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Chapter 37

THE CAMPAIGN OF JANUARY-APRIL, 1902


At the opening of the year 1902 it was evident to every observer that
the Boer resistance, spirited as it was, must be nearing its close.
By a long succession of captures their forces were much reduced in
numbers. They were isolated from the world, and had no means save
precarious smuggling of renewing their supplies of ammunition. It was
known also that their mobility, which had been their great strength,
was decreasing, and that in spite of their admirable horsemastership
their supply of remounts was becoming exhausted. An increasing number
of the burghers were volunteering for service against their own
people, and it was found that all fears as to this delicate experiment
were misplaced, and that in the whole army there were no keener and
more loyal soldiers.

The chief factor, however, in bringing the Boers to their knees was
the elaborate and wonderful blockhouse system, which had been strung
across the whole of the enemy's country. The original blockhouses had
been far apart, and were a hindrance and an annoyance rather than an
absolute barrier to the burghers. The new models, however, were only
six hundred yards apart, and were connected by such impenetrable
strands of wire that a Boer pithily described it by saying that if
one's hat blew over the line anywhere between Ermelo and Standerton
one had to walk round Ermelo to fetch it. Use was made of such
barriers by the Spaniards in Cuba, but an application of them on such
a scale over such an enormous tract of country is one of the
curiosities of warfare, and will remain one of several novelties which
will make the South African campaign for ever interesting to students
of military history.

The spines of this great system were always the railway lines, which
were guarded on either side, and down which, as down a road, went
flocks, herds, pedestrians, and everything which wished to travel in
safety. From these long central cords the lines branched out to right
and left, cutting up the great country into manageable districts. A
category of them would but weary the reader, but suffice it that by
the beginning of the year the south-east of the Transvaal and the
north-east of the Orange River Colony, the haunts of Botha and De Wet,
bad been so intersected that it was obvious that the situation must
soon be impossible for both of them. Only on the west of the Transvaal
was there a clear run for De la Rey and Kemp. Hence it was expected,
as actualy occurred, that in this quarter the most stirring events of
the close of the campaign would happen.

General Bruce Hamilton in the Eastern Transvaal had continued the
energetic tactics which had given such good results in the past. With
the new year his number of prisoners fell, but he had taken so many,
and had hustled the remainder to such an extent, that the fight seemed
to have gone out of the Boers in this district. On January 1st be
presented the first-fruits of the year in the shape of.twenty-two of
Grobler's burghers. On the 3rd he captured forty-nine, while Wing,
co-operating with him, took twenty more. Among these was General
Erasmus, who had helped, or failed to help, General Lucas Meyer at
Talana Hill. On the 10th Colonel Wing's column, which was part of
Hamilton's force, struck out again and took forty-two prisoners,
including the two Wolmarans. Only two days later Hamilton returned to
the same spot, and was rewarded with thirty-two more captures. On the
18th he took twenty-seven, on the 24th twelve, and on the 26th no
fewer than ninety. So severe were these blows, and so difficult was it
for the Boers to know how to get away from an antagonist who was ready
to ride thirty miles in a night in order to fall upon their laager,
that the enemy became much scattered and too demoralised for offensive
operations. Finding that they had grown too shy in this much shot over
district, Hamilton moved farther south, and early in March took a cast
round the Vryheid district, where he made some captures, notably
General Cherry Emmett, a descendant of the famous Irish rebel, and
brother-in-law of Louis Botha. For all these repeated successes it was
to the Intelligence Department, so admirably controlled by Colonel
Wools-Sampson, that thanks are mainly due.

Whilst Bruce Hamilton was operating so successfully in the Ermelo
district, several British columns under Plumer, Spens, and Colville
were stationed some fifty miles south to prevent the fugitives from
getting away into the mountainous country which lies to the north of
Wakkerstroom. On January 3rd a small force of Plumer's New-Zealanders
had a brisk skirmish with a party of Boers, whose cattle they
captured, though at some loss to themselves. These Boers were
strongly reinforced, however, and when on the following day Major
Vallentin pursued them with fifty men he found himself at Onverwacht
in the presence of several hundred of the enemy, led by Oppermann and
Christian Botha. Vallentin was killed and almost all of his small
force were hit before British reinforcements, under Colonel Pulteney,
drove the Boers off. Nineteen killed and twenty-three wounded were
our losses in this most sanguinary little skirmish. Nine dead Boers,
with Oppermaun himself, were left upon the field of battle. His loss
was a serious one to the enemy, as he was one of their most
experienced Generals.

>From that time until the end these columns, together with Mackenzie's
column to the north of Ermelo, continued to break up all combinations,
and to send in their share of prisoners to swell Lord Kitchener's
weekly list. A final drive, organised on April 11th against the
Standerton line, resulted in 134 prisoners.

In spite of the very large army in South Africa, so many men were
absorbed by the huge lines of communications and the blockhouse system
that the number available for active operations was never more than
forty or fifty thousand men. With another fifty thousand there is no
doubt that at least six months would have been taken from the duration
of the war. On account of this shorthandedness Lord Kitchener had to
leave certain districts alone, while he directed his attention to
those which were more essential. Thus to the north of the Delagoa
Railway line there was only one town, Lydenburg, which was occupied by
the British. They had, however, an energetic commander in Park of the
Devons. This leader, striking out from his stronghold among the
mountains, and aided by Urmston from Belfast, kept the commando of Ben
Viljoen and the peripatetic Government of Schalk Burger continually
upon the move. As already narrated, Park fought a sharp night action
upon December 19th, after which, in combination with Urmston, he
occupied Dulstroom, only missing the government by a few hours. In
January Park and Urmston were again upon the war-path, though the
incessant winds, fogs, and rains of that most inclement portion of the
Transvaal seriously hampered their operations. Several skirmishes with
the commandos of Muller and Trichardt gave no very decisive result,
but a piece of luck befell the British on January 25th in the capture
of General Viljoen by an ambuscade cleverly arranged by Major Orr in
the neighbourhood of Lydenburg. Though a great firebrand before the
war, Viljoen had fought bravely and honourably throughout the contest,
and he had won the respect and esteem of his enemy.

Colonel Park had had no great success in his last two expeditions, but
on February 20th he made an admirable march, and fell upon a Boer
laager which lay in placid security in the heart of the hills. One
hundred and sixty-four prisoners, including many Boer officers, were
the fruits of this success, in which the National Scouts, or 'tame
Boers,' as they were familiarly called, played a prominent part. This
commando was that of Middelburg, which was acting as escort to the
government, who again escaped dissolution. Early in March Park was
again out on trek, upon one occasion covering seventy miles in a
single day. Nothing further of importance came from this portion of
the seat of war until March 23rd, when the news reached England that
Schalk Burger, Reitz, Lucas Meyer, and others of the Transvaal
Government had come into Middelburg, and that they were anxious to
proceed to Pretoria to treat. On the Eastern horizon had appeared the
first golden gleam of the dawning peace.

Having indicated the course of events in the Eastern Transvaal, north
and south of the railway line, I will now treat one or two incidents
which occurred in the more central and northern portions of the
country. I will then give some account of De Wet's doings in the
Orange River Colony, and finally describe that brilliant effort of
De la Rey's in the west which shed a last glory upon the Boer arms.

In the latter days of December, Colenbrander and Dawkins operating
together had put in a great deal of useful work in the northern
district, and from Nylstrom to Pietersburg the burghers were
continually harried by the activity of these leaders. Late in the
month Dawkins was sent down into the Orange River Colony in order to
reinforce the troops who were opposed to De Wet. Colenbrander alone,
with his hardy colonial forces, swept through the Magaliesburg, and
had the double satisfaction of capturing a number of the enemy and of
heading off and sending back a war party of Linchwe's Kaffirs who,
incensed by a cattle raid of Kemp's, were moving down in a direction
which would have brought them dangerously near to the Dutch women and
children. This instance and several similar ones in the campaign show
how vile are the lies which have been told of the use, save under
certain well-defined conditions, of armed natives by the British
during the war. It would have been a perfectly easy thing at any time
for the Government to have raised all the fighting native races of
South Africa, but it is not probable that we, who held back our
admirable and highly disciplined Sikhs and Ghoorkas, would break our
self-imposed restrictions in order to enrol the inferior but more
savage races of Africa. Yet no charge has been more often repeated
and has caused more piteous protests among the soft-hearted and
soft-headed editors of Continental journals.

The absence of Colenbrander in the Rustenburg country gave Beyers a
chance of which he was not slow to avail himself. On January 24th, in
the early morning, he delivered an attack upon Pietersburg itself, but
he was easily driven off by the small garrison. It is probable,
however, that the attack was a mere feint in order to enable a number
of the inmates of the refugee camp to escape. About a hundred and
fifty made off, and rejoined the commandos. There were three thousand
Boers in all in this camp, which was shortly afterwards moved down to
Natal in order to avoid the recurrence of such an incident.

Colenbrander, having returned to Pietersburg once more, determined to
return Beyers's visit, and upon April 8th he moved out with a small
force to surprise the Boer laager. The Inniskilling Fusiliers seized
the ground which commanded the enemy's position. The latter retreated,
but were followed up, and altogether about one hundred and fifty were
killed, wounded, and taken. On May 3rd a fresh operation against
Beyers was undertaken, and resulted in about the same loss to the
Boers. On the other hand, the Boers had a small success against
Kitchener's Scouts, killing eighteen and taking thirty prisoners.

There is one incident, however, in connection with the war in this
region which one would desire to pass over in silence if such a course
were permissible. Some eighty miles to the east of Pietersburg is a
wild part of the country called the Spelonken. In this region an
irregular corps, named the Bushveld Carbineers, had been operating.
It was raised in South Africa, but contained both Colonials and
British in its ranks. Its wild duties, its mixed composition, and its
isolated situation must have all militated against discipline and
restraint, and it appears to have degenerated into a band not unlike
those Southern 'bush-whackers' in the American war to whom the
Federals showed little mercy. They had given short shrift to tho Boer
prisoners who had fallen into their hands, the excuse offered for
their barbarous conduct being that an officer who had served in the
corps had himself been murdered by the Boers. Such a reason, even if
it were true, could of course offer no justification for
indiscriminate revenge. The crimes were committed in July and August
1901, but it was not until January 1902 that five of the officers were
put upon their trial and were found to be guilty as principals or
accessories of twelve murders. The corps was disbanded, and three of
the accused officers, Handcock, Wilton, and Morant, were sentenced to
death, while another, Picton, was cashiered. Handcock and Morant were
actually executed. This stern measure shows more clearly than volumes
of argument could do how high was the standard of discipline in the
British Army, and how heavy was the punishment, and how vain all
excuses, where it had been infringed. In the face of this actual
outrage and its prompt punishment how absurd becomes that crusade
against imaginary outrages preached by an ignorant press abroad, and
by renegade Englishmen at home.

To the south of Johannesburg, half-way between that town and the
frontier, there is a range of hills called the Zuikerboschrand, which
extends across from one railway system to the other. A number of Boers
were known to have sought refuge in this country, so upon February
12th a small British force left Klip River Post in order to clear them
out. There were 320 men in all, composing the 28th Mounted Infantry,
drawn from the Lancashire Fusiliers, Warwicks, and Derbys, most of
whom had just arrived from Malta, which one would certainly imagine to
be the last place where mounted infantry could be effectively
trained. Major Dowell was in command. An advance was made into the
hilly country, but it was found that the enemy was in much greater
force than had been imagined. The familiar Boer tactics were used with
the customary success. The British line was held by a sharp fire in
front, while strong flanking parties galloped round each of the wings.
It was with great difficulty that any of the British extricated
themselves from their perilous position, and the safety of a portion
of the force was only secured by the devotion of a handful of officers
and men, who gave their lives in order to gain time for their comrades
to get away. Twelve killed and fifty wounded were our losses in this
unfortunate skirmish, and about one hundred prisoners supplied the
victors with a useful addition to their rifles and ammunition. A
stronger British force came up next day, and the enemy were driven out
of the hills.

A week later, upon February 18th, there occurred another skirmish at
Klippan, near Springs, between a squadron of the Scots Greys and a
party of Boers who had broken into this central reserve which Lord
Kitchener had long kept clear of the enemy. In this action the
cavalry were treated as roughly as the mounted infantry had been the
week before, losing three officers killed, eight men killed or
wounded, and forty-six taken. They had formed a flanking party to
General Gilbert Hamilton's column, but were attacked and overwhelmed
so rapidly that the blow had fallen before their comrades could come
to their assistance.

One of the consequences of the successful drives about to be described
in the Orange River Colony wns that a number of the Free Staters came
north of the Vaal in order to get away from the extreme pressure upon
the south. At the end of March a considerable number had reinforced
the local commandos in that district to the east of Springs, no very
great distance from Johannesburg, which had always been a storm
centre. A cavalry force was stationed at this spot which consisted at
that time of the 2nd Queen's Bays, the 7th Hussars, and some National
Scouts, all under Colonel Lawley of the Hussars. After a series of
minor engagements east of Springs, Lawley had possessed himself of
Boschman's Kop, eighteen miles from that town, close to the district
which was the chief scene of Boer activity. From this base he
despatched upon the morningg of April 1st three squadrons of the Bays
under Colonel Fanshawe, for the purpose of surprising a small force of
the enemy which was reported at one of the farms. Fanshawe's strength
was about three hundred men.

The British cavalry found themselves, however, in the position of the
hunter who, when he is out for a snipe, puts up a tiger. All went well
with the expedition as far as Holspruit, the farm which they had
started to search. Commandant Pretorius, to whom it belonged, was
taken by the energy of Major Vaughan, who pursued and overtook his
Cape cart. It was found, however, that Alberts's commando was camped
at the farm, and that the Bays were in the presence of a very superior
force of the enemy. The night was dark, and when firing began it was
almost muzzle to muzzle, with the greatest possible difficulty in
telling friend from foe. The three squadrons fell back upon some
rising ground, keeping admirable order under most difficult
circumstances. In spite of the darkness the attack was pressed
fiercely home, and with their favourite tactics the burghers rapidly
outflanked the position taken up by the cavalry. The British moved by
alternate squadrons on to a higher rocky kopje on the east, which
could be vaguely distinguished looming in the darkness against the
skyline. B squadron, the last to retire, was actually charged and
ridden through by the brave assailants, firing from their saddles as
they broke through the ranks. The British had hardly time to reach
the kopje and to dismount and line its edge when the Boers, yelling
loudly, charged with their horses up the steep flanks. Twice they
were beaten back, but the third time they seized one corner of the
hill and opened a hot fire upon the rear of the line of men who were
defending the other side. Dawn was now breaking, and the situation
most serious, for the Boers were in very superior numbers and were
pushing their pursuit with the utmost vigour and determination. A
small party of officers and men whose horses had been shot covered the
retreat of their comrades, and continued to fire until all of them,
two officers and twenty-three men, were killed or wounded, the whole
of their desperate defence being conducted within from thirty to fifty
yards of the enemy. The remainder of the regiment was now retired to
successive ridges, each of which was rapidly outflanked by the Boers,
whose whole method of conducting their attack was extraordinarily
skilful. Nothing but the excellent discipline of the overmatched
troopers prevented the retreat from becoming a rout. Fortunately,
before the pressure became intolerable the 7th Hussars with some
artillery came to the rescue, and turned the tide. The Hussars
galloped in with such dash that some of them actually got among the
Boers with their swords, but the enemy rapidly fell back and
disappeared.

In this very sharp and sanguinary cavalry skirmish the Bays lost
eighty killed and wounded out of a total force of 270. To stand such
losses under such circumstances, and to preserve absolute discipline
and order, is a fine test of soldierly virtue. The adjutant, the
squadron leaders, and six out of ten officers were killed or
wounded. The Boers lost equally heavily. Two Prinsloos, one of them a
commandant, and three field-cornets were among the slain, with seventy
other casualties. The force under General Alberts was a considerable
one, not fewer than six hundred rifles, so that the action at
Holspruit is one which adds another name of honour to the battle-roll
of the Bays. It is pleasing to add that in this and the other actions
which were fought at the end of the war our wounded met with kindness
and consideration from the enemy.

We may now descend to the Orange River Colony and trace the course of
those operations which were destined to break the power of De Wet's
commando. On these we may concentrate our attention, for the marchings
and gleanings and snipings of the numerous small columns in the other
portions of the colony, although they involved much arduous and useful
work, do not claim a particular account.

After the heavy blow which he dealt Firmin's Yeomanry, De Wet retired,
as has been told, into the Langberg, whence he afterwards retreated
towards Reitz. There he was energetically pushed by Elliot's columns,
which had attained such mobility that 150 miles were performed in
three days within a single week. Our rough schoolmasters had taught
us our lesson, and the soldiering which accomplished the marches of
Bruce Hamilton, Elliot, Rimington, and the other leaders of the end of
the war was very far removed from that which is associated with
ox-wagons and harmoniums.

Moving rapidly, and covering himself by a succession of rearguard
skirmishes, De Wet danced like a will-o'the-wisp in front of and round
the British columns. De Lisle, Fanshawe, Byng, Rimington, Dawkins, and
Rawlinson were all snatching at him and finding him just beyond their
finger-tips. The master-mind at Pretoria had, however, thought out a
scheme which was worthy of De Wet himself in its ingenuity. A glance
at the map will show that the little branch from Heilbron to Wolvehoek
forms an acute angle with the main line. Both these railways were
strongly blockhoused and barbed-wired, so that any force which was
driven into the angle, and held in it by a force behind it, would be
in a perilous position. To attempt to round De Wet's mobile burghers
into this obvious pen would have been to show one's hand too clearly.
In vain is the net laid in sight of the bird. The drive was therefore
made away from this point, with the confident expectation that the
guerilla chief would break back through the columns, and that they
might then pivot round upon him and hustle him so rapidly into the
desired position that he would not realise his danger until it was too
late. Byng's column was left behind the driving line to be ready for
the expected backward break.

All came off exactly as expected. De Wet doubled back through the
columns, and one of his commandos stumbled upon Byng's men, who were
waiting on the Vlei River to the west of Reitz. The Boers seem to
have taken it for granted that, having passed the British driving
line, they were out of danger, and for once it was they who were
surprised. The South African Light Horse, the New-Zealanders, and the
Queensland Bushmen all rode in upon them. A fifteen-pounder, the one
taken at Tweefontein, and two pom-poms were captured, with thirty
prisoners and a considerable quantity of stores.

This successful skirmish was a small matter, however, compared to the
importance of being in close touch with De Wet and having a definite
objective for the drive. The columns behind expanded suddenly into a
spray of mounted men forming a continuous line for over sixty miles.
On February 5th the line was advancing, and on the 6th it was known
that De Wet was actually within the angle, the mouth of which was
spanned by the British line. Hope ran high in Pretoria. The space
into which the burgher chief had been driven was bounded by sixty-six
miles of blockhouse and wire on one side and thirty on the other,
while the third side of the triangle was crossed by fifty-five miles
of British horsemen, flanked by a blockhouse line between Kroonstad
and Lindley. The tension along the lines of defence was extreme.
Infantry guarded every yard of them, and armoured trains patrolled
them, while at night searchlights at regular intervals shed their
vivid rays over the black expanse of the veldt and illuminated the
mounted figures who flitted from time to time across their narrow
belts of light.

On the 6th De Wet realised his position, and with characteristic
audacity and promptness he took means to clear the formidable toils
which had been woven round him. The greater part of his command
scattered, with orders to make their way as best they might out of the
danger. Working in their own country, where every crease and fold of
the ground was familiar to them, it is not surprising that most of
them managed to make their way through gaps in the attenuated line of
horsemen behind them. A few were killed, and a considerable number
taken, 270 being the respectable total of the prisoners. Three or
four slipped through, however, for every one who stuck in the meshes.
De Wet himself was reported to have made his escape by driving cattle
against the wire fences which enclosed him. It seems, however, to
have been nothing more romantic than a wire-cutter which cleared his
path, though cattle no doubt made their way through the gap which he
left. With a loss of only three of his immediate followers be Wet won
his way out of the most dangerous position which even his adventurous
career had ever known. Lord Kitchener had descended to Wolvehoek to be
present at the climax of the operations, but it was not fated that he
was to receive the submission of the most energetic of his opponents,
and he returned to Pretoria to weave a fresh mesh around him.

This was not hard to do, as the Boer General had simply escaped from
one pen into another, though a larger one. After a short rest to
restore the columns, the whole pack were full cry upon his heels once
more. An acute angle is formed by the Wilge Biver on one side and the
line of blockhouses between Harrismith and Van Reenen upon the other.
This was strongly manned by troops and five columns; those of
Rawlinson, Nixon, Byng, Rimington, and Keir herded the broken
cornmandos into the trap. From February 20th the troops swept in an
enormous skirmish line across the country, ascending hills, exploring
kloofs, searching river banks, and always keeping the enemy in front
of them. At last, when the pressure was severely felt, there came the
usual breakback, which took the form of a most determined night attack
upon the British line. This was delivered shortly after midnight on
February 23rd. It struck the British cordon at the point of juncture
between Byng's column and that of Rimington. So huge were the
distances which had to be covered, and so attenuated was the force
which covered them, that the historical thin red line was a massive
formation compared to its khaki equivalent. The chain was frail and
the links were not all carefully joined, but each particular link was
good metal, and the Boer impact came upon one of the best. This was
the 7th New Zealand Contingent, who proved themselves to be worthy
comrades to their six gallant predecessors. Their patrols were broken
by the rush of wild, yelling, firing horsemen, but the troopers made a
most gallant resistance. Having pierced the line the Boers, who were
led in their fiery rush by Manie Botha, turned to their flank, and,
charging down the line of weak patrols, overwhelmed one after another
and threatened to roll up the whole line. They had cleared a gap of
half a mile, and it seemed as if the whole Boer force would certainly
escape through so long a gap in the defences. The desperate defence of
the New-Zealanders gave time, however, for the further patrols, which
consisted of Cox's New South Wales Mounted Infantry, to fall back
almost at right angles so as to present a fresh face to the attack.
The pivot of the resistance was a maxim gun, most gallantly handled by
Captain Begbie and his men. The fight at this point was almost muzzle
to muzzle, fifty or sixty New-Zealanders and Australians with the
British gunners holding off a force of several hundred of the best
fighting men of the Boer forces. In this desperate duel many dropped
on both sides. Begbie died beside his gun, which fired eighty rounds
before it jammed. It was run back by its crew in order to save it
from capture. But reinforcements were coming up, and the Boer attack
was beaten back. A number of them had escaped, however, through the
opening which they had cleared, and it was conjectured that the
wonderful De Wet was among them. How fierce was the storm which had
broken on the New-Zealanders may be shown by their roll of twenty
killed and forty wounded, while thirty dead Boers were picked up in
front of their picket line. Of eight New Zealand officers seven are
reported to have been hit, an even higher proportion than that which
the same gallant race endured at the battle of Rhenoster Kop more than
a year before.

It was feared at first that the greater part of the Boers migbt have
escaped upon this night of the 23rd, when Manie Botha's storming party
burst through the ranks of the New-Zealanders. It was soon discovered
that this was not so, and the columns as they closed in had evidence
from the numerous horsemen who scampered aimlessly over the hills in
front of them that the main body of the enemy was still in the toils.
The advance was in tempestuous weather and over rugged country, but
the men were filled with eagerness, and no precaution was neglected to
keep the line intact.

This time their efforts were crowned with considerable success. A
second attempt was made by the corraled burghers to break out on the
night of February 26th, but it was easily repulsed by Nixon. The task
of the troopers as the cordon drew south was more and more difficult,
and there were places traversed upon the Natal border where an alpen
stock would have been a more useful adjunct than a horse. At six
o'clock on the morning of the 27th came the end. Two Boers appeared
in front of the advancing line of the Imperial Light Horse and held up
a flag. They proved to be Truter and De Jager, ready to make terms
for their commando. The only terms offered were absolute surrender
within the hour. The Boers had been swept into a very confined space,
which was closely hemmed in by troops, so that any resistance must
have ended in a tragedy. Fortunately there was no reason for desperate
councils in their case, since they did not fight as Lotter had done,
with the shadow of judgment hanging over him. The burghers piled
arms, and all was over.

The total number captured in this important drive was 780 men,
including several leaders, one of whom was De Wet's own son. It was
found that De Wet himself had been among those who had got away
through the picket lines on the night of the 23rd. Most of the
commando were Transvaalers, and it was typical of the wide sweep of
the net that many of them were the men who had been engaged against
the 28th Mounted Infantry in the district south of Johannesburg upon
the 12th of the same month. The loss of 2,000 horses and 50,000
cartridges meant as much as that of the men to the Boer army. It was
evident that a few more such blows would clear the Orange River Colony
altogether.

The wearied troopers were allowed little rest, for in a couple of days
after their rendezvous at Harrismith they were sweeping back again to
pick up all that they had missed. This drive, which was over the same
ground, but sweeping backwards towards the Heilbron-Wolvehoek line,
ended in the total capture of 147 of the enemy, who were picked out of
holes, retrieved from amid the reeds of the river, called down out of
trees, or otherwise collected. So thorough were the operations that
it is recorded that the angle which formed the apex of the drive was
one drove of game upon the last day, all the many types of antelope,
which form one of the characteristics and charms of the country,
having been herded into it.

More important even than the results of the drive was the discovery of
one of De Wet's arsenals in a cave in the Vrede district. Half-way
down a precipitous krantz, with its mouth covered by creepers, no
writer of romance could have imagined a more fitting headquarters for
a guerilla chief. The find was made by Ross's Canadian Scouts, who
celebrated Dominion Day by this most useful achievement. Forty
wagon-loads of ammunition and supplies were taken out of the cave De
Wet was known to have left the north-east district, and to have got
across the railway, travelling towards the Vaal as if it were his
intention to join De la Rey in the Transvaal. The Boer resistance had
suddenly become exceedingly energetic in that part, and several
important actions had been fought, to which we will presently turn.

Before doing so it would be as well to bring the chronicle of events
in the Orange River Colony down to the conclusion of peace. There were
still a great number of wandering Boers in the northern districts and
in the frontier mountains, who were assiduously, but not always
successfully, hunted down by the British troops. Much arduous and
useful work was done by several small columns, the Colonial Horse and
the Artillery Mounted Rifles especially distinguishing themselves.
The latter corps, formed from the gunners whose field-pieces were no
longer needed, proved themselves to be a most useful body of men; and
the British gunner, when he took to carrying his gun, vindicated the
reputation which he had won when his gun had carried him.

>From the 1st to the 4th of May a successful drive was conducted by
many columns in the often harried but never deserted Lindley-Kroonstad
district. The result was propitious, as no fewer than 321 prisoners
were brought in. Of these, 150 under Mentz were captured in one body
as they attempted to break through the encircling cordon.

Amid many small drives and many skirmishes, one stands out for its
severity. It is remarkable as being the last action of any importance
in the campaign. This was the fight at Moolman's Spruit, near
Ficksburg, upon April 20th, 1902. A force of about one hundred
Yeomanry and forty Mounted Infantry (South Staffords) was despatched
by night to attack an isolated farm in which a small body of Boers was
supposed to be sleeping. Colonel Perceval was in command. The farm
was reached after a difficult march, but the enemy were found to have
been forewarned, and to be in much greater strength than was
anticipated. A furious fire was opened on the advancing troops, who
were clearly visible ill the light of a full moon. Sir Thomas Fowler
was killed and several men of the Yeomanry were hit. The British
charged up to the very walls, but were unable to effect an entrance,
as the place was barricaded and loopholed. Captain Blackwood, of the
Staffords, was killed in the attack. Finding that the place was
impregnable, and that the enemy outnumbered him, Colonel Perceval gave
the order to retire, a movement which was only successfully carried
out because the greater part of the Boer horses had been shot. By
morning the small British force had extricated itself, from its
perilous position with a total loss of six killed, nineteen wounded,
and six missing. The whole affair was undoubtedly a cleverly planned
Boer ambush, and the small force was most fortunate in escaping
destruction.

One other isolated incident may be mentioned here, though it occurred
far away in the Vryheid district of the Transvaal. This was the
unfortunate encounter between Zulus and Boers by which the latter lost
over fifty of their numbers under deplorable circumstances. This
portion of the Transvaal has only recently been annexed, and is
inhabited by warlike Zulus, who are very different from the debased
Kaffirs of the rest of the country. These men had a blood-feud
against the Boers, which was embittered by the fact that they had lost
heavily through Boer depredations. Knowing that a party of fifty-nine
men were sleeping in a farmhouse, the Zulus crept on to it and
slaughtered every man of the inmates. Such an incident is much to be
regretted, and yet, looking back upon the long course of the war, and
remembering the turbulent tribes who surrounded the combatants --
Swazis, Basutos, and Zulus -- we may well congratulate ourselves that
we have been able to restrain those black warriors, and to escape the
brutalities and the bitter memories of a barbarian invasion.

Arthur Conan Doyle