

"That we should ever have to surrender this country is a horrible
thought. Yet it must be faced. It is certain at least that many
districts must be abandoned, for the enemy is doing his utmost to
collect us together at a few isolated places, where he will be able to
concentrate his forces upon us.

"From the reports which we have received it appears that the state of
affairs in the Orange Free State is still hopeful. Not so in the
Transvaal. There our prospects are of the gloomiest.

"My opinion is that we must endeavour to bring this war to an end. If
there was the least chance of our being able to maintain our
independence, we would still fight on, and not even the bitterest
sufferings would appear unendurable. But have we any such chance?--that
is the question which we have got to answer.

"We know nothing, it will be said, of the present state of affairs in
Europe, for the report from our deputation, which has just been read in
your presence, is six months old. Nevertheless, if anything favourable
to us had occurred since then, we must have heard of it by now.

"It is evident that we must endeavour to obtain peace on terms
honourable to ourselves. But how are we to do so? By keeping our
independence in view when making terms with the enemy, you will answer.
Nevertheless, I think it would be advisable for us to commission our
Governments to ask the English Government once more what concessions it
is prepared to make to us on condition of our surrendering our
independence. Until we know this we can come to no final decision.

"Though it is a bitter thing to have to say, yet I feel it my duty to
tell you that I honestly believe it to be impossible for us to carry on
the war any longer."

Mr. De Clercq then addressed the meeting in the following words:

"The question before us is, whether or not the war can be continued? To
answer it, we must look forward into the future. We must ask ourselves
what consequences will ensue from a continuance of hostilities, and what
will be the result of their cessation.

"We have only fifteen thousand men against the enemy's quarter of a
million. Our food and horses are scarce, and we have other difficulties
besides these. It is impossible to go on with the struggle.

"Nevertheless, if I believed that to do so would give us a chance of
retaining our independence, I also would be ready for further
sacrifices. But as it is impossible to retain our independence, surely
we shall only be storing up misery for the future if we continue
fighting until every man of us is a prisoner or in his grave. I am of
opinion that our most reasonable course is to save what is still left to
us--our existence as a nation. It is not too late to save it now, but
who can tell what the future holds in store for us? If we are to be
still further reduced in number, we shall soon cease to exist as a
nation. Can it be right to sacrifice a nation which has fought as the
African nation has done?"

Commandant Rheeder (Rouxville) then spoke as follows:

"I know that the times are very dark, but still there are some rays of
light. You have been asked whether you will continue fighting until you
are exterminated. But there is another alternative. Will you not
continue fighting until you are relieved? I maintain that our
independence must be a _sine qua non_ of any negotiations that we
make--we cannot give it up. So long as we have life we must continue to
fight, and we must only lay down our arms when relief arrives."

General Kemp now rose to his feet. "I am fully aware," he said, "of the
very serious position in which we are placed. Yet, when the war began,
the position was no less grave. We must continue our resistance. When we
recall to our minds how much this war has cost us, and what rivers of
blood have flowed, we feel that it is impossible to surrender. As far as
I am concerned, unless relief comes, I will fight on till I die.

"But one should not look only at the dark side of the picture. It is
true enough that in some districts food is scarce, but there are none in
which it is absolutely unobtainable. The districts threatened by famine
must be abandoned--that is the way to deal with the difficulty.

"It has been pointed out that a large number of our men have been killed
or taken prisoners. This fact, however, only fills me with courage. A
cause that has cost us so dearly must never be forsaken. To own
ourselves beaten would be to dig a grave for the African nation, out of
which it would never rise. Why should we lose our trust in God? Up to
this moment He has aided us, and He will always be our Helper."

Vice-Commandant Breijtenbach (Utrecht) then spoke as follows:

"The burghers whom I represent have told me to inform them, when these
deliberations have come to an end, whether a continuation of the war is
possible, and if it be possible, how it is to be accomplished. If I
cannot assure them that we are able to continue the struggle, the men of
Utrecht will not fight any more. As you know, I can give them no such
assurance.

"There are ten districts in the Transvaal which are unable to fight any
longer. It surely is not proposed to leave these districts in the lurch!
We must not only consult our sentiments, but also our reason. And what
does the voice of reason say? This--that the continuation of the war is
an impossibility. Should you decide now to continue the war, you would
have to start a fresh campaign; and you know that that is beyond our
powers.

"A previous speaker has referred to the help of the Lord, but who is
able to fathom His counsels? Yet we can understand the answer God has
given to our prayer--that prayer which we offered with the Mausers in
our hands when the war began. And what was the answer we received ... I
leave it to you to reply.

"Yes, we must use our reason. If we continue the struggle we give the
death-blow to our existence as a nation. We have been told that there
are ten districts that cannot go on fighting. Are we going to say, 'We
will continue the struggle and leave these districts to their fate'? No!
We must save what we can."

General Liebenberg then spoke. "I am able to give my support," he said,
"to all that has fallen from the lips of Messrs. Viljoen and De Clercq.
It cannot be doubted that the future is very dark. Yes, we can only
trust in God, and use our reason to the best of our ability. I have been
commissioned by those whom I represent to retain our independence if
possible, and if it be not possible to make peace on the best terms that
we can get."

Commandant Uijs was the next speaker. He explained that if the war were
to be continued he would have to leave his district and abandon the
women and children to the mercy of the Kaffirs. He could see a chance of
saving the mounted men if only he could feel certain that they would all
follow him, but the case of the women and children would be hopeless. A
serious difficulty confronted the delegates, and it was with them, and
no longer with the Government, that its solution rested. Never before
had he been called upon to face so gigantic a task. It was not the time
now to criticize one another, but to practise mutual forbearance. The
Bible had been quoted by one of the speakers, but let them not forget
the text in which the king is spoken of who calculated whether he was
strong enough with ten thousand to encounter him who marched against
him with twenty thousand. Then there was the question as to the disposal
of the widows and orphans. What was to become of them if the burghers,
by refusing to come to terms with the enemy, should no longer be able to
act as their mutual protectors? Let them make no more widows and
orphans, but let them open their eyes and recognize that the hand of God
was against them.

The next business was the reading of two letters--one from General Malan
and the other from General Kritzinger. Malan reported on his doings in
the Cape Colony, while Kritzinger advised that the war should be
discontinued.

General Du Toit then spoke, emphasizing the responsibility of the
delegates and the importance of the occasion. He went on to say that he
represented a part of the nation which had suffered very severely, but
which nevertheless had commissioned him to stand up for independence, if
by any means it could be retained; if he failed in this, he was to take
whatever course seemed best to him. In his district the burghers were
not reduced to such a pass as to oblige them to surrender, but the
condition of other districts must also be taken into consideration, and
if it appeared that the war could not be continued, the delegates must
get the best terms they could. In their demands they must be
united--this was the principal reason why dissension was so much to be
avoided. For himself, he could only say that whether the meeting voted
to continue the war or to bring it to a conclusion, he would fall in
with the wishes of the majority. Any decision would be better than the
failure of this conference, as that would leave everything undecided.

He was followed by Secretary of State Reitz, who said:

"You all know what the Governments have done. The question now is, Is
there anything further that we can do? For my part, I think that there
is. We might offer to surrender Witwatersrand and Swaziland; we might
also relinquish our rights to a foreign policy; we might even accede to
an English Protectorate. If France has been able to do without Alsace
and Lorraine, surely we can do without the goldfields. What benefit have
they ever done us? Did the money they brought ever do us any good? No!
rather it did us harm. It was the gold which caused the war. It is then
actually to our advantage to cede the goldfields, and moreover by so
doing we shall be rid of a very troublesome part of our population."

Mr. Reitz then went on to discuss in detail the position in regard to
Swaziland, the question of a British Protectorate, and the surrender of
our right to treat with foreign powers.

General Muller (Boksburg) expressed sympathy with the views of the
Secretary of State, while Vice-Commandant Roux (Marico) said that he was
prepared to sacrifice many things, but that he intended to hold out for
independence.

The next speech was made by Landdrost Stoffberg (Zoutpansberg), who
said:

"I agree with General Du Toit in what he said about the necessity for
unity amongst us. Disunion must not be so much as mentioned. I have a
mandate from the burghers of Zoutpansberg not to sacrifice our
independence. But if anything short of this will satisfy the English, I
am quite prepared to make concessions. Some of the burghers think that
it might be well to surrender the goldfields for a certain sum of money,
while others point out that the gold was the cause of the war. I also
think that we have suffered through the gold, and that we might give up
the goldfields without doing ourselves any harm. For what has the gold
done for us? It has enriched us, many will say. Yes! but it has also
been a stumbling-block to many a man. And is it not better to be a poor
but independent nation than to be rich and at the same time subject to
another Power. Let the goldfields go. We shall still, with our markets,
be rich enough."

Commandant Mentz (Heilbron) then rose.

"I appeal to the forbearance of the delegates," he said, "for making any
speech at this meeting. I fear I am unable to give as rose-coloured a
report as my brother Free-Staters have done: My district has been
continually harassed by the enemy's troops, and great devastation has
been wrought. But the greatest trouble I have is the presence of so many
families, for there are still two hundred in the district. I have only
eighty burghers under my command, and it is clear to me that I shall
soon be obliged to leave the district. What will then become of these
families? I received a commission not to sacrifice our independence. But
since my burghers met more than half of them have been made prisoners.
The remainder have instructed me to do my best to preserve our
independence, but if I find that it cannot be maintained to act
according to my own judgment. It appears to me that it may be possible
to retain our independence by ceding some part of the country; if this
be the case it ought most certainly to be done. I can remember the late
President Brand saying in connexion with the diamond fields, 'Give them
up; you will gain more by giving them up than by keeping them.' This
remark may well apply to the present situation."

Commandant Flemming (Cape Town) reported that his district was well-nigh
devastated. But they still possessed a fair number of cattle, which they
had carried away with them. But even if they had no cattle, that would
be no excuse for surrender, for in his district it was possible to live
on the game. The view which he and his burghers had taken was that since
they had already sacrificed nearly everything they possessed, they would
not now sacrifice their independence. For should this also be lost, then
there would be nothing left to them. That had been their opinion, but
they had not then known how matters stood in the Transvaal. Now that he
was aware of the state of affairs, he agreed with State Secretary Reitz
that their best course was to cede a part of their territory.

Vice-President Burger now rose from his seat, and said:

"This meeting has to formulate a fresh proposal to the English
Government, and to await its answer. If this proposal be rejected, well,
you will be no worse off than you are at present. If there be a man who
has earnestly considered what the sacrifice of everything means to us,
then I am that man. It has been said, we must retain our independence,
or else continue to fight; and we are still able to hold out for another
six months, or even a year. Now, supposing that we can hold out another
year, what should we gain by doing so? Why, we should only grow weaker,
whilst the enemy grew stronger! I emphatically state that the war cannot
be carried on any longer; and I ask if there is any man here who can
maintain with a clear conscience that the struggle can be successfully
continued.

"Some of you may tell me that complications may arise in Europe. But
that is a groundless hope. Others may say that it is astonishing enough
that we have been able to hold out till now, and that we still have the
power of making our voices heard. Yes! that is very surprising; but
shall we retain this power long? I heard some delegates say, 'We shall
fight till we die!' That is a manly sentiment. But was it not, perhaps,
prompted by a desire to make a fine speech, which would go down to
posterity? Was not the aim in some cases that future generations might
recall these speeches when they were told of the brave fight our men had
made?

"Let every one consider this well: Is he prepared to sacrifice the
nation on the shrine of his own ambition? Ambition, although it may cost
us our lives, can never lead to martyrdom. A martyr is made of finer
stuff!

"Have we not arrived at the stage of our history when we must pray, 'Thy
will be done'? That prayer, considered rightly, is a prayer of faith. Do
not let us imagine that we can compel God to do _our_ will--that is not
faith.

"I beg of you to consider what will become of the women and the
children and the banished burghers if you still persist until your last
shot has been fired. What right shall we have to intercede for these
unfortunate ones when we have rejected the proposals of the English
Government? We shall have no right whatsoever.

"Perhaps it is God's will that the English nation should oppress us, in
order that our pride may be subdued, and that we may come through the
fire of our troubles purified.

"My opinion is that we should make a peace proposal to England, yielding
as much as we rightly can; and if England rejects our proposal, it will
be time enough then to see what other course is open to us.

"There is one fact which we cannot allow ourselves to forget. There are
ten districts in the Transvaal which must be abandoned. In the Free
State, too, there are districts in a similar plight. It is the opinion
of lawyers that so long as the inhabitants remain in a district their
property cannot lawfully be confiscated; but if the district be
abandoned, then confiscations can take place.

"It is criminal to say, 'Come what may, we will fight till everything is
lost and all of us are dead!'"

The following resolution was then proposed by General Kemp, and seconded
by Mr. J. Nand:

"_This meeting decides, in order to expedite the work in hand, to depart
from the original programme; and to constitute a Commission, to be
composed of the Hon. Jacob Smits and the Hon. Judge Hertzog, and to give
this Commission authority to draw up, conjointly with the two State
Presidents, a draft proposal, to be laid before the delegates to-morrow
morning._"

This resolution was put to the meeting, and accepted by the delegates.
The meeting then adjourned.

       *       *       *       *       *

At half-past seven in the evening the delegates reassembled.

General Cilliers (Lichtenburg and Marico) was the first to make a
report. "In my division," he said, "things are in a very favourable
condition. Yet we are bound to take the other divisions into
consideration. My burghers said to me, 'Stand firm for independence!'
But when they gave me the order they did not know about the condition of
the other districts. Will those other districts--such of them, I mean,
as are in a worse predicament than ourselves--be able to co-operate with
us in continuing the war? Some of them have already answered my question
in the negative. Must we then not ask ourselves, What will be the best
for the nation as a whole? Shall we say continue the war, or shall we
approach the enemy and make a proposal?

"But are we really justified in prolonging the struggle, and making
still further sacrifices? Some will answer, 'Yes, for we have a God in
whom we have trusted from the beginning; shall we not continue to trust
in Him who has worked such wonders for us already?' But I have heard a
brother say, 'God's hand is against us.' It was bitter to hear these
words from him, and for myself I will have none of them. My vote is
given here and now for a continuance of the war.

"But we must hear what the rest of the delegates have to say, and if
they can point out some other way by which we can retain even a portion
of our national independence, we must be ready to follow it."

General Froneman next addressed the meeting.

"I fear," he began, "that too much is being made of the condition of my
division: things are not so prosperous with us as some here appear to
imagine. But for all that, my burghers are for nothing short of absolute
independence. They cannot forget the blood which has already been spilt
in our cause. They mean to hold out until they are relieved.

"I sympathize deeply with those districts that are less happily
circumstanced than my own, but it pains me to discover that there are
some here who doubt that God is for us. For what has supported us up
till now save faith in God?--the faith of those who first prayed God to
prevent the war, and then, when they saw that this was not His will,
fought like men, putting all their trust in Him.

"Up till now the Lord hath been my helper; the enemy has cut us off from
everything, and yet we see our two little Republics still full of hope,
still holding out."

He concluded his speech by saying that he would like to hear the
opinions of Generals Botha, De Wet, and De la Rey. They ought to be able
to throw much light upon the matter.

Commandant General Botha then rose, and said:

"I am glad to have an opportunity of giving my views upon the present
state of affairs. We know that differences of opinion are to be found
everywhere and on every question; when, therefore, a man differs from
those who think that this war can and ought to be continued, we must
ascribe his opinion to discouragement, weakness, or cowardice. We must
acknowledge the truth of the facts from which he draws his conclusions,
and which have compelled him to utter it. His object is to make known
the true state of the country--which indeed is his plain duty. Were he
not to do so on the present occasion he would be accused, later on, of
having kept secret what he ought to have revealed. Differences of
opinion then need not, and must not, cause a disunion and discord.
Whatever our private opinions may be, yet, as delegates of the burghers,
we must speak and act as one man.

"The war has now lasted two years. But the question for us to answer is
this: Are we going forwards or backwards? My own conviction--a
conviction founded upon the views expressed by my commandos and the
speeches which I have listened to at this meeting--is that we are not
gaining, but losing ground. There is nothing, in my opinion, more
evident than that, during the last six months, the tide has been setting
steadily against us, and in favour of the enemy.

"A year ago there were no blockhouses. We could cross and recross the
country as we wished, and harass the enemy at every turn. But now things
wear a very different aspect. We can pass the blockhouses by night
indeed, but never by day. They are likely to prove the ruin of our
commandos.

"Then, as regards food. We are told that there is food here, and food
there; but how are we to get at it? How are we to transport it from one
district to another? Outside the frontiers of our Republics there are
plenty of provisions, but it becomes daily more difficult to get them
into our hands. The cattle, for instance, that used to be at Ladysmith
have now been removed to Estcourt. Even the friendly Kaffirs, from whom
we are now able to obtain provisions, may quite possibly soon turn
against us. The time is coming when we shall be compelled to say,
'Hunger drives us to surrender.'

"The horses have been chased about so incessantly, and have suffered so
much from want of forage, that their strength is almost exhausted. They
are so weak that it is almost impossible to accomplish any long distance
with them.

"As to the Cape Colony, I had always understood that the Colonists were
going to rise _en bloc_, but General Smuts has just told us that there
is no chance of such a thing happening. And he speaks from personal
knowledge, having just returned from paying them a visit. Moreover, he
has seen our horses, and says that it is impossible for them to go into
the Colony, so it appears that our successes there are over. This is a
severe check indeed; but it could not have been otherwise. We have not
enough horses to enable us to give the Colonists effectual help, and
they themselves have been cowed by the heavy penalties imposed upon all
those who did rise. Many of those who are well disposed towards us dare
not join us now.

"Again, there is no chance of European intervention: not one of the
Powers will do anything for us. To see this it is only necessary to
peruse that correspondence between the Netherlands and England, which
was the cause of these negotiations. There we shall find that the Dutch
Minister says that our deputation is only accredited to Holland, whereas
it had been accredited by the two Republics to all the Governments in
Europe. Moreover, the correspondence makes it very plain that England
will not tolerate the intervention of any foreign Power whatsoever. But
the truth is, that no foreign Power wants to help us. When the women
were first made prisoners I thought that European intervention might
perhaps be attempted, because to make prisoners of women is a thing
quite outside the usual methods of warfare. But nothing was done even
then. We were told that we had the sympathy of the nations of
Europe--their sympathy, and nothing more!

"I have come to a subject that is very near our hearts--our women-folk.
If this meeting decides upon war, it will have to make provision for our
wives and children, who will then be exposed to every kind of danger.
Throughout this war the presence of the women has caused me anxiety and
much distress. At first I managed to get them into the townships, but
later on this became impossible, because the English refused to receive
them. I then conceived the idea of getting a few of our burghers to
surrender, and sending the women in with them. But this plan was not
practical, because most of the families were those of prisoners of war,
and the men still on commando were not so closely related to these
families as to be willing to sacrifice their freedom for them.

"We have heard much talk about fighting 'to the bitter end.' But what is
'the bitter end'? Is it to come when all of us are either banished or in
our graves? Or does it mean the time when the nation has fought until it
never can fight again? As to myself, personally, I can still continue
the struggle. I have horses, my household is well provided for, and as
far as my own inclination goes I am all for going on. But am I only to
consider myself? Is it not my first duty to look at the interests of my
nation? I have always been, and still am, of the opinion that, before
letting the nation go to rack and ruin, it is our duty to parley. We
must not let the chance for negotiations slip out of our hands. When our
numbers have fallen to only four or five thousand men under arms we
shall no longer have that chance, and this will undoubtedly happen if we
hold out for another year, or even six months.

"There are some who say, 'We must trust in God and keep on fighting,'
and I grant them that miracles are possible at all times. But it is
beyond our power to say whether God will work a miracle for us. We do
not know what His will may be. If we continue the war, and if it should
afterwards appear that everything has been in vain, our responsibility
will be only the heavier, the blinder our confidence now is. And over
and over again we shall hear, 'He is dead,' 'and he, and he.' Will not
this make our remorse all the more bitter? Our commandos are so weak,
our country so exhausted, that the loss of one great battle, the
surrender of a single strong force, would spell ruin for us.

"'But we have managed to hold out for so long.' Yes, but there is a
natural reason, a military reason, why this has been the case. The fact
that our commandos have been spread over so large a tract of country has
compelled the British, up to the present time, to divide their forces.
But things have changed now; we have had to abandon district after
district, and must now operate on a far more limited territory. In other
words, the British army can at last concentrate its forces upon us.

"I firmly believe that, under like circumstances, no other nation in the
world would have fought as our nation has done. Shall such a nation
perish? No! we must save it. If we delegates are convinced that we can
no longer offer resistance to the enemy, it is our plain duty to tell
the people so. We must not let them be exterminated for want of timely
advice. More than twenty thousand women and children have died in the
camps during this one year.

"There are men of our own kith and kin who are helping to bring us to
ruin. If we continue the war, it may be that the Afrikanders against us
will outnumber our own men.

"What is there left to hope for? Are we to retain our independence by
ceding a part of our territories? Most assuredly yes, if such a
compromise is feasible. As regards Swaziland, it is of so little
importance to us that we can give it up without a thought. Then there
are the goldfields--let them go. They are but a cancerous growth,
sapping the very life of our country.

"We must face the fact that things are not at a standstill: we are
slipping back every moment. We must all pull together, or everything is
lost. If our sacrifices will buy our independence, well and good. But
suppose that we are compelled to give it up--well, if it even comes to
this, we must never do so unconditionally. An unconditional surrender
would be well enough if the leaders only had to be considered. But we
must think of the interests of the nation. We must say to our people,
'We have no thought of ourselves: our only desire is to place ourselves
in the breach, if so we may save you.'"

General Botha then proceeded to discuss eventualities in the event of
independence being lost. Representative government, he said, might
perhaps still be retained, and the national language need not
necessarily be supplanted. Thus the nation would still retain its old
ideals and its old customs. General Roux had been pertinently asked
whether it were better to strive for the recuperation of the people now
or to wait until they were altogether overpowered and reduced to such
straits that it would require some thirty years before they could once
more call themselves a nation. He then went into the terms of the
proposal by the British Government, and repeated that there must be no
idea of unconditional surrender.

The General concluded in the following words:

"Although we do not _wish_ to accept terms, we have no right to refuse
them altogether. On the other hand we must not say to the English, 'Do
with us as you like.' For then our descendants would eternally reproach
us. We should have lost the privilege of looking after our own wives and
children. They would be handed over to strangers. No! we must secure by
some means or other that we ourselves shall be able to provide for them.
The fate of our country is in the hands of the men in this tent. It has
been bitter, indeed, for me to have to speak as I have done. But if I
have not spoken the truth, convince me of my error, and I will be the
first to own it. But do not condemn me, for I have had no other object
than to tell you what I believe to be the truth."

General De la Rey spoke.

"I will not detain you long," he began, "but there are a few points to
which I wish to draw attention. In regard to the districts under my
command, every one will understand that my burghers, after their recent
brilliant successes, are firmly resolved not to sacrifice their
independence. If I allude to the battles which I have just fought it is
with no thought of boasting, but only that you may picture to yourselves
the effect which they must have had upon the enemy; and that no one may
be angry with myself and my burghers for standing firm when our feet are
on such solid ground.

"But since my arrival at Vereeniging I have heard about our districts
where matters are in a far less favourable condition than in my own. So
far as I myself am concerned, I cannot think of laying down my arms. Yet
it appears to me that some parts of the country will be compelled by
starvation to give up the struggle. It is well that those who represent
these parts have spoken openly, and not left this meeting in ignorance
of the state of affairs only to go and lay down their arms.

"I myself have never thought intervention possible. Even before the war
broke out I said that nothing would come of it. I saw that South Africa
was divided between Germany and England. And that if only the Republics
could be extinguished, then England and Germany would be the only Powers
left, and Germany would be safe. But if the Republics were victorious,
then Germany would be in danger. Why then should Germany interfere in
favour of the Republics, when she has everything to lose by such a
course of action? No! intervention was entirely out of the question.

"There has been talk about fighting to the bitter end; but has not the
bitter end already come? Each man must answer that question for himself.

"You must remember that everything has been sacrificed--cattle, goods,
money, wife, and child. Our men are going about naked, and some of our
women have nothing but clothes made of skins to wear. Is not this the
bitter end?

"I believe that the time has now come to negotiate. England will never
again give us the chance of doing so, should we allow this opportunity
to slip by. But how shall we negotiate? I must leave it to this meeting
to answer that question. If we do not obtain what we ask for, we shall
at least stand or fall together. Yet let us act with reason.

"I cannot agree with one of the opinions expressed by Commandant-General
Botha and States-Secretary Reitz. They have stated that they are against
surrendering the goldfields to England; firstly, because England would
never accept such a proposal, for by doing so she would declare to the
whole world that she had only been fighting for the goldfields; and,
secondly, because if we gave up the goldfields we should lose a source
of revenue, without the aid of which we could not repair the damages
which the war has wrought."

Commandant-in-Chief de Wet spoke as follows:

"I am of opinion that the circumstances in the Orange Free State are no
less critical than those in the Transvaal. Nine districts were entirely
ruined; but these, though at one time abandoned by the burghers, have
now been reoccupied.

"If I now differ from those who are of opinion that it is useless to
prolong the war, it must not be thought that I am lacking in respect for
their judgment. By no means. I know that what has been said about the
wretched plight of the people is only too true; but they must not take
it amiss if I point out that the same condition of affairs was described
in the correspondence from the Transvaal which fell into the hands of
the English at Reitz. But, granting that the facts have been correctly
stated, even then the Orange Free State will refuse to give in. Let me
be candid with you, and say frankly that, in my opinion, this is
virtually the Transvaal's war. This, however, makes no difference to me.
For me the barrier of the Vaal River has never existed. I have always
endeavoured to maintain the Nauwere-Vereeniging,[112] and I feel
strongly the obligation which the union of the two States casts on each
one of us. They are two nations, but their cause is one.

"What, then, is the prevailing feeling in the Orange Free State? Of the
six thousand burghers who have been attending meetings, I myself have
been in command of five thousand, and I can confidently say that never
were five thousand men more unanimous in their opinion than were those I
led when they cried, as with one voice, 'Persevere; we have everything
to lose, but we have not yet lost it.' What, then, is the answer to be?
I am firmly persuaded that we have only one course before us. If we are
unable to obtain what we are asking for, then it only remains for us to
alleviate as best we may the lot of those who cannot help themselves. I
do not as yet clearly see how this is going to be done, but, at all
costs, let us continue fighting. What was our total strength when we
began this war? Sixty thousand men all told. Against this the English
had a standing army of seven hundred and fifty thousand troops. Of these
two hundred and fifty thousand, or one-third, are now in South Africa.
We know from experience that they are unable to send more than
one-third. And we? Have we not also one-third of our army left?

"I do not wish to imply that I am not prepared to concede something, but
nothing will induce me to consent to any part of the country in _our_
territory being given up. It will never do to have an English colony
planted in our midst, for England then would have far too firm a hold
upon our country.

"It is said, and with some truth, that the goldfields have been a curse
to us, but surely there is no reason why they should continue to be so.
I fail to see how, without retaining possession of these goldfields, the
Republics are to be saved. Swaziland perhaps could be ceded, but never
the goldfields. I feel that any intervention is out of the question; but
is not the very fact that it has not taken place a sure proof that it
was not the will of God? Does it not show that He is minded to form us,
by this war, into a nation worthy of the name? Let us then bow to the
will of the Almighty.

"My people will perhaps say, 'Our Generals see only the religious side
of the question.' They will be right. Without faith we should have been
foolish indeed to have embarked on this war and to continue it for so
many months. Indeed, it _must_ be a matter of faith, for the future is
hidden from us. What _has been_ is within our ken, but what is before is
beyond the knowledge of the wisest man.

"Cape Colony is a great disappointment to me. I do not refer so much to
what we have learnt about it from the reports as to the fact that no
general uprising can be expected in that quarter. So much we have heard
from General Smuts. But though there is to be no uprising, we have no
reason to think that there has been any falling off in the number of our
adherents in the Colony. The little contingent there has been of great
help to us: they have kept fifty thousand troops occupied, with which
otherwise we should have had to reckon.

"I feel deeply for our women and children; I am giving earnest
consideration to their miserable plight. But their sufferings are among
what we may call the necessary circumstances of the war. I have nothing
to do with the circumstances. For me, this is a war of religion, and
thus I can only consider the great principles involved. Circumstances
are to me but as obstacles to be cleared out of the road.

"If we own ourselves defeated--if we surrender to the foe--we can expect
little mercy from him. We shall at all events have dug the grave of our
national independence, and, as things are, what difference is there
between this and digging our own graves?"

Mr. Birkenstock said that the question about the goldfields must be
carefully considered. This source of income must not be given up.

The meeting was then closed with prayer.

[Footnote 112: Closer Union.]


SATURDAY, MAY 17TH, 1902.

The Chairman first called upon Chief Commandant de Wet to offer up
prayer.

A private report from Mr. J. Schmorderer, who had brought the missive
from the deputation in Europe, was then read.

The first delegate to speak was Landdrost Bosman (Wakkerstroom), who
said:

"My opinion is that the best way of ascertaining the probable future
course of events is to see what has already happened in the past. A year
ago there were six hundred burghers in my district, and each man had a
horse; now there are not more than half that number, and many of them
have to go on foot. Last year we had from three to four thousand bags of
maize ready to hand; this year there are not more than as many hundred,
and how to get at them is more than I can tell. If such has been the
history of the past year, in what sort of condition shall we be at the
end of the present one?

"The great difficulty with regard to our families is not how to clothe
them, but how to feed them. I know of a woman who has lived for weeks on
nothing but fruit. I myself have had to satisfy my hunger with mealies
for days together, although I have no wish to complain about it. Even
the scanty food we can get has to be obtained from the Kaffirs by
persuasion. Moreover, the Kaffirs side with the English, who in their
counter-marches are clearing all the food out of the country.

"The men in my district told me that if I came back and reported that
the war was to be continued, they would be obliged--for the sake of
their wives and children--to go straight to the nearest English camp and
lay down their arms. As to the women it is true that they are at present
full of hope and courage, but if they knew how matters stood in the
veldt, they would think very differently. Even now there are many of
them who say that the war ought to be put a stop to, if only for their
sakes.

"The Kaffirs are another great source of trouble; in this problem they
are a factor which cannot be neglected.

"There is no hope of intervention, nor can we expect anything from the
English nation. Facts that have come to my knowledge prove to me that
England has become more and more determined to fight to the bitter end.

"I do not see what we can possibly gain by continuing the war. Our own
people are helping the English, and every day the enemy are improving
their position. What advantage can there then be in persisting in the
struggle? We have now a chance of negotiating, and we should seize that
chance. For we have the opportunity given us of obtaining some help for
our ruined compatriots, who would be entirely unable to make a fresh
start without assistance.

"As to the religious side of this matter, I am not ashamed to say that I
believe I am serving God in the course which I am taking. We must not
attempt to obtain the impossible against all reason. If we make any such
attempt, the results will probably be exactly opposite to what we wish.
I have the greatest doubt whether it really is in order to give glory to
God that the nation wishes to retain its independence. On the contrary I
believe that the motive is obstinacy, a vice to which human nature is
always prone.

"It has been said that it would be shameful to disregard the blood
already spilt; but surely one ought also to consider the blood that
might yet be shed in a useless struggle."

The proposal of the Commission was now read, and after some discussion
accepted. It ran as follows:

The meeting of national representatives from both Republics--after
having considered the correspondence exchanged, and the negotiations
conducted, between the Governments of the two Republics and His
Excellency Lord Kitchener, on behalf of the British Government; and
after having heard the reports of the deputies from the different parts
of both Republics; and after having received the latest reports from the
representatives of the two Republics in Europe; and having taken into
consideration the fact that the British Government has refused to accept
the proposal of our Governments made on the same basis; and
notwithstanding the above-mentioned refusal of the British
Government--still wishes to give expression to the ardent desire of the
two Republics to retain their independence, for which already so much
material and personal sacrifice has been made, and decides in the name
of the people of both Republics to empower both Governments as
follows:--To conclude a peace on the following basis, to wit: the
retention of a limited independence offering an addition to what has
already been offered by the two Governments in their negotiations, dated
the 15th of April, 1902.

(_a_) To give up all foreign relations and embassies.

(_b_) To accept the Protectorate of Great Britain.

(_c_) To surrender parts of the territory of the South African Republic.

(_d_) To conclude a defensive alliance with Great Britain in regard to
South Africa.

During the discussion it was clearly explained that the territory which
it was suggested should be ceded was the already mentioned goldfields
and Swaziland. The question was put whether the South African Republics
would have to pay for the damage done during the war. "By all means let
us pay," said Mr. De Clercq. "If I could only buy back the independence
of the Orange Free State, I would gladly give all I possess."

Several other Transvaal delegates expressed themselves in the same
sense, and said that they fully appreciated the sacrifices which the
Orange Free State had made. General Froneman thanked them in the name of
the Free State.

He felt that the two Republics no longer thought of themselves as having
conflicting interests. In the fire of this war they had been firmly
welded together.

Commandant Ross (Vrede) thought it wrong even to discuss the possibility
of giving up independence. The delegates had received a definite
mandate. They had been commissioned to see that the national
independence had remained untouched, whatever else might have to be
given up. This being the case, they might come to decisions on all other
points, so long as they remembered that independence was not an open
question.

Commandant J. Van Niekerk (Ficksburg) spoke to the same purpose. He
could not even think of sacrificing independence.

After some other delegates had made a few short remarks, General Brand,
seconded by Commandant A.J. De Kock, proposed the following resolution,
which was accepted by the meeting:

     "This meeting of the national representatives of the two Republics
     hereby charge the Governments to nominate a Commission for the
     purpose of entering upon negotiations with His Excellency Lord
     Kitchener, acting on behalf of His Britannic Majesty's Government.
     The Commission is to endeavour to make peace on satisfactory terms,
     and is then to lay the result of its negotiations before this
     meeting, for the sanction of the two Governments."

The meeting was then closed with prayer.




Appendix B

THE CONFERENCE AT PRETORIA BETWEEN THE COMMISSION OF THE NATIONAL
REPRESENTATIVES AND LORDS KITCHENER AND MILNER (MAY 19TH-MAY 28TH,
1902)


Minutes of the Conference held at Pretoria on May 19th, 1902, between
Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner, representatives of the British
Government, and Commandant-General L. Botha, Commander-in-Chief C.R. de
Wet, General J.H. De la Rey, Judge J.B.M. Hertzog, and General J.C.
Smuts, delegates of the national representatives, who had met at
Vereeniging on May 15th, 1902.

Mr. N.J. de Wet acted as interpreter; Mr. O. Walrond was secretary for
the English Government; and the Rev. J.D. Kestell and D. Van Velden
acted in a similar capacity for the Commission.

The Conference met at ten o'clock in the morning at the house of Lord
Kitchener. After having greeted each other, the members took their seats
at the table in the centre of the room.

Commandant-General L. Botha opened the proceedings in the following
words:

"Allow me to state that, although the negotiations have taken a longer
time than we expected, I am able to assure your Excellencies that we are
acting in good faith, and that everything has been done with the sole
aim of concluding the peace which we all desire.

"I must also draw attention to the fact that everything we transact here
must be submitted to our national representatives, in order to obtain
their sanction."

The suggestion was then made that the proposals which the Commission was
prepared to make should be laid before the Conference, whereupon the
following letter was read to the meeting:

     PRETORIA, _19th May, 1902_.

     _To their Excellencies, Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner, Pretoria._

     YOUR EXCELLENCIES,--

     With a view to finally concluding the existing hostilities, and
     being fully empowered by the Government of the two Republics, we
     have the honour to propose the following points--in addition to the
     conditions already offered in the negotiations of April last--as a
     basis for negotiations:

     (_a_) We are prepared to cede our independence as regards our
     foreign relations.

     (_b_) We wish to retain self-government in our country, under
     British supervision.

     (_c_) We are prepared to cede a part of our territory.

     Should your Excellencies be prepared to negotiate on this basis,
     then the above-mentioned points can be elaborated.

     We have the honour to be,
     Your Excellencies' most obedient servants,
     LOUIS BOTHA.
     C.R. DE WET.
     J.H. DE LA REY.
     J.B.M. HERTZOG.
     J.C. SMUTS.

When this letter had been read, a discussion followed.

Lord Milner: "Considering the wide difference between this proposal and
that made by His Majesty's Government, when we last met, I fear that I
can hold out very little hope of any good results following negotiations
on the basis you have suggested."

Lord Kitchener: "We can take those proposals into consideration, but I
cannot see how it is possible to bring them into harmony with those of
His Majesty's Government."

Commandant-General Botha: "If this is the position you take, we should
like to receive from you a final answer to our proposals."

Lord Milner: "Do you wish us to refer your proposals to His Majesty's
Government?"

Commandant-General Botha: "Yes, unless you have full powers to give us a
final reply."

Lord Milner: "I am quite convinced that your proposal will be rejected;
and I feel bound to say that to refer it, as it stands, to His Majesty's
Government will only do you harm."

Commandant-General Botha: "If you have no power to decide upon this
proposal here, we should like you to refer it to His Majesty's
Government."

Lord Milner: "I have no objection to taking the responsibility of
refusing your proposal on myself. The instructions received by myself
and Lord Kitchener are quite clear on this point."

Commandant-General Botha: "I must then understand that when Lord
Salisbury said that this war was not carried on with a view to annex
territory, he did not mean it."

Lord Kitchener: "It is no longer a question of territory, for annexation
is an accomplished fact."

Commandant-General Botha: "I am unable to see how our proposal is
inconsistent with annexation."

Lord Milner: "I cannot now recall the exact words used by Lord
Salisbury, but it is true that Lord Salisbury declared that his
Government did not begin the war with the intention of obtaining
territory. But in the course of the war circumstances developed in such
a way that the decision to annex the Republics became a necessity, and
the British Government have pronounced their firm intention not to
withdraw from this decision."

Judge Hertzog: "I should like to be informed as to what the great
difference is between the basis now proposed by us and that laid down by
His Majesty's Government during the negotiations of last year--I do not
mean the difference in details, but in principle."

Lord Kitchener: "Do you mean by your proposal that the Boers will become
British citizens?"

General Smuts: "I cannot see that our proposal is necessarily in
contradiction to that of last year. Our proposal only makes provision
concerning the administration."

Lord Milner then quoted from the terms offered at Middelburg by the
British Government the previous year:--

"At the earliest possible date military administration shall cease, and
be replaced by civil administration in the form of a Crown Colony
Government. At first there will be in each of the new Colonies a
Governor, an Executive Council consisting of the highest officials, and
a Legislative Council, which latter shall consist of a certain number of
official members and also of a nominated non-official element. But it is
the wish of His Majesty's Government to introduce a representative
element as soon as circumstances permit, and, in course of time, to
grant to the new colonies the right of self-government.

"It may be that I do not properly understand your proposal, but it seems
to me to differ not only in detail, but also in spirit from the scheme I
have just read to you."

Judge Hertzog: "I entirely agree with you that there is a difference in
idea between the two proposals; but only such a difference in idea as
might well be found between Colonies of the same State. In other words,
one constitution is adapted for one colony, whilst another constitution
is found fitting for another colony, but yet they all belong to the same
Empire."

Lord Milner: "Exactly. There are different constitutions in different
Colonies; but it seems to me that the _policy_ laid down in your
proposal differs from that laid down by His Majesty's Government."

Judge Hertzog: "I think that I am expressing the opinion of the whole
Commission when I say that we wish for peace. I draw attention to this
to show the way in which, according to my opinion, we should consider
the matter. For if we on both sides are really desirous of coming to a
settlement, we should not make too much of theoretical difficulties, so
long as the practical aim has been obtained. For instance, the different
Colonies which now are joined to form the United States once possessed
constitutions differing much from one another. Now the constitution laid
down in our proposal does not differ so much from that laid down in
yours that a practical difference should arise therefrom; and such a
practical difference would arise if you insisted upon carrying on
negotiations on your own basis. I imagine that England has a certain
object before her in South Africa, and I believe that that object can be
as well obtained by our proposal as by that of Middelburg. I therefore
ask, Is the difference so great that, in order for England to obtain her
object, an entirely new status must be called into existence?"

Lord Milner: "We are comparing two different things. Here in the
Middelburg scheme there are a number of definite proposals, which enter
upon a great mass of particulars. I do not mean to imply that _we_ have
not the power to go into particulars. I perfectly understand that it
lies within the power of Lord Kitchener and myself to carry on further
deliberations with you about details, so as to throw light on any
doubtful points, and, perhaps, to make such changes as would not
fundamentally affect the scheme. As you say that your proposals are not
in contradiction with those formulated at Middelburg, then there is no
reason why you should not lay aside your proposals and discuss the
Middelburg proposals, which are definite."

Judge Hertzog: "I quite admit that you, Lord Milner, are entitled to say
that there is a fundamental difference between our proposals. But it is
another question whether the difficulty that thus arises is of such a
nature that we--those of us who on both sides are anxious to conclude
peace--should not be able to find a solution to it satisfactory to both
parties. I cannot answer that question; nor can I see why the same
result would not be reached by negotiating on the basis proposed by us
as by carrying on negotiations on the Middelburg proposal."

Lord Milner: "I understand, then, that you acknowledge that there is a
fundamental difference between the two bases. Well, I do not think that
we are empowered to negotiate on a basis differing from that laid down
in the last report of His Majesty's Government, and also differing from
the tenor of the Middelburg proposal. I may say that I believe that His
Majesty's Government in their latest message went as far as it was
possible for them to go with the object of meeting you. The whole spirit
of the telegram was to that effect."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I hope you will understand that I do not
speak as a lawyer. (Lord Kitchener, laughing: "That's the case with me
too!") I fully concur with what General Botha and Judge Hertzog have
said in regard to our eagerness to establish peace. In order to be
brief, I will only remark that I did not understand His Excellency, Lord
Milner, to mean--any more than I myself meant--that we should go to the
nation with the Middelburg proposal, with the idea of coming back with
it unaltered."

Lord Milner: "No; if I gave that impression, I did not intend to do so.
But I believe that when you went to your people with the last message
from His Majesty's Government it was with the knowledge--which the
message itself made clear--that His Majesty's Government was not
prepared to take into consideration any terms which differed widely from
the policy laid down in the Middelburg proposal."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "That was indeed what I understood; and
accordingly we have now come with a proposal which does not differ very
much from the Middelburg proposal."

General Smuts: "I thought that the vital principle your Government had
in view was the destruction of our independence, and in our proposal the
independence of the two Republics with regard to foreign relations is
given up. I was therefore of opinion that the two parties might come to
an arrangement on this basis. I did not think that for the restoration
of peace the Middelburg terms were essential."

Lord Milner: "Not in the details, but in the general ideas. As the
British Government has laid down a basis, and you have had weeks in
which to consider the matter, it would never do for you now to put it on
one side. Lord Kitchener has given your nation considerable time in
which to take counsel; and now you come back, and, ignoring the
Middelburg terms, you propose entirely different ones of your own, and
say, let us negotiate on these. I do not believe that I and Lord
Kitchener would be justified in doing this. But in case he is of another
opinion, the British Government can be asked if they are prepared to set
on one side all the former deliberations and begin again on a new
basis."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "We cannot, of course, prevent Lord Kitchener
from asking his Government any questions he pleases, but, at the same
time, we request that you will cable our behests to the English
Government."

Commandant-General Botha: "I cannot see that we are beginning again on a
new basis, for, in consequence of the negotiations in April last, you
were ordered by the British Government to encourage us to make fresh
proposals. Our present proposal is the direct result of that order."

Lord Milner: "I did my best to get fresh proposals from you, but you
would not make any. You forced the British Government into making
proposals."

Commandant-General Botha: "I am of opinion that we must both work
together in this matter of formulating proposals."

Lord Kitchener: "You were asked to make proposals, but you did not do
so; and now, after the British Government has made a proposal, you
yourselves come forward with one of your own."

General De la Rey: "I think that it was the encouragement given us by
correspondence between the Netherlands and the British Government that
caused us to make our proposals."

Lord Milner: "That correspondence was at the beginning of the
negotiations."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "If we had been obliged to make a new
proposal in April, we would not have been able to make one so fair, and
so much to the advantage of the British Government, as our present one,
for, not having consulted the nation, we would have been compelled to
insist on entire independence."

Lord Milner: "I must remind you of what has taken place; not with the
object of putting you in the wrong, but in order to make the position
clear, for there are some points about it which are not very clear. You
came and made a proposal. The British Government gave you a distinct
answer--they refused to accept it. Their answer was perfectly outspoken,
and perfectly intelligible. At the same time they said, 'We are anxious
for peace; will you make other proposals?' You then said, 'No! we have
no power to do so; we must first consult the nation.' We admitted that
argument. Then you said, 'Let the British Government make proposals.'
The British Government did so, and they are fully entitled to an answer.
In what position do you think you are placing Lord Kitchener and myself?
You come back with a totally fresh proposal, and do not say anything
about ours. This is not fair treatment to the British Government, and we
are not bound to take your proposal into consideration."

Judge Hertzog: "I have endeavoured to show that our reply really cannot
be taken as ignoring the proposal of the British Government. The great
question in the correspondence in April between us and the British
Government was the question of independence; and now, after having
consulted the nation, we come here and say that we are prepared to
sacrifice in some degree our independence, and we indicate how far we
will give it up. And, as General Smuts has said, that is the basis which
we have laid down in our present proposal."

Lord Milner: "You say that you give up your independence as regards
foreign relations."

Judge Hertzog: "Yes. But then you must understand that this is only a
general principle, which we treat in detail later on."

General Smuts: "The independence is given up both in regard to our
foreign relations and in regard to interior administration, which will
be placed under the supervision of the British Government. So that the
effect of these two articles is, that the independence is sacrificed,
and that the two Republics will not in the future be able to be regarded
as Sovereign States."

Lord Milner: "I understand perfectly well that they would not be
Sovereign States any longer, but my intellect is not bright enough for
me to be able to say what they really would be."

Lord Kitchener: "They would be a new kind of 'international animal.'"

General Smuts: "It has more than once happened in the course of history
that difficulties have been solved by compromise. And this draft
proposal goes as near as seems possible towards making us a Colony."

Lord Kitchener: "Do you accept the annexation?"

General Smuts: "Not formally; but I do not see in what way this proposal
is in opposition to the annexation proclamation."

Lord Kitchener: "I am afraid I am not clever enough to comprehend this.
There would be two Governments in one State. And how do you imagine that
this arrangement could be carried on?"

General Smuts: "A more ample explanation will have to be given of the
word 'supervision'; and I thought that this was just one of the points
on which we could carry on further discussions and negotiations."

Lord Milner: "I am certainly not going to give up an explicit basis for
a vague proposal."

Lord Kitchener: "I feel convinced that your proposal would never be able
to be carried out in the practical governing of a country."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I agree that our proposal has not been fully
worked out, but neither have the Middelburg proposals. This was clearly
indicated by Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner when these proposals were
made, and they were only looked upon as a basis on which we could
negotiate, so that the business might be begun. We naturally cannot
compel the British Government to accept our proposal; but, at all
events, it is a basis."

Lord Milner: "I am very anxious that these discussions should not end in
smoke, and I shall not allow any formalities to stand in the way, but to
abandon the definite proposals of Middelburg (March 7th) for a thing
like this, and to begin a fresh discussion on the basis of something
which is so very vague will surely land us in trouble. I believe we are
quite entitled to keep you to the Middelburg proposal, which we might
modify in regard to details."

Commandant-General Botha: "Perhaps it would be well if you would first
give an answer to our proposals."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I think that (unless your Excellencies have
power to give a final answer to our terms) it would not be unfair if we
were to ask you to lay our proposal before your Government."

Commandant-General Botha: "We are come here with the earnest intention
of concluding peace; and I think that if our proposal is carried out
Boer and Briton will be able to live side by side in this country. I
presume that it is the wish of both parties to be fair and just, and to
make a peace by which both can abide, and which will be permanent in
South Africa."

Lord Milner: "That is certainly our aim."

Lord Kitchener: "Your proposal would involve important changes in our
own--changes which, so far as I understand them, we should be unable to
permit."

Commandant-General Botha: "I am of opinion that before a proposal is
made from your side you should give a definite answer to ours."

Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner: "Well, then, change your proposal into
ours."

Lord Milner: "I do not believe that the British Government is prepared
to go any further to meet you than they have done in their last
proposal. They think that they have already gone far in their efforts
for peace--further, indeed, than the general opinion of the British
public would warrant."

Lord Kitchener: "The difference between our proposals seems to be too
great."

Commandant-General Botha: "We shall always remain under the supervision
of the British Government."

Lord Kitchener: "Will you then consider yourselves British subjects?
'Supervision' is a new word, and 'suzerainty' has already caused us too
much trouble."

Judge Hertzog: "The idea is not so very new. There are several kinds of
different States, all belonging to the British Empire. For instance,
there is Basutoland."

Lord Milner: "There are many different kinds, but this one is a new
variety."

Judge Hertzog: "If your Excellencies could only understand us! We have
no wish to lose a single minute. We have been to the nation, and we know
what the nation wants and what their temper is. If, then, we are to make
a proposal here, it must be:--Firstly, a proposal which shall meet the
English Government in a fair way; and, secondly, a proposal which we are
honestly convinced will be acceptable to our nation. And such a proposal
we have laid before you. And now we are placed in a disadvantageous
position, for we are here before your Excellencies, who have not full
power finally to decide the matter."

Lord Kitchener: "We are in the same position as yourselves."

Judge Hertzog: "We offer you here what we know is in accordance with the
mind of the nation; we cannot possibly do anything that is against it."

Lord Milner: "Are we to understand that the Middelburg proposals are not
according to the mind of your people?"

General Smuts: "As yet no answer has been given to them. The only
decision come to by the national meeting is that which we are now laying
before you."

Lord Kitchener: "Are you prepared to set aside your present proposal and
to hand in another one bearing a closer resemblance to that of
Middelburg? We must try and find some middle course; and as we are here
to endeavour to arrive at something definite, let us try to obtain a
basis for discussion. Shall we make a new proposal?"

General Smuts: "As soon as there is a final answer to our proposal we
shall be able to take a fresh one into consideration."

Lord Milner: "I believe that the fact that you have refused to enter
upon the proposal made by the British Government justifies us in not
considering your proposal. Let us rather say that your very refusal
implies your answer to what we have proposed."

General Smuts: "I understand the position to be as follows--The British
Government has declined our proposals, and at the same time holds fast
to the old basis, but without prejudice to its power of making a new
proposal."

Lord Milner: "The whole difference between you and myself is that I take
the letter of 7th March to be the utmost concession that the British
Government is able to grant; not that that letter binds us down to every
clause of the proposal, but that it is an indication of how far our
Government is prepared to go on the general question. Your answer,
however, is no answer at all."

Lord Kitchener then read his telegram, dated 14th April. ["A difficulty
has arisen in getting on with the proceedings; the representatives state
that constitutionally they have no power to discuss terms based on the
surrender of independence, inasmuch as only the burghers can agree to
such a basis. Therefore, if they were to propose terms, it would put
them in a false position with regard to the people. If, however, His
Majesty's Government could state the terms which, subsequently to a
relinquishment of independence, they would be prepared to grant, the
representatives, after asking for the necessary explanations, and
without any expression of approval or disapproval, would submit such
conditions to their people."] "Clearly you have not kept to what you
undertook in this telegram."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "If it had only been a question of our
feelings being hurt by having to give an answer on the basis proposed to
us by the British then it would not have been necessary for the people
to come together at Vereeniging. But in matter of fact we have come here
with a proposal, which, rightly understood, is nearly equivocal to the
Middelburg proposal, and which meets the wishes of the English
Government as far as possible."

Commandant-General Botha: "I do not see why we should insist so much on
our proposal. If it is not to the mind of your Excellencies, if it is an
unacceptable proposal, then let us have a definite answer to it."

Lord Milner: "We wish to have an answer to the proposal made by us."

General Smuts: "I do not see that any proposal has been made by the
British Government. A certain basis only has been laid down, and
therefore no formal answer is required."

Lord Milner: "Our proposal is six times as definite as yours, and I
believe that the British Government is justified in wanting to know if
your people are inclined to come to terms on the general lines which
have been placed before them."

Lord Kitchener: "Here is quite an original suggestion: How would it be
if you were to go back to your people and ask them if they would not
make a proposal?"

General Smuts: "You must understand that the Middelburg proposal, with
all that took place in April, has been read to the people. Their answer
was neither 'Yes' nor 'No.' They simply elected the delegates. The
delegates as yet have not given any answer. They are still considering
the matter, and, in order to gain time, they have commissioned us to see
whether we could not come to some arrangement."

Lord Milner: "We are getting away from the subject. Tell us what
alterations you want, and then place our proposal before your people."

Lord Kitchener: "Should you agree that your proposal is not in
opposition to the annexation, we shall have accomplished something."

General Smuts: "Is it your opinion that our proposal must be set aside?"

Lord Kitchener: "Yes, surely. It is impossible for us to act on it."

Lord Milner: "It is impossible for us to take your proposal into
consideration. We can send it to England, but this would certainly tend
to hinder the negotiations. This is my personal opinion, which naturally
you are not bound to accept. All that we can say is, that this is the
only answer that we can give you."

Lord Kitchener: "It would be better to draw up a new document, in which
everything of importance would be noted down, and all unimportant
matters left out."

General Smuts: "But paragraph 3 of our proposal has not even been
mentioned. We are prepared to cede a part of our territory."

Lord Milner: "This would be in contradiction to the annexation of the
whole. If the _whole_ becomes annexed by us, how then can a _part_ be
ceded by you?"

General Smuts: "The ceded part would then become a Crown Colony, the
remaining part being governed as is here proposed."

Lord Milner: "You mean that one part would become a British Colony of
the ordinary type, and another part a protected Republic?"

Lord Kitchener: "Two forms of government in the same country would lead
to great friction. Our proposals are too divergent. From a military
point of view, the two forms of government could not co-exist. Before a
year was over we should be at war again."

The meeting was then adjourned till the afternoon.

During the interval the Commission discussed the situation, and sent
General J.C. Smuts to deliberate on several points with Lord Kitchener
and Lord Milner.

The meeting opened again at four o'clock.

Lord Milner: "In consequence of an informal conversation with General
Smuts, Lord Kitchener and I have drawn up a document, which will show
the form in which, as we think, the only agreement that can be arrived
at must be worded. It is a draft document, and we believe the
Governments will be able to sign it. Our idea is that after it has been
taken into consideration here it might be laid before the burghers, and
you could ask them, 'Are you willing that we should put our signatures
to it?'"

This document ran as follows:--"The undersigned, leaders of the Boer
forces in the Veldt, accepting, in their own name, and in that of the
said burghers, the annexations as mentioned in the proclamations of Lord
Roberts, dated respectively the 24th May, in the year of our Lord
nineteen hundred, and number 15, dated 1st day of September, in the year
of our Lord nineteen hundred, and accepting as a consequence thereof
their status of British citizens, agree herewith immediately to lay down
their weapons, and to hand over all guns, small arms, ammunition, and
stores in their possession, or under their hold, and to cease all
further resistance against the Government of His Majesty King Edward
Seventh, or his successors. They do this trusting in the assurance of
His Majesty's Government that neither their personal freedom nor their
property shall be taken away from them, or from the burghers who
surrender with them; and that the future action of His Majesty's
Government in relation to the consequences of the war shall be in
harmony with the declaration mentioned below. It is clearly understood
that all burghers who at present are prisoners of war, in order to be
able to enjoy the above-mentioned assurance, will have to notify their
acceptance of the status of British citizens."

Commandant-General Botha: "Are we to understand that our proposal is now
altogether rejected?"

Lord Milner and Lord Kitchener: "Yes."

Commandant-General Botha: "Then I understand that you are going to be
guided only by the Middelburg proposals?"

Lord Kitchener: "No; we can alter them."

Lord Milner: "This draft document was originally written out in order to
be annexed to the Middelburg proposals. But instead of the Middelburg
proposals, this document is now drawn up, in order to place us in the
position to formulate the proposals differently."

General Smuts: "If the idea is then that the Middelburg proposals should
be amended, would it not be best to do so now, and then to annex them to
this document?"

Lord Milner: "That which will take the place of the Middelburg proposals
has to be added as a schedule to this document, and we have to work out
this schedule together."

General Smuts: "I think it would be far better if you were to alter the
proposal yourselves, and then lay it before us for consideration; we
could then see what we could do to meet you."

Lord Kitchener: "I think that a sub-committee should be formed by you in
order to draw up the schedule."

Lord Milner: "My idea is that the schedule should be drawn up, so that
it and the document could be taken into consideration together."

General Smuts: "We should like to consider first whether we will help in
drawing it up."

Lord Milner: "I am willing to draw it up in conjunction with you, or to
let it be drawn up by you alone, but, from past experience, I must
decline to draw it up by myself."

General Smuts: "If we were to sign this document, would not the outcome
be that we leaders made ourselves responsible for the laying down of
arms by our burghers."

Lord Milner: "Yes. And should your men not lay down their arms it would
be a great misfortune."

Lord Kitchener: "I do not think so, for if some of the burghers refused
to lay down their arms, the signatories could not help it. There are
sure to be some who are dissatisfied."

General Smuts: "The document does not mention this."

Lord Kitchener: "It can be amended."

General De la Rey: "Well, then, there can be no peace, for one part of
the burghers will hold back and continue the war."

Lord Milner: "If the national meeting agrees to give you power to sign
this document, it will certainly mean that the burghers as a whole are
agreeable; and those who after this do not submit will be--well, I do
not know what I can call them--outlaws. But we will not consider such
an eventuality possible."

General Botha: "We desire a peace that will be honourable to both
parties. And, as I understand this document, we are leaving honour
behind us, for we are now not only surrendering our independence, but we
are allowing every burgher to be fettered hand and foot. Where is the
'honourable peace' for us? If we conclude peace, we have to do it as men
who have to live and die here. We must not agree to a peace which leaves
behind in the hearts of one party a wound that will never heal. I will
do everything in my power to obtain peace. But it seems to me that this
document asks too much of us, because, if I interpret it aright, it
means that we must surrender our independence, that every one must give
up his weapons, and that the leaders, in addition, must sign an
undertaking to this effect."

Lord Milner: "All that we wish is that the people should live peacefully
together as British citizens. If we do not obtain this, then I do not
know what we do obtain."

Lord Kitchener: "I do not think that the Commandant-General realizes
what the schedule contains. In it we state what we are ready to grant.
Perhaps it would be best that the schedule should be arranged now, and
then you will see that an honourable peace is proposed."

General Botha: "Well, then, explain the document."

Lords Kitchener and Milner: "You are to help us: we do not know what the
burghers demand."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "By signing this document we shall place
ourselves in the position which the Commandant-General has so clearly
described."

General De la Rey: "We cannot form a judgment on anything that is not
properly elaborated. I have no objection to the constitution of a
sub-committee with the duty of helping in the work."

Commandant-General Botha: "I also have no objection, since I understand
that it binds nobody to anything."

Lord Kitchener: "No, nobody will be bound."

General De la Rey: "We wish to have the matter concluded, so that we may
know what is before us."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I should like to have it clearly understood
that I do not think there is the least chance of a Government of which
Lords Kitchener and Milner are the heads being accepted. An arrangement
of this nature would, it seems to me, be an insurmountable difficulty.
When I feel so strongly in this matter, it would not be fair to their
Excellencies for me to remain silent."

Lord Kitchener: "I think it would be better if General de Wet were to
wait until he has seen the whole document before he gives his opinion."

It was then agreed that Judge Hertzog and General Smuts should act as a
sub-committee, in order to draw up a complete draft with Lord Kitchener,
who was to be assisted by Sir Richard Solomon.

The meeting then adjourned.

On Wednesday, 21st May, 1902, the Conference reassembled.

Lord Milner laid before the meeting the documents which he had drawn up
with the help of the sub-committee. It was in the form of a contract,
and the names of the members of both Governments were now filled in. The
document was the same as that telegraphed, with the exception of Article
11, dealing with the notes and receipts and the sum of three million
pounds.

It was read in Dutch and English, and ran as follows:--

"General Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, Commander-in-Chief, and His
Excellency Lord Milner, High Commissioner, on behalf of the British
Government;

"Messrs. S.D. Burger, F.W. Reitz, Louis Botha, J.H. De la Rey, L.J.
Meijer, and J.C. Krogh, on behalf of the Government of the South African
Republic and its burghers;

"Messrs. M.T. Steyn, W.J.C. Brebner, C.R. de Wet, J.B.M. Hertzog, and
C.H. Olivier, on behalf of the Government of the Orange Free State and
its burghers, being anxious to put an end to the existing hostilities,
agree on the following points:--

"Firstly, the burgher forces now in the Veldt shall at once lay down
their arms, and surrender all the guns, small arms and war stores in
their actual possession, or of which they have cognizance; and shall
refrain from any further opposition to the authority of His Majesty King
Edward VII., whom they acknowledge as their lawful sovereign.

"The manner and details of this surrender shall be arranged by Lord
Kitchener, Commandant-General Botha, Assistant-Commandant-General J.H.
De la Rey, and Commander-in-Chief de Wet.

"Secondly, burghers in the Veldt beyond the frontiers of the Transvaal
and of the Orange River Colony shall, on their surrender, be brought
back to their homes.

"Thirdly, all prisoners of war, being at the time burghers out of South
Africa, shall, on their declaring that they accept this status of
subjects of His Majesty King Edward VII., be brought back to the farms
on which they were living before the war.

"Fourthly, the burghers who thus surrender, or who thus return, shall
lose neither their personal freedom nor their property.

"Fifthly, no judicial proceedings, civil or criminal, shall be taken
against any of the burghers who thus return for any action of theirs in
connexion with the carrying on of the war.

"Sixthly, the Dutch language shall be taught in the public schools of
the Transvaal and of the Orange River Colony, where the parents of the
children demand it; and shall be admitted in the courts of justice,
wherever this is required for the better and more effective
administration of justice.

"Seventhly, the possession of rifles shall, on taking out a license in
accordance with the law, be permitted in the Transvaal and in the Orange
River Colony, to persons who require them for their protection.

"Eighthly, military administration in the Transvaal and in the Orange
River Colony shall, as soon as possible, be followed by civil
government; and, as soon as circumstances permit it, a representative
system tending towards autonomy shall be introduced.

"Ninthly, the question of granting the franchise to the natives shall
not be decided until a representative constitution has been granted.

"Tenthly, no special tax shall be laid on landed property in the
Transvaal and Orange River Colony to meet the expenses of the war.

"Eleventhly, a judicial Commission shall be appointed, to which the
government bank notes, issued under Law No. 1 of the South African
Republic, may be presented within six months. All such notes, if found
to have been duly issued in conformity with the terms of the law, and if
the presenting party shall have given consideration in value, shall be
honoured, but without interest.

"All receipts issued in the Veldt by the officers of the late Republics,
or by their orders, may also be presented to the said Commission within
six months; and if they have been given _bona fide_ in exchange for
goods used by the burghers in the Veldt, they shall be paid in full to
the persons to whom they were originally issued.

"The amount payable on account of the said Government's notes and
receipts shall not exceed L3,000,000; and in case the whole amount of
such notes and receipts accepted by the Commission should exceed that
amount, a _pro rata_ reduction shall be made.

"The prisoners of war shall be given facilities to present their notes
and receipts within the above-mentioned six months.

"Twelfthly, as soon as circumstances shall permit, there shall be
appointed in each district of the Transvaal and of the Orange River
Colony a Commission, in which the inhabitants of that district shall be
represented, under the chairmanship of a magistrate or other official,
with a view to assist in the bringing back of the people to their farms,
and in procuring for those who, on account of losses through the war,
are unable to provide for themselves, food, shelter, and such quantities
of seed, cattle, implements, etc., as are necessary for the resuming of
their previous callings. Funds for this purpose, repayable by
instalments extending over a number of years, shall be advanced--free of
interest--by the Government."

Lord Milner: "If we come to an agreement, it will be the _English_
document which will be wired to England, on which His Majesty's
Government will decide, and which will be signed."

Commandant-General Botha: "Will not a Dutch translation be annexed?"

Lord Milner: "I have no objection to the addition of a Dutch
translation. This, then, is the document which we are prepared to lay
before the English Government."

Commandant-General Botha: "There are a few points on which I wish to
speak. The first is in reference to the receipts given by our officers.
It seems to me quite right that they should be mentioned in the
paragraph about government notes. These receipts were issued, in
accordance with instructions given by our Government, for the purchase
of cattle, grain, and other necessaries for the support of our
commandos; and the chief officers now present, as well as all other
officers, have acted according to these instructions and issued
receipts. Therefore I make this request. Some of these receipts were
afterwards paid in part, and others in full, in government notes. But
many were not paid at all. I do not believe that the amount is great,
but it will strengthen our hands to be able to take up this affair
honourably, for our honour is concerned in so far as we have signed the
receipts. It will be a great point in our favour to be able to go before
our delegates and tell them that they are guaranteed on this point, for
most of them are officers."

Lord Kitchener: "I understand that General Botha refers not to
commandeer or requisition notes, but only to actual receipts issued on
the Treasury."

Lord Milner: "I do not see any difference between these receipts and
commandeer notes. The willingness of persons to sell goods makes no
difference in a legal document."

Lord Kitchener: "I mean that it makes a difference whether it is an
order on the Treasury or a requisition note. I should limit this
(guarantee) to receipts on the Treasury, issued in consequence of a law
that permitted a certain sum to be issued."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "No decision was come to in the Free State as
to how much was to be issued."

Lord Kitchener: "Am I to understand by this that it is an unlimited
amount, or does it come within the amount decided on by the Volksraad?"

General Smuts: "While the Government existed the Volksraad empowered it
to issue notes up to a certain amount. And this was done. Moreover the
officers in the Veldt had the right to make purchases for the commandos
and to give receipts for them."

Lord Milner: "I can see no difference between receipts and requisition
notes, and they have been issued for an unlimited amount."

General Smuts: "These receipts were issued under a totally different
law. They were not paid out of the credit voted by the Volksraad."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I would have it clearly understood that I
quite agree with what has been said by the Commandant-General, namely
that the honour of every officer is engaged for these documents, and if
your Excellencies agree it will give us a strong weapon with which to
return to the delegates."

Lord Milner: "The proposal is _de facto_ that the British Government
shall repay all the monies which the Republics borrowed with the object
of fighting against England."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "Yet we have fought honourably, and if we
give up our independence it is no more than fair that you should meet us
in this matter."

Commandant-General Botha: "Am I to understand your position to be that
we must surrender everything, and that whilst you take away the freedom
of our country (which amounts to many millions) you at the same time
refuse all responsibility for our debts. We had been recognized by you
as belligerent, and so are entirely in our rights in asking that when
you seize the riches of the country you shall also take its debts upon
your shoulders. So long as the British Government reaches the great goal
at which it is aiming, a matter so easily arranged as this should not
cause any difficulty: we are not bickering about trifles, but are
bringing forward what to us is a real hardship, and you must take it for
granted that when we say something here we really mean it. And now we
tell you that this matter is an obstacle in our way. Personally, we
have not signed many receipts: it was the officers of lower rank who
signed the greater number, and it is these very officers who form the
majority of the national meeting at Vereeniging. In some instances, I
may add, special persons were appointed for the purpose of carrying out
this work."

Lord Milner: "We do not take over the assets without taking also the
liabilities. We take over all the debts owed by the country before the
war, and we have even agreed to take over a debt--a legal debt--in the
shape of notes, which notes we are fully aware it only became necessary
to issue on account of the war, and thus we are already paying a part of
the cost incurred in fighting us. I think this is a very great
concession; and when I agreed that it should be put down I said that I
believed (and I still am of the same opinion) that the English
Government would take exception to it, although I hope that this will
not be the case. But to go further than this, and to ask us to pay not
only a debt contracted under a law for the furtherance of the war, but
also every debt contracted by every officer in the armies of both
Republics, for the purpose of fighting us, is to my mind a most
extravagant proposal. In answer to what General Botha has said, I may
observe that the Commission appears to think that we have no persons
behind us whose feelings and prejudices (if you use that word) we are
bound to take into consideration. If this matter causes a difficulty
among your burghers, I can only say that I am sure that your proposal
will cause the British Government the greatest trouble when dealing with
the nation, with whose feelings they have to reckon."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I should like to explain the position of the
Orange Free State. In the Transvaal a law was passed empowering the
Government to issue L1,000,000; but in the Orange Free State nothing was
done, as the Government possessed the right to pay with receipts, and we
thought that a receipt was as good and as legal as a note; and
therefore, from my point of view, the two are of equal importance."

Commandant-General Botha: "I might point out that we should not insist
so much on the technical meaning of words--and this is especially true
for your side, because we have assembled here with the aim of stopping
the hostilities which cause you such great expenses every month; and our
meeting may be able to bring these expenses to an end. Therefore, if you
accept our proposal and pay these receipts, you might save almost enough
to cover the cost you incur. It would be much cheaper to make an end of
the war by co-operation than to let matters drift on. Therefore I
believe that it is the duty of both parties to be willing to make
concessions when obstacles appear."

General de Wet: "I can assure His Excellency, Lord Milner, that the
people always believed that should everything be lost they still would
be able to obtain this money due on receipts. If this is not granted, I
cannot imagine what the results will be. I am afraid of the
consequences; and I trust that you will do your best to meet our
wishes."

Commandant-General Botha: "It will not be a very large sum, but we
cannot give you the exact amount."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "You can well understand that our expenses
are only a drop in the ocean compared with yours. If I am right, the
Orange Free State had three quarters of a million when the war began,
and the issue of receipts only started when that sum was exhausted. Your
Excellencies must acknowledge that we have the same obligation of
creditor through these receipts as we should have in any other case."

Commandant-General Botha: "You have already many of our notes in your
possession. In one case alone there were fifty thousand hidden away, and
found by you. I have stated privately to Lord Milner that what we are
now striving to obtain has already been granted to us _de facto_ by Lord
Kitchener. In Lord Kitchener's Middelburg proposal the paying of the
Government notes was refused, but there was a proviso that the receipts
should be paid to the amount of one million. Should this now be
withdrawn, surely such a withdrawal would form a deviation from the
Middelburg proposal. The paying of notes is legal, and is on quite
another footing, and I cannot understand how it could have been refused
in the Middelburg proposal. That it should be granted now is only
reasonable. But as regards the payment of receipts, although it was
allowed then up to a certain amount, it is now withdrawn. At this
present stage of the proceedings I think that a point which had already
been practically conceded in the previous negotiations should not be
allowed to form a stumbling-block to a final agreement. I believe that
the amount is only small; I was for one year in conjunction with De la
Rey in command of the forces of the South African Republic. During that
period of time an account was kept of all the receipts, and only a short
time back the books were still in our possession. These receipts were
issued in an orderly manner, and each of them was duly entered in a
book, as far as I was able to judge. These receipts amounted to quite a
small sum; and although Lord Milner would draw back if the sum was very
big, the question how far he will go can be settled when the proposal is
accepted. Yet I personally think that there are no grounds for fear, and
the amount is really far smaller than you imagine."

Lord Milner: "I do not think it is so much a question of amount. This
paying of notes and requisition notes appears to me very unreasonable. I
believe that in this matter I am only voicing the opinion of the great
majority of the British nation when I say that my countrymen would much
prefer to pay a large sum at the conclusion of hostilities with the
object of bettering the condition of the people who have been fighting
against them than to pay a much smaller sum to meet the costs incurred
by the Republics during the war. Whether such a view is right or wrong,
it is a view you have to reckon with. We do not wish to pay the accounts
of both parties; and my opinion of the clause quoted from the Middelburg
proposal is that that clause was one of its faults. But should anything
of the kind become necessary, then I think that the paying of the notes
is less objectionable than the paying of the requisition notes. I placed
this point about the payment of notes in the draft because I thought
that if it came to a choice between paying one or the other you would
prefer that the notes should be paid. However, if it should be thought
better to return on this point to the Middelburg proposal, although I am
greatly against the clause, I will waive my objection to it if Lord
Kitchener is agreeable."

General Smuts: "I am afraid that we cannot agree to this, for we thought
that the notes would be beyond all dispute."

Judge Hertzog: "I do not think that your Excellency is representing the
matter fairly when you say that you will not pay the bills of both
parties. There is one thing to be taken into consideration as regards
the Orange Free State, and which must be considered before everything
else, and that is, that we have made no loans nor have we given any
government notes. The notes we used were notes of the South African
Republic, which had been sent to the Orange Free State. Our law was
formed on the idea that in case of war all the costs should be paid by
commission notes. The Orange Free State acted on this principle, and
receipts were issued. If we take into consideration at the same time
that we have been and still are recognized by you as belligerent, then
we can only say: On our side we surrender everything that we possess,
and we only ask the other party to acknowledge the fact that if we had
contracted a loan it would have been to the charge of the British
Government, who, in taking everything from us, renders itself
responsible for our public loans. Lord Milner should understand that it
is of just as much importance to us for the receipts to be paid as it is
to the South African Republic for the loan, which it contracted before
the war, to be taken over by the British Government. But I can even go
further and give Lord Milner the assurance that we have acted more
economically when issuing these receipts than we should have done had we
contracted the loan previous to the war. Now we have only what is
absolutely necessary to meet our present needs. So that Lord Milner must
own that we find ourselves in the same position towards those who are in
possession of receipts, as we should have occupied towards any other
creditor we might have had before the war began. I must give my support
to what the Commandant-General has said; and I can only repeat what I
have already informally told Lord Milner, namely, that this difficulty
is almost insurmountable."

Lord Milner: "We can refer this to our Government. But your proposal is
altogether antagonistic to the Middelburg proposal, which absolutely
rejected the idea of taking over all the debts of the two States."

Lord Kitchener: "I should like to know the amount."

General De la Rey: "My issue of notes amounts to between twenty and
fifty thousand pounds; but I cannot say what the issue in receipt has
been."

Lord Milner: "There really is a feasible compromise, namely, to allow
the notes and receipts to come in and to establish the suggested limit
of L1,000,000."

Lord Kitchener: "Would that meet your difficulty?"

Commandant-General Botha: "No."

Lord Kitchener: "Well, would two or three million be sufficient? We must
have a limit before we can do anything."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "It is impossible to stipulate the amount."

Lord Kitchener: "If you were in a position to give a limit, it would
simplify matters."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I agree with that entirely, and I can quite
understand the position in which you are placed. Yet it is absolutely
impossible to assign an amount. Will you give us your permission to
adjourn for a moment in order to discuss the matter?"

The meeting was then adjourned. It reassembled at 2.30 p.m.

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "We have agreed to fix on a sum of L3,000,000
for the government notes and receipts; their amount paid _pro rata_ can
be lowered should this sum prove insufficient. We have drawn up an
article to lay before the meeting."

General Smuts then read a draft which was inserted at the end of Article
11 in the draft agreement.

In answer to a question by Lord Kitchener, Commander-in-Chief de Wet
said: "The prisoners of war on the different islands who are in
possession of such notes should be given an opportunity of sending them
in for payment."

Lord Milner: "What is the next point you wish to raise? We now
understand what your position is."

Commandant-General Botha: "Am I to understand that you mean that we are
getting away from the point in discussion?"

Lord Milner: "This document contains your view of the matter, so we are
now aware of your idea."

Commandant-General Botha: "We must know what to say to the delegates."

Lord Kitchener: "Is this the only point you wish to bring forward, or
are there others in addition?"

Commandant-General Botha: "There is another concerning the protection of
debtors, which is a vital question for us."

Lord Milner: "We must not have any beating about the bush. Everything
must appear in the document."

General Smuts: "Most of the debts contracted before the war will have to
be paid after the war; and if the debtors cannot pay we are afraid that
it will result in the ruin of a great part of the inhabitants. We should
like to see steps taken to prevent this. If Lord Milner intends to take
such steps, we should like to be informed what they are."

Lord Milner: "I think it would be best if you were to make a proposal on
this point."

General Smuts: "Our proposal is roughly that all interest which became
payable during the war should be joined to the principal, and that this
should be payable six months after the war."

Lord Kitchener: "Is it necessary to make a proposal about this?"

General Smuts: "If the Government is prepared to meet us in this
difficulty it will be unnecessary to place a formal clause in the draft
agreement."

Lord Milner: "As I look at the matter, the Government is making certain
promises in this document, and I consider that all promises to which a
reference may be made later should appear in it. Everything to which the
Government is asked to bind itself should appear in this document, and
nothing else. I do not object to clauses being added, but I wish to
prevent any possible misunderstanding."

General Smuts: "Well, in that case we are quite willing to propose such
a paragraph."

Commandant-General Botha: "We waive this question, so that early
measures may be taken to arrive at an understanding. In case a great
number of the inhabitants become subjects of His Majesty, it is to every
one's interest, and principally to that of the Government, that these
people should not be ruined. They will be thrown upon the mercy of a
Government, whose duty it is to study their interests. If steps are not
taken to prevent it, speculators who have been buying up the liabilities
will, as soon as peace is concluded, enforce them, and directly the
Courts of Justice are opened they will issue summonses. Against this we
have to be on our guard."

Lord Milner: "I agree with the Commandant-General. I think that as these
people become subjects of His Majesty, then some provision will have to
be made for them. But I believe it to be neither necessary nor advisable
to point out in every particular case the way in which His Majesty's
Government has to provide for these people. I think that an idea
exists--perhaps it is a very natural idea--because we have been fighting
against the burghers that, therefore, after peace has been concluded we
shall still retain a feeling of enmity against them. Just the opposite,
however, is the truth. Our endeavour will naturally be, from the moment
hostilities cease, to gain the confidence of the people and to do our
best to promote their welfare. But if we have to bind ourselves
beforehand in regard to the manner in which we shall deal with all sorts
of involved legal questions, further misunderstandings are certain to
occur. If you have not confidence in us--that we shall try to be a
righteous Government, and to maintain the balance between the different
classes of His Majesty's subjects--then you must put in writing every
point that strikes you, and let them be laid before His Majesty's
Government, to see what they think about them."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I trust that you will not think that we are
trying to tie the hands of His Majesty's Government. There are many
other points which will give the Government opportunity to win the
confidence of the people. But about things which concern the financial
position of burghers who are entirely ruined we feel it our duty to
obtain definite promises. They will be a weapon in our hands when we
return to the delegates."

Commandant-General Botha: "I do not quite understand, Lord Milner. I did
not interpret Mr. Chamberlain's telegram in the sense that we had to
present new proposals in order to bind our hands further. I thought that
proposals were to be made with a view to establishing peace."

Lord Kitchener: "I do not think that it is altogether necessary to
include this proposal in the document. It concerns the very involved
legal questions as to what the rights of creditor and debtor shall be,
and as to what the law in the Transvaal may be on the matter. I think
that every one can rest assured that the interests of the Boers will be
protected by the Government in every way; and this, whether the point is
put down now or left in the hands of the Government with the
recommendation from this Commission to take the matter into serious
consideration.

"I think that I know of a better way to deal with this involved
question. Let this matter be brought under the consideration of the
Government. I may be mistaken, but, as far as I can see, it will prove a
very thorny question for the lawyers, and will take a long time before
it can be clearly stated. It is, however, the wish of us all that you
should return to the delegates equipped in such a way that you will be
able to arrive at a decision. You may rest assured that the matter which
you have brought before us has been included in the minutes of this
meeting. I do not think that it is necessary for you to go further than
this. The matter can now be carefully considered, not only here, but
also in England; and you may be quite sure that your interests will
receive, in every way, full consideration."

General De la Rey: "I think that the matter has been sufficiently
discussed in the presence of your Excellencies, and that it need not be
placed in the draft contract, for by so doing one might stumble on legal
questions."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "This is my point of view: There are two
parties, and one of them is about to cease to exist. It is, therefore,
natural that this party cannot allow a vital question to pass unnoticed.
It is for this reason that I cannot agree that this matter should be
omitted from the draft contract. It will not be necessary that the
military Government which now exists should continue after the war."

Lord Kitchener: "But the question will have to be settled by the Civil
Government. It is a matter for lawyers, and must be laid before them,
and will require much consideration."

Commandant-General Botha: "When hostilities are concluded it will be
possible to summon a burgher for a debt contracted before the war. I put
this request because our law states that no burgher can be summoned till
sixty days have elapsed since the conclusion of peace."

Lord Kitchener: "You may entirely rely upon this, that whenever the war
is over each burgher will have the absolute right to obtain
consideration for his position in every way, and that his interests will
be protected under the new as under the old regime."

Commandant-General Botha: "I understand that perfectly. But the
possibility exists that syndicates may be formed to buy up all the
debts, and the people may be ruined before a single burgher is in the
position to earn anything or to have his position restored."

Lord Kitchener: "I quite agree with what the Commandant-General has
said, and he is quite right to bring the question up. Yet I do not think
that the draft contract is the best place in which to bring it forward.
Once peace is a fact, then it will be the duty of every one to draw the
attention of the Government to what is required to aid the nation; but
to bring up difficulties at the present moment, and to attempt to right
them, seems to be an endless task, and one for which this document was
not destined."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I am of opinion that this is a matter which
should be settled by a proclamation; but I want to have as many weapons
as possible in my hands when I return to the national delegates, and one
of the first questions that will be asked me is this, 'What guarantee do
we possess that we shall not be ruined by our creditors?' It would not
be much trouble to you to give us now a draft of the proclamation which
would be issued as soon as peace is concluded."

Lord Kitchener: "But this would be something quite apart from the matter
under discussion."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "Yes."

Lord Milner: "What is the good then?"

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "It is such a vital question for us that you
cannot take it amiss if we insist upon it, for we have to give up
everything."

Lord Kitchener: "Of course, no one is blaming you."

Lord Milner: "But without any thought of blame, I must point out that
the effect of their proposal would be that another clause would have to
be inserted in the draft contract, undertaking that such a proclamation
would be issued."

Lord Kitchener: "I think that as long as the delegates receive an
assurance that the Government will take this matter into consideration,
in the interests of their subjects, whom they are bound to protect, that
such an assurance ought to suffice. There should be no written
undertaking, but only a promise that the matter shall receive attention.
It is not advisable after the subject has been brought before the
Government to press the matter further. The feelings of the burghers,
moreover, in other ways than this, will be brought before Lord Milner."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "If we wished to do so, we could insist upon
many other little points, but we only bring up vital questions."

Lord Kitchener: "This is one of the questions which, when once brought
under the consideration of the Government cannot be put aside; and you
may tell the burghers that their interests will be protected as fully as
is possible. I think that, in so complicated a matter, this ought to be
sufficient for them. All that is debated here is recorded in the
minutes, and these minutes will be considered not only here, but also in
England. Are you satisfied with this?"

Commandant-General Botha: "Yes, so far as I am concerned."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "I also am satisfied."

Lord Milner: "I hope it is quite understood that if the matter is
allowed to remain where it is, my Government will be under no obligation
to treat the matter in any particular way."

Lord Kitchener: "But there is a pledge that the matter will be properly
considered."

Lord Milner: "Yes, naturally; if we put anything down in writing. I am
convinced that it is necessary to make it quite clear that this document
must contain everything about which there is anything in the form of a
pledge."

Lord Kitchener: "There is, then, a pledge that the point upon which you
have touched will be considered in your interests."

General Smuts: "There still remains the question of the payment of
receipts."

Lord Kitchener: "That will be placed before the Government. The sum is
an essential point; I believe the amount to be considerable. I should
now like to know that it is understood that we are agreed about all
these draft proposals, including your amendments, and that there are no
further questions to be brought forward--it is necessary to know this,
as they would have to be telegraphed to England."

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "We have no further points to raise."

Lord Milner: "The telegram that I shall despatch is as follows:

     'The Commission is prepared to lay before their burgher meeting the
     following document (in the event of it being sanctioned by His
     Majesty's Government), and to ask of the meeting a "Yes" or "No."'

"Is that satisfactory?"

Commander-in-Chief de Wet: "Yes, naturally. Only I cannot say that this
document has my approval. Yet I shall be content to abide by the
decision of the delegates."

Judge Hertzog: "I should not like to think that we are bound to use our
influence with the delegates."

Lord Milner: "I think that is understood. I understand that the members
of the Commission are not bound in respect of the opinions they may
express before the burghers. They are only bound, if the British
Government approves of the document, to lay it before the people. I
propose to send the following telegram:

     'The Commission is prepared to lay the following document before
     the burgher meeting at Vereeniging, for a "Yes" or "No" vote, in
     the event of His Majesty's Government approving of it.'

"I want also to state that we have completely deviated from the
Middelburg proposal. I believe everyone is fully aware that the
Middelburg proposal has been annulled altogether. Should an agreement be
arranged in conformity with this document, and signed, then no attempt
must be made to explain the document, or its terms, by anything in the
Middelburg proposal."

The meeting was now adjourned.


WEDNESDAY, MAY 28TH, 1902.

The Commission met Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner at eleven o'clock with
the purpose of hearing the British Government's answer to the draft
proposal sent by their Lordships.

Lord Milner read the following memorandum:

"In answer to the telegram composed at our last meeting with the consent
of the Commission and of which the members have received a copy, the
following message has been received from His Majesty's Government:--

'His Majesty's Government sanctions the laying before the meeting for a
"Yes" or "No" vote the document drawn up by the Commission and sent by
Lord Kitchener on the 21st May to the Secretary of War, with the
following amendments:

'The final proposal made by the British Government, on which the
national representatives at Vereeniging have to answer "Yes" or "No."

'General Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, Commander-in-Chief, and His
Excellency Lord Milner, High Commissioner, on behalf of the British
Government;

'Messrs. S.W. Burger, F.W. Reitz, Louis Botha, J.H. De la Rey, L.J.
Meijer, and J.C. Krogh on behalf of the Government of the South African
Republic and its burghers;

'Messrs. M.T. Steyn, W.J.C. Brebner, C.R. de Wet, J.B.M. Hertzog, and
C.H. Olivier on behalf of the Government of the Orange Free State and
its burghers, being anxious to put an end to the existing hostilities,
agree on the following points:

'Firstly, the burgher forces now in the Veldt shall at once lay down
their arms, and surrender all the guns, small arms, and war stores in
their actual possession, or of which they have cognizance, and shall
abstain from any further opposition to the authority of His Majesty King
Edward VII., whom they acknowledge as their lawful sovereign.

'The manner and details of this surrender shall be arranged by Lord
Kitchener, Commandant-General Botha, Assistant-Commandant-General J.H.
De la Rey, and Commander-in-Chief de Wet.

'Secondly, burghers in the Veldt beyond the frontiers of the Transvaal
and of the Orange River Colony, and all prisoners of war who are out of
South Africa, who are burghers, shall, on their declaration that they
accept the status of subjects of His Majesty King Edward VII., be
brought back to their homes, as soon as transport and means of
subsistence can be assured.

'Thirdly, the burghers who thus surrender, or who thus return, shall
lose neither their personal freedom nor their property.

'Fourthly, no judicial proceedings, civil or criminal, shall be taken
against any of the burghers who thus return for any action in connexion
with the carrying on of the war. The benefit of this clause shall,
however, not extend to certain deeds antagonistic to the usages of
warfare, which have been communicated by the Commander-in-Chief to the
Boer Generals, and which shall be heard before a court martial
immediately after the cessation of hostilities.

'Fifthly, the Dutch language shall be taught in the public schools of
the Transvaal and of the Orange River Colony when the parents of
children demand it; and shall be admitted in the Courts of Justice,
whenever this is required for the better and more effective
administration of justice.

'Sixthly, the possession of rifles shall, on taking out a licence in
accordance with the law, be permitted in the Transvaal and the Orange
River Colony to persons who require them for their protection.

'Seventhly, military administration in the Transvaal and in the Orange
River Colony shall, as soon as it is possible, be followed by civil
government; and, as soon as circumstances permit it, a representative
system tending towards autonomy shall be introduced.

'Eighthly, the question of granting a franchise to the native shall not
be decided until a representative constitution has been granted.

'Ninthly, no special tax shall be laid on landed property in the
Transvaal and Orange River Colony, to meet the expenses of the war.

'Tenthly, as soon as circumstances permit there shall be appointed in
each district in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony a Commission,
in which the inhabitants of that district shall be represented, under
the chairmanship of a magistrate or other official, with the view to
assist in the bringing back of the people to their farms, and in
procuring for those who, on account of losses in the war are unable to
provide for themselves, food, shelter, and such quantities of seed,
cattle, implements, etc., as are necessary for the resuming of their
previous callings.

'His Majesty's Government shall place at the disposal of these
Commissions the sum of L3,000,000 for the above-mentioned purposes, and
shall allow that all notes issued in conformity with Law No. 1, 1900, of
the Government of the South African Republic, and all receipts given by
the officers in the Veldt of the late Republics, or by their order, may
be presented to a judicial Commission by the Government, and in case
such notes and receipts are found by this Commission to have been duly
issued for consideration in value, then they shall be accepted by the
said Commission as proof of war losses, suffered by the persons to whom
they had originally been given. In addition to the above-named free gift
of L3,000,000, His Majesty's Government will be prepared to grant
advances, in the shape of loans, for the same ends, free of interest for
two years, and afterwards repayable over a period of years with three
per cent. interest. No foreigner or rebel shall be entitled to benefit
by this clause.'

Lord Milner: "In making this communication to the Commission we are
instructed to add that if this opportunity of concluding an honourable
peace is not taken advantage of within a time to be fixed by us, then
this conference shall be regarded as closed, and His Majesty's
Government shall not be bound in any way by the present terms. I have,
in order that there may be no mistake about these terms, made a copy of
the documents and of Lord Kitchener's telegram, also of the amendments
and additions determined on by His Majesty's Government, and of the
memorandum to which I have just drawn your attention."

A debate now followed on the time that should be allowed for the
discussion of the proposals at Vereeniging, and it was agreed that
Commandant-General Botha should propose a term that very day before the
Commission left Pretoria.

It was subsequently settled that the delegates must arrive at a decision
before Saturday evening, May 31st.

General Botha asked if there were any objection to the delegates erasing
any paragraph of the proposal sent by the British Government.

Lord Milner: "There must be no alteration. Only 'Yes' or 'No' is to be
answered."

Commandant-General Botha: "I think that the burghers have the right to
erase any article they may wish, for they have the right to surrender
unconditionally."

Lord Milner replied that the burghers certainly had the power to do so,
but the document of the British Government could not be changed.

There now followed an informal discussion about the colonists who had
been fighting on the side of the Republics.

Lord Milner communicated what the British Government's intentions were
with regard to these colonists; and read the following document:--

"His Majesty's Government has to formally place on record that the
colonists of Natal and the Cape Colony who have been engaged in fighting
and who now surrender shall, on their return, be dealt with by the
Colonial Governments in accordance with the laws of the Colonies, and
that all British subjects who have joined the enemy shall be liable to
be tried under the law of that part of the British Empire to which they
belong.

"His Majesty's Government has received from the Government of Cape
Colony a statement of their opinion as regards the terms to be offered
to British subjects of the Cape Colony who are still in the Veldt or who
have surrendered since April 12th, 1901. The terms are as follows:--In
regard to the burghers, they all, on their surrender, after having laid
down their arms, shall sign a document before a resident magistrate of
the district in which their surrender has taken place, in which document
they shall declare themselves guilty of high treason; and their
punishment, in the event of their not having been guilty of murder, or
of other deeds in contradiction to the customs of civilized warfare,
shall be that for the rest of their lives they shall not be registered
as voters, nor shall they be able to vote in Parliamentary, district, or
municipal elections. As regards justices and veldtcornets of the Cape
Colony, and all other persons who had occupied official positions under
the Government of Cape Colony, and all who held the rank of commandant
in the rebel or burgher forces, they shall be brought on the charge of
high treason before the ordinary Courts of the country, or before such
special Courts as later on may legally be constituted. The punishment
for their misdeeds shall be left to the discretion of the Court, with
this reservation, that in no case shall capital punishment be inflicted.

"The Government of Natal is of opinion that the rebels should be judged
by the laws of the Colony."

The meeting now adjourned.

The secretaries and Messrs. de Wet and J. Ferreira, with the help of
lawyers, set themselves the task of making copies of the proposal of the
British Government for the use of the national representatives at
Vereeniging. This work kept them engaged until the evening.

At seven o'clock the Commission left Pretoria and returned to
Vereeniging.


THE MIDDELBURG PROPOSAL.

     LORD KITCHENER TO COMMANDANT-GENERAL BOTHA.

     PRETORIA, _March 7, 1901_.

     YOUR HONOUR,--

     With reference to our conversation at Middelburg on the 28th
     February, I have the honour to inform you that, in the event of a
     general and complete cessation of hostilities, and the surrender of
     all rifles, ammunition, cannon and other munitions of war in the
     hands of the burghers, or in Government depots, or elsewhere, His
     Majesty's Government is prepared to adopt the following measures.

     His Majesty's Government will at once grant an amnesty in the
     Transvaal and Orange River Colony for all _bona fide_ acts of war
     committed during the recent hostilities. British subjects belonging
     to Natal and Cape Colony, while they will not be compelled to
     return to those Colonies, will, if they do so, be liable to be
     dealt with by the laws of those Colonies specially passed to meet
     the circumstances arising out of the present war. As you are
     doubtless aware, the special law in the Cape Colony has greatly
     mitigated the ordinary penalties for high treason in the present
     case.

     All prisoners of war, now in St. Helena, Ceylon, or elsewhere,
     being burghers or colonists, will, on the completion of the
     surrender, be brought back to their country as quickly as
     arrangements can be made for their transport.

     At the earliest practicable date military administration will
     cease, and will be replaced by civil administration in the form of
     Crown Colony Government. There will, therefore, be, in the first
     instance, in each of the new Colonies, a Governor and an Executive
     Council, composed of the principal officials, with a Legislative
     Council consisting of a certain number of official members to whom
     a nominated unofficial element will be added. But it is the desire
     of His Majesty's Government, as soon as circumstances permit, to
     introduce a representative element, and ultimately to concede to
     the new Colonies the privilege of self-government. Moreover, on the
     cessation of hostilities, a High Court will be established in each
     of the new Colonies to administer the laws of the land, and this
     Court will be independent of the Executive.

     Church property, public trusts, and orphan funds will be
     respected.

     Both the English and Dutch languages will be used and taught in
     public schools when the parents of the children desire it, and
     allowed in Courts of Law.

     As regards the debts of the late Republican Governments, His
     Majesty's Government cannot undertake any liability. It is,
     however, prepared, as an act of grace, to set aside a sum not
     exceeding one million pounds sterling to repay inhabitants of the
     Transvaal and Orange River Colony for goods requisitioned from them
     by the late Republican Governments, or subsequent to annexation, by
     Commandants in the field being in a position to enforce such
     requisitions. But such claims will have to be established to the
     satisfaction of a Judge or Judicial Commission, appointed by the
     Government, to investigate and assess them, and, if exceeding in
     the aggregate one million pounds, they will be liable to reduction
     _pro rata_.

     I also beg to inform Your Honour that the new Government will take
     into immediate consideration the possibility of assisting by loan
     the occupants of farms, who will take the oath of allegiance, to
     repair any injuries sustained by destruction of buildings or loss
     of stock during the war, and that no special war tax will be
     imposed upon farms to defray the expense of the war.

     When burghers require the protection of firearms, such will be
     allowed to them by licence, and on due registration, provided they
     take the oath of allegiance. Licences will also be issued for
     sporting rifles, guns, etc., but military firearms will only be
     allowed for purposes of protection.

     As regards the extension of the franchise to Kaffirs in the
     Transvaal and Orange River Colony, it is not the intention of His
     Majesty's Government to give such franchise before representative
     Government is granted to those Colonies, and if then given it will
     be so limited as to secure the just predominance of the white race.
     The legal position of coloured persons will, however, be similar to
     that which they hold in the Cape Colony.

     In conclusion I must inform Your Honour that, if the terms now
     offered are not accepted after a reasonable delay for consideration
     they must be regarded as cancelled.

     I have, etc.,
       KITCHENER, GENERAL,
     Commander-in-Chief British Forces, South Africa.
       To His Honour, Commandant-General Louis Botha.




Appendix C

MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE SPECIAL NATIONAL REPRESENTATIVES AT
VEREENIGING, SOUTH AFRICAN REPUBLIC, THURSDAY, THE 29TH OF MAY, 1902,
AND THE FOLLOWING DAYS


MAY 29TH, 1902.

The Rev. J.D. Kestell having offered prayer, the Chairman requested
Vice-President Burger to address the meeting.

Vice-President Burger said that the documents laid before the
Governments by the Commission would now be read to the meeting.
Thereupon Mr. D. Van Velden read the following letter:

     REPORT OF THE COMMISSION.

     PRETORIA, _28th May_, 1902.

     _To the Governments of the Orange Free State and the South African
     Republic:_

     HONBLE. GENTLEMEN,--

     In accordance with instructions received from you, we went to
     Pretoria in order to negotiate with the British authorities on the
     question of peace. We have the honour to make the following report:

     The meetings lasted from Monday, May 19th, to Wednesday, May 28th,
     its prolongation having been principally caused by the length of
     time taken up by the cable correspondence with the British
     Government.

     We first handed in a proposal (annexed under A)[113] in which we
     attempted to negotiate on the basis of a limited independence with
     surrender of part of our territory. Lords Kitchener and Milner
     refused emphatically to negotiate on this basis, and expressed the
     opinion that to cable this proposal to the British Government would
     be detrimental to the objects of these negotiations. They told us
     they had already informed the two Governments that the British
     Government would only negotiate on the basis of an amended form of
     the Middelburg proposal. In order finally to formulate this
     proposal, Lord Milner asked the assistance of some members of the
     Commission; and this was granted, on the understanding that the
     assistance of these members of the Commission should be given
     without prejudice to themselves.

     As the result of the deliberations of this sub-committee, Lord
     Milner produced a draft proposal, in which we insisted that a fresh
     clause (No. 11) should be inserted; and this was done. This draft
     proposal (annexed under B)[114] was then cabled to the British
     Government, revised by them, and then communicated to us in its
     final shape (annexed under B).[115] We were informed by the British
     Government that no further revision of this proposal would be
     allowed, but that it must now be either accepted or rejected in its
     entirety by the delegates of the two Republics; and that this
     acceptance or rejection must take place within a stipulated time.
     We then told Lord Kitchener that he should know our final decision
     by the evening of the next Saturday at latest.

     During our formal negotiations certain informal conversations took
     place in reference to the British subjects (in Cape Colony and
     Natal) who have been fighting on our side. As a result of these
     informal conversations a communication from the British Government
     was imparted to us (annexed under B).[116]

     We have the honour to remain, etc.,

     LOUIS BOTHA.
     J.H. DE LA REY.
     C.R. DE WET.
     J.B.M. HERTZOG.
     J.D. SMUTS.

Vice-President Burger said that the delegates must proceed to discuss
this document, and that they would then be asked to decide--firstly,
whether the struggle should be continued; secondly, whether the proposal
of the British Government should be accepted; and, thirdly, whether they
were prepared to surrender unconditionally.

It was decided that minutes of the meeting should be kept, and the
delegates then proceeded to discuss the different articles of the
British Government's proposal. The whole of the morning and a part of
the afternoon sitting were devoted to questions dealing with the meaning
of the several clauses, the members of the Commission answering to the
best of their ability.

After these questions had been disposed of, Mr. De Clercq rose to speak.
He said that he had already given his own opinion, but that now it was
for the whole meeting to decide whether they would give up the war, and,
if they resolved to do so, whether they would accept the proposal
unconditionally. As to the proposal, it could not be denied that it did
not give all that they themselves desired, but _that_ could not have
been expected. Should they now return to their commandos and be asked by
their burghers what they had effected, they would have to reply,
"Nothing." How would they be able to meet their burghers with such an
answer as that? It would therefore be better to get terms from the
British Government; and by doing so they would also gratify the British
nation. As for himself, he was for accepting the proposal, unless it
could be proved to him that unconditional surrender would be a still
better course to take.

General Nieuwouwdt then proposed that the meeting should, without
further delay, proceed to vote whether the war should be terminated, and
whether the terms offered to them should be accepted.

General Froneman seconded this proposal.

Mr. Birkenstock (Vrijheid) felt that this was too important a matter to
be treated with such haste. A decision about such a document as the one
now lying before the meeting could not be come to in a moment. The
delegates would hardly agree with the last speaker in his opinion that
they should at once proceed to vote whether the war should or should not
be continued. Time was required before coming to such a decision.
Moreover it had to be proved whether it were possible to continue the
war. There were some districts where it certainly could no longer be
carried on. Was it possible for one part of the nation to continue
fighting without the other? Then there was the question whether their
resources and the troops which they still had were sufficient to justify
them in prolonging the struggle. If they were insufficient the war must
be discontinued and terms must be accepted. It would not be an easy
thing to do; one could not, with a light heart, give up the independence
of their country; but half a loaf was better than no bread,[117] and
even such a sacrifice as this might be necessary if the nation was to be
saved.

Commandant Jacobsz (Harrismith) was at one with the last speaker in
holding that they must not be in too great a hurry to vote on the
proposal.

Mr. P.R. Viljoen (Heidelberg) felt that the proposal of the British
Government would so tightly bind them that they would never again be
free. They were _knee-haltered_[118] now, but under certain
circumstances they might even be _hobbled_.[119]

He considered that the meeting should ask the Governments to stop the
war.

General Du Toit (Wolmaransstad) said that the times through which they
were passing were very critical; every one ought to say exactly what he
thought, and no one ought to be condemned for doing so. A delegate who
should say that the war could not be continued must not be considered
disloyal to his country because he did so. As regarded the three
questions before the meeting, according to the opinion of his burghers
the war ought to be continued. The views of his burghers when he left
the commandos had been clearly expressed. "Let us retain our
independence, or go on fighting," they had said. But why were they of
this mind? Because they were unaware how matters stood in other
districts. The eyes of the delegates, however, while directed towards
God, were also able to observe the condition of the eastern parts of
their country. If the burghers in those parts could not hold out, it
would be impossible for the other commandos to do so. It could not be
denied that some of the commandos were no longer able to continue
fighting. That being the case, even if there were a majority in favour
of prolonging the struggle, that majority would have to yield to the
wishes of the minority, and for this reason: if the war were to be
continued in conformity with the wishes of the majority, and if the
minority were to be compelled to surrender (and nobody would be
surprised at this), then the majority would find themselves too weak to
go on fighting. Thus there were clear reasons why the war must be ended.
Moreover, its continuation would involve not only the _national_ but
also the _moral_ death of the Republics. But it was still to be proved
that a continuation of the war was even possible; for himself he feared
that it was not so, and if fight he must he could only fight without
hope and without heart. If he were now to go back to his burghers, and
they were to ask him why he persisted in the war, and he was compelled
to reply that he was doing so on the strength of opinions expressed in
newspapers, and on the encouragement given to the cause of the Republics
in their pages, he would be told that he was building on sand. Again, he
feared that if the war were to be continued, detached parties would be
formed which would try to obtain terms from the English for themselves.
And should the commandos in time become so weak as to be forced to
surrender unconditionally, what then would be the fate of the officers?
Would they not lose everything, and be banished into the bargain? Let no
one think, however, that he was trying merely to do what was best for
himself. No. There was now a chance for negotiating; should the meeting
let slip that chance, unconditional surrender would most certainly
result, and that would be disastrous to all. He hoped that he would not
be misunderstood; if the meeting decided to go on with the war, he, for
one, would not lay down his arms. No, he would actively prosecute the
war, and operate in conjunction with the other generals. But what would
be the use of it: he sided with those who held that the struggle could
no longer be carried on.

Commandant Rheeder (Rouxville) wished to reply to those who demanded
reasons for the continuation of the war. One reason, he said, was to be
found in the fact that England would not allow them to have any
communication with the deputation in Europe; that meant that something
advantageous to us was being held back. Another was the consideration of
what their descendants in time to come would say. "How is it," they
would ask, "that we are not now free men? There were a large number of
burghers in the veldt to continue the war--what has become of our
independence?" And what answer shall we be able to make?--we whose
courage failed us before such tremendous odds, and who laid down our
arms when victory was still possible? The speaker would only be
satisfied if the meeting were unanimous for stopping the war, not
otherwise. He thought of the families. How would the delegates face
their families on their return, after the sacrifice of independence? He
considered that the commandos should leave those districts where
resistance was no longer possible and go to others. If to discontinue
the war meant to surrender independence, then the war must not be
discontinued.

Vice-President Burger said that he had not heard from the last speaker
any reasons whatsoever for continuing the war.

Commandant Rheeder then remarked that if they wanted to surrender their
country they should have done so earlier, when the burghers were not
entirely destitute. But now nothing was left to them. As to the
narrowness of the field of operations, there was still room enough to
fight.

Commandant P.L. Uijs (Pretoria) referred to the frequent allusion which
had been made to their European deputation. That deputation was now in
Holland, and must know if anything was going on there to the advantage
of the Republics. If there were any hopeful signs there, their comrades
would certainly have informed them. They had not done so, and therefore
the meeting should dismiss this subject from its thoughts.

The meeting then adjourned until 7.15 p.m.

Upon reassembling, Commandant Cronje (Winburg) said that he would not
detain the meeting for long; he only wished to say a very few words. It
had been rightly said that they were passing through a momentous period
of their history. To his mind the present was _the_ critical epoch in
the existence of the African nation, whose destinies they had now to
decide. Delegates were asking what hopes they could now entertain. But
what grounds for hope were there when the war began? In his opinion
there were none. It was only that men believed then that Right was
Might, and put their trust in God. And God had helped them. When the
enemy had entered their country everything was dark. There had been a
day on which more than four thousand men had surrendered. Then, even as
now, they had been without hope. Then, even as now, those who wanted to
continue the war had been told that they were mad. That had been some
two years ago, and yet the war was still going on. Then, even as now,
there had been no food, and yet they had managed to live. The delegates
represented a free people; let them not take a step of which they would
afterwards repent. As regarded intervention, he had often said that one
could not rely on it. But they _could_ rely on God. When he returned to
his burghers, and was questioned as to his reason for the course of
action which he had advocated, he hoped to be able to answer, "Belief in
God." There had always been times when there was no food, and yet they
had always managed to live. A deputation had been officially sent to
Europe, and was now there to represent their interests. Had the meeting
lost its confidence in that deputation? Did it not realize that if the
case of the Republic was hopeless in Europe the deputation would send
word to that effect? It had been said that by continuing the war they
would be exterminating the nation. He did not believe this. The way to
exterminate the nation was to accept the British proposal. To go on with
the war was their only policy, and it was a very good policy. The
deputation had claimed that their advice should be taken before any
negotiations were attempted. What right, then, had the delegates to give
up the war on the basis of the proposal now before them? To do so was to
give the death blow to their national existence; later on they would
have cause to rue it. Moreover, the proposal did not safeguard the
interests of their brethren in Cape Colony. Again, landed property
belonging to burghers had already been sold, and in all probability
these burghers would never see any of the proceeds. The sum (L3,000,000)
which the proposal offered to compensate for all damages, was not
sufficient to cover damage already done. For these and other reasons the
proposal could not be accepted. No other course was open to them except
to reject the proposal and to continue hostilities.

General Froneman (Ladybrand) agreed with the last speaker. He loved his
country, and could not think of surrendering it. The reasons which had
induced them to begin the war were still in force. He had been through
the whole campaign, and saw stronger reasons now than ever before for
the continuing of the war. His districts, like those of others, were
exhausted, and yet his burghers remained in the veldt. He had been
present at the surrender of the four thousand; he had seen General
Cronje give up his sword. Those had been dark days, but the struggle
still went on; they could still keep on their legs. It had been God's
will that this war should take place. Prayers had been offered that it
might be averted, but God had ruled it otherwise. Therefore they must
carry the war through, and never think of surrender. They were
Republicans. What would it be to have to give up that name for ever? He
had consulted his burghers and their women-folk; he had asked them,
"What conditions of peace will you accept?" They had answered, "No peace
at all, if it means any loss of independence." And so, before he could
vote for peace, he would have again to take the opinion of his burghers.

Veldtcornet B.H. Breijtenbach (Utrecht) urged that a definite yes or no
must be given to the question, Is the war to continue? The general
condition of the country had been laid before the meeting, and it had
been clearly shown that its condition made the carrying on of the war
impossible. One could not escape from that fact. Why then should they
argue any longer? What reason had they for wishing to prolong this
struggle? They surely would not do so blindfold. Unless good reasons
could be alleged for continuing it, the war would have to be stopped. As
those good reasons were not forthcoming, he would vote with those who
were for peace. To continue the war would be a crime. Some of the last
few speakers had stated that there had been no sufficient reasons for
commencing the war. That might be true. They might have been
over-confident then. Be that as it might, they certainly had lost so
much ground since then that they must now give up the struggle. This was
his irrevocable opinion. It had been clearly shown that fourteen
commandos were unable to continue in the veldt. This made peace a
necessity, for what was to be gained by continuing a struggle without a
proper army. The war might last a few months longer, but it must end
then--and end in disaster.

Commandant W.J. Viljoen (Witwatersrand) said that some speakers were for
and others against the continuation of hostilities. The first were
guided by faith alone; the second had brought forward definite grounds
for their opinion. A year ago both parties had been inspired by faith,
but what had been the result? He would be glad enough to be convinced,
but those who wished to continue the war must show grounds for such a
line of action.

General De la Rey would only say a few words. He had received definite
instructions before he went to his burghers neither to encourage nor
discourage them, whatever they might say at their meetings. He had
strictly observed these instructions, and had never attempted to
influence them. There were present among the delegates nine men (one
being from Cape Colony) who represented his burghers, and who would
testify as to their state of mind and temper; he need not therefore say
anything. The delegates could bear witness how full of courage the men
were. Nevertheless, the war could not be continued. Say or do what they
would at that meeting, the war must cease. Some had talked about faith.
But what was faith? True faith consisted in saying, "Lord, Thy will, not
mine, be done." They must bow before the will of God. The delegates, he
continued, must choose one of the three courses which were open to them.
It would be a great calamity if they were to decide to surrender
unconditionally. Had it been necessary to do so it should have been done
while they still possessed something. Should they then continue the war?
But the question as to what would become of the people under those
circumstances must be faced--to continue fighting would be the ruin of
the nation. The delegates might go away determined to fight, but the
burghers would lay down their arms, and the state of affairs which would
thus ensue would not redound to their honour. But the British Government
offered guarantees; it would help the nation so that the nation might
help itself. If any one were to say now, "Continue fighting," he and his
generals might have the heart to do so if they kept their minds fixed on
their recent exploits. For himself, however, he would refuse absolutely
to accede to that request. And what real advantage had accrued from his
successes in the veldt? What had followed on them? All his cattle had
been taken away, some three hundred of his men had been killed, wounded,
or taken prisoner. Some of the delegates set their hopes on the
European deputation, but what did that deputation say a year ago? It
said that all depended on their continuing to fight. They _had_
continued to fight. What more, then, was there left for them to do? Some
gentlemen present had definite mandates from their burghers, who very
likely had no knowledge of the actual state of affairs when they gave
those mandates. He himself had not known at that time in what a plight
the country was. He challenged each and all of the delegates to show
their burghers the proposal of the British Government, and then to see
if those burghers were not in favour of unconditional surrender. But if
the meeting insisted on the continuation of hostilities, the nation
would be driven into _hands-upping_; thus the war would end in dishonour
and disgrace.

Landdrost Bosman (Wakkerstroom) was glad that General De la Rey had
spoken out so boldly; it was every one's duty to do so. He himself also
was against the continuance of the war.

Although it had been said that the war had been begun in faith, it ought
not to be forgotten that it had also been begun with hope of
intervention, as was shown by the sending of the deputation to
Europe--that deputation which, as they had often heard, had done so much
good work. Another proof that there had then been hope of intervention
was that the burghers had ordered the delegates to keep them in
communication with the deputation. And that they had not relied
exclusively on faith at the beginning of the war was shown by the fact
that they had founded great hopes on what their brethren in Cape Colony
might accomplish. These hopes had now been dissipated by General Smuts,
who had just said that there was no chance of a general insurrection.

Again, could the war be continued when their commandos were so much
weakened, and when food was so scarce? It was nonsense to say that food
had been scarce a year ago; there had been a sufficiency then, and at
the present time there was not. One could ride from Vereeniging to Piet
Retief without seeing more than two or three herds of cattle. Moreover,
the women and children were in a most pitiable condition. One delegate
had spoken against any scheme which would be as it were a trampling on
the blood which had already been spilt--he shared that delegate's
sentiments; but he considered that to shed yet more blood in a cause
which was to all appearance hopeless would be still more reprehensible.
He should prefer not to enter into the religious aspect of the question.
It was difficult to fathom the purposes of God; perhaps it might be the
Divine will that they should lose their independence. All that they
could do was to follow the course which seemed to be good and right.
Were they, then, to surrender unconditionally? He would say no. It would
be giving the enemy opportunities for doing things from which they might
otherwise desist. Moreover, by voting for such a policy the leaders
would incur the displeasure of the nation. In choosing what course they
would pursue the delegates should let nothing else sway them save the
good of the nation. They must not be carried away by their feelings;
they must listen only to the voice of reason.

Commandant H.S. Grobler (Bethal) felt that, under the circumstances, the
war could not be continued. It had already reduced them to such straits
that they would soon have to fly to the utmost borders of their
territories, leaving the enemy unopposed in the very heart of the
country. At the beginning of the war they had not relied on faith alone;
there had also been guns, war material and provisions. But now none of
these things were left to them. It was terrible to him to think that
they must sacrifice the independence of their country. He was a true son
of his country, and could not consent to the surrender of her
independence unless that were the only way of saving the women and
children from starvation. But it was not only the women and children who
were on the verge of starvation; the burghers still left in the laagers
were in the same predicament. What, moreover, was to happen to the
prisoners of war, if the struggle were to be continued? And to the
families in the camps? The delegates must not forget those families. If
the people generally were dying a _national_, the families were dying a
_moral_, death. It was a sad thought that there were among their women
in the camps, many who were thus losing their moral vitality. It was a
thought which should make them determined to conclude the war.

Commandant Van Niekerk (Ficksburg) said that his commandos had
commissioned him to hold out for independence. The proposal of the
British Government could not be accepted. They must take no hasty step.
If they persevered in the war, the enemy would grant them better terms.
All they had to do was to act like brave men.

General J.G. Celliers (Lichtenburg) had already told the meeting what
mandate he had received from his burghers. But he was there to do the
best he could for the nation as a whole. The condition of the country
was very critical. The fact that his own commandos were faring well was
not a sufficient reason for continuing the war. He must take all
circumstances into consideration. He had said that he was in favour of
an arrangement by which peace should be made without the sacrifice of
independence. Such an arrangement they had attempted to bring about.
They had elected a Commission, which had done all in its power to give
effect to their wishes in this matter. And the result was the proposal
of the British Government now lying before them. That was what the
Commission had obtained for them. Which of them could say that he could
have obtained better terms for the people than those contained in that
proposal? Or that, if the war were to be continued, the people would
gain any advantage which that proposal did not give them? It had been
said that the deputation in Europe had encouraged the burghers in their
prolonged struggle. The last message they had received from the
deputation had been: "Go on till every remedy has been tried." Could
that be called encouragement? It had also been said that the nation must
have faith. He admitted the necessity--but it must not be the sort of
faith which chose what it would believe, and what it would disbelieve.
They must be prepared to believe that it might be the will of God that
they should yield to the enemy. As he had more insight into the state of
affairs than his burghers, and therefore was better qualified to form a
judgment, he did not feel himself bound by their mandate. Had the
burghers known what he now knew, they would have given him a very
different commission. He felt that it was a serious thing to continue
sacrificing the lives of his fellow-countrymen. Moreover, however dear
independence might be, it was useless to attempt impossibilities. Their
one aim should be to safeguard the interests of the nation. His vote
would be with those who were for accepting the proposal of the British
Government.

Commander-in-Chief de Wet was the next to address the meeting. His
speech was as follows:--

"As I feel it to be my duty to speak out all my mind before this
meeting, I shall go back to the very beginning of the war. And recalling
my feelings at that period, I can say that I had less hope then for
intervention than I have now. I do not mean to say that I am sanguine
about it even now; but I know to-day, what I did not know then, that
great sympathy is felt for us by other nations. Even in England this
sympathy is to be found, as is shown by the largely-attended 'Pro-Boer'
meetings which have been held in that country. And that the feeling in
our favour is widespread is evident from the reports which we received
by word of mouth from the messenger to whom the deputation entrusted its
recent letter, for we cannot believe that the deputation would have
employed an unreliable person. And what did that messenger say? Among
other things, he said that our cause was winning new adherents every
day. It may be asked, however, why the deputation did not send a report
of its own? I reply that it had its hand upon the pulse of the
Governments, and that the information it was thus gaining was of such a
character that it could not be entrusted to any messenger whatsoever.
Perhaps the deputation was unable _in any way_ to communicate what it
knew to us--it would never do to noise abroad the secrets of European
policy. The silence of the delegates ought not, then, to discourage us;
on the contrary, we should regard it as a hopeful sign.

"If there is any one man who feels deeply for the critical condition of
our country, I am that man. And critical our condition certainly is; so
that I am not surprised that some of us are asking, 'What hope have we
now in continuing the struggle?' But I would ask another question: 'What
hope had we at the beginning of the war?' Our faith in God--we had
nothing else to rely on! At the very outset of the war I knew that we,
with our forty-five thousand troops, were engaged in a contest against a
nation that had no less than seven hundred and fifty thousand men under
arms, and who could easily send against us a third of that number. And
to counterbalance the terrible odds against us, we had nothing, as I
knew, but our faith. At that time there were some who expected that
effectual help would come from Cape Colony. I was never deluded by this
hope. I knew of course that there were men there who would fight with us
against England; I knew how much those men sympathized with our cause;
but I also knew that the circumstances of that country would make it
impossible for the colonists to help us more than they have, as a matter
of fact, done. No! God was our one Hope when the war began. And if, when
the war is over, victory lies with us, it will not be the first time
that faith in God has enabled the weaker nation to overthrow the
stronger.

"Those of you who urge that the war should be discontinued, ask us, who
are for carrying it on, what tangible reason we have for our hope. But
what tangible reason for hope was there at the beginning of the war? Are
our affairs darker now? Quite the contrary--miracles have been worked in
our favour during the last twenty-two months. General Botha wrote to me
some time ago, saying that the scarcity of ammunition was causing him
much anxiety. And he had good cause for that anxiety--ammunition was
exhausted. When a burgher came to me at that time with an empty
bandolier, it absolutely terrified me. But now, to use an expression of
General Joubert's, my pleasure is tempered with shame when I think of
the plentiful store of ammunition which we possess. I am not angry with
those of my compatriots who ask for reasons--I give my reasons--nor have
I given a thousandth part of them.

"The enemy has already made us some concessions. There was a time when
Lord Salisbury said that the English Government would be satisfied with
nothing short of unconditional surrender. He does not say so to-day.
England is negotiating with us--that is to say, she shows signs of
yielding to our demands. If we continue the war, England will negotiate
again; she will offer still more favourable terms; she will not even
stick at independence.

"Do you want more of my reasons? Look back once more upon our past
history, and you shall find them. Recall the time when the Transvaal was
at war with England. At that time we did not know the English so well as
we now know them; we had only thirteen cartridges for each man; and
there were the so-called 'Loyalists'--a chicken-hearted crew--to hamper
us. Faith was our only support then--and you all know how that war
resulted.

"I am asked what I mean to do with the women and children. That is a
very difficult question to answer. We must have faith. I think also that
we might meet the emergency in this way--a part of the men should be
told off to lay down their arms for the sake of the women, and then they
could take the women with them to the English in the towns. This would
be a hard expedient, but it may be the only one possible.

"America has been referred to by some of the speakers, who have compared
our circumstances with those of the United States, when they made war
upon England. The comparison is, in one respect at least, an apt one,
for we also have large territories to which we can always retreat.

"As to Europe--we know little of the condition of things there. Our
information about Europe comes only from newspapers, and 'Jingo'
newspapers at that. If there is not a great deal going on in Europe
which England wants to hide from us, why is she so careful not to let us
see European journals? If there were anything in them _unfavourable_ to
our cause, England would flood our country with them in her own
interests. We must also note that England will not permit our deputation
to return to us.

"Taking all these facts into consideration, and remembering that the
sympathy for us, which is to be found in England itself, may be regarded
as being, for all practical purposes, a sort of indirect intervention, I
maintain that this terrible struggle must be continued. We must fight
on, no matter how long, until our independence is absolutely secure."

General Beijers (Waterberg) said that he had to give an answer to the
question whether he ought to follow his reason or his conscience; he
could only reply that conscience had the first claim upon him. If he
were to perish whilst following the guidance of reason, he would feel
that he had been unfaithful; whereas, were he to die whilst obeying the
dictates of conscience, he would not fear death. Martyrs of old had died
for their faith; but he feared that the martyr spirit was now only to be
met with in books! Those martyrs had died, and with their death it had
seemed that all was lost; but the truth, for which they had given up
their lives, had lived!

But how is it now with us? We think our cause a righteous one, but are
we willing to die for it? Some spoke of our existence as a nation--but
whether that were to be preserved or lost, did not lie with us--it was
in the hands of God--He would take care of it. Right must conquer in the
end. They must take care to be on the side of right, should it even cost
them their lives. He agreed with those who said that, even if the
present deliberations were to come to nothing, they would have another
chance, later on, of negotiating. This had been proved by what had
already happened. General de Wet had shown them how Lord Salisbury had
gone back upon his first demands; he (General Beijers) could tell them
that on one occasion Lord Roberts had declined even to speak to General
Botha--and yet the English were negotiating with them now. He was quite
open to conviction, but at present he could not see that the war ought
to be stopped. Nevertheless he was not blind to the critical state of
their affairs. But their case was not yet hopeless; their anxiety about
food, their lack of horses--these were not insurmountable difficulties.
They might even find some means by which to save their womenfolk.

No. These difficulties were not insuperable; but there was one
difficulty which _was_ insuperable--the present spirit of the nation.
When a spirit, be it what it might, inspired or ruled a man, then that
man would submit to no other sway. The spirit that now ruled the
burghers was a spirit that was driving them over to the enemy. Against
that spirit it was impossible to contend. General De la Rey had said
that, if the proposal now before the meeting were to be shown to the
burghers, they would at once accept it--that was the sort of spirit that
was in them, and one must take it into consideration, for he was
convinced that it presented an insurmountable obstacle to the
continuation of the war.

The meeting was then closed with prayer.

[Footnote 113: See page 363 _et seq._]

[Footnote 114: See page 379 _et seq._]

[Footnote 115: See page 391 _et seq._]

[Footnote 116: See page 395 _et seq._]

[Footnote 117: The Boer form of this proverb is: Half an egg is better
than an empty shell.]

[Footnote 118: The head fastened to the knee.]

[Footnote 119: Having two legs fastened together.]


FRIDAY, MAY 30TH, 1902.

After the preliminary prayer had been offered, Vice-President Burger
said that before beginning the business of the day, it was his sad duty
to inform the meeting that the President of the Orange Free State had
been obliged to resign, on account of serious illness. President Steyn
had been compelled, in order to obtain medical assistance, to put
himself in the hands of the enemy. He had further to communicate that
Commander-in-Chief de Wet had been appointed Vice-President of the
Orange Free State. He wished to express his deep sympathy with the
representatives in the severe loss which they had sustained. President
Steyn, he said, had been a rock and pillar to their great cause.

Vice-President de Wet having thanked the Vice-President of the South
African Republic for his kind and sympathetic words, Mr. J. Naude (the
representative of Pretoria, and of General Kemp's flying columns) put
some questions with regard to the colonists who had been fighting on the
Boer side. These questions were answered by General Smuts. Mr. Naude
then asked if the delegates were expected to come to any decision about
independence.

General Botha replied that the Governments had informed Lords Kitchener
and Milner that they were not in a condition to decide that
question--that it was a matter for the nation to settle. The delegates
had then gone to their burghers, and now had returned, and were present.

Mr. Naude said that it must therefore have been known at Klerksdorp that
the delegates had to decide upon the question of independence. If that
were so, he found himself in a difficulty. Either the delegates had been
misled, or they were the victims of a mistake, for they had never been
told that they had been elected as plenipotentiaries. Notwithstanding
all that the lawyers might say, he considered himself as having a
certain definite mission. He had obtained the votes of his burghers on
the understanding that he would take up a certain position. He had asked
them whether independence was to be given up, and they had answered in
the negative. He could not therefore vote for the acceptance of the
proposal now before the meeting, for that proposal demanded the
surrender of independence. His burghers had also insisted on being
allowed to keep their arms, and on the use of their language in schools
and Courts of Justice, both of which conditions were refused by the
British proposal. Since, therefore, he could not agree to the proposal,
he was for continuing the war. Some asked what were the chances of
success? He remembered the state of feeling among the burghers at
Warmebad--that was a dark time indeed. The Commandant-General had paid
those burghers a visit, and had told them that they had nothing to lose,
but everything to win, by continuing the struggle. That had been enough
for them. They had not had much prospect then; they could not see
whither their road was leading. But they had found out afterwards. It
had been a dark time too when Pretoria was taken, but most of the
burghers had remained steadfast. And after the darkness the light had
come back. Again a dark cloud was over them--it would pass away, and the
light would reappear.

General De la Rey explained that he had not intended to mislead anybody
at the gatherings of the burghers. Every document which the Government
had handed over to him had been laid before those gatherings. Mr. Naude
had asked whether the delegates at that meeting had to decide about
independence. Most certainly they had. And to do so was a duty devolving
upon Mr. Naude as much as on any other delegate present. They would have
to decide, not for their own districts alone, but for the whole country.

Mr. Naude said that he had no wish to free himself from his
responsibility, but he could not forget that he had come there with a
definite mission.

Judge Hertzog wished again to explain the rights of the question from a
legal point of view. One must ask: If the nation were here, what would
it wish to be done? And one must act in conformity with what one thinks
its answer would be. The Judge then proceeded to speak on the matter in
general. What, he asked, were the arguments in favour of continuing the
war? In the first place, England was growing weaker just as their own
nation was. Any one could see that with their own eyes. It was true as
regarded the financial side of the question. No doubt England could
still collect millions of pounds, if she wished, but the time would come
when she would have trouble with her tax-payers. Already the British
Government found it difficult to pay the interest on the sum borrowed
for war expenses, as was proved by the fact that a corn tax had been
levied in England. That tax would not have been levied unless things had
been in a serious condition. In the second place, he would ask how it
was they had not been allowed to meet their deputation? It would only
have taken the deputation fourteen days to perform the journey; by now
it would have been among them. But permission had been refused them. And
why? It was said that to grant a permission would have been a military
irregularity. But the present meeting was also a military irregularity.
There must be something more behind that refusal. But what were the
arguments against going on with the war? He would enumerate them--the
situation in which they found themselves was critical; the country as a
whole was exhausted. Nearly all the horses had died or had been
captured. The strongest argument of all, however, was that some of their
own people had turned against them, and were fighting in the ranks of
the enemy. Then the condition of the women caused great anxiety; a fear
had been expressed that a moral decay might set in among the families in
the camps. That consideration had great weight with him. No one with any
heart could remain indifferent to it. If there was one thing which more
than anything else made him respect Commandant-General Botha, it was
that the Commandant-General had the heart to feel, and the courage to
express, the importance of that consideration. The present war was one
of the saddest that had ever been waged. He doubted if there had ever
been a war in which a nation had suffered as they had. But all those
sufferings, horrible though they were, did not influence his decision.
Did he but see the chance of finally securing freedom for the nation, he
would put all such considerations on one side, and go on fighting till
death. No; it was not the horror of the situation which influenced him;
there was something that weighed upon his heart yet more heavily--it was
_the holding of that meeting at Vereeniging_. He reproached no one.
Every one had acted with the best intentions. Nevertheless that meeting
was a fatal error; it would give them their death blow. For what had it
produced--a statement from the lips of the Commandant-General himself
that the condition of the country was hopeless. If there were yet any
burghers whose courage was not gone, would they not be utterly
disheartened when they heard what their leaders had said at that
meeting? That was the saddest thought of all. He could understand that
those burghers who had already lost heart should be leaving the
commandos, but now those who had never yet been disheartened would
become so. But notwithstanding all this, it was difficult to feel
certain which was the right course to pursue--to give up the war or to
continue it. He could only suggest that those who were now in doubt on
the matter should support the line of action which, before their doubt
began, had appeared to them to be best.

Mr. L.J. Meijer (a member of the Government of the South African
Republic) then gave some account of the devastation of that part of the
country which lay to the north of the Eastern Railway, and on the
further side of the Sabi River. (This report coincided with those
already given by the delegates.) He went on to say that as they were all
in the dark, and could not see the road they were travelling along, they
must take reason and conscience for their guide. They had already lost
much: let them not lose everything. And what could they hope to gain by
continuing the struggle? To do so might be to throw away their last
chance of peace. What would their progeny say of them if they were to
persist in the struggle and thus lose everything they had possessed?
They would say, "Our forefathers were brave, but they had no brains."
Whereas, if they were to stop the war, their progeny would say, "Our
forefathers did not fight for their own glory." He pointed out that
however little the British proposal contained of what they desired, it
nevertheless promised them representative government. In the past he had
been against the war; he had wished that the five years' franchise
should be granted. Although the people had opposed this measure he had
always supported it. And why? Because he had feared that were that
measure not conceded African blood would stain the ground. Must they
still continue to shed blood? After the capture of Bloemfontein there
had been a secret meeting of the council of war at Pretoria. His
Government had then been willing to surrender, but the Free State had
refused. The two Governments had therefore decided to go on with the
war. A year later, in the month of June, there had been another meeting.
A letter had been sent to the Free State. The two Governments had met at
Waterval, and had once more decided to continue the struggle. Later on,
again, the Government of the South African Republic wrote another letter
to the Free State; but there had been no opportunity of meeting until
the present occasion, which saw them assembled together at Vereeniging.
Were they again going to decide to continue their resistance? It was a
matter for serious consideration. There was but little seed-corn left.
This must, if they had to go on fighting, be preserved from the enemy at
all costs; were it to be destroyed, the African nation must cease to
exist. But they could not continue the war. It was the Boers now who
were teaching the English how to fight against us; Boers now were with
the enemy's forces, showing them how to march by night, and pointing out
to them all the foot passes.

Commandant Van Niekerk (Kroonstad) pointed out that the Colonists had
already rendered them valuable aid, and could still do so. Were they now
to abandon these Colonists, and--thinking only about saving
themselves--leave them to fight on alone? It would be sad indeed if the
burghers were compelled to lay down their arms.

Commandant-General L. Botha said that in regard to the holding of a
national meeting, he had already chosen delegates with power to act. He
spoke of the state of affairs at the beginning of the war--the two
Republics had then at least sixty thousand men under arms. In reference
to the Cape Colony, he said that it had never been expected that that
country would allow its railways to be used for the transport of troops.
The Commandant-General then proceeded as follows:--

"I used to entertain hopes that the European Powers would interfere on
our behalf. All that they have done, however, has been to look on while
England was introducing all sorts of new methods of warfare, methods,
too, which are contrary to all international law.

"When the war began we had plenty of provisions, and a commando could
remain for weeks in one spot without the local food supply running out.
Our families, too, were then well provided for. But all this is now
changed. One is only too thankful nowadays to know that our wives are
under English protection. This question of our womenfolk is one of our
greatest difficulties. What are we to do with them? One man answers that
some of the burghers should surrender themselves to the English, and
take the women with them. But most of the women now amongst us are the
wives of men already prisoners. And how can we expect those not their
own kith and kin to be willing to give up liberty for their sakes?

"As to the deputation, we must remember that it was accredited to all
the Powers of Europe. And yet it has only been able to hand in its
credentials to the Netherlands Government. Does not this prove that no
other Government is willing to receive it? If you need further proof, I
refer you to the letter in which the deputation--they were still allowed
to write to us then--said: 'There is no chance for us in Europe.' The
deputation wanted to be allowed to return home, but our Government
advised them to remain in Europe, because their arrival in South Africa
would be a death blow to the hopes of many. That is why the deputation
is still in Europe. Later on they said that, although they knew that
there was no chance of intervention, yet they felt that they ought to
persist in their efforts, because of the sacrifices which we had already
made. It is possible that a war may arise in Europe from which we shall
gain something, but what right have we to expect such a contingency?
Moreover, great nations take but little interest in the fate of small
ones--indeed, it is to the advantage of the former that the small
nations should be wiped out of existence.

"I cannot refrain from alluding to the faithlessness of some of our
burghers, who are to be found in the ranks of the enemy. But this is not
the only sign of the way in which affairs are trending--I look back on
the past. I remember that we have been fighting a full year since we
last heard of our deputation. What have we gained since June, 1901?
Nothing. On the contrary, we have been going backwards so fast that, if
this weakening process goes on much longer, we shall soon find ourselves
unable any more to call ourselves a fighting nation. What have we not
undergone in the course of this year which is just over! In the
concentration camps alone, twenty thousand women and children have died.
When I was in Pretoria I received reports from our information office,
and otherwise, of our losses. I found that there were thirty-one
thousand six hundred prisoners of war, of whom six hundred had died, and
that three thousand eight hundred of our burghers had been killed in the
war. Is not a loss such as this, in so short a time as two and a half
years, a serious matter? Think, too, of the sufferings which those
twenty thousand women who died in the camps must have endured!

"I am not deaf to the claims of the colonists who have been fighting for
us. I have said that if we surrender our independence, we must provide
for them. Should we serve their interests by continuing the war? No,
indeed! The best thing for them would be that we should bring it to a
close. But if we are absolutely determined to go on fighting, let us at
least say to them, 'We advise _you_ to desist.'

"What I am saying now is in substance what I said at Warmbad at a time
when there were two thousand men of that district in the Veldt. How many
are there now? Four hundred and eighty! On that occasion I also said
that we must continue the war until we were driven by sheer starvation
to make peace. Well, in some divisions starvation has already come. The
delegates themselves have had to confess that our strength up till now
has lain in the fact that we have been able to continue the struggle in
every district. In this way we have divided the enemy's forces. But if
we are compelled to abandon some of our districts, and to concentrate on
certain points, then the English also will concentrate, and attack us
with an irresistible force.

"It has been suggested that we ought to march into Cape Colony. I know,
however, what that would mean--Commander-in-Chief de Wet marched into
the colonies. He had a large force, and the season of the year was
auspicious for his attempt, and yet he failed. How, then, shall we
succeed in winter, and with horses so weak that they can only go
_op-een-stap_.[120]

"What, then, are we to do? Some will reply, 'Go on with the war,' Yes,
but for how long? For ten or twelve years? But would that be possible?
If in two years we have been reduced from sixty thousand fighting men to
half that number, where will our army be after another ten years of war?
It is clear enough to me that if we go on any longer, we shall be
compelled to surrender. Would it not be better to come to some agreement
with the enemy, while we have the opportunity? We have all received the
gift of reason; let us use it on the present occasion.

"As far as I and my own burghers are concerned, to continue the struggle
is still possible. But we must not only think of ourselves. We must
almost think of others. There are, for instance, the widows and orphans.
If we accept the terms now offered to us, they will remain under our
care. But if we go on with the war until we are forced to surrender, who
will then take care of them? Or if we were all killed, what could we do
for them? We should not even be able to send a deputation to Europe, to
ask for money to help us to rebuild our farms, and to feed our burghers.

"There are three questions now before us--three alternatives between
which we have to choose--the continuing of the war, unconditional
surrender, and the acceptance of the British proposal. With regard to
the first, I fail to see what satisfactory result can come to us from
persisting in this unequal contest, which must result in the end in our
extermination. As to the choice between the other two, in many ways
unconditional surrender would be the better. But, for the sake of the
nation, we may not choose it. Although to reject it may involve us in
many hardships, yet we must think of nothing else but the interests of
the nation. Our only course, then, is to accept the proposal of the
English Government. Its terms may not be very advantageous to us, but
nevertheless they rescue us from an almost impossible position."

After a short adjournment the delegates again assembled at about 2 p.m.

General C.H. Muller (Boksburg) said that his burghers had sent him to
defend their menaced independence. One part of them had authorized him
to act as his judgment should dictate; another part had ordered him to
hold out for independence and to try to get into communication with the
European deputation. He had long ago told his burghers that they must
trust in God if they wished to continue the war, for they could not do
so by relying only on their guns and rifles. He did not like to think of
what they would say if he were to go back to them and tell them that he
had not been in communication with the deputation, and that the
proposal of the English Government had been accepted. He could not bring
himself to surrender. Nevertheless, having in view what the
Commandant-General and others had said, he felt that he must do so, for
it was impossible for him to prosecute the war single-handed. But could
not the delegates continue to stand by one another, and make a covenant
with the Lord? The district which he represented was one of the poorest
in the whole country, and the L3,000,000 offered by the enemy did not
include any provision for those who, like his burghers, could do nothing
to help themselves. He would again suggest that the delegates should
make a vow unto the Lord. For himself, he could not vote for the
acceptance of the British proposal.

General J.H. Smuts then spoke as follows:--

"Up till now I have taken no part in this discussion, but my opinions
are not unknown to my Government; we have arrived at a dark period both
in the history of our war, and in the course of our national
development. To me it is all the darker because I am one of those who,
as members of the Government of the South African Republic, provoked the
war with England. A man, however, may not draw back from the
consequences of his deeds. We must therefore keep back all private
feeling, and decide solely with a view to the lasting interests of our
nation. This is an important occasion for us--it is perhaps the last
time that we shall meet as a free people with a free government. Let us
then rise to the height of this occasion; let us arrive at a decision
for which our posterity shall bless, and not curse us.

"The great danger for this meeting is that of deciding the questions
before it on purely military grounds. Nearly all the delegates here are
officers who in the past have never quailed before the overwhelming
forces of the enemy, and who therefore are never likely to do so in the
future. They do not know what fear is, and they are ready to shed the
last drop of their blood in the defence of their country.

"Now if we look at the matter from _their_ point of view, that is to
say, if we look at it merely as a military question, I am bound to admit
that we shall come to the conclusion that the war _can_ be continued. We
are still an unconquered power; we have still about eighteen thousand
men in the field--veterans, with whom one can accomplish almost
anything. From a purely military standpoint, our cause is not yet lost.
But it is as a _nation_, and not as an _army_, that we are met here, and
it is therefore for the nation principally that we must consult. No one
sits here to represent this or that commando. One and all, we represent
the African nation, and not only those members of it which are now in
the field, but also those who rest beneath the soil, and those yet
unborn, who shall succeed us.

"No! We do not only represent our burghers on commando, the troops over
which we are placed in command; we represent also the thousands who have
passed away, after making the last sacrifice for their country; the
prisoners scattered all the world over; the women and children dying by
the thousand in the prison camps of the enemy; we represent the blood
and the tears of the whole African nation. From the prisons, the camps,
the graves, the veldt, and from the womb of the future, that nation
cries out to us to make a wise decision now, to take no step which might
lead to the downfall or even to the extermination of their race, and
thus make all their sacrifices of no avail. Our struggle, up to the
present, has not been an aimless one. We have not been fighting in mere
desperation. We began this strife, and we have continued it, because we
wanted to maintain our independence and were prepared to sacrifice
everything for it. But we must not sacrifice the African nation itself
upon the altar of independence. So soon as we are convinced that our
chance of maintaining our autonomous position as Republics is, humanly
speaking, at an end, it becomes our clear duty to desist from our
efforts. We must not run the risk of sacrificing our nation and its
future to a mere idea which can no longer be realized.

"And ought we not to be convinced that independence is now irretrievably
lost? We have been fighting without cessation for nearly three years. It
is no exaggeration to say that during that period we have been employing
all the strength and all the means which we possess, in the furtherance
of our cause. We have sacrificed thousands of lives; we have lost all
our earthly goods; our dear country is become one continuous desert;
more than twenty thousand of our women and children have perished in the
camps of the enemy. And has this brought us independence? Just the
reverse; it is receding further and further from us every day. The
longer we fight, the greater will be the distance between us and the aim
for which we are fighting.

"The manner in which the enemy has been conducting, and still continues
to conduct, this war, has reduced our country to such a state of
exhaustion, that it will soon be a physical impossibility for us to
fight any longer. Our only hope lies in the chance of help from outside.
A year ago I, in the name of my Government, communicated the condition
of our nation to His Honour States-President Kruger, in Europe. He
wrote in reply that we must rely on the state of affairs in Cape
Colony--and the sympathy of European nations--and that we must continue
the war until all other means were exhausted."

The speaker here enlarged upon the political developments which had
taken place in the United States and in the principal European countries
during the preceding two years, and then continued:--

"So far as we are concerned, the sum total of the foreign situation is
that we obtain a great deal of sympathy, for which we are naturally most
grateful. More than this we do not obtain, nor shall obtain for many a
long year. Europe will go on expressing sympathy with us until the last
Boer hero has died on the field and the last Boer woman has gone down to
her grave--until, in fact, the whole Boer nation has been sacrificed on
the altar of history and of humanity.

"I have already, on a former occasion, told you what I think about the
situation in Cape Colony. We have made great mistakes there; perhaps
even now Cape Colony is not ripe for the sort of policy which we have
been pursuing with regard to it. At all events, we cannot entertain any
hopes of a general rising of the Colonists. We cannot, however, give too
much honour to those three thousand heroes in the Colony who have
sacrificed all in our behalf, even though they have not succeeded in
securing our independence for us.

"Thus we have given President Kruger's advice a fair trial. For twelve
months we have been testing the value of the methods which he urged upon
us. And, as a result of it all, we have become convinced that those
methods are of no avail--that if we wish to remain independent we must
depend upon ourselves alone. But the facts which the various delegates
have brought before our notice show that we _cannot_ thus depend upon
ourselves; that, unless we obtain outside help, the struggle must come
to an end. We have, then, no hope of success. Our country is already
devastated and in ruins; let us stop before our people are ruined also.

"And now the enemy approaches with a proposal, which, however
unacceptable it may be to us in other respects, includes the promise of
amnesty for our Colonial brethren who have been fighting side by side
with us. I fear that the day will come when we shall no longer be able
to save these so-called rebels, and then it will be a just ground for
reproach that we sacrificed their interests in a cause that was already
hopeless. Moreover, if we refused the proposal which the British
Government now makes to us, I am afraid that we shall considerably
weaken our position in the eyes of the world, and thus lose much of the
sympathy which to-day it evinces in our favour.

"Brethren, we have vowed to stand fast to the bitter end; but let us be
men, and acknowledge that that end has now come, and that it is more
bitter than ever we thought it could be. For death itself would be sweet
compared with the step which we must now take. But let us bow before the
will of God.

"The future is dark indeed, but we will not give up courage, and hope,
and trust in God. No one shall ever convince me that this unparalleled
sacrifice which the African nation has laid upon the altar of freedom
will be in vain. It has been a war for freedom--not only for the freedom
of the Boers, but for the freedom of all the nations of South Africa.
Its results we leave in God's hands. Perhaps it is His will to lead our
nation through defeat, through abasement, yes, and even through the
valley of the shadow of death, to the glory of a nobler future, to the
light of a brighter day."

Commandant A.J. Bester (Bloemfontein) said that at the meeting at which
he had been elected his burghers had told him that they were resolved
not to become the subjects of England. The arguments now urged against
the continuation of the war were not new--they had been used in former
times of depression. History gave many instances in which their nation
had been delivered out of the most critical positions. One could not
help believing that Right would conquer. How was it to be explained that
two hundred and forty thousand troops had failed to exterminate two
small Republics? Then there had been miraculous escapes; surely the
thoughts of these ought to encourage them. They must all be of one mind.
His own decision was to stand or to fall for his freedom.

Mr. Birkenstock (Vrijheid) asked whether the proposal could not be
accepted under protest.

General J.C. Smuts answered that the meeting could empower the
Governments to accept the proposal, and to add that they did so with
such and such provisos.

Commandant A.J. Bester (Bloemfontein) thought that there had been enough
said, and recommended that the discussion be closed.

Commandant F.E. Mentz (Heilbron) also thought that it was not necessary
to argue any more. He believed that the war could not be continued. In
Heilbron, Bloemfontein, and part of Bethlehem there were not five head
of cattle left. The helpless condition of the women and children also
demanded consideration. The state of the country was becoming so
desperate that they were now obliged to break away from the kraals. He
himself had been compelled to this not long ago, and had lost forty men
in one day. He would have to leave his district, but could not bring it
to his heart to leave the women behind. It was quite clear to him that
the war must be stopped, for some parts of the Transvaal were absolutely
unable to go on fighting. Moreover, were the war to continue, commando
after commando would go over to the enemy.

General Kemp (Krugersdorp) took a more encouraging view of affairs. He
would stand or fall with the independence. His mandate was to that
effect. His conscience also would not justify him in taking any other
course. He thought that the proposal of the English Government was
vague, that there was not sufficient provision for the Boer losses in
it, and that it treated the Dutch language as a foreign tongue.
Circumstances had often been dark, and the darkness would pass away this
time as it had done before. Remembering the commission which had been
given to him by the burghers, he could not do otherwise than vote for a
continuation of the war.

Vice-President Burger: "I have already given my opinion. I am sorry that
the meeting seems to be divided. It is necessary for the welfare of our
nation that we should be of one mind. Are we to continue the war? From
what I have seen and heard, it is clear to me that we cannot do so. I
repeat that there is no possibility of it, neither does any real hope
exist that by doing so we should benefit the nation. It is idle to
compare our condition in the struggle in 1877-1881 with that in which we
now find ourselves; I speak from experience.

"It is true that the victory was then ours; that it was so is due to the
help which we received from outside. The Orange Free State remained
neutral, but assistance came from President Brand in South Africa and
from Gladstone in England: thus it was not by our own sword that we were
enabled to win.

"It will be asked why, if we have kept up the struggle for two years and
a half, can we not still continue to do so?

"Because, in the meantime, we have become weaker and weaker, and if we
persist the end must be fatal. What grounds have we for expecting that
we may yet be victorious? Each man we lose renders us weaker; every
hundred men we lose means a similar gain to the enemy. England's
numerical strength does not diminish; on the contrary, there are even
more troops in the country at this moment than when Lord Roberts had the
command. England also has used our own men against us, and has not been
ashamed of arming the Kaffirs; the enemy are learning from our own men
in what way they should fight--he must be blind indeed who cannot see
these facts.

"I do not think we can appropriately call this altogether a 'war of
faith.' Undoubtedly we began this war strong in the faith of God, but
there were also two or three other things to rely upon. We had
considerable confidence in our own weapons; we under-estimated the
enemy; the fighting spirit had seized upon our people; and the thought
of victory had banished that of the possibility of defeat.

"The question still remains, What are we to do? I have no great opinion
of the document which lies before us: to me it holds out no inducement
to stop the war. If I feel compelled to treat for peace it is not on
account of any advantages that this proposal offers me: it is the weight
of my own responsibility which drives me to it.

"If I think that by holding out I should dig the nation's grave, nothing
must induce me to continue the struggle.

"Therefore I consider it my duty, as leader of our nation, to do my
utmost that not one man more shall be killed, that not one woman more
shall die.

"The sacrifice must be made; is not this also a trial of our faith? What
shall we gain by going on? Nothing! It is obvious that further
surrenders will take place--here of a few, there of many--and our
weakness will increase.

"We shall also be obliged to abandon large areas of the country. Will
this make us stronger? Rather, will it not enable the enemy to
concentrate still more? And the abandoned tracts--to whom will they
belong? To the enemy!

"In all probability this is our last meeting. I do not believe that we
shall be given another chance to negotiate: we shall be deemed too
insignificant. If we reject this proposal, what prospects have we in the
future? If we accept it, we can, like a child, increase in size and
strength, but with its rejection goes our last opportunity.

"Fell a tree and it will sprout again; uproot it and there is an end of
it. What has the nation done to deserve extinction?

"Those who wish to continue the war are influenced chiefly by hope; but
on what is this hope founded? On our arms? No. On intervention? By no
means. On what then? No one can say.

"I am sorry that the Transvaal and the Orange Free State are at variance
on this point, and I regret that it is the Transvaal which has to
declare itself unable to proceed further; but the enemy have
concentrated all their forces in this State, and we can hold out no
longer."

Mr. L. Jacobsz: "I have hitherto not spoken, because I am a
non-combatant. I have also suffered much, although less than others. I
have listened to what has been said, but my opinion is not changed by
the views I have heard expressed.

"I repeat now what I said at Klerksdorp, namely that the struggle cannot
continue. I have noted the condition of the country, which is such that
the commandos can no longer be supported. I would point out the
condition of the women and children, of whom many are dying, and all are
exposed to great dangers. If there was a chance of succeeding in the
end, then we might hold out, but there is no such chance; there is no
possibility of intervention, and the silence of the deputation is
ominous.

"I sympathize with the heroes present at this meeting; we must have a
foundation for our faith, and we cannot altogether compare our people
with the people of Israel. Israel had promises made to them; we have
none. I would further point out that, in the interests of the nation, it
will not do to surrender unconditionally: the terms before us may be
deceptive, but they are the best obtainable.

"With regard to the difficulty of those delegates who consider that they
are bound to act as they have been commissioned, I am of the same
opinion as Judge Hertzog and General Smuts."

Commandant J.J. Alberts (Standerton) spoke more or less in the same
strain. He was of opinion that the war should be finished by ceding
territory, but, failing this, that it should be ended on any terms
obtainable.

Vice-President de Wet expressed his opinion that, considering the short
time at their disposal, they should proceed, if possible, to make some
proposal.

General D.A. Brand said that he would have spoken if he had not thought
that enough had been said; he considered it desirable to close the
discussion, and was willing to make a proposal.

Veldtcornet D.J.E. Opperman (Pretoria South) considered that the
difficulties of continuing the war, and of accepting the proposal, were
equal. Some of his burghers would fight no longer. What troubled him
most was the condition of the women; it went to his heart to see these
families perish. He was of opinion that, for the sake of the women and
children who were suffering so intensely, the proposal should be
accepted under protest.

Veldtcornet J. Van Steedden, seconded by Veldtcornet B.J. Roos, moved
that the discussion be now closed.

The meeting was adjourned after prayer.

[Footnote 120: The step of a tired horse.]


SATURDAY, MAY 31ST, 1902.

The meeting was opened with prayer.

General Nieuwouwdt, seconded by General Brand, made the following
proposal:--

"This meeting of special deputies from the two Republics, after
considering the proposal of His Majesty's Government for the
re-establishment of peace, and taking into consideration (_a_) the
demands of the burghers in the veldt and the commissions which they had
given to their representatives; (_b_) that they do not consider
themselves justified in concluding peace on the basis laid down by His
Majesty's Government before having been placed in communication with the
delegates of the Republic now in Europe, decides that it cannot accept
the proposal of His Majesty's Government, and orders the Governments of
the two Republics to communicate this decision to His Majesty's
Government through its representatives."

Mr. P.R. Viljoen, seconded by General H.A. Alberts, made a proposal,
amended afterwards by General Smuts and Judge Hertzog, which appears
later on under the proposal of H.P.J. Pretorius and C. Botha.

A third proposal by General E. Botha and General J.G. Celliers was laid
upon the table, but subsequently withdrawn.

Mr. F.W. Reitz considered it to be his duty not only to the nation but
also to himself as a citizen, to say that, in case the proposal of the
British Government should be accepted, it would be necessary for the
meeting to make provisions as to whose signatures should be attached to
the necessary documents. He himself would not sign any document by which
the independence would be given up.

Remarks were made by several members on the first proposal, and Mr. P.R.
Viljoen asked that no division should arise.

Vice-President de Wet then said that, as the time was limited, and all
could not speak, he would propose that a Commission should be nominated
in order to draw up a third proposal in which various opinions of the
members should be set down; and that, whilst the Commission was occupied
in this way, the Orange Free State delegates on their part and those of
the South African Republic on their part, should meet in order that an
understanding might be come to between them. They must endeavour to come
to a decision, for it would be of the greatest possible advantage to
them.

Commandant-General Botha thought that this hint should be taken. They
had suffered and fought together: let them not part in anger.

The above-mentioned Commission was then decided upon, and Judge Hertzog
and General Smuts were elected.

Then the Orange Free State delegates went to the tent of Vice-President
de Wet, whilst those of the South African Republic remained in the tent
in which the meeting was held.

After a time of heated dispute--for every man was preparing himself for
the bitter end--they came to an agreement, and Judge Hertzog read the
following proposal:--

"We, the national representatives of both the South African Republic and
the Orange Free State, at the meeting held at Vereeniging, from the 15th
of May till the 31st of May, 1902, have with grief considered the
proposal made by His Majesty's Government in connexion with the
conclusion of the existing hostilities, and their communication that
this proposal had to be accepted, or rejected, unaltered. We are sorry
that His Majesty's Government has absolutely declined to negotiate with
the Governments of the Republics on the basis of their independence, or
to allow our Governments to enter into communication with our
deputations. Our people, however, have always been under the impression
that not only on the grounds of justice, but also taking into
consideration the great material and personal sacrifices made for their
independence, that it had a well-founded claim for that independence.

"We have seriously considered the future of our country, and have
specially observed the following facts:--

"Firstly, that the military policy pursued by the British military
authorities has led to the general devastation of the territory of both
Republics by the burning down of farms and towns, by the destruction of
all means of subsistence, and by the exhausting of all resources
required for the maintenance of our families, the subsistence of our
armies, and the continuation of the war.

"Secondly, that the placing of our families in the concentration camps
has brought on an unheard-of condition of suffering and sickness, so
that in a comparatively short time about twenty thousand of our beloved
ones have died there, and that the horrid probability has arisen that,
by continuing the war, our whole nation may die out in this way.

"Thirdly, that the Kaffir tribe, within and without the frontiers of the
territory of the two Republics, are mostly armed and are taking part in
the war against us, and through the committing of murders and all sorts
of cruelties have caused an unbearable condition of affairs in many
districts of both Republics. An instance of this happened not long ago
in the district of Vrijheid, where fifty-six burghers on one occasion
were murdered and mutilated in a fearful manner.

"Fourthly, that by the proclamations of the enemy the burghers still
fighting are threatened with the loss of all their movable and landed
property--and thus with utter ruin--which proclamations have already
been enforced.

"Fifthly, that it has already, through the circumstances of the war,
become quite impossible for us to keep the many thousand prisoners of
war taken by our forces, and that we have thus been unable to inflict
much damage on the British forces (whereas the burghers who are taken
prisoners by the British armies are sent out of the country), and that,
after war has raged for nearly three years, there only remains an
insignificant part of the fighting forces with which we began.

"Sixthly, that this fighting remainder, which is only a small minority
of our whole nation, has to fight against an overpowering force of the
enemy, and besides is reduced to a condition of starvation, and is
destitute of all necessaries, and that notwithstanding our utmost
efforts, and the sacrifice of everything that is dear and precious to
us, we cannot foresee an eventual victory.

"We are therefore of opinion that there is no justifiable ground for
expecting that by continuing the war the nation will retain its
independence, and that, under these circumstances, the nation is not
justified in continuing the war, because this can only lead to social
and material ruin, not for us alone, but also for our posterity.
Compelled by the above-named circumstances and motives, we commission
both Governments to accept the proposal of His Majesty's Government, and
to sign it in the name of the people of both Republics.

"We, the representative delegates, express our confidence that the
present circumstances will, by accepting the proposal of His Majesty's
Government, be speedily ameliorated in such a way that our nation will
be placed in a position to enjoy the privileges to which they think they
have a just claim, on the ground not only of their past sacrifices, but
also of those made in this war.

"We have with great satisfaction taken note of the decision of His
Majesty's Government to grant a large measure of amnesty to the British
subjects who have taken up arms on our behalf, and to whom we are united
by bonds of love and honour; and express our wish that it may please His
Majesty to still further extend this amnesty."

Mr. P.R. Viljoen then withdrew his proposal.

Commandant H.P.J. Pretorius, seconded by General C. Botha, presented the
proposal, as read by the Commission.

General Nieuwouwdt also withdrew his proposal, but it was at once taken
over by General C.C.J. Badenhorst, seconded by Commandant A.J. Bester,
of Bloemfontein.

The meeting then adjourned till the afternoon.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the afternoon at 2.05 it again met.

Proceeding to the voting, the proposal of H.P.J. Pretorius, seconded by
General C. Botha, was accepted, by fifty-four votes against six. Then
Vice-President Burger spoke a few words suitable to the occasion as
follows:--"We are standing here at the grave of the two Republics. Much
yet remains to be done, although we shall not be able to do it in the
official capacities which we have formerly occupied. Let us not draw our
hands back from the work which it is our duty to accomplish. Let us ask
God to guide us, and to show us how we shall be enabled to keep our
nation together. We must be ready to forgive and forget, whenever we
meet our brethren. That part of our nation which has proved unfaithful
we must not reject."

Later, Vice-President Burger spoke a few words of farewell to the
Commandant-General, to the Members of the Executive Councils, and to the
delegates.

In the afternoon, as it turned out for the last time, Commandant
Jacobsz, seconded by General Muller, made the following proposal, which
was unanimously accepted by the meeting:--

"This meeting of Delegates, having in view the necessity of collecting
means to provide for the wants of the suffering women and children,
widows and orphans, and other destitute persons, who have through this
war come to a condition of want, and also having in view the
desirability of nominating a Committee, whose duty it shall be to
arrange the necessary steps in this matter, and to finally decide on the
management and distribution of the donations received, decides:--

"To nominate the Hon. Messrs. M.J. Steyn, S.W. Burger, L. Botha, C.R. de
Wet, J.H. De la Rey, A.P. Kriel, and J.D. Kestell, as the Committee, to
carry out all arrangements for the above-mentioned purposes, that may
seem desirable and expedient to them, and also to appoint new Members,
Sub-Committees and working Committees; and the said Committee is
empowered to draw up regulations, and to amend them from time to time as
shall seem to them expedient.

"This meeting further decides to send abroad from the above-mentioned
Committee, Messrs. C.R. de Wet, L. Botha, and J.H. De la Rey, in order
that they may help in collecting the above-mentioned donations."

Then this--the last meeting of the two Republics--was closed with
prayer.




Index


Aard, Commandant Frans van--
  Election as Commandant of Kroonstad, 115
  Killed in engagement between Kroonstad and Lindley, 157

Abraham's Kraal--Bombardment by British, Boer Flight, 52

_Achterlaaiers_, 3

Active Service--Calling up of Orange Free State Burghers, 4
  Commando Law as to Equipment, Provisions, etc., 3
  Notification to Orange Free State Burghers to hold themselves in
      readiness, 3

Alberts, Capt.--Tribute to, 243

Albrecht, Major--Command of Boer Reinforcements at Koedoesberg, 28

Ammunition--Amount possessed by Boers in 1902, 408
  Capture of Ammunition by the Boers, 173
    Dewetsdorp, 178
    Doornspruit, Capture of Train near, 132
    Roodewal--Amount captured, 103
      Digging up, 191, 193
      Disposal of, 104, 106
    Tweefontein, 282
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Ammunition hidden in Cave, 298

Amnesty--General Amnesty for Boer Sympathisers in Cape Colony and Natal,
  proposed, 322

Annexation of the South African Republic--Battles fought after the
    alleged Annexation, 229
  Peace Negotiations at Pretoria, References to the Annexation, 367

Armistice to admit of attendance of Officers at the Vereeniging Meeting
    (May, 1902), 315
  Misunderstanding on the part of the British Columns, 317

Arms, Surrender of, _see_ titles Banishment and Surrender

Assistant-Commander-in-Chief Gen. de Wet obtaining Post from
    Government, 95

Assistant-Commander-in-Chief of the Orange Free State--
  Prinsloo, Mr. Marthinus, Illegal Election of, 126
  Steenekamp, Commandant, Nomination of, 144


Badenhorst, Siege of, by Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 77, 78
  Abandonment of Siege, 79

Badenhorst, Veldtcornet, 94
  Vice-Commander-in-Chief in Districts of Boshof, etc., Appointment, 159

Baggage Animals of British Troops--Exhaustion of, 148
  Use of, 279

Baker's, Col., Column--Commander-in-Chief de Wet lying in wait with a
    view to Reprisals, 271

Banishment Proclamation of Aug. 7, 1901 (Lord Kitchener's
    Proclamation), 247-250
  Battles fought subsequent to, 252
  Burghers, Effect on, 252
  Kitchener's, Lord, Letter to Commander-in-Chief de Wet enclosing copy
      of Proclamation, 247
    De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Reply, 248
  Officers, Effect on, 250
  President and Commander-in-Chief of Transvaal and Orange Free
      State--Replies, 250, 251, 257, 258
  Steyn's, President, Letter to Lord Kitchener, 251-259
  Terms of, 247-251

Bank Notes of the South African Republic--Peace Terms, Arrangements for
    honouring Notes, 380
  Prisoners of War, Opportunity of sending in Notes for Payment, 386

Barbed Wire Fences, _see_ Wire Fences

Barton, Gen., Attack on at Frederiksstad by Commander-in-Chief de Wet
    and Gen. Liebenberg, 164-167

Beijers, Gen.--Continuance of the War, Spirit of the Nation an
    obstacle--Speech at Vereeniging Conference, 410
  Waterberg District, Situation in--Report to the Vereeniging
      Conference, 339

Bergh, Capt.--Attacks on Boer Forces with bands of Kaffirs, 271

Bester, Commandant A.J.--Continuance of the War, Argument in favour of
    at the Vereeniging Conference, 421

Bester Station, Skirmish at, 10

Bethlehem--Commandants of Boer Forces, Appointments, 227, 228
  Defence of--British Reinforcements, Arrival of, 121, 122
    Dispositions of Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 120, 121
    _Voetgangers_ on Wolhuterskop, Bravery of, 121, 122
  Engagement near, 194, 195
  Fall of, 122

Bethlehem Commando--Fidelity of Burghers, 94, _note_

Bezuidenhoutspas--Occupation by Vrede Commando, 7, 8

Biddulphsberg Engagement--English wounded burnt by veldt fire, 84

"Big Constable"--Transvaalers mistaking President Steyn for Police
    Agent, 86, 87

Birkenstock, Mr.--Continuance of the War, Terms of Surrender, etc., 399
  Situation in South Africa on May 15, 1902--Report to the Vereeniging
      Conference, 343

Blauwbank, Fight at, 30
  British Camp abandoned--Booty taken by Boers, 33, 34
  British Convoy, Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Attack on, 32, 33

Blijdschap--Arrival of Laager of Women, 268
  De Lange sentenced to death for High Treason at, 268, _note_
  Massing of Commandos at, 268

_Blikkiescost_, 4

Blockhouse System--"Blockhead" System, alleged, 260
  Boer Success in breaking through Blockhouses, 260, 261
  Bothaville, Boers breaking through Blockhouse Line, 299
  British loss of faith in Blockhouses, 291, 292
  Cost of erection and maintenance, 262
  Description of, 262
  Districts surrounded by the British, 261
  Failure of, alleged, 261
  Lindley-Kroonstad Line, Boers breaking through, 287
  Palmietfontein, Boers breaking through Line near, 289, 290
  Prolongation of the War by, alleged, 263, 264
  Small number of Captures effected, 260, 261
  Springhaansnek--Commander-in-Chief de Wet breaking through the Line of
      Blockhouses on the march to the South, 173
  Thaba'Nchu and Sanna's Post, Forts between--Capture by
      Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 201, 202
  Trenches dug by British near Blockhouse Lines, etc., 288, 294, 295

Bloemfontein--Capture by British, 55
  Defence of--Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Arrangements, 54
  Water Works--Occupation by General Broadwood, 61

"Boer Biscuits," 3

Boer Forces--
  Burghers who had returned home after fall of Bloemfontein, Re-call to
      the front, 71
  Commandos left with Commander-in-Chief de Wet after fall of
      Bloemfontein, _note_ 57
  Confusion among Burghers at Holspruits, 294, 295
  Discipline, _see_ that title
  Disposition of Forces after fall of Bethlehem, 124
  Harrismith Commando, Refusal to part with Waggons--Return
      home, 161, 163
  Medical Certificates, Abuse of, _note_ 59
  Mobility, _see_ that title
  Numbers at Outset of War, 408, 414, 415, 491
  Numbers at the Termination of the War, 322, 338, 339, 347, 348, 359,
      360, 361, 362
  Orange Free State Commandos--
    Commander-in-Chief, Election of, 6, 7
    Harrismith, Concentration at, 4, 6-7
    Heilbron Commando, _see_ that title
    Number of Burghers ready to fight after fall of Pretoria, 94
  Panic after Paardeberg, 48, 49, 51, 52, _note_ 57
    Permission given to Burghers by Commander-in-Chief de Wet to return
        home, 56, _note_ 57--Gen. Joubert's Protest, 57
  Reduction in numbers due to Paardeberg Surrender, etc., 89, 90
  Roberts', Lord, Surrender Proclamation--Effect on Numbers rejoining
      Commandos, 60
    Non-observance of Terms, Burghers returning to Commandos, 80
  Separation of Free Staters and Transvaalers after fall of Kroonstad,
      Reasons for, 89, 90

Boesmanskop Skirmish, 80

Boshof, Vrow--Gift of Clothes to Burghers who had swum the Orange
    River, 221, 222

Bosman, Landdrost--Continuance of the War, Terms of Surrender,
    etc., 404, 405, 406
  Situation in South Africa on 15th May, 1902--Report to the
      Vereeniging Conference, 361, 362

Botha--Capture at Honingkopjes, Subsequent Escape and Death, 110

Botha, Commandant-General--
  Continuance of the War, Arguments against--Terms of Surrender,
      etc., 414, 415
  Estcourt Skirmishes--Capture of Armoured Train, etc., 19
  Fortitude after Fall of Pretoria, 93
  Independence of the South African Republic and Orange Free
      State--Vereeniging Conference Delegates' power to decide as to
      Independence, 411
  Junction with Commander-in-Chief de Wet at
      Rhenosterriviersbrug, 88, 89
  Middelburg Peace Proposals, _see_ that title
  Mission to Europe on behalf of Relief Fund Committee, 428
  Peace Negotiations--Member of Commission of National Representatives
      at the Pretoria Conference, 320, 365-396
  Situation in South Africa on 15th May, 1902--Report to the Vereeniging
      Conference, 337, 338, 354-358

Botha, General Philip--
  Dewetsdorp Defences, Occupation of, 175, 176
  Engagement with General Knox's Forces, 194, 195
  Kroonstad War Council, Presence at, 58
  Reinforcements sent to Commander-in-Chief de Wet before Paardeberg,
      Command of, 36, 37
  Stinkfontein--Failure to recapture Position, 45
  Storming of, 40
  Tabaksberg, Engagement at, 83

Botha, Mr. Jan--Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Tribute to, 150, 151

Bothaville--Boers breaking through Blockhouse Line, 299
  Surprise Attack by the British on Commander-in-Chief de Wet's
      Forces--Boer Panic, 168-170
    Losses of the Boers, 170-171

_Bout Span_, 5

Boys--Presence with Commandos, 287, 289, 290
  Children killed and wounded, 289, 290, 295, 296

Brabant's, General, Successes, 50

Brabant's Horse--Attack on Commandant Kritzinger and Captain
    Scheepers, 185, 186
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Opinion of, 75, 76

Brand, President--Assistance rendered to South African Republic in War
    of 1877-1881, 422, 423

Brandfort, Boer Forces at--Hotels closed by Commander-in-Chief, 60

_Brandwachten_, 22

Breijtenbach, Veldtcornet B.H.--Continuance of the War, Impossibility of
    Carrying on the Struggle, 403, 404

British Forces--Artillery, Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Tribute to, 25
  March from Bethlehem to Reitz, under guidance of Free
      Staater, 263, 264
  Sixty Thousand Men, Cordon of, 291, 292, 293, 294

Broadwood, General--Occupation of Thaba'Nchu, 65, 66
  Retreat towards Thaba'Nchu before General Olivier, 62

Broodspioen, 207, 208

Bruwer, Commandant--Appointment to Command of Bethlehem
    District, 227, 228

Buller, Sir Redvers--Drakensberg Frontier, Crossing of, 93
  Landing at Cape Town, 21
  Relief of Ladysmith, 50
  Strength of Positions operated against by Sir Redvers Buller, 21

Bulwana Hill--Boers surprised by British, 21

Burger, Vice-President--Continuance of the War, Terms of Surrender,
    etc., 398, 421, 422, 424, 425
  Meeting with Orange Free State Government, Letter to President
      Steyn, 301, 302
  Situation in South Africa on 15th May, 1902--Address at the
      Vereeniging Conference, 336, 337, 351-354
  Steyn, President, Resignation of--Announcement at Vereeniging
      Conference, 411


Cape Colony--
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Attempted Inroad--March towards Cape
      Colony--
    Blockhouses--Commander-in-Chief de Wet breaking through the Line at
        Springhaansnek, 173, 187, 188, 189
    Dewetsdorp--
      Defences, British neglecting to hold, 175, 176
      Storming of, 175-179
    Forces under Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 172
    "Good Hope" Farm, Engagement near, 181
      Knox's, Gen., Arrival with British Reinforcements, 181
    Gun and Amount of Ammunition taken, 173
    Karmel, March towards, 181, 182
    Knox's, Gen., Pursuit of Commander-in-Chief de
        Wet, 185, 186, 187, 189, 190
    Orange and Caledon Rivers in flood--Commander-in-Chief de Wet
        "cornered," 182, 183
    Prinsloo's, Commandant Michal, Commando--Appearance in the nick of
        time, 187, 188
    Retreat across Orange River, 184, 185
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Expedition into--
    Capture of Farm held by British Troops, 207, 208
    Courage and Endurance of Burghers, 212
    Diminution in number of Boer Forces, 206, 207
    Engagements with British Troops, 206, 207, 212
    Escape of Boer Forces in the darkness, 216, 219, 220
    Fodder, Lack of, 206, 207
    Knox's, Gen., Movements, 201, 202, 203
    Miraculous Nature of Boer Achievements, 223, 224
    Moddervlei, Passage of--Boer Loss of Ammunition and Flour
        Waggons, 208, 209, 210, 212
    Officers serving with Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 195, 196
    Position of Boer Forces after crossing Orange River, 205, 206
    Retreat across Orange River, Difficulties of, etc., 217-224
    Strategy employed to mislead Gen. Knox, 202, 203, 204
  General Rising of Burghers, Impossibility of--Reports of Delegates at
      the Vereeniging Conference, 340, 341, 342, 355, 360, 361, 405, 406
  Position of affairs at the beginning of 1901--Colonial Burghers'
      Sympathy with Boer Cause, 195, 196
  Sheep-farming, success of in North-Western Districts, 211
  Small Commandos sent to Cape Colony, Policy of, 234

Cape Mounted Rifles, Commander-in-Chief de Wet's opinion of, 77, 78

Cartwright, Mr., Editor of _South African News_--Punishment for
    publication of "not to take prisoners" Anecdote concerning Lord
    Kitchener, 184, 185

Casualties, _see_ Losses in Killed and Wounded, etc., on either side

Cattle--Blockhouse Line between Lindley and Kroonstad, Boer Cattle
    breaking through, 288
  Capture of Boer Cattle on "Majuba Day," 296, 297
  Destruction by the British, 192, 232
  Supply available on May 15, 1902--Report of Vereeniging
      Delegates, 337, 338, 339, 340, 341, 343, 344, 345, 346, 351, 352

Causes of the War--British Government Interference with the inner policy
    of the South African Republic, 252, 253
  Declaration of War by the South African Republics as the
      Cause--President Steyn's Contradiction, 251, 252
  Extermination of the Republics already determined on by England,
      alleged, 254, 255
  Franchise Law--British Government Demands, 252, 253, 254
  Goldfields the main object, alleged, 350, 351
  Jameson Raid as a Cause, alleged, 251, 252, 253
  Memorials to H.M. Government concerning alleged Grievances--President
      Steyn's efforts to keep the Peace, 252, 253, 254
  Orange Free State joining issues with the Transvaal, 254, 255
  Steyn's, President, Letter to Lord Kitchener, 250-259
  Troops landed by the British Government prior to outbreak of
      War, 253, 254
  Ultimatum of Boers, Lord Salisbury's Assertion, 53, 54

Ceylon--Boer Prisoners taken with Gen. Prinsloo sent to Ceylon, 156

Chamberlain, Mr. J.--Boer Ultimatum--Telegrams to Sir A. Milner, 329
  Jameson Raid--Defence of Mr. Rhodes, President Steyn on, 251, 252

Cilliers, Gen. J.G.--Continuance of the War, Terms of Surrender,
    etc., 404, 405
  Situation in South Africa on May 15, 1902--Address at the Vereeniging
      Conference, 353, 354

Cilliers, Sarah--Death at Frederiksstad Engagement, 166, 167

Clothing--De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Clothes hidden in Cave, 298
  Difficulty of obtaining, 233
  Hides for tanning, Destruction by the British, 233
  Stripping British Prisoners to obtain, 233

Colenso--British losses at, 23

Colesberg--Strength of Boer Positions, 26

Colonial Burghers--British subjects fighting on Boer Side, Boer Hopes of
    Assistance unfulfilled, 405, 406, 408, 420
  British Government Intentions with regard to Rebels, 394, 395
  Proposal for General Amnesty, 413, 414
  Safeguarding in Peace Negotiations, 398, 402, 403, 411, 414, 415, 416,
      421, 427

Commandeering--Provisions of Commando Law, 3

Commander-in-Chief of Orange Free State--
  De Wet, Gen.--Appointment of, 49
    Secret Election of, 118
  Prinsloo, Election of, 6, 7

Commando Law--Provisions as to Commandeering, 3

Commandos--Division of into small parties, 225
    Advantages of, 227
    List of Districts and Commandants, 225-227
  Skirmishes, Splendid Record, 267
  Small Commandos sent into Cape Colony--De Wet's Policy, 234
  (For particular Commandos _see_ their names)

Commissariat--Comparison of Boer and British Commissariat
    Arrangements, 4, 5, 6, 7

Compensation for Boer Losses, _see_ Repatriation

Concentration Camps--Number of Deaths in, etc., 416, 419, 426
  Women--Flight of to avoid being sent to Camps, 193, 279
    Maintenance of Boer Women and Children by the British
        Government--President Steyn on, 257, 258
    Treatment of, 232, 257, 258

Conduct of the War by British--Exhaustion of the Republics, 419

Continuance of the War in 1902, Vereeniging Conference--
  Burghers, Attitude of, 404, 405, 410, 411
    Effect on Vereeniging Meeting, 413, 414
  Comparison of Situation with that of 1877-1881, Futility of, 421, 422
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Speech, 407
  Kruger's, President, Advice, 420
  Possibility, Question of--Situation in South African Republic,
      Reliance on Government, etc., 347, 348, 349, 350, 351, 352, 353,
      354-358, 359, 360-362, 363, 399, 400, 401, 402, 403, 404, 405,
      407, 408, 410, 412, 413, 414, 415, 417, 418, 420, 421, 422, 423,
      424, 426
  Reasons for, 400, 401

Correspondence relating to the War, Preservation of, 247

Court Martial on Commandant Vilonel, Composition of, _note_ 85

Cowboys, Capture by Boers--Blauwbank Capture, 33, 34

Cronje, Commandant--Continuance of the War, Reliance on God, etc., 402
  European Intervention, Boer Deputation to Foreign Courts, 402, 403

Cronje, Gen. A.P.--Modder Spruit, Command at, 11
  Sanna's Post, Share in Engagement, 64
  Vechtgeneraal of Orange Free State, Nomination as, 11

Cronje, Gen. Piet--De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Scheme for breaking
    Lord Methuen's Railway Communications--Refusal to permit Execution
    of, 23
  Ladysmith, Occupation of Positions South and Southwest of, 19
  Magersfontein--Command at, 23, 24
    Refusal to profit by Commander-in-Chief De Wet's Advice, 25
    Message in reply to Commander-in-Chief De Wet's warning before
        Paardeberg, 31
  Retreat towards Paardeberg, 36, 37
  Surrender at Paardeberg (_see_ Paardeberg)

Cronje, Vechtgeneraal Andreas--Command of Boers' Reinforcements from
    Bloemfontein, 45

Cropper, F.C., Death of, near Lindley, 269


Dakasburg Engagement, 200

Dalgety, Colonel--Command at Badenhorst, 77

Davel, Commandant--Command of President Steyn's Bodyguard, 191

Days of Thanksgiving and Humiliation, Appointment of, 243

De Clercq, Mr.--Continuance of the War, Terms of Surrender, 399
  Situation in South Africa on May 15, 1902--Report to the Vereeniging
      Conference, 344, 348

De la Rey, General--Colesberg Command, 24
  Continuance of the War, Terms of Surrender, etc., 403, 404
  Fortitude after Fall of Pretoria, 93
  Independence of the South African Republic--Powers of Vereeniging
      Delegates to decide on Question, 411, 412
  Kraaipan, Capture of Armoured Train, 8
  Kroonstad War Council, Presence at, 58
  Magersfontein Laager, Command at, 23
  Mission to Europe on behalf of Relief Fund Committee, 428
  Peace Negotiations--Member of Commission of National Representatives
      at the Pretoria Conference, 320, 365-396
  Permission given to Burghers to return home, 56
  Reitfontein, Work at, 52
  Roberts', Lord, Attempt to cross the Orange River--Success in
      preventing, 26
  Situation in South Africa on May 15, 1902--Report to the Vereeniging
      Conference, 358
  Steyn's, President, and General de Wet's visit to, 300

De Lange--Sentence of Death for High Treason at Blijdschap, 268 _note_

De Wet, General Piet--Advice to Commander-in-Chief De Wet after Siege of
    Badenhorst, 81
  Discontinuance of Struggle proposed--Commander-in-Chief de Wet's
      Reception of Proposal, 130
  Lindley Garrison, Capture of, 92
  Sanna's Post Engagement, Share in, 64
  Swartbooiskop, Guarding after Fight at Nicholson's Nek, 17

De Wet, Jacobus, Capture of, 296, 297

De Wet, Johannes--Death near Smithfield, 181

De Wet, Veldtcornet--Wounded during Retreat from Dewetsdorp, 181

Debtors, Protection of, against Creditors for Six Months after the
    War--Peace Negotiations at Pretoria (May, 1902), 387

Declaration of War by South African Republic (_see_ Ultimatum)

Deputation to European Powers to ask for Intervention (1900)--Departure
    from Delagoa Bay, 53, 54
  Encouragement to continue Struggle, 407
  England's Refusal to permit Return of Deputation, 409, 412, 413
  European Governments unwilling to receive, 415, 416
  Failure of, 355, 356
  Object of, 54
  Silence of, 401, 402, 403, 404, 405, 407

Delagoa Bay Harbour, Forbidden to Boers by Portuguese Government, 53,
    _note_ 54

Destitution caused by the War, 321, 322
  Appointment of Committee to Collect and Administer Relief Funds, 428

Devastation by the British--War against Boer Property, 192
  Crops destroyed, Corn burnt, etc., _note_ 83
  Farm-burning and Waggons (_see_ those titles)
  Male Attire, Burning of, 221, 222

Dewetsdorp, Occupation by British, 71
  Storming by Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Forces, 174-179

Diederiks of Boshof, Commandant, 24

Discipline of Boer Forces--Imperfect Discipline, 7, 8, 9, 57
  Failure to remove Cattle along Railway Line, 111
  Roodewal, Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Difficulties in carrying away
      Booty, 103, 104
  Sanna's Post, irritating Results at, 67
  Stricter Discipline, Results of, 61
  Taljaart's and Prinsloo's, Veldtcornets, Burghers "preferred to go
      their own way," 286
  Waggon Difficulty, 120, 121
    Harrismith Burghers' Refusal to part with their Waggons at
        Spitskopje, 161-163

Doornberg, War Council at--Decision as to Presidential Election, 197

Doornspruit--Line near crossed by Commander-in-Chief de Wet, Capture of
    Train, Ammunition, etc., 132

Drakensberg Range--
  Boundary between Boer and British Territory in 1899, 7, 8
  Passes, Occupation by Orange Free State Commandos, 7, 8

Drive Tactics of British--
  Bethlehem-Lindley to Frankfort-Vrede Line--Cordon of Sixty Thousand
      Men, 290-296
  Boer Forces caught between Cordon of Troops and Vaal River, 135, 136
  Harrismith, Heilbron and Bethlehem District, 285, 286

Du Toit, General--Continuance of the War, Terms of Surrender,
    etc., 400, 401

Dundee, Line near, cut by Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 9, 10


Elandsfontein Engagement--Commandant Michal Prinsloo's Exploit, 119, 120

Elandskop--British Attack in Hope of Capturing Commander-in-Chief de
    Wet, 290, 291

Elandslaagte Engagement, 114

Els, Veldtcornet Marthinus, wounded outside Ladysmith, 20

Epithets applied by the British to the Boer Forces, 227, 228

European Journals kept from Republics by England, 409

Eustin, Lieut. Banie, wounded and captured by British, 204, 205

Extermination of the South African Republics--British Determination to
    exterminate the Republics prior to the Outbreak of War,
    alleged, 254, 255


Fanny's Home Farm--Recapture of Guns by British, 285

Farm-burning, etc., by the British--Heilbron, Bethlehem and Harrismith
    District, 285
  Roberts', Lord, Proclamations, ordering, 192
  Shelter, Lack of--Women living in Narrow Sheds, 290, 291
  Wholesale Destruction of Farms by the British, 232

Fauresmith and Jacobsdal Burghers--Failure to rejoin Commandos, 60
  Return Home without Permission after Poplar Grove, 56

Ferreira, Mr. T.S., Commander-in-Chief, at Kimberley--Death due to Gun
    Accident, 49

Firing of the Veldt by Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 141, 142

Fissher, Abraham--Member of Boer Deputation to Europe (1900), 53, 54

Food Supply--Failure of Food Supply, Reason for Acceptance of British
    Peace Terms, 233, 321, 401, 402, 405, 406, 410, 416, 417, 421, 422,
    427, 428
  Kemp's, Gen., Plan of Commandeering Food Supplies from the
      Kaffirs, 345
  Situation in the various Districts on May 15, 1902--Reports of the
      Delegates to the Vereeniging Conference, 337, 338, 339, 340, 341,
      342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 355, 361, 362

Forces--Comparison between numbers, etc., engaged on either Side in
    the War, 339
  (_See_ also titles Boer and British Forces)

Fourie, General Piet--Bethlehem Engagement, 281
  Blauwbank, Exploits at, 33, 34, 35
  Cape Colony Expedition, Part in, 201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207,
      210, 212, 213, 221, 222
  Commandos escaped from behind the Roodebergen, Command of, 238, 239
  Despatch of, to the South-Eastern Districts, 225
  Engagement with British Troops from Bloemfontein (1900), 80
  Prinsloo's Surrender, Escape from, 128
  Springhaansnek, Leader in Attack on Blockhouse Line, 187, 188, 189
  Vice-Commander-in-Chief in Bloemfontein District, Appointment, 157

Franchise--British Government Demands on the South African Republic
    prior to Outbreak of War, 252, 253, 254

Frankfort, British Success at (1900), 82
  Ross', Commandant, Engagement with Colonel Rimington's Troops, 267

Fraser, Gordon--One of two faithful Burghers of Philippolis District, 94

Frederiksstad Station--Attack by Commander-in-Chief de Wet and General
    Liebenberg on General Barton, Causes of Failure, etc., 165-168

French, General--
  Koedoesberg, Fight for, 27
  Magersfontein--Boer Lines broken through, 36, 37

Froneman, General--
  Continuance of the War at all Costs advocated, 402, 403
  Escape from Paardeberg, 41
  Frederiksstad, Attack on General Barton--Failure to hold advanced
      Position, 165, 166, 167
  Koedoesberg, Share in Fighting at, 27, 28
  Kroonstad War Council, Presence at, 58
  Prinsloo's Surrender--Escape from, 128
  Railway Line wrecked near America Siding, 115, 116
  Reddersburg, March on, 72, 73
  Rhenosterriviersbrug Engagement, 99, 101, 104, 105
  Sanna's Post Engagement, Share in, 62
  Smithfield Expedition, Results of, 79
  Train captured by, near Jagersfontein Road Station, 203, 204
  Ventersburg, Failure to hold Position, 85


Gatacre, General--Capture of Stormberg, 50

Gatsrand--Death of Danie Theron, 153, 154

Germany--Attitude towards the War, Reasons for
    Non-intervention, 358, 359

Gladstone--
  Assistance rendered to South African Republic in War of
      1877-1881, 422, 423
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, tribute to, 85

Goldfields--Surrender of, to the British proposed, 350, 351, 352, 357,
    358, 359, 360, 361, 362, 363, 364

Gouveneurskop--General de Villiers' Exploits at, 83

Government of Orange Free State--
  Accompanying Commander-in-Chief de Wet in Departure from
      Roodebergen, 124, 129
  Bethlehem, Transference to, 117
  Cape Colony, Expedition into, Decision to accompany, 197
  Capture of Members of the Government by the British at Reitz--Escape
      of President Steyn, 244
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Operations after Prinsloo's
      Surrender--Government accompanying Commander-in-Chief de
      Wet, 124, 129
  Executive Raad, Constitution of, 198
  Heilbron, Transference to, 86
  Kroonstad, Transference to, 58
  Third Transference, Reasons for, 92
  Volksraad--Impossibility of assembling a legally constituted
      Volksraad, 198, 199

Government of South African Republic--
  Capture of Members by the British at Reitz, 244
    Appointments to Vacancies, 244
    Treachery on the part of Burgher Steenekamp, 244
  Steyn's, President, Visit to Machadodorp, 144
  Termination of the War (_see_ that title)

Governments of the Orange Free State and South African Republic--
  Peace Deliberations, Meeting at Klerksdorp, 303, 305
  Peace Negotiations at Pretoria, Boer Proposals for Retention of
      Self-Government under British supervision, 366, 371, 372

Grain Waggons, captured by British near Vredefort, 133

"Granary" of Orange Free State lost to Boers, 84

Grant by the British Government for Repatriation Purposes, Re-stocking
    Farms, etc., 394

Great Britain, King of--Thanks of Boer Generals for Efforts to promote
    Peace--Resolution at the Vereeniging Conference, 346

Grobler, Commandant H.S.--Continuance of the War, Impossibility of
    carrying on the Struggle, 406

Grobler, Mr. E.R.--Colesberg Command, 22

Groenkop, Description of, 278

"Guerillas"--
  Designation of Boer Forces by the British as "Guerillas," Objections
      to the term, 228, 229
  Meaning of the term, 229

Guns--
  Boer Captures--
    Blauwbank, 33
    Colenso and Stormberg, 22
    Dakasburg Engagement--
      Capture of a Maxim-Nordenfeldt, 200
    Dewetsdorp, 178
    Nicholson's Nek, 16
    Sanna's Post, 67, 69
    Tweefontein, 282
  Boer Losses, 208, 209
    Bothaville, Number lost at, 170, 171
    Fanny's Home Farm, Recapture of Guns by the British, 285
    Frederiksstad, Retreat after--Loss of one gun, 167
    Springhaansnek, Gun Abandoned, 189, 190
    Ventersdorp, Loss of Krupp Gun near, 141


"Hands-uppers," British use of, 18

Harbour, Boer Lack of, _note_ 53

Harrismith--
  Engagement with British Troops near, 272-274
    Boer Casualties, 274
    Failure of Boer Charge, 273
  Orange Free State Troops, Concentration at, 4, 6

Harrismith Burghers--
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Visit to, 260
  Surrender following Prinsloo's Surrender, 128
  Waggon, Refusal to part with--Return home, 161-163

Hasebroek, Commandant--Cape Colony Expedition--Holding the Enemy in
    Check, 212, 215, 219, 220
  Engagement with Colonel White near Thaba'Nchu, 189, 190

Hattingh, General--Command at Harrismith and Vrede Commandos, 161
  Commander-in-Chief in the Drakensberg Appointment, 117

Hattingh, Veldtcornet Johannes--Leader in Springhaansnek Attack on
    Blockhouse Lines, 187

Heenop, David--Swimming the Orange River, 220

Heilbron--District to which Commander-in-Chief de Wet belonged, 4
  Government of Orange Free State transferred to, 86
  Mentz, Commandant F.E., Engagement with Colonel Byng's Column, 267

Heilbron Commando--Commandant Mr. L. Steenekamp, 4
  Vice-Commandant, Election of Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 7
  Visits to, by Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 230, 243

Heliographic Communication, Use by Boers, 286 _note_, 289

Hertzog, Judge--Continuance of the War, Arguments for and
    against--Vereeniging Conference, 412
  Despatch of, to the South-Western Districts, 225
  Mission to bring back Commandos which had escaped from Prinsloo's
      Surrender, 137
  Peace Negotiations--Member of Commission of National Representatives
      at the Pretoria Conference, 320, 365-396
  Rejection of British Terms--Proposal, 425, 426
  Report on Attitude of Burghers in North-Western Parts of Cape
      Colony, 195
  Vice-Commander-in-Chief, Appointment in Districts of Fauresmith,
      etc., 158

Hides for Tanning--Destruction by the British, 233

Hijs, Commandant, P.L.--Impossibility of European Intervention, 401, 402

Holspruits--Boers breaking through British Lines, 293, 294

Honing Kopjes--Commander-in-Chief de Wet's first Engagement with Lord
    Kitchener, 108-110

Honingspruit Station, Failure of Commandant Olivier's Attack, 115, 116

Horses--Bothaville, Capture of Horses by Boers, 299
  Condition of Boer Horses, 338, 339, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 355
  Dependence of the Boers on their Horses, 172
  Fodder, Scarcity of, 341, 355
  Skin Disease among, 271, 272
  Wild Horses of the Veldt, Use of, by the Boers, 292, 293

Humiliation Days, Appointment of, 243


Independence of the Republics--
  Afrikander Feeling as to, 58
  British Government Attitude towards, 337
  Correspondence between Presidents Kruger and Steyn and Lord
      Salisbury, 330-332
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Meetings to ascertain the feeling of the
      Burghers as to Surrender of Independence, 313
  "Irretrievably Lost," 419
  Maintenance of--Burghers' Mandate to Vereeniging Delegates, 333, 337,
      338, 347, 348, 362, 363, 400, 401, 402, 403, 404, 405, 407, 411,
      412, 417, 421, 422, 423, 424
  Peace Negotiations--Conference at Pretoria between Commission of the
      National Representatives and Lords Kitchener and Milner
      (May 19-28, 1902), 366, 370, 371
  Refusal of the British Government to consider Terms based on Retention
      of Independence, 53, 54, 309, 310, 397
  Steyn, President, Views of, 306
  Surrender of--Conditions offered by the British in
      exchange, 346, 347, 358
  Vereeniging Conference, opinions of Burghers' Delegates, 333, 336,
      346, 347, 348, 350, 351, 352, 353, 354, 362, 363, 364

Intervention of Foreign Powers on behalf of the Republics--
  Attitude of England towards, 356, 362, 363
  Boer Deputation to European Powers (_see_ Deputation)
  Boer Hopes unfulfilled, 405, 406, 412, 414, 415, 416, 423, 424
  Germany, Reasons for Non-intervention, 358, 359
  Improbability of Intervention, 355, 358, 359, 360, 361, 362, 363, 433
  Intervention not desired by Boers, 54
  Steyn, President, on, 354, 355


Jameson Raid, President Steyn on, 251, 252

Jew at Nicholson's Nek--Burgher declining to do Business, 15

Johannesburg Police, Behaviour at Nicholson's Nek, 15, 16

Jonson, Burgher, Death at Bester Station--First Victim in the Fight for
    Freedom, 10, 11

Joubert, General--
  Junction with Orange Free State Forces at Rietfontein, 13
  Kroonstad War Council, Presence at, 58


Kaffirs--Arming by England, 422, 423
  Attitude towards the Boers--Reports of Vereeniging Delegates, 337,
      338, 339, 340, 343, 345, 346, 355, 361, 362, 363
  Boer Women, Treatment of, 151, 152, 153
  Capture of Kaffirs by Boers at Dewetsdorp, 178, 179
  Release of Prisoners, 181
  Treatment of Kaffirs by Boers--Kaffirs captured at Leeuwspruit
      Bridge, 113
  Warfare, Native Methods--Boer Sufferings at the Hands of Zulus and
      Basutos, 10

Kemp, General--Continuance of the War, Independence of the Republics,
    etc., 421, 422
  Situation in South Africa on May 15, 1902--Report to the Vereeniging
      Conference, 345, 347, 348

Kitchener, Lord--Armistice agreed on, to admit of Attendance of Boer
    Officers at the Vereeniging Meeting, 316
  Misunderstanding on the Part of the British Columns, 317, 318
  Capture of President Steyn and Commander-in-Chief de Wet
      anticipated--Visit to Wolvehock Station, 290, 291
  Escape from Armoured Train, near Leeuwspruit Bridge, 112
  Honingkopjes and Roodepoort--Commander-in-Chief de Wet's first
      Engagement with Lord Kitchener, 108, 109
  Independence of Republics as basis for Peace Negotiations, Refusal to
      consider--Pretoria Conference, 309, 310, 397
  Kroonstad, Arrival at, 111
  Middelburg Peace Proposals (_see_ that title)
  Peace Negotiations--Conference at Pretoria with Commission of National
      Representatives (May 19-28, 1902), 320, 365, 395, 396
  Proposals by the Boer Representatives in April, 1902, 305-313
  Prisoners, Order given to Gen. Knox "not to take prisoners"--_South
      African News_ Statement, 184, 185

Klerksdorp--Peace Deliberations, Meeting of Governments of the
    Republics, 303, 304, 305

Knight, Captain Wyndham--
  Surrender at Rhenosterriviersbrug, 105, 106
  Tribute to, by Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 107

Knox, General--Bethlehem, Engagement near, with Generals Botha and
    Fourie, and Commandant Prinsloo, 194, 195
  Cape Colony--Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Operations--Attempted
      Inroad--Fighting near Smithfield, 181
  Expedition into Cape Colony, Dispositions to prevent, 201, 202, 203
  Kroonstad taken by, 194, 195
  Pursuit of Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 185, 186, 187, 189, 190
  Thaba'Nchu, Engagement near, with Gen. Fourie, 201, 202

Koedoesberg--Struggle between General French and Commander-in-Chief de
    Wet, 27, 28, 29

Kotze, Mr. (General Prinsloo's Secretary)--Bearer to Commander-in-Chief
    de Wet of News of General Prinsloo's Surrender, 135, 136, 137

Kraaipan--Armoured Train captured by Boers, 8, 9

Kritzinger, Commandant--Crossing of Orange River, Seizure of British
    Outpost, 195, 196

Kritzinger, Commandant, and Captain Scheepers--Engagement with Brabant's
    Horse, 185, 186

Krom Ellenborg, Sub-district to which Commander-in-Chief de Wet
    belonged, 4

Kroonstad--British Advance, 86, 87
    Abandonment by Boers, 87, 88
  Capture by General Knox, 194, 195
  Government of Orange Free State transferred to, 58
  Government of Orange Free State transferred to Heilbron, 86, 87
  Kitchener's Lord, Arrival--Strength of British Forces, etc., 111

Kroonstad Commando, Share in Battle of Modderspruit, 10, 11

Kruger, President--Despatch of Mission to Europe to represent Condition
    of the Country to President Kruger, proposed, 236, 237, 238
  Peace, Joint Letter to Lord Salisbury stating Conditions on which the
      Republics were willing to make Peace, 330, 331, 332
  Poplar Grove, Visit to Boer Troops at, 50
  War Council at Kroonstad, Presence, at, 58

Krugersdorp-Potchefstroom Railway--Crossed by Commander-in-Chief de
    Wet, 149


Ladysmith--
  British Retreat on Ladysmith, 9, 10
  Bulwana Hill--Boers surprised by British, 21
  Engagement of 3rd Nov., 1899, 29, 30
  Relief, 50

Landsheer, Doctor de--Death at Bothaville, English Newspaper
    Report, 170, 171

Language Question--
  Equal Rights for English and Dutch Languages in Schools--Boer Peace
      Proposals to Lord Kitchener (April, 1902), 308, 309
  Terms of the Peace Protocol, 380, 393, 394
    Objections to, 412, 421, 422

Leeuwspruit Railway Bridge--Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Scheme for
    breaking British Lines of Communication, 112
  Froneman's, General, Failure to carry out Instructions, 113
  Kitchener's Lord, Escape, 112

Leeuwspruit Scheme, Failure of, 112
  Methuen's, Lord, Railway Communications--General Cronje's Refusal to
      permit Execution of Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Scheme for
      Cutting, 23
  Orange Free State Railway--Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Work
      on, 153, 154
  Scheepers, Captain, Work of, 154
  Wolvehoek, Wrecking the Railway, 163

Liebenberg, General--
  Frederiksstad--Failure of Attack on General Barton, 164, 165, 166, 167
  Mooi River, Junction with Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 140, 141
  Retreat from Rustenburg, 142, 143

Liebenbergsvlei--
  British Retreat, 284
  Guns, Recapture by British at Fanny's Home Farm, 285

Lindley--
  British Garrison Captured by General Piet de Wet, 92
  Destruction by the British, Alleged, 271, 272
  Engagement near, 268
  Postponement of Second Boer Attack--Escape of the British during the
      Night, 270
  Halt of Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Forces, 271, 272

Lindley-Kroonstad Line of Blockhouses--Boers breaking through the
    Line, 287

Lines of Communication--Boer Attempts to cut British Lines, 172, 246
  America Siding Railway Line Wrecked by General Froneman, 115, 116
  De Wet, Commander-in-Chief, Schemes of, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153
  Frederiksstad Station--Wrecking of Railway Bridge and Line, 140, 141
  "Little Majuba"--Name given to Swartbooiskop after Nicholson's Nek, 13

Loans by the British Government for restocking Farms, etc., 394

Long Tom damaged by Dynamite, 21

Looting by British, 6, 7

Losses in Killed, Wounded, etc., on either side during the War, 201,
    202, 247, 265, 266, 415, 416, 417, 422, 423
  Blijdschap, 269
  Bothaville, 170, 171
  Cape Colony Expedition, 206, 207, 208, 209
  Colenso, 22
  Dakasburg Engagement, 200
  Dewetsdorp, 177, 178
  Engagement between Commandant Hasebroek and Colonel White, 189
  Frederiksstad Engagement, 166, 167
  Heilbron, 26
  Koffiefontein, 35, 36
  Ladysmith, Engagement of 3rd Nov., 1899, 20
  Leeuwspruit Bridge, 112, 113
  Lindley, 267, 269
  Magersfontein, 23
  Modder Spruit, 11
  Nicholson's Nek, 16
  Paardeberg, 50
  Prinsloo's Surrender, 127
  Reitz, 265
  Rhenosterriviersbrug, 105
  Roodewal, Extent of British Losses, 102
  Sanna's Post, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70
  Stinkfontein, 40, 46
  Stormberg, 23
  Tijgerfontein, 138, 139
  Tweefontein, 181
  Vanvurenskloof, 139, 140
  Verkijkersdorp, 239, 240
  Vredefort Engagement, 134, 135

Loyalty to British Government--Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Final Advice
    to the Boers, 324

Lubbe, Commandant--Return from Paardenberg's Drift, 36, 37
  Wounded and Captured near Thaba'Nchu, 82

Lyddite Shells, Effect of--
  Bethlehem Incident, 121, 122
  Magersfontein Laager, 24


Maagbommen, 5

Macdonald, General Sir Hector--
  Command of Reinforcements against Bethlehem, 121, 122

Machadodorp--President Steyn's Visit to the Government of the South
    African Republic, 144

Magalies Mountains, Passage of, by Commander-in-Chief de
    Wet, 145, 146, 147

Magersfontein Engagement--
  British Losses, 23

Magersfontein Laager--
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Command, 23, 24
  Duties and Annoyances of Command, 64
  Shelling by British, 24
  Women, Presence of--Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Failure to induce
      Government to Prohibit, 25

Mailbags captured at Roodewal, Contents used by Boers, 102

"Majuba Day"--Capture of Commandant van Merwe and men, 296, 297

Malan, Lieut.--Expedition into Cape Colony, 206, 207

Martial Law--Proclamation by Governments of the Republics, 7, 8

Massey, Major--Command at Dewetsdorp, Commander-in-Chief de Wet's
    Tribute, 175, 176

Matthijsen, Corporal Adriaan and the crossing of the Magalies
    Mountains, 146, 147

Mauser Rifle in Portrait of Commander-in-Chief de Wet, History
    of, 151, 152

Mears, Commandant--Loss of Guns at Fanny's Home Farm, 285

Medical Certificates, Abuse of by Burghers, _note_ 59

Meijer, Commandant J.--Tribute to, 271, 272

Mentz, Commandant J.E.--
  Continuance of the War, Impossibility of, 421, 422
  Situation in South Africa on 15th May, 1902--Report to the Vereeniging
      Conference, 351, 352

Merve, Commandant-General van, wounded at Sanna's Post, 68, 69

Merve, Commandant van der--
  Appointment to Command of Winburg Burghers, 64
  Capture of, on "Majuba Day," 296, 297

Meyer, Mr. J.L.--Continuance of the War, Arguments against, Vereeniging
    Conference, 413, 414

Meyer, Veldtcornet--Loss of Position at Stinkfontein, 42

Middelburg Peace Proposals--
  Annulled by the Terms of Peace arranged at the Pretoria Conference
      (May, 1902), 392
  Communications between the Boer Leaders with reference to the proposed
      Conference, 230
  Difference between the Basis of Negotiations proposed by the Boer
      Representatives in May, 1902, and the Middelburg
      Proposals, 367, 372, 373
  Receipts issued by Boer Officers, Proviso as to Payment, 384, 385

Milner, Lord--
  Boer Ultimatum--Mr. Chamberlain's Telegrams, 329
  Independence of Republics as Basis for Peace Negotiations, Refusal to
      consider--Pretoria Conference, 365-396, 397
  Peace Negotiations--Conference at Pretoria with Commission of National
      Representatives (May 18-29, 1902), 320, 365-396

Mobility--British Incapacity to keep pace with Boers, 140, 141 (_see_
    also Waggons)

Modder River--British entrenched at, 24

Modder Spruit, Battle of, 9, 10, 11
  Boer and British Losses, 11, 12

Modderrivierpoort (_see_ Poplar Grove)

Muller, Capt.--Exploit at Roodewal, 101

Muller, General C.H.--Continuance of the War--Vereeniging Delegates'
    Refusal to accept British Surrender Proposal, 417

Myringen, Burgher, killed at Rhenosterriviersbrug, 105, 106


Naauwpoort--Prinsloo's Surrender, 85

Natal--British Subjects fighting for the Boers (_see_ Colonial Burghers)

Natal Operations--
  Absence of Commander-in-Chief de Wet after 9th Dec., 1899, 21
  Bester Station Skirmish, 10, 11
  Colenso, Magersfontein, and Stormberg Engagements--British Losses, 23
  Drakensberg Passes, Occupation by Orange Free State Commandos, 7, 8
  Estcourt Skirmishes--General Louis Botha's Exploits, 19
  Failure of Boers to cut off English at Dundee and Elandslaagte, 9, 10
  Kraaipan, Capture of Armoured Train by General De la Rey, 8, 9
  Ladysmith (_see_ that title)
  Modder Spruit, Battle of, 9, 10, 11
  Natal Frontier, Commander-in-Chief C. de Wet's Reconnaissance, 7, 8
  Nicholson's Neck (_see_ that title)

National Representatives (_see_ Peace Negotiations)

National Scouts--Arming men who had taken the Oath of Neutrality, 159
  Bergh's, Captain, Attacks on Boers with bands of Kaffirs, 271, 272
  Night Attacks by the British instigated by, 263, 264
  Services to the British, 184, 185, 223, 224

Naude, Mr. J.--Independence of the South African Republic and Orange
    Free State, Vereeniging Delegates' power to decide as to Position of
    British Subjects fighting on Boer side, etc., 411

Neikerk, Altie van--Capture at Honingkopjes, 186

Neikerk, Captain--Appointment as Commandant of President Steyn's
    Bodyguard, 245

Nel, Commandant--
  Farm stormed by English--Escape of Commander-in-Chief C. de
      Wet, 152, 153, 154
  Modder Spruit--West Wing of Boer Forces commanded by Nel, 10, 11
  Nicholson's Nek--Failure to hold Swartbooiskop, 13, 14
  Resignation, 115, 116

Nerwe, Van de--Drowned in crossing Orange River, 217

Netherlands--
  Peace--Correspondence with the British Government, 301, 302
  Boer Response to the Invitation implied in the forwarding of the
      Correspondence, etc., 305, 306, 370, 371
  Queen of--Thanks of Boer Generals for efforts to promote
      Peace--Resolution at the Vereeniging Conference, 345, 346

Newspapers--Circulation of European Papers prohibited in Republics by
    England, 409

Nicholson's Nek--
  Ambulance for British wounded--Sir G. White's Delay in sending, 17
  Booty taken by Boers, 16
  Swartbooiskop--
    Nel's, Commandant, Failure to hold, 13, 14
    Storming by Steenekamp and Commander-in-Chief C. de Wet, 14, 15
    White Flag Incident, 15
  Transvaal Burghers, Work of, 17

Nieuwouwdt, General--Peace, Rejection of British Terms,
    Proposal, 424, 425

Night Attacks by the British--Success of, Losses caused to the
    Boers, 263, 264

Norvalspont--Commander-in-Chief C. de Wet's Schemes for Operations in
    rear of British, 81, 82


Oath of Neutrality, Breaking--Re-arming of Burghers who had taken the
    Oath, Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Scheme, 156-160
  British Military Authorities' Breach of Terms of Lord Roberts'
      Proclamation justifying Scheme, 159, 160

Olivier, Commandant--
  Bethlehem District, Appointment to Command, 227, 228
  Honingspruit Station, Failure of Attack on, 115, 116
  Prinsloo's, General, Position as Private Burgher, Dissatisfaction
      with, 118

Oliviershoekpas--Occupation by Bethlehem Commando, 7, 8

Orange Free State--
  Annexation of--Battles fought after the alleged Annexation, 228, 229
  De Wet, Commander-in-Chief, Return of, 144, 150, 151
  Government (_see_ Government of Orange Free State)
  Number of Burghers in Arms after Fall of Pretoria, 94
  Outbreak of War--Orange Free State joining issues with the South
      African Republic, 254, 255
  President--Powers granted to President in Matters Concerning
      War, 9, 10
  Situation of Boer and British Forces in 1901, President Steyn
      on, 255, 256

Ortel, Mr. Charles--Owner of Abraham's Kraal, 51

Outbreak of the War, 7, 8


Paardeberg--General Cronje's Forces surrounded by the British,
    Bombardment of Laager, etc., 39
  Boer Reinforcements, Arrival of, 45
  Cronje's, Gen., Determination not to abandon Laager, 41
  Efforts to release General Cronje--Storming of Stinkfontein,
      etc., 40-46
    Abandonment of Position by Boers, 44
    Botha's, General, Attempt to recapture Position abandoned on 25th
        February, 45
    British Efforts to recapture Position, 42, 43, 44
    Way of Escape opened to General Cronje, 41, 43
  Sketch of Boer and British Positions, 38
  Surrender of General Cronje, 47
    Effect on Boer Forces, 48, 49, 51
  Theunisson, Mr., Capture by British, 6, 7

Paardenberg's Drift, British Advance on, 30
  Camp of "Water-draggers" surprised by British, 32, 33

Palmietfontein--Boers breaking through Blockhouse Line, 289, 290

Panic among Boer Forces--
  Burghers returning to Farms after Fall of Pretoria, 93
  Holspruits, 294, 295

Peace Negotiations--Boer Overtures, etc.--
  Armistice agreed on, to admit of attendance of Officers at the
      Vereeniging Meeting, 315
    Misunderstanding on the part of the British Columns, 317, 318
  Concessions in addition to the Terms already offered in the
      Negotiations of April, 1902, 366
  Conference at Pretoria between the Commission of National
      Representatives and Lords Kitchener and Milner (19-28 May,
      1902), 320, 365
    Draft Document drawn up to place Negotiations in position to amend
        the Middelburg Proposals, 376, 377
    Prolongation of Meetings due to Cable Correspondence with Great
        Britain, 397
    Report of Commission discussed at Vereeniging Meeting, 397
  Governments of the Republics, Meeting at Klerksdorp, 303, 304, 305
    Burger's, Vice-President, Letter to President Steyn, 301, 302
  Independence (_see_ that subheading)
  Middelburg Peace Proposals (_see_ that title)
  National Representatives--
    Commission sent to the Pretoria Conference (May, 1902)--
      Decision to appoint Commission, 364
      Names of Members, 412
    Election of Representatives for the Commandos, 313, 314
    Meeting at Vereeniging (15th May) to consider the
        Situation, 352, 353, 358, 359, 362, 363
    Peace Terms Proposed, 362, 363, 364
  Netherlands' Communication with the British Government, 301, 302
    Boer Response to the Invitation implied in the forwarding of the
        Correspondence, etc., 305, 306, 370, 371
    Letter sent to Commandos, 336, 345, 346, 347
  Presidents of the Republics--Correspondence with Lord Salisbury, and
      Lord Salisbury's Reply (5th March, 1900), 50, 53, 54, 330-332, 409
  Proposals to Lord Kitchener (April, 1902), 299
    Correspondence between Lord Kitchener and the Secretary of
        State--Independence Difficulty, 401, 402
  Signing of Peace at Pretoria, 323, 324
  Steyn's, President, Views, 258, 259
  Terms of Peace sanctioned by the British Government and accepted by
      the Boers (May, 1902)--
    Acceptance of British Terms, 320, 427, 428
    Acceptance under Protest proposed, 421
    Dissatisfaction among men of the Commandos, 324
    Failure of Food Supply as reason for acceptance, 321
    Unconditional Surrender v. Acceptance, 399, 401, 404, 405, 417,
        423, 424
  Better Terms, Possibility of obtaining, 406, 409, 410, 423, 424
  Decision as to Acceptance or Rejection essential, 425, 426
  Middelburg Proposal Annulled by the Terms of the Peace Protocol of
      May, 1902, 392
  Milner's, Lord, Telegrams, 392
  Rejection of Terms proposed, 424, 425
  Signatures to Acceptance, Question of, 425, 426
  Sub-committee appointed to aid in formulating Peace
      Proposals, 378, 398
  Text of Draft Proposal and of Draft Proposal with Amendments
      sanctioned by the British Government, 379, 393
  Time allowed for discussion of Terms, 394, 395
  "Ultimatum," Description of British Terms, 321

Penzhorn, Mr., Relatives of--Kindness to Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 145

Petrusberg--Capture of by British, 51
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Visit, 232

Plans, Sketch Plans of Engagements, 97, 276

Plessis, Veldtcornet du--Death due to White Flag Treachery at
    Reddersburg, 76

Poplar Grove--
  Concentration of Boer Troops at, 50
  Kruger's, President, Visit to Boer Troops, 50
  Panic among Boers--Commander-in-Chief de Wet unable to prevent
      flight, 51

Potchefstroom, Portrait of Commander-in-Chief de Wet, History of Mauser
    Rifle, which appears in the photograph, 151, 152

Potgieter, Commandant (of Wolmaranstadt)--Escape from Paardeberg, 41

Potgieter, Mr. Hendrik--Appointment as Public Prosecutor of Orange Free
    State, 198

Preeij, Vice-Commandant Ignatius du, killed near Bethlehem, 194, 195

Presidency of Orange Free State--
  Expiration of President Steyn's term of office--Difficulties in the
      way of an Election, Action of the Doornberg War Council, 197, 198
  Resignation of President Steyn, 411
  Rhodes, Mr., proposed as Candidate, 198

Pretoria--
  Capture by British, 92
  Panic ensuing among Transvaalers, 93
  Peace Negotiations--Conference between Commission of National
      Representatives and Lords Kitchener and Milner (May 19-28,
      1902), 320, 365

Pretorius, Willem--
  Storming of British Schanze on Orange River, 204, 205
  Tribute to, 271, 272
  Veldtcornet, Nomination as, 205, 206

Prinsloo, Commandant Michal--
  Bethlehem Engagement, 194, 195
  Elandsfontein Exploit, 119, 120
  Liebenbergsvlei Engagement, 284
  Springhaansnek, Covering Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Passage of
      Blockhouse Lines at, 187, 188
  Train captured and burned by, 152, 153
  Vice-Commander-in-Chief of Bethlehem and Ficksburg Sub-districts,
      Appointment, 227, 228

Prinsloo, Mr. Marthinus--
  Assistant Commander-in-Chief, Irregular Election as, 126
  Commandant of Winburg District, 6, 7
  Commander-in-Chief of Orange Free State, Election, 6, 7
  Natal Campaign, Preliminary Arrangements, 7, 8
  Resignation of Post as Commander-in-Chief in the Drakensberg, 117
  Surrender at Naauwpoort, 85
    Letter to Commander-in-Chief de Wet announcing Surrender and
        Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Reply, 136, 137
    News brought to Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 135, 136, 137, 138
    Suspicious Circumstances of Surrender, 127

Prinsloo's, Veldtcornet, Burghers, Capture of, 286

Prisoners--Boer Prisoners--
  Bank Notes of the South African Republic, Opportunity of sending in
      for Payment, 386, 387
  Ceylon--Prisoners taken with General Prinsloo sent to Ceylon, 156
  Merwe, Commandant, and men--Capture on "Majuba Day," 296, 297
  Number taken by the British, Frederiksstad, 40, 46, 170, 171, 264, 265
  Total Number (35,000) in the Hands of the British in 1901, 256, 257
  Taljaart's and Prinsloo's Veldtcornets, Burghers, Capture of, 286
  British Prisoners--
  Boer Inability to keep their Prisoners, 227, 228, 426, 427
  Clothing taken by the Boers, 233
  Numbers taken, 16, 23, 66, 67, 69, 70, 76, 102, 105, 106, 112, 113,
      163, 178, 179, 185, 186, 194, 195, 202, 203, 205, 206, 207, 222,
      223, 267, 281
  Release on Fall of Pretoria due to Transvaalers' negligence, 92
  Treatment by Boers--
    Personal Property of Prisoners, etc., Disposition of, 101, _note_
    Prisoners taken in Cape Colony Expedition, Treatment of, 210
  Kaffir Prisoners taken by Boers--
    Dewetsdorp, 178, 179
    Release of Prisoners, 181
    Leeuwspruit Bridge, 113

"Pro-Boers"--
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Tribute to, 218
  Meetings in England, 407

Public Prosecutor of Orange Free State--Appointment of Mr. Hendrick
    Potgieter, 198


Railways--Wrecking the Lines, Cutting British Lines of
    Communication, 172, 242
  America Siding, Line near, wrecked by General Froneman, 115, 116
  De Aar and Hopetown, Line blown up, 208, 209, 211
  Frederiksstad Station, Bridge and Line wrecked, 115, 116
  Leeuwspruit, Failure of Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Attempt, 112, 113
  Orange Free State Line, Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Work
      on, 153, 154, 155
  Scheepers, Captain, Work of, 153, 154
  Schemes of Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153
  Wolvehock, 163

Rebels--Colonial Burghers Fighting on Boer Side (_see_ Colonial
    Burghers)
  Roberts', Lord, Description of Burghers continuing to fight after
      annexation of the Republics as "Rebels," 227, 228

Receipts issued by Boer Officers for the Purchase of Cattle, Grain,
    etc.--Peace Negotiations, Boer Representatives' Request for a
    Guarantee of Payment, 382
  Amount likely to be required, 386, 387
  Middelburg Proposal, 384, 385
  Orange Free State, Position with reference to
      Receipts, 383, 384, 385, 386
  Terms of Peace Agreement, 380

Reddersburg--Boer Messenger fired on by British, 74
  British Commanding Officer's Reply to Commander-in-Chief de Wet's
      Advice to Surrender, 74
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Dispositions, 71-74
  Mostertshoek, British Failure to reinforce Detachment at, 75
  White Flag Treachery, 75, 76

Reich, Dr.--Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Meeting with at Senekal, 231

Reitz--Engagement near, 263-266
  Surrender of Arms by Commandos after Declaration of Peace, 323, 324

Reitz, Secretary of State--Situation in South Africa on May 15, 1902,
    Report to the Vereeniging Conference, 350, 351

Relief Funds for Destitution caused by the War--Appointment of Committee
    to Collect and Administer, 428

Repatriation of Boers--Compensation for Losses sustained during the
    War--District Commissions, Institution of, 393, 394
  Grant of L3,000,000 by the British Government, 393, 394
  Inadequacy of Proposals, 402, 403, 421
  Loans by the British Government, 394, 395

Rheeder, Commandant--Continuance of the War, Terms of Surrender,
    etc., 401

Rhenoster River, Fighting on, 89, 90
  Hurried Retreat of Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 90

Rhenosterriviersbrug--General Froneman's Success, 104, 105, 106

Rhodes, Mr. C.--
  Jameson Raid--Mr. Chamberlain's Defence of Mr. Rhodes, 251, 252
  Presidency of Orange Free State--Mr. Rhodes proposed as a
      Candidate, 198

Rietfontein, Battle of (_see_ Modder Spruit)

Roberts, Lord--
  Advance of, into the Orange Free State, 26
  Bloemfontein, Appearance before, 54
  Dispositions after Capture of Kroonstad (May 18, 1900), 88, 89
  Inaction after Paardeberg, 50
  Thaba'Nchu, Operations near (1900), 82
  Proclamations--
    Burning of Buildings within radius of Ten Miles from Railway wrecked
        by Boers, 192
    Oath of Neutrality, Proclamation as to Charge against Lord Roberts
        of violating Terms of Proclamation, 80, 159
      Effect in preventing Burghers from rejoining Commandos, 60
  Roodewal Disaster due to negligence of Lord Roberts, 105, 106
  Sanna's Post, Failure to reinforce Troops at, 70 _note_
  Ventersburg, Attack on, 85

Roch, General--Natal Campaign, General Roch's Command in Opening
    Movement of Boer Forces, 9, 10

Roodebergen--De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Departure from, 124, 129
  Occupation by Boer Forces--Commander-in-Chief De Wet's Opposition to
      Scheme, 124
  Passes of, 123

Roodepoort--Commander-in-Chief De Wet's first Engagement with Lord
    Kitchener, 108, 109

Roodewal Station, Action at, 98-101
  Booty burnt by Boers, 104, 105
  Sketch Plan, 97

Roux, Assistant Commander-in-Chief--Prinsloo's Surrender, weak and
    childish Conduct of General Roux, 126, 127

Roux, Deacon Paul, Appointment as Vechtgeneraal, 85

Russian Reception of Escaped Burghers, 110 _note_

Rustenburg--General Liebenberg's Retreat, 142, 143


Salisbury, Marquess of--Peace Negotiations, Boer Proposals of March 5,
    1900--Reply to, 50, 53, 54, 409
  Peace--Correspondence with Presidents Kruger and Steyn, 330-332

Sanna's Post, Action at--
  Broadwood's, General, Troops, Arrival of, 65, 66
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Preparations, 62, 64
  Koornspruit, Position occupied by Commander-in-Chief de
      Wet, 64, 65, 66
  Women and Children from Thaba'Nchu, Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Care
      for, 66, 67

Scheepers, Captain, and Commandant Kritzinger--
  Brabant's Horse, Engagement with, 185, 186
  Despatch Rider chosen by Commander-in-Chief de Wet, to carry Message
      to General Cronje before Paardeberg, 31, 32
  Orange River, Crossing of--Seizure of British Outpost, 195, 196
  Railway Lines, Wrecking of, 152, 153, 154
  Scouting Services, 124, 131
  Zandnek Engagement, 139, 140

Scouting--
  Boer and British Methods--Services rendered to the British by Boer
      Deserters, etc., 18, 121, 122
  Importance of, 165, 166
  National Scouts, Services of (_see_ National Scouts)

Secrecy as to Future Movements--Commander-in-Chief de Wet's
    Determination to keep his Plans secret, 61, 199

Self-Government, Retention of under British Supervision--Peace
    Negotiations, Boer Representatives' Proposals at the Pretoria
    Conference (May 19, 1902), 366, 371, 372

Sheep--Huge Tail of African Sheep, 211

Situation in South Africa on May 15, 1902--De Wet's Commander-in-Chief,
    Address at the Vereeniging Conference, 358-362

Situation of the Boer and British Forces in 1901, President Steyn
    on, 255, 256

Sketch Plans of Engagements, 38, 97, 276

Smith, Veldtcornet Hans, of Rouxville, Desertion after
    Roodewal, 106, 107

Smuts, General--
  Continuance of the War, Arguments for and against--Vereeniging
      Conference, 418
  Peace Negotiations--Member of Commission of National Representatives
      at the Pretoria Conference, 320, 365-396
  Situation in South Africa on May 15, 1902--Report to the Vereeniging
      Conference, 340-342

Sobriety of Boers, 60

_South African News_--Publication of, Order not to take Prisoners,
    Anecdote of Lord Kitchener, 184, 185

South African Republic--
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Journey with General De la Rey,
      Incidents during, 238, 239, 242
  Extermination of, by the British determined on prior to the Outbreak
      of War, alleged, 254, 255
  Government of (_see_ Government of South African Republic)
  Situation of, in 1902--Impossibility of continuing the War, 421, 422
  Situation of Boer and British Forces in 1901--President Steyn
      on, 255, 256

Speller, Veldtcornet, of Wepener--Capture by British at Stinkfontein, 44

Springhaansnek--Blockhouse Line broken through by the
    Boers, 173, 187, 188

Spruit, Commandant--Capture by British at Stinkfontein, 42, 43;
    Subsequent Escape, 43

States-Procureur of Orange Free State--Capture of Mr. Jacob de Villiers
    at Bothaville, 170, 171, 198

Steenekamp, Burgher--Betrayal of Members of the South African Government
    to the British, 244

Steenekamp, Commandant--
  Assistant-Commander-in-Chief, Nomination as, 144
  Heilbron District, Commandant of, 4, 6, 7
  Illness of, 7, 8, 9, 10
  Vredefort Road Station, Attack on, 98, 105, 106

Steyn, President--
  Accompanying Commander-in-Chief de Wet in his departure from
      Roodebergen, 129
  Bethlehem Engagement, Presence at, 117
  Bloemfontein, Departure from, 57
  Bodyguard--
    Davel, Commandant, Command of, 191
    Niekerk, Captain--Appointment as Commandant, 245
  Botha, General Philip, Visit to, 86, 87
  Burgher's Vice-President, Request for Meeting with Orange Free State
      Government, 301, 302
  Cape Colony Expedition, Decision to accompany, 197
  Capture of Members of Governments of the South African Republics by
      the British at Reitz--President Steyn's Escape, 244
  Causes of the War--Letter to Lord Kitchener, 250-259
  Commander-in-Chief of Orange Free State, Refusal to allow
      Election--Consent to Election of Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 118
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Schemes for operating in the Rear of the
      British, Opposition to, 82
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Tribute to, 212
  Eyes, Weakness of--Visit to Dr. van Rennenkamp, 300
  Government of the South African Republic, Meetings with--
    Machadodorp Visit, 144
    Vrede Meeting, 231
  Illness of, 319
  Independence of the Republic, Refusal to surrender, 306
  Intervention of Foreign Powers, Attitude as to, 54
  Kroonstad War Council presided over by President Steyn, 58
  Peace--Correspondence between Presidents Kruger and Steyn and Lord
      Salisbury, 330-332
  Resignation owing to Illness, 411
  Ventersdorp--Meeting with Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 168, 169
  Western Parts of the State, Visit to, 298-302

Steyn, Willie, Capture at Honing Kopjes--Subsequent Escape, 110 _note_

Stinkfontein, Stormed and Abandoned by Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 40

Stormberg--
  British Losses at, 22, 23
  Capture by General Gatacre, 50

_Stormjagers_, 5

Strauss, David--Prisoner taken by the British in contravention of Lord
    Roberts' Proclamation, 80

Stripping British Prisoners in order to obtain Clothing, 233

Supervision of the British Government--Peace Negotiations, Boer
    Representatives' offer to accept Supervision as a Compromise on the
    Independence Question, 366, 371, 372, 373

Surrender--
  Banishment Proclamation (_see_ that title)
  Oath of Neutrality, Lord Roberts' Proclamation (_see_ Oath of
      Neutrality)
  Peace Negotiations at Pretoria in May, 1902--Draft Agreement, 376

Surrender of Arms after Declaration of Peace, 323, 324

Swartbooiskop--
  Nel's Commandant, Failure to hold, 13, 14
  Storming by Commandant Steenekamp and Commander-in-Chief de
      Wet, 14, 15

Swaziland--Cession to the British, Proposals of the Vereeniging
    Conference, 350, 351, 360, 361, 363, 364

Sympathy felt for Boer Cause in England--Indirect Intervention,
    etc., 407, 410, 420


Tabaksberg Engagement, 83

Taljaart's, Veltcornet, Burghers, Capture of, 286

Telegraph Wires--cutting wires between Wolvehock and Viljoensdrift, 299

Telegraphic Communication between Orange Free State and Transvaal, 92

Termination of the War--
  Attitude of the Burghers, 237, 238
  Boer Women, Opinion of, 361, 362
  Conference between Transvaal and Orange Free State Governments--
    Decision to continue Fighting, 242, 243
    Klerksdorp Meeting, 303, 304, 305
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Forebodings, 58
  Letter from Commandants in the Field to Secretary of the Orange Free
      State--
    Conference with Transvaal Government, 242
    Discussion of, by President Steyn and Generals De la Rey and De
        Wet, 234
    Steyn's President, Answer, Extracts from, 236-239
    Terms of, 234-237
  Mission to President Kruger on behalf of South African Republic
      proposed, 236, 237, 238
  Vereeniging Conference--Views of the Representatives, 346, 347, 348,
      349, 350, 351, 352, 353, 354, 354-358, 359, 360-362, 363

Territory, Session of--Peace Negotiations--
  Pretoria Conference, Boer Representatives' Offer, 366, 375
  Vereeniging Conference Proposals (15th May, 1902), 350, 351, 352, 357,
      358, 359, 360, 361, 362, 363, 364

Thaba'Nchu--
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Retreat on after Badenhorst, 81
  Occupation by General Broadwood, 65, 66

Thanksgiving Days, Appointment of, 243

Theron, Danie--
  Death at Gatsrand, 153, 154
  Paardeberg--Passing Enemy's Lines to carry Message from
      Commander-in-Chief de Wet to General Cronje, 46
  Scouting Party, Appointment as Chief by Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 54
  Scouting Services, 88, 89, 124, 131
  Train Captured by, 132

Theron, Jan--Appointment to succeed Commandant Danie Theron, 153, 154

Theunissen, Commandant of Winburg, 45
  Capture by British at Stinkfontein, 46
  Election as Commandant of Winburg, 6, 7

Thring, Veldtcornet--War Experiences, Commander-in-Chief de Wet's
    Tribute, etc., 87, 88, 89

Tijgerfontein Engagement, 138, 139

Tintwaspas--Occupation by Kroonstad Commando, 7, 8

Tonder, Mr. Gideon van--Killed by Lyddite Shell at Magersfontein, 25

Trains--
  Blowing up with Dynamite, 230, 246
    Devices to throw the British off the Scent, 246
    Mechanical Devices, 246
  Boer Captures of, 132, 152, 153, 203, 204

Transvaalers--
  Negligence in leaving Prisoners at Pretoria, 92
  Nicholson's Nek, Work at, 17

Truter, Commandant--Abandonment of Krupp gun and Ammunition, 182

Tweefontein--Attack on British Position, 275-283
  Sketch Plan, 276


Uijs, Commandant--Situation in South Africa on May 15, 1902, Report to
    the Vereeniging Conference, 349, 350

"Uitschudden"--Institution of, in order to obtain Clothing, 233

Ultimatum by the South African Republic--
  Cause of the War alleged--
    Salisbury's, Lord, Assertion, 53, 54, 409
    Salisbury's, Lord, Demand, 53, 54, 409
    Steyn's, President, Contradiction, 251, 252
  Chamberlain's, Mr. J., Telegrams to Sir A. Milner, 329
  Text of the "Ultimatum," 325-328

Unconditional Surrender--Discussion at Vereeniging Meeting of May 29,
    1902, 398, 399, 401, 405, 406, 423, 424


Vaal River--Crossing of President Steyn's Party, 300

Valsch River Bridge, Destruction by Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 88, 89

Van Dam, Under Captain--Command of Johannesburg Police at Nicholson's
    Nek, 16

Van Niekerk, Commandant--Continuance of the War, Argument in favour
    of, 414, 415

Van Reenen's Pass--
  Occupation by Harrismith and Winburg Commandos, 7, 8
  War Council at--Commander-in-Chief de Wet attending in place of
      Commandant Steenekamp, 8, 9

Vanvurenskloof, Boer Retreat from, 139, 140

Vechtgeneraal of the Orange Free State--
  Abolition of Post, 95
  Creation of Post, 9, 10
  De Wet, Commander-in-Chief, Appointment of, 22
  Roux, General Paul, appointed by Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 85
  Ventersburg--Boer Lines broken through, 85

Ventersdorp--
  Fighting near, 140, 141, 142
  Meeting between President Steyn and Commander-in-Chief de
      Wet, 168, 169

Vereeniging--
  Meeting of General Representatives to discuss the Situation (May 15,
      1902), 333-364
    Authority given to Delegates to voice the wishes of their
        Constituencies, 333, 337, 338, 400, 402, 403, 404, 405, 407,
        411, 412, 417, 421, 422, 423, 424
    Thanks of the meeting to the King of England and Queen of the
        Netherlands for efforts to promote Peace, 345, 346
    Unity among Delegates essential, 337, 338, 349, 350, 351, 357
  Meeting of Special National Representatives to discuss British Peace
      Terms (May 29, 1902), 397
    Armistice agreed on to admit of Attendance of Officers, 315
    Misunderstanding on the part of the British Columns, 317, 318
  Divisions among Delegates, 421, 422, 423, 424, 425, 426
  Meeting a Fatal Error, 413, 414
  Questions to be decided, 398, 411, 417
  (For details of subjects discussed _see_ Independence, Peace
      Negotiations, etc.)

Verkijkersdorp--Capture of Women's Laager near, by the British, and
    Rescue by Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Commando, 238-241
  British Casualties, 239, 240

Vice-Commanders-in-Chief, Orange Free State--
  Badenhorst, Veldtcornet, C.C., Appointment for Districts of Boshof,
      etc., 159
  De Wet, Gen., Appointment of, 49
  Fourie, Gen., Appointment for Districts of Bloemfontein, etc., 157
  Hertzog, Gen., Appointment for Districts of Fauresmith, etc., 158

Vice-President of Orange Free State--
  Appointment of Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 411
  Creation of Temporary Post, 198

Viljoen, Mr. P.R.--Situation in South Africa on May 15, 1902, Report of
    the Vereeniging Conference, 346, 347

Villiers, General de--Death due to Wound received at Biddulphsberg, 84
  Natal Expedition, Commanding as Vechtgeneraal, 8, 9
  Prinsloo's Surrender, Escape from, 128
  Work in South-Eastern Districts of the Orange Free State, 83

Villiers, Mr. Jacob de, States-Procureur of Orange Free State, Capture
    of at Bothaville, 170, 171, 198

Vilonel, Commandant--
  Resignation--Enforced Resignation due to Insubordination, 64
  Surrender to British--Recapture by Captain Pretorius and Trial for
      Desertion, 84
    Removal from Bethlehem to Fouriesburg, 121, 122
  Waggons, Persistence in use of, 62

Visser, Commandant--Death of at Jagersfontein Engagement, Faithfulness
    and Valour of Commandant Visser, 158

Vleeschkorporaal, Duties of, 4, 5

Vrede--
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Meeting with Louis Botha, 231
  Meeting between President Steyn and the Transvaal Government, 231

Vrede Commando, Surrender following Prinsloo's Surrender, 128

Vredefort--
  Capture of British Outpost, 232
  Engagements near, 133, 134, 135
    Retreat of the Boers to the Vaal River, 164, 165
  Surrender of Arms by Commando after Declaration of Peace, 323, 324

Vredefort-weg Station--Commandant Steenekamp's Success at, 98, 105, 106

Vrijheid--Kaffir Atrocities, Murder and Mutilation of Burghers, 426, 427


Waggons--
  Boer Reluctance to abandon use of, 62, 120, 121, 129, 131, 135, 136
    Harrismith Burghers' Refusal to part with their Waggons at
        Spitskopje, 161-163
  De Wet, Commander-in-Chief, Use of Little Waggon, 293, 294, 398
  Destruction by British, 120, 121, 191
  No Waggons with Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Commando, 279
  Vilonel's, Commandant, Persistence in using Waggons, 62
  Waggon Camps, Regulation prohibiting, 58

War Commission--Orders to commence Natal Campaign, 4

War Councils, 19
  Decisions of Council of March 28, 1900, 61
  Doornberg, Council at--Decision as to Presidential Election, 197
  Kroonstad Council--Officers present, Decisions, etc., 58 _note_, 59

War of 1877-1881--Futility of Comparison with War of 1899-1902, 421, 422

Warfare, Boer Methods of--
  Checking an Enemy's Advance--Boer Tactics, 213
  Rapidity of Action, Importance of, 75

Wauchope, General--Death at Magersfontein, 23

Weilbach, Commandant--Desertion of Post at Bloemfontein, 54

Wessels, General J.B.--
  Kroonstad War Council, Presence at, 58
  Sanna's Post Engagement, Share in, 64

Wessels, Mr. C.J.--
  Commander-in-Chief of Free Staters at Magersfontein and Kimberley, 23
  Member of Boer Deputation to Europe (1900), 53, 54

Wessels, Veldtcornet--
  Capture of, at Frederiksstad, 166, 167
  Dewetsdorp Exploits, 176, 177, 178

White, Colonel--Engagement with Commandant Hasebroek near
    Thaba'Nchu, 189, 190

White Flag Treachery at Reddersburg, 75, 76

Wire Fencing--
  Bothaville Boers cutting the Wire, 299
  Erection of, by the British, 262
  Lindley-Kroonstad Line of Blockhouses--Escape of Boers, 287
  Palmietfontein, Boers breaking through Line, 289, 290

Witkopjes Rheboksfontein Engagement, 135, 136

Witwatersrand, Cession to the British--Proposals of the Vereeniging
    Conference, 350, 351, 360, 361, 363, 364

Wolfaard Brothers--Wounded by Lyddite Shell at Magersfontein, 25

Wolmarans, Daniel--Member of Boer Deputation to Europe (1900), 53, 54

Wolvehock--Railway blown up by Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 163

Women and Children--
  De Wet's, Commander-in-Chief, Care for, after Sanna's Post, 66, 67
  Difficulties of providing for--Deliberations of the Vereeniging
      Conference, 333, 339, 342, 343, 344, 345, 349, 350, 351, 352, 353,
      356, 405, 406, 410, 412, 413, 415, 416, 417, 423, 424, 425, 426,
      427
  Flight of Boer Women to escape Capture by the British, 279
  Kaffir Treatment of Boer Women, 151, 152, 153
  Magersfontein Laager, Presence in, 25
  Sufferings in Concentration Camps, etc., 198, 290, 291, 421, 422
  Treatment by the British, 232, 239, 240, 241, 257, 258
  Verkijkersdorp Laager, Capture of by British, and rescue by
      Commander-in-Chief de Wet's Commando, 238-241

Wonderkop--General de Villiers' Exploits, 83

Wounded, Boer Treatment of--
  Doornspruit, Care of Wounded after, 133, 134
  Nicholson's Nek--Care for Wounded by Commander-in-Chief de Wet, 17


Yeomanry, Imperial--Gallantry at Tweefontein, 281

Yule, General--Ladysmith Retreat conducted by, 9, 10


Zandnek--Captain Scheepers' Engagement near, 139, 140

Zwavelkrans Farm--British Convoy Captured by Commander-in-Chief de
    Wet, 96, 98



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