"Chapters XLVIII to XLIX" by Sir Henry (Harry) George Wakelyn Smith (1788-1860).
SOUTH AFRICA IN 1847–SIR HARRY'S RECEPTION AT CAPE TOWN AND ON THE FRONTIER–END OF THE KAFIR WAR–EXTENSION OF THE BOUNDARIES OF THE COLONY AND ESTABLISHMENT OF THE PROVINCE OF "BRITISH KAFFRARIA"–VISIT TO THE COUNTRY BEYOND THE ORANGE AND TO NATAL–PROCLAMATION OF THE "ORANGE RIVER SOVEREIGNTY"–TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO CAPE TOWN–DISAFFECTION AMONG THE BOERS IN THE SOVEREIGNTY–EXPEDITION THITHER AND BATTLE OF BOOMPLAATS–RETURN TO CAPE TOWN.
MUCH had happened in South Africa since the period 1835-6 of which Sir Harry's autobiography has given us so full an account, and it was his fortune as Governor to encounter difficulties traceable to the policy of Lord Glenelg of which he had himself seen the short-sighted fatuity at the time when it was adopted.
By Sir Benjamin D'Urban's treaty with the Kafir chiefs of September, 1835, the country between the Fish River and the Keiskamma was to be occupied by those settlers who had suffered most severely in the war, while in that between the Keiskamma and the Kei (to be called the "Province of Queen Adelaide") a number of loyal Kafirs were to be established under military protection. All this was upset by Lord Glenelg's dispatch of 26th December, 1835. No settlers were to be permitted beyond the Fish River, and the Kafirs were to be reinstated in the districts from which they had consented in their treaty with Sir Benjamin D'Urban to retire; while the compensation which was to have been paid to sufferers from the war was sharply refused. Well may Cloete write, "A communication more cruel, unjust, and insulting to the feelings both of Sir Benjamin D'Urban and of the colonists could hardly have been penned by a declared enemy of the country and its Governor." The immediate consequence was the emigration from the Colony of numbers of Dutch farmers (described by Sir B. D'Urban as "a brave, patient, industrious, orderly, and religious people"). In another dispatch of Lord Glenelg's dated 1st May, 1837, Sir Benjamin D'Urban, perhaps the best Governor the Colony ever had, was recalled. He was succeeded by Sir George Napier. The policy entrusted to the new Governor was that of entering into alliances with the Kafir chiefs. But experience soon taught him that this was futile, and the only possible course was that which had been pursued by his predecessor and Harry Smith. "My own experience and what I saw with my own eyes," he declared to a Parliamentary Committee in 1851, "have confirmed me that I was wrong and Sir Benjamin D. Urban perfectly right; that if he meant to keep Kafirland under British rule, the only way of doing so was by having a line of forts and maintaining troops in them."
The Boers or emigrant farmers of Dutch descent who in 1835 and subsequent years, to the number of 10,000, left the Cape Colony as men shamefully abandoned by the British Government, settled themselves, some north of the Orange River, some across the Vaal, some in Natal.
To prevent those in Natal from joining any other European power, the British Government in 1842 took possession of Durban, and in 1843 of the whole of Natal. In 1845 Natal was annexed to the Cape Colony under a Lieutenant-Governor, Mr. West. But in consequence of dissatisfaction in regard to a settlement of lands, a new emigration of Dutch farmers began, and was in operation when Sir Harry Smith reached South Africa.
Meanwhile in 1845 Sir Peregrine Maitland, then Governor of the Cape, had established Major Warden and a small British garrison at Bloemfontein with authority over the emigrant Boers settled across the Orange between the Modder and Riet rivers, the Boers who were settled north of the Modder being left undisturbed. These had set up for themselves in 1837 a simple form of government at Winburg.
The treaty system failed to protect the settlers in the eastern part of the Cape Colony from Kafir aggressions, and in 1846 Sandilli, the successor of Gaika, openly defied the British authorities; and a war broke out which was hardly ended when Sir Henry Pottinger, after holding office for less than a year, resigned the government of the Cape into the hands of Sir Harry Smith.
GOVERNMENT HOUSE, CAPE TOWN.
From a lithograph by Day and Haghe, 1832. [Opposite p. 584.
The Vernon entered Table Bay on 1st December, 1847. The first news signalled from shore was that five officers had been cut off by the tribe of Galekas under Boku, on which Sir Harry remarked, "Doing something they ought not, I'll be bound!"170 A few hours later he and Lady Smith landed. "Amidst the most hearty cheering, mingled with the roaring of cannon, the Governor passed through the streets, at every moment recognizing and saluting old acquaintances. Immediately after his arrival at Government House he took the oaths of office. That night the town was brilliantly illuminated, and the windows in a solitary house that was unlit were completely wrecked by the populace."171 That the new Governor and Lady Smith were received by the Colony as old friends was again shown when, at a public banquet, Judge Menzies proposed the toast, not of "His Excellency and his Lady," but of "Harry Smith and his Wife."172
Sir Harry lost no time in grappling with public business, and started by sea on the 11th December for the frontier. At Port Elizabeth he saw the chief Macomo, and, having upbraided him for his treachery, ordered him to kneel, when he set his foot on the chief's neck, saying, "This is to teach you that I am come hither to teach Kafirland that I am chief and master here, and this is the way I shall treat the enemies of the Queen of England." After-events may make us doubt the wisdom of this public humiliation of the chief. After having an interview at Sidbury with Sir Henry Pottinger, Sir Harry reached Grahamstown on the 17th. Mrs. Ward, who was there, writes in her diary–
"The shops were closed, every one made holiday, triumphal arches were erected surmounted by inscriptions proclaiming welcome to the new Governor and old friend. The very bonhommie with which Sir Harry had met his old acquaintances–even an old Hottentot sergeant with whom he shook hands on the road–procured for him a ready popularity ere he entered Grahamstown."
And at night–
"The frontier to-night was delirious with joy. Its own hero, its best friend next to Sir Benjamin the Good, has arrived. The town is illuminated, and beacon-lights telegraph from the hill-tops. . . . We watched the rockets ascending and the lights flashing from one end of Grahamstown to the other; the very Fingo kraals sent forth shouts, and torches flitted from hut to hut. But long before the lights were extinguished, Sir Harry Smith was up and at work. Three o'clock on the morning of the 18th found him at his desk, which he scarcely left till five in the evening."
But even on the day of his arrival in Grahamstown he had made history. He had released the captive chief Sandilli (an act of generosity afterwards ill-requited), and sent him the baton of office of a British magistrate; and, more than this, he had issued a proclamation creating a new boundary for the Colony, which was now to include the district of Victoria (to the east of Albany and Somerset), the district of Albert (north-east of Cradock), and a vast territory stretching from the old northern boundary of the Colony to the Orange River. The chief town of Victoria he named "Alice," doubtless after his beloved sister, Mrs. Sargant.
On the 19th, by the submission of Pato, it appeared that the Kafir War was at an end. The Governor at once set out for King William's Town, which he reached on the 23rd, and was again received enthusiastically. The troops–the Rifle Brigade and the 7th Dragoon Guards–were drawn up on the parade, and were praised in stirring terms for their services in the recent war. On another part of the square an assembly of two thousand Kafirs waited, sitting in a great hollow circle. Into this circle Sir Harry rode with his staff, and read a proclamation, which was practically a dramatic reversal of that abandonment by Lord Glenelg of the "Province of Queen Adelaide" which he had felt so bitterly in 1836. He declared the whole country between the Keiskamma and the Kei, running northwards to the junction of the Klipplaats and Zwart Kei rivers, to be under the sovereignty of the Queen, not, however, as part of Cape Colony, but as a district dependency of the Crown to be named "British Kaffraria," and kept in reserve for the Kafir people, over whom the Governor, as High Commissioner, was to be "Inkosi Inkulu," or Great Chief. Colonel Mackinnon was appointed to a post such as Harry Smith had held in 1835-36–that of Commandant and Chief Commissioner of British Kaffraria, with his headquarters at King William's Town.173 Having read the proclamation, he gave an illustration of those dramatic methods of treating the Kafirs on which he had always relied, but which stirred some ridicule in England during the time of his Governorship. "He called for a sergeant's baton, which he termed the staff of war, and a wand with a brass head, which he termed the staff of peace. Calling the chiefs forward, he desired them to touch whichever they pleased, when each of course touched the staff of peace. After an address of some length upon their prospects if they behaved themselves, and threats of what would happen if they did not, he required them to kiss his foot in token of submission." [He was, of course, still on horseback.] "This they did also without hesitation. The ceremony concluded by the High Commissioner shaking hands with all the chiefs, calling them his children, and presenting them with a herd of oxen to feast upon." 174
On 7th January,175 1848, the Chiefs were called to a second meeting to hear the arrangements which had been made for the government of the new province. Sir Harry addressed them, after which they took oath to obey the High Commissioner as the Queen's representative, and to renounce witchcraft, violation of women, murder, robbery, and the buying of wives, to listen to the missionaries, and on every anniversary of that day to bring to King William's Town a fat ox in acknowledgment of holding their lands from the Queen. "Sir Harry then addressed them again, telling them what would happen if they were not faithful. 'Look at that waggon,' said he, pointing to one at a distance which had been prepared for an explosion, 'and hear me give the word Fire!' The train was lit, and the waggon was sent skyward in a thousand pieces. 'That is what I will do to you,' he continued, 'if you do not behave yourselves.' Taking a sheet of paper in his hand, 'Do you see this?' said he. Tearing it and throwing the pieces to the wind, 'There go the treaties!' he exclaimed. 'Do you hear? No more treaties.'" 176
Things being thus settled at King William's Town, Sir Harry proceeded to the country between the Orange River and the Vaal.177 Here Major Warden at Bloemfontein had authority over the emigrant Boers between the Modder and the Riet rivers; the Boers north of the Modder were left to themselves, and large tracts bordering on the Orange River were assigned as reserves to the chiefs Moshesh and Adam Kok, who could also exact quit-rents from the farmers outside the reserves.
"Sir Harry Smith came to South Africa with a fully matured plan for the settlement of affairs north of the Orange. He would take no land from black people that they needed for their maintenance, but there were no longer to be black states covering vast areas of ground either unoccupied or in possession of white men. Such ground he would form into a new colony, and he would exercise a general control over the chiefs themselves in the interests of peace and civilization. A system antagonistic to that of the Napier treaties was to be introduced. Those treaties attempted to subject civilized men to barbarians. He would place an enlightened and benevolent government over all. But to enable him to do so, the consent of Adam Kok and Moshesh must be obtained to new agreements, for he could not take the high-handed course of setting the treaties aside." 178
Accordingly, on 24th January he had an interview with Adam Kok. At first the chief gave himself great airs, and Sir Harry, losing his temper, threatened to have him tied up to a beam in the room in which they were sitting unless he acted reasonably. Eventually an agreement was signed by which Adam Kok, in return for a small annual income, ceded his claim to jurisdiction over all the land outside the Griqua reserve. At Bloemfontein the Governor received addresses from a number of Boer settlers. "Among them were some who had served under him in the Kafir war of 1835. At a public meeting speeches were made in which old times were recalled, and enthusiastic language was used concerning the future of South Africa, now that a true friend of the country was at the head of affairs. At this meeting the Governor observed an aged grey-headed man standing in the crowd. He instantly rose, handed his chair to the old man, and pressed him to be seated, a kindly act that was long remembered by the simple farmers, and which formed the subject of one of the transparencies when Cape Town was illuminated on his return."179
From Bloemfontein Sir Harry proceeded to Winburg, where on 27th January he had a conference with Moshesh, in which the latter, like Adam Kok, accepted his proposals. At Winburg twenty-seven farmers, heads of families, and twenty-two others presented an address, in which they requested the Governor to extend British jurisdiction over the country. He probably took this as representing the general feeling, but he could not wait for further information. He had heard that a number of the Boers in Natal were "trekking" out of that colony. He therefore sent an express to their leader, Pretorius, asking him to pause, and at daybreak on the 28th January (the second anniversary of Aliwal) he was hastening towards Natal.
In a graphic dispatch written from Pietermaritzburg on 10th February, he describes his meeting with the "trekking" farmers.
"On my arrival at the foot of the Drachenberg Mountains, I was almost paralyzed to witness the whole of the population, with few exceptions, 'treking'! Rains on this side of the mountains are tropical, and now prevail–the country is intersected by considerable streams, frequently impassable–and these families were exposed to a state of misery which I never before saw equalled, except in Massena's invasion of Portugal, when the whole of the population of that part of the seat of war abandoned their homes and fled. The scene here was truly heart-rending. I assembled all the men near me through the means of a Mr. Pretorius, a shrewd, sensible man, who had recently been into the colony to lay the subject of dissatisfaction of his countrymen before the Governor [Sir Henry Pottinger], where he was unfortunately refused an audience, and returned after so long a journey, expressing himself as the feelings of a proud and injured man would naturally prompt. At this meeting I was received as if among my own family. I heard the various causes of complaint. Some I regard as well founded, others as imaginary; but all expressive of a want of confidence and liberality as to land on the part of Government. I exerted my influence among them to induce them to remain for the moment where they were, which they consented to do. The scene exhibited by about three or four hundred fathers of large families assembled and shedding tears when representing their position was more, I admit, than I could observe unmoved. . . . To prove, if it be necessary, the faith which I place in their loyalty, I may mention that on one occasion when the little waggon in which I travel, and which they call 'Government House,' was nearly upset when crossing one of the tributary streams of the great Tugela, thirty or forty men on the bank stripped and sprang into the water, exclaiming, 'Government House shall not fall–it shall not fall!' and their efforts saved my only home from being carried down the current."
Sir Harry proceeded to argue that the very existence of the Colony of Natal depended on its preserving its white population, and stated that he had therefore issued a proclamation to meet the grievances of the farmers in regard to land, and had given Mr. Pretorius a place on the Land Commission. "If the measures which I have adopted conduce to the restoration of happiness to many thousands, tend to the preservation of a Christian community by the erection of churches, schools, etc., and are productive of general good, the glory of war will be eclipsed by the blessings of [establishing] harmony, peace, and content."
On 3rd February, from the emigrant camp Sir Harry Smith issued a proclamation declaring the whole territory between the Orange and Vaal rivers to be subject to the Queen. The country was to be divided into magistracies; taxes were to be raised for the support of a small staff and for erecting schools, churches, etc.; and the farmers were to serve the Queen when required. So arose the Orange River Sovereignty, destined to be known under altered conditions in turn as the Orange Free State and the Orange River Colony.
Meanwhile Pretorius, with the Governor's consent, had left the camp in order to ascertain the real feelings of the emigrant farmers beyond the Drakensberg. He seems to have thought that Sir Harry had promised him that if the general opinion of the settlers was unfavourable, the proclamation would not be issued. Sir Harry maintained that his agreement with Pretorius only referred to the Boers north of the Vaal, and in consequence of the agreement the territory they occupied was excluded from the terms of the proclamation.
Mr. Theal states that "in issuing this proclamation Sir Harry Smith was full of confidence in his personal influence with the emigrants. When Major Warden, the British resident, expressed an opinion that if the Queen's authority was proclaimed north of the Orange River, additional troops would be requisite, his Excellency replied, 'My dear fellow, bear in mind that the Boers are my children, and I will have none other here for my soldiers; your detachment will march for the colony immediately.' And in this confidence a garrison of only 50 or 60 Cape Mounted Riflemen were left to defend a territory more than 50,000 square miles in extent." 180
SOUTH AFRICA, 1847-1854.
(The coloured districts were annexed by Sir Harry Smith, those only lightly coloured becoming part of Cape Colony.) [Opposite p. 594.
The creation of the Orange River Sovereignty was reluctantly agreed to by the Home Government,181and the measures taken by Sir Harry to induce settlers in Natal to remain there, and others to come there, were to a great extent successful. But his belief that the settlers in the northern part of the new Sovereignty and over the Vaal would readily accept British supremacy when offered them by one whom they had known and trusted in the past–this belief proved fallacious. The sense of wrong created by the Glenelg policy could not be so easily assuaged.
By the 1st March Sir Harry Smith was back at Cape Town, "welcomed as a successful pacificator and benefactor with paeans of praise from all classes of the inhabitants. His meteoric progress over the length and breadth of the country–all at once dispelling the idea of the unwieldiness of the settlement and its dependencies–and the generous character of the mission he had so triumphantly concluded were regarded as the most signally happy events South Africa had ever witnessed. His Excellency's praise was on every lip, and his virtues were to be symbolized to future generations by an equestrian statue."182
But no sooner had he returned than he heard that among the farmers of the Winburg district (constituting the northern part of the new Orange River Sovereignty) there was a movement against the British authority which had been imposed upon them. To counteract it, Sir Harry issued on 29th March a manifesto of a rather unconventional kind. He bade the farmers remember all the benefits he had lately conferred on them [freedom from nominal subjection to native chiefs, etc.], and contrast the misery from which he had endeavoured to raise them with the happiness of their friends and cousins living under the Colonial government. If they compelled him to wield the fatal sword, after all he had attempted to do for them, the crime be on their own heads. He concluded with a prayer to the Almighty in which he suggested that the farmers might unite with himself.
Such a manifesto is not to be judged cynically. The religious passages were sincere and characteristic of their author, and calculated to appeal especially to the people to whom they were addressed. But the distrust of England was too deep for such an appeal to have more than a partial success. The disaffected party in the Winburg district determined to make a struggle for independence, and invited Pretorius to come over the Vaal to lead them. Pretorius arrived at Winburg on the 12th July. At his approach, Mr. Biddulph, the British magistrate, rode off to Bloemfontein and informed Major Warden, who sent a report to the Governor on the 13th.
On the 17th Pretorius reached Bloemfontein, and Major Warden, being unable to offer resistance, capitulated, and was furnished by Pretorius with waggons to take him, his troops, and the refugees who had sought his protection, to Colesberg. Pretorius with his force marched to a camp on the Orange River in the same neighbourhood.
Major Warden's report of the 13th July reached Sir Harry Smith at Cape Town on the 22nd.183 On the same day he issued a reward of £1000 for the apprehension of Pretorius and made arrangements for collecting a force to put down the rebellion.
On the 29th July he left Cape Town for the Sovereignty, accompanied by his Private Secretary, Major Garvock, Dr. Hall, Principal Medical Officer, Mr. Southey, Secretary to the High Commissioner, and Lieutenant Holdich, A.D.C. (now General Sir Edward Alan Holdich, K.C.B.). The party travelled with three waggons.
I extract the following entries from Sir Edward's diary, which he has kindly lent me:–
5th August.–Reached Beaufort. Heard from Cape Town that Major Warden had left Bloemfontein.
9th.–Reached Colesberg, having been 11 1/2 days from Cape Town, travelling 102 1/2 hours at the rate of 6 miles an hour, making the distance about 615 miles. A hundred Cape Mounted Rifles and one gun had arrived from Grahamstown, with 30 of the 91st Regiment, and were encamped at Botha's Drift. Boers occupying the opposite bank.
15th.–Detachment of 91st and C.M.R. which arrived yesterday encamped at Botha's Drift. High Commissioner rode to Major Warden's camp at Botha's Drift to meet the rebel leaders, [Gert] Kruger and Paul Bester, who had been invited to a conference, but they did not come. About 60 Boers on opposite bank. No regular laager or appearance of defence. Mr. Rex (a settler in the Orange Settlement) crossed the river, and was civilly received by Pretorius and other leaders.
16th.–A letter received from the Rebel camp, petitioning His Excellency to withdraw the troops. Boers would never acknowledge British Government, but would trek to their friends across the Vaal. No reply sent to petition.
17th.–His Excellency and staff left Colesberg and pitched camp at Botha's Drift. When on the way report arrived from Major Warden that the rebel Boers had left the opposite bank the preceding night, no vestige of them remaining. A Boer came across and confirmed the report that they had all trekked (about 100 men with Pretorius). They had 62 waggons in the laager. Various reports as to the cause of the sudden flight. One was that Pretorius had heard of an army marching against them from Natal viâ the Drakensberg. Detachment of 45th Regiment and C.M.R. reached Colesberg, and marched following day to Botha's Drift.
20th.–The force encamped together on Botha's Driff except 91st Regiment [which marched in on the 25th]. Preparations made for crossing the river.
26th.–Headquarters and staff crossed. In six days the whole force (about 1200), with 117 waggons and supplies for thirty days, followers, etc., had crossed a rapid river 240 yards wide, and that by means of a caoutchouc pontoon (then just invented and here put to a practical trial) and one small boat worked by a hawser. The pontoon had to be taken out of the water every night and refilled in the morning, and the line to be passed across and made fast to the bank each morning. Camp pitched on the north-east bank of the river, either flank resting on the river.
27th.–Commenced march on Winburg in following order:–Cape Mounted Rifles, two guns RA., one Company Rifle Brigade, one gun, remainder of R.B., 45th and 91st, waggons (117), rearguard, composed of 20 C.M.R., servants, burghers, followers, etc. At 2 pitched camp to right of Philippolis. Camp formed in line. Cavalry on the right, infantry on the left, guns and headquarters camp in centre.
28th.–Camp at Fuller's Kloof. No tidings of the rebels. 250 Griquas under Adam Kok joined the camp.
29th.–Halt for breakfast at Touw Fontein. Rebels reported to have been in the neighbourhood the evening before. At 10 a.m. inspanned, fell in, and marched on Boomplaats in the same order as before. Route lay over an open plain. After an hour's march saw a herdsman at a distance. He reported that he had seen fires the evening before along the Krom Elbe184 river, beyond a few low hills in the direct route, also about 20 Boers riding about that morning, but he believed more to be in the neighbourhood.
On approaching this low range of hills, through which the road led, we observed large herds of game, apparently uncertain which way to run. At length the herd crossed close in front of the column, as if avoiding the hill. A report (as above) having been received of Boers having been seen in the neighbourhood of the hills, Lieut. Warren, C M.R., with three or four troopers, was sent to reconnoitre. On galloping up one of the hills for this purpose, he suddenly found himself close upon some 40 or 50 Boers, mounted and armed with "roers," who immediately retreated round one of the hills, apparently joining a large body; this was assumed from the dust that arose. The White Company (or Europeans) of the C.M.R. under Lieut. Salis were ordered to cover the front of the column in skirmishing order, and to feel round the hills, but not to fire a shot unless fired upon. General185 and staff rode to the front with tried troops. All waggons were moved up well in rear of the infantry. The column had not advanced many paces, when some one from the front cried out, "There they are!" and on looking in the direction intimated, the hills were observed to be suddenly lined with Boers in their duffle jackets and white hats, who soon opened a brisk and regular fire, which at first did not cause much more harm than to throw the leading party rather into confusion. The order was given for the troops to go "threes about" and make way for the guns. The Boers fired so low that not much mischief was done. The guns being brought to bear upon the enemy, the infantry were deployed into line, and the waggons, under charge of Mr. Green of the Commissariat, were withdrawn further to the rear and formed up in circle (laagered), and escort for their defence was composed of the servants and drivers accompanying them.
PLAN OF FIELD OF ACTION AT BOOM PLAATS
[Opposite p. 600.
The order of attack was Rifle Brigade to skirmish over the hills to the right; 45th to bear on the centre, and follow up any opening made by the artillery; 91st Regiment to escort the guns, and the Cape Mounted Rifles to sweep round to the left, where the Boers were advancing from their right, in good skirmishing order, into the plains, with the evident intention of getting round to our rear and in at the waggons. The 45th suffered a good deal in the centre, and the Rifle Brigade on the right, being too eager and not taking sufficient advantage of cover, lost a good many, Captain Murray being mortally wounded at the head of his company. The 91st were ordered in support of the 45th and the General's escort (a party of Rifle Brigade) to form the escort for the guns.
In about twenty minutes the first range of hills was cleared, and pushing on with all arms we observed the Boers reformed at a farm-house below, where they made a good defence from behind walls, and especially from an old kraal and the bed of the "Krom Elbe" river. From the kraal Colonel Buller was shot, a bullet taking a piece out of his thigh and killing his horse. The guns were advanced over a stony hill, which in ordinary times would have been deemed impracticable, and by their steady fire, under Lieut. Dyneley, soon drove the rebels out of their (natural) defence-works and they spread across an open plain that intervened in great disorder. (No cavalry available to pursue.) Their road lay across a neck between two hills, where they again made a stand, as if to cover their retreat, but were checked by a demonstration of the C.M. Rifles and the Griquas and other followers, who on observing the retreat had turned up on the right in a very valiant manner!
The Infantry in the mean time under Major Beckwith (R.B.) had reformed, and marched in column across the plain as steadily as if their ranks had never been broken or thinned. A few shots from the R.A. soon dispersed the group at the neck, who before retreating had set fire to the grass. On reaching the neck, it was observed that the rebels had dispersed over the plain as fast as they could with tired horses. Halted at the neck, to collect stragglers, and make provision for the wounded and for bringing up the waggons. No water to be had within three miles. Only about 40 of the Cape Corps could be got together.186
Mr. Rex, with a party of Griquas, sent to bring up the baggage, the wounded remaining at Boomplaats under the superintendence of Dr. Hall, P.M.O.
Advanced on Calvert Fontein, having been told by some friendly Burghers, who had followed rather close on the trek of the Boers, that they were collecting in great numbers round Calvert Fontein. Found that they were only collecting and carrying off the wounded, or something of this kind. There appeared to be no intention of waiting for any more of our fire. Reached Calvert Fontein at 4.30 p.m. (a great rush for water). Halted for the night. No trace of a human being. A picket of cavalry sent forward to reconnoitre and follow up the rebels till dark. On return reported having seen a large body of Boers at some distance, in great disorder, apparently "off saddled."
On roll being called, found the return of casualties to be–
Commander-in-Chief, Sir H. Smith, struck on shin (very slight), and horse wounded;187 Colonel Buller, wounded in thigh (severely), and horse killed; 7 officers wounded (Captain Murray, mortally); Rifle Brigade, 8 killed and 39 wounded.
On strict inquiry among the men of the force, ascertained that 49 bodies of rebels were seen lying on the field.188
Waggons came up at 5.30 p.m. On arrival at the bivouac, a Dutch letter was received by the Commander-in-Chief, stating that the Boer laager was about 12 miles off, west of the direct route to Bethany, at the farm-house of one Jan Cloete.
30th.–Leaving the camp standing in charge of convalescents and officers' servants (Col. Buller in command), we marched at 3 a.m., cavalry in advance, guns (with portfires burning) following. A company of Rifles headed the column and were directed to sweep any suspicious places. Met with no impediment. On reaching Cloete's farm at 6 a.m. found no trace of any laager. Column arrived at Bethany at 10 a.m. There is a large missionary chapel and a few native huts around it. A good house belonging to the missionaries, who had deserted it. Sir H. Smith and staff took possession of house and yard. Breakfasted upon biscuits and brandy, aided by a little tea made in an old pot. A Boer came in from his house half an hour distant and professed to be "loyal," and said he had not been in the fight, though his son had. The son and another young man concealed in the house were brought into camp by Mr. Southey. They received a lecture and were sent off with the understanding that they were to bring in their "roers" next day, which they did.
Two prisoners were brought up from the rear, taken on the field with arms, one a Dutchman named Dreyer, the other an Englishman, who proved to be a deserter from the 45th Regt. Both were remanded for trial by court martial on arrival at Bloemfontein.
2nd Sept.–Arrived at Bloemfontein at 9 a.m. Troops formed up into three sides of a square (Commander-in-Chief and staff, etc., in centre). Proclamation read and sovereignty proclaimed under a salute of 21 guns. General Court Martial ordered and assembled under Colonel Buller, R.B., for the trial of the two prisoners taken in the field.
Bloemfontein, a small village, consisting of some half-dozen houses and some huts, prettily situated on the banks of a stream having its source in a bubbling fountain, and under a hill. A small fort (or stockade) had been built, which was commanded from every side. The rebels had taken possession of the various houses and at the Resident's house had even commenced ploughing.
Encamped on the opposite side of the stream to the town, very good ground and well sheltered by a hill.
Sept. 3rd.–Troops paraded at 10 a.m. in front of the camp for Divine Service. Service read by Sir Harry Smith.189 Preparations afterwards made for the march on Winburg; a small force to be left to garrison Bloemfontein under Col. Buller (disabled by his wound).
Sept. 4th.–Camp struck before daylight and troops paraded, when the two rebels (who had been found "guilty" by the General Court Martial of "being in rebellion and bearing arms against Her Majesty's subjects" and sentenced to death accordingly) were paraded in front of the troops assembled, in the very spot where, a short time before, the rebel leader Pretorius had demanded the submission of the British resident, and the sentence carried out–the rebels being shot in presence of the troops.190
6th.–Reached the Vet River at one. On the march joined by a party of friendly Boers, who greeted us with a salute from their "roers" and loud shouts, which caused no little excitement in the rear of the column. These Boers had formed a laager on the Vet River under a Field Cornet named Wessels, and had maintained their position against Pretorius and the rebels. [Gert] Kruger, one of the leading rebels, surrendered himself, and, professing penitence, after taking the oath of loyalty, was pardoned. Moroco, king of the Barolongs, also came in, with a small train.
Sept. 7th.–At 5.30 a.m. crossed the Vet River. Reached Winburg at 10.30. Here the troops were formed up in hollow square, the Proclamation read, and the sovereignty proclaimed under a salute of 21 guns. Encamped on the far side of a stream on the slope of a hill. Village consisted of three or four houses and huts.
Sept. 8th.–Halt. King Moshesh and Sikonyela arrived in camp. Moshesh a clear-headed fellow and very sharp. He wore a general's old blue coat and gold lace trousers, with a forage cap.
Sept. 9th.–Troops paraded, and a Review took place for the benefit of Moshesh, who was much amused with the movements, and particularly astonished at the Artillery, these being the first regular troops that had been so far into the interior.
Sept. 10th, Sunday.–Halt. Divine Service.
Sept. 11th.–Review of Moshesh's army. Mounted men armed with old "roers." Infantry with native weapons (assagais, etc.). About 700 paraded and performed a war dance. A fine body of men for savages and undisciplined as they were. Preparations made for leaving Winburg and returning to the Colony, Mr. Southey, secretary to the High Commissioner, remaining to collect fines, with an escort of C.M. Rifles.
Sept. 12th.–Leaving the troops to follow by ordinary marches, the Governor and Staff left Winburg in mule-waggons.
13th.–Reached Bloemfontein at noon.
15th.–Troops arrived from Winburg. Three guns R.A., two companies 45th, and a company C.M.R. detailed to garrison the "Queen's Fort" [now to be built]; the remainder to march back to their respective localities under Col. Buller.
18th.–Arrived at Smithfield on the Caledon River. Great gathering of Dutch and English farmers. Sir H. Smith laid the foundation-stone of a Dutch church [which was never built, the village being afterwards removed–E. A. H.].
26th.–Crossed the Orange River. Arrived at Ruffles Vlet, a beautiful site for a town.191
On the 28th Sir Harry received an ovation at Graaf Reinet, and on 6th Oct. reached King William's Town. It had now grown into a pretty town, and it gratified him to see between 200 and 300 Kafirs hard at work in building houses and aiding in the cultivation of the gardens. Next day he held a meeting of chiefs, including Sandilli, Macomo, Umhala, and Pato. The superior chief, Kreili (the son of Hintza), overtook Sir Harry after he had left King William's Town, and showed every sign of affection, calling him "father" and "Inkosi Inkulu" ("Great Chief"). The whole meeting was considered of very good omen for the success of the system established in British Kaffraria.
After visiting Grahamstown, the Governor proceeded to Port Elizabeth. In reply to an address praying for the formation of the Eastern Province of the Cape Colony into a separate government, he asked "What is Germany with her 33,000,000 struggling after but union? These German states have sunk through their disunion, while Great Britain is acknowledged to owe her strength and her greatness to the union of her people. Nor at the present time must we have separation here. When I was asked whether I would have a Lieutenant-Governor, I replied, 'Certainly not.' The office fulfilled no other part than that of giving rise to very unprofitable correspondence."192 On the 21st October the Governor returned to Cape Town, and, as elsewhere, was received with enthusiasm and an address of congratulation. It stated that the vigour and rapidity with which the rebellion had been repressed, and the moderation shown afterwards, were characteristic of Sir Harry's genius as a soldier and of the generous sympathies of his nature, and concluded with a prayer that he might long preside over the Colony, and exercise that "justice and mercy" which had marked his career.
THE QUESTION OF THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A REPRESENTATIVE ASSEMBLY IN THE CAPE COLONY–THE CONVICT QUESTION–KAFIR WAR–RECALL OF SIR HARRY SMITH–HIS DEPARTURE FROM THE CAPE.
AS early as 1841 the inhabitants of Cape Town had petitioned that their present system of government by a Governor and a Legislative Council consisting of officials and persons nominated by the Governor should give place to a constitution resembling that of the mother-country, to consist, that is to say, of a Governor and an Executive Council, both appointed by the Crown, and a Legislative Assembly composed of representatives freely elected by the people. Lord Stanley, in reply, expressed a general concurrence with the prayer of the petitioners, but desired further information. To this request no answer had been received, when on the appointment of Sir Henry Pottinger to the government of the Cape, Lord Grey instructed him (2nd Nov. 1846) that Her Majesty's Government entertained the strongest prepossessions in favour of a representative system, and desired the Governor's assistance and advice. "Some difficulties," he added, "may be wisely encountered, and some apparent risks well incurred, in reliance on the resources which every civilized society, and especially every society of British birth and origin, will always discover within themselves for obviating the dangers incident to measures resting on any broad and solid principle of truth and justice."
Sir Henry Pottinger, during his year of office, was too much occupied with the Kafir War to carry out the instructions given him in regard to the establishment of representative government, but the instructions he had received were repeated on the appointment of Sir Harry Smith. He lost no time in acting on them, and on the 29th July, 1848, the very day on which he started to put down the rising beyond the Orange, he transmitted to Lord Grey the opinions of a number of colonial authorities on the questions at issue, and stated that they all, and he with them, agreed on the main point that a representative form of government was desirable. Lord Grey then put the matter in the hands of a Committee of the Board of Trade and Plantations, who drew up the main lines of a constitution, which received Her Majesty's approval. On 31st January, 1850, Lord Grey transmitted this Report to Sir Harry. It laid down that all subordinate arrangements should be made by Ordinance in the Colony, and Sir Harry was instructed to collect information and make all other arrangements for this purpose.
Meanwhile the Colony had been thrown into a state of hysterical agitation by an unfortunate arrangement made by Lord Grey to send thither some convicts from Bermuda in H.M S. Neptune. These convicts were Irish peasants who had been driven into crime during the time of the famine, and Lord Grey seems to have thought that on this account less objection would be taken to receiving them. But the name "convict" was enough. The colonists of the Cape believed that this was only a beginning and that their country was to be made a convict settlement and flooded with criminals. An Anti-convict Association was formed, and the Governor was petitioned to dismiss the Neptune as soon as she arrived to some other station.
Sir Harry Smith, who from the beginning shared the colonists' objection to Lord Grey's proposal, wrote to that minister on 24th May, 1849, begging him to revoke his decision, in accordance with the petitions which he had been forwarding to him since 1st January. On the 29th May he reported a combination of the people headed by the Anti-convict Association "to hold in abhorrence any person who may aid the exiles in landing, and may have any communication with them whatever," and to stop the supply of stores to Government. Government officials all over the country were resigning, but he was still making preparations to land the exiles and provide for their support on shore.193 On July 24th he reported that all but one of the unofficial members of the Legislative Council had resigned, and that on the 17th he had promised by proclamation that the convicts should not be landed but detained on shipboard till Her Majesty's pleasure were known, while declaring he had no legal power to send them to any other destination.194
No reply had been received from Lord Grey to the many appeals which had been made to him, when on 19th September the Neptune arrived. A fresh storm of public passion arose, and for the first time since his accession to office the Governor assembled the Executive Council. They approved of all his measures, and agreed that it would not be legal for him to dismiss the vessel. He offered a pledge, however, that he would resign his office rather than assist in carrying out any measure for landing the convicts. This declaration allayed the feelings of more moderate men, but the extremists extended their operations, and included the navy and the whole body of executive and judicial agents of the Government under an interdict so long as the Neptune should remain in Simon's Bay.
Sir Harry, while curbing the military from any act of retaliation against the insults heaped on them,195 was not to be daunted from the line he had taken up, and with his usual energy devised arrangements for supplying Government servants with meat and bread. He was thus able to maintain his position until 13th February, 1850, when, in answer to a dispatch of 30th September, he received one from Lord Grey dated 5th December, which authorized him to send the unfortunate convicts to Van Diemen's Land.
To return to the question of the new constitution. On the receipt of Lord Grey's dispatch of 31st January, 1850, the Governor found himself at a deadlock owing to the resignation of the five unofficial members of the Legislative Council in the preceding July. The convict agitation had spread such a spirit of dissatisfaction in the Colony that the Governor thought that a Legislative Council filled up by men who were merely his nominees, would not command public confidence. He therefore arranged that the Municipalities and District Road Boards should furnish him with the names of gentlemen whom they would desire to be appointed, and from these he would fill up the vacancies. He did not, however, commit himself to nominating the five highest on the list. As a matter of fact, he chose the four highest, although he believed their election had been largely procured by electoral devices emanating from Cape Town, and with them the gentleman who was eleventh, chosen as having the special confidence of the Eastern Province. No sooner was the Council thus constituted and assembled than the four gentlemen above mentioned resigned their seats (20th September), as a protest against the Governor's departure from the electoral results and against the fact that the Legislative Council was called on to vote the estimates and transact ordinary business instead of merely preparing the way for a Representative Assembly. These gentlemen were treated in the Colony as popular heroes, and two of them, Sir A. Stockenstrom and Mr. Fairbairn, were deputed to proceed to England to carry on an agitation against the Governor. Their position was, however, an untenable one, and received no support from Her Majesty's Government.196
The Governor in his difficulty had taken a step which was not well received. He had constituted the remaining seven members of the Council a Commission to draft the ordinances of the proposed constitution, and on 19th Feb. 1851 suggested to Lord Grey that, there being no chance of forming a Legislative Council which would have the confidence of the Colony, the draft ordinances should be ratified in England. This suggestion was accepted. However, in obedience to Lord Grey's further instructions, he set himself in September to fill up the Council, and found four gentlemen willing to accept the vacant seats. On 10th October the Council met again. On 16th December the draft ordinances which had received Her Majesty's approval in England were read for the first time, and the second reading was fixed for February, 1852. In spite of the great eagerness of the Colony to receive representative government, it was then proposed that the further consideration of the question should be deferred till the Kafir War was over, and this view had the support of all the four unofficial members and of two out of the five official members of the Legislative Council. When, however, it was represented to the Governor, he promptly replied from his camp at King William's Town, in words full of political courage and sagacious confidence–
"I desire the Legislative Council to proceed to the discussion of these ordinances as a Government measure, leaving each clause an open question. I apprehend far greater embarrassments to the Government by delay than by procedure. I am ordered by Her Majesty's Government to proceed, and my own opinion concurs in the expediency of that order. I see no cause whatever for apprehension as to any public disturbance. Under any circumstances, however, I do not view a war upon the borders as affording cause for deferring the grant of a representative government."
Thanks, then, to Sir Harry's firmness the business proceeded, although it was not till the time of his successor that the long-desired boon of Representative Government was actually received by the colonists.
Till the end of 1850, in spite of the Anti-convict agitation and the political unrest caused by the desire for a Representative Assembly, Sir Harry's administration had been apparently a highly successful one. He had felt himself able to send home the 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade in May, 1850, and so meet the demands for economy pressed on him by the Home Government. The Orange River Sovereignty had been at peace, and in British Kaffraria, under the rule of an able officer, Colonel Mackinnon, the Kafirs seemed, as in 1836, to be making rapid progress towards becoming orderly and civilized British subjects. But this happy prospect was now suddenly over-clouded.
However contented the Kafirs at large might be with the new system, the chiefs suffered a loss of wealth by being no longer able to "eat up" whomsoever they liked, and with the loss of wealth a loss of dignity. They felt that their followers were encouraged to appeal for justice to the British Commissioner and that the feudal power of the chief was being quietly undermined. Accordingly the Gaika chiefs of British Kaffraria, Sandilli and his half-brother Macomo, became intriguing agitators, and found in the terrible drought and distress of 1850 an opportunity ready to hand for disturbing the peace.
In September of that year, Colonel Mackinnon, instead of his usual satisfactory reports, wrote that the white colonists were alarmed, as a new prophet, Umlanjeni, thought to be a creature of Sandilli's, was preaching war against the white, while the Kafirs had been on their side alarmed by a report that the Governor wished to seize all the chiefs. In consequence of this information, Sir Harry on the 15th October left Cape Town for the frontier.
Having arrived at King William's Town on the 20th, he called a meeting of Kafir chiefs for the 26th. At this meeting great demonstrations of loyalty were made, and the Governor was greeted with a shout of "Inkosi Inkulu!" ("Great Chief!"); but Sandilli was absent. On the 29th Sir Harry threatened him that unless he came and renewed his allegiance, he would "throw him away" and confiscate his property–and when this threat produced no effect, formally deposed him and appointed Mr. Brownlee, the Civil Commissioner, chief of the Gaikas in his place.197 The act showed perhaps an over-sanguine estimate of the readiness of the Kafir mind to recognize British authority as paramount to that of their feudal chiefs; but at the moment it was approved by Colonel Mackinnon and other men specially acquainted with the Kafir disposition, as it was later by the Home Government.
At another meeting held on 5th November, the chiefs of the Gaikas and other tribes acknowledged one and all that Sandilli by his contumacy had deserved his fate, and the Governor wrote to Lord Grey, "The crisis has passed, and, I believe, most happily." He at once started on his return journey, and after receiving various congratulatory addresses on his way, reached Cape Town on the 24th November.
But news of fresh turbulent acts followed him, and (to quote the words of Mr. Chase 198) "Sir Harry Smith was to be pitied by all who loved him–and who that knew him did not?–when he had to write in bitter disappointment to the Secretary of State on the 5th December, 'The quiet I had reported in Kafirland, which I had so much and so just ground to anticipate, is not realized, and I start this evening.'" He left with the 73rd Regiment on the Hermes for the frontier, destined not to quit it again for sixteen months, and then as a man superseded in his office.
Having landed at the Buffalo mouth on 9th December, he reached King William's Town the same night, and next day by proclamation called on all loyal citizens to enroll themselves as volunteers. The Kafirs were arming, and the farmers with their flocks and herds had fled in panic from the frontier. After a meeting with the chiefs (14th), which was again considered satisfactory, Sir Harry moved his troops to positions round the Amatola Mountains to prevent any combined movement between Kreili and the Gaikas. He proceeded himself to Fort Cox. Here on the 19th he held another meeting, at which, except Anta and Sandilli (who had now been outlawed), all the chiefs were present with their councillors and 3000 of their people. When Sir Harry vigorously denounced Sandilli's conduct they apparently acquiesced, but asked the Governor why he had brought the troops?
From Fort Cox Sir Harry sent Colonel Mackinnon on 24th December with a patrol up the gorge of the Keiskamma in the direction in which Sandilli was supposed to be hiding, it being thought that when the troops approached he would either surrender or flee the country. Mackinnon was, however, attacked in a defile, and twelve of his men were killed. And so broke out a new Kafir War, a "fitting legacy," says Chase, "of the retrocessive policy of 1836," and, we may add, unfortunately not the last disastrous war to which those words could be applied.
Next day (Christmas Day) three of the four military villages which had been established in British Kaffraria not quite three years before, Woburn, Auckland, and Juanasburg, were treacherously attacked by Kafirs, many of whom had just shared the Christmas dinner of their victims, and the settlers murdered. The Gaikas sprang to arms; every chief but Pato joined in the rising; and of a body of 400 Kafir police 365 rushed to their tribes with their arms and ammunition.
Meanwhile the Commander-in-Chief was shut up in Fort Cox in the Amatola basin, with hordes of wild Kafirs filling the bush and heights on every side, and the prospect before him of speedy starvation if he remained, or death from a bullet or an assagai if he issued forth. Colonel Somerset from Fort Hare made two unsuccessful attempts at relief. In the second, on 29th December, after fighting for four hours, he was forced to retire. After this he wrote to Sir Harry, begging him not to move with infantry, or they would be cut to pieces, but to sally out with 250 men of the Cape Mounted Rifles.
"This Sir Harry, in the daring, dashing way so characteristic of him, gallantly did, wearing the forage cap and uniform of one of the Cape Rifles, and by this timely incognito he rode twelve hazardous miles through the desultory fire of the Kafirs on the way to King William's Town. At the Debe Nek, about halfway, a strong attempt was made to intercept the Corps, but Sir Harry Smith and his escort vigorously spurred through their opponents, and after a smart ride reached the town, having eluded six bodies of Kafirs, who little suspected how great a prize was then in their power." 199
EASTERN FRONTIER OF THE COLONY OF THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE FROM ALGOA BAY TO THE GREAT KEI RIVER
[Opposite p. 620.
On the day of his arrival in King William's Town, 31st December, Sir Harry issued a Government notice of the most vigorous kind. "He hopes colonists will rise en masse to destroy and exterminate these most barbarous and treacherous savages, who for the moment are formidable. Every post in British Kaffraria is necessarily maintained."200
Meanwhile, on the news reaching Cape Town that the Governor was shut up in Fort Cox, the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Montagu, himself a Waterloo man, showed the greatest energy in raising troops and despatching them to the frontier. He sent in all 3000 men, chiefly Hottentots. On the arrival of the first levies (1600 men), Sir Harry wrote to him, "Your exertions are incredible, and they will enable me to take the field."
Accordingly, at the end of January he ordered Mackinnon to throw supplies into Forts White and Cox. This was accomplished, but he could do little at the moment beyond maintaining the military posts, and meanwhile difficulties were accumulating upon him. The Dutch farmers did not come forward as they had done in 1835, to assist in repelling an invasion from the colony; Kreili, the Great Chief beyond the Kei, was wavering; and, worse than all, by the beginning of February Sir Harry learnt that the Hottentots of the Kat River Settlement, people nominally Christians, though of late suspected of disaffection, had one and all revolted and joined the Kafirs, their hereditary enemies.
On the 3rd February, in once more appealing to the inhabitants of the colony to rally in their own defence, he said, "I regard this almost general disaffection of the coloured classes within the Colony as of far greater moment than the outbreak of the Kafirs."
At this time the British troops at Sir Harry's disposal amounted only to 1700,201 of whom 900 were employed in holding a dozen posts. Accordingly he had only 800 "available to control 4000 Hottentot auxiliaries of doubtful loyalty, and to meet the hordes of well-armed athletic and intrepid barbarians in the field."202 Both Colonel (now Major-General) Somerset and Colonel Mackinnon had obtained successes; the rebel chief Hermanus had been killed in attacking Fort Beaufort on 7th January; yet the enemy was still powerful and in the occupation of a mountainous country next to impenetrable.
Sir Harry was compelled to act on two bases, the one from King William's Town to the mouth of the Buffalo, so communicating by the port of East London with the Western Province and with the sea; the other from Fort Hare viâ Fort Beaufort and Grahamstown to Port Elizabeth, Fort Hare being connected with King William's Town by the garrisons of Fort White and Fort Cox. The troops operating on the first line in British Kaffraria were under the command of Colonel Mackinnon, and had their headquarters at King William's Town under the eye of the Commander-in-Chief. In April, after the arrival of the new levies, they amounted to 4700 men, of whom 1000 were occupying a line of seven posts. The troops on the second line were under the command of Major-General Somerset, whose headquarters were at Fort Hare. They amounted to 2900, of whom 900 were garrisoning six posts. The general plan of the campaign was to confine the war to neutral territory, to detain the Kafirs in Kaffraria, and eventually to drive them out of their fastnesses in the Amatola Mountains. The Kafir revolt would in this way, Sir Harry writes, have been crushed at once, but for the hopes raised by the defection of the Hottentots. That defection had indeed gone far. Although Somerset on the 23rd February had crushed the Kat River rebellion by the capture of the rebels' stronghold, Fort Armstrong, only a fortnight later, 35 men of the Cape Mounted Rifles, including the very men who had so gallantly escorted the Governor from Fort Cox, deserted from King William's Town in a body. This was another crushing blow. "My horror cannot be described," Sir Harry wrote on the 17th March. "I assure your Lordship that no event of my military career ever caused me so much pain as the defection of so large a portion of a corps to which I am as much attached as I am to that wearing the green jacket of my own regiment." This detachment of the Rifles had been drawn principally from the Hottentots of the Kat River Settlement and had been much excited by rumours of the punishment which was to be meted out to the Kat River rebels.
Having felt it necessary to disarm nearly all the Riflemen who had not deserted, Sir Harry now found himself practically without any mounted force at all, and wrote to ask for 400 young Englishmen to be sent out as recruits, with the promise of receiving ten acres of land after ten years' service. This request, however, was not granted. In order to anticipate any attempt at rescuing the Kat River prisoners at Fort Hare, Sir Harry moved out himself on March 19th, and by a masterly movement defeated the enemy at the Keiskamma, spent the 20th at Fort Hare, obtained another success on the Tab' Indoda Range on the 21st, and returning by Fort White with 1000 captured cattle, reached King William's Town on the 25th.
A Cape newspaper, politically opposed to him, wrote of Sir Harry's conduct in these few days–
"It is not a little gratifying to find the mingled fire and prudence of the veteran commander as conspicuous now as in former days. We see the value of such a leader more distinctly in comparing him with other officers of good standing and abilities."
And it quotes from the Frontier Times–
"Sir Harry Smith showed his usual energy, riding backwards and forwards to where the different parties were engaged and cheering them on. A new spirit has been infused among the troops and levies, and all speak of the bravery and activity of his Excellency."203
Fresh signs of disaffection in the Cape Corps made it necessary to disarm still more men, and the Kafirs were so much emboldened that but for the loyalty of the one chief Pato, who held the country between King William's Town and the sea, the Governor's position would have been barely defensible. He continued to send out patrols, which were invariably successful. Mackinnon scoured the Poorts of the Buffalo in the middle of April and at the end of the month penetrated the Amatolas; and Captain Tylden, in command of the position of Whittlesea, which was twelve times assaulted, saved the Colony for the time from the enemy. But larger operations were out of the question. "Had the Kat River Rebellion and the defection of the Cape Corps not presented themselves, Sandilli's reign would have been a transient one. I have been obliged to steer a most cautious course, one contrary to my natural desire in predatory warfare, but imperatively imposed on me by the dictates of prudence and discretion, my force being composed generally of a race excitable in the extreme." So Sir Harry wrote on the 5th April. Ten days later he again complains of the little assistance given him by the farmers. "A few spirited farmers have performed good service, but where are the men who so gallantly fought with me in 1835–Van Wyks, Greylings, Nels, Rademeyers, Ryneveldts, etc.? Once more, my advice to the frontier inhabitants is to rush to the front."
Early in May Sir Harry received reinforcements from home, consisting of drafts for the regiments already under his command (11 officers and 296 men) and the 74th Regiment. This he sent to Fort Hare to Major-General Somerset, ordering him at the same time to be prepared to concentrate for a move into the great Kafir stronghold, the Amatolas. Two more regiments were still to come, and Sir Harry believed that the force he would then have would be ample. In acknowledging the reinforcements, he wrote on 6th May, "I had most zealously clung to the desire of civilizing these savages. As regards the Gaikas generally, my attempt has been an awful failure, while I congratulate myself on having maintained at peace the T'Slambie tribes, comprising the half nearly of the population of British Kaffraria. I am deeply indebted to the chief Pato."
On the 10th May he was gratified by receiving the following letter from the Duke of Wellington:–
"London, 8th March, 1851.
"MY DEAR GENERAL,
"We heard on the day before yesterday of the renewal of your troubles at the Cape.
"The 74th Regiment and all the drafts from Depôts that can be sent for the Regiments at the Cape will be sent off as soon as possible.
"I have told the Government that I think that another Regiment ought to be sent.
"I enclose the copy of a memorandum which I sent yesterday to Lord Grey.204
"Not knowing the latest or the exact state of the insurrection, I cannot say in what stations it would be necessary for you to carry on your operations, or whether with more than one Corps.
"If with only one so much the better, but it will increase the security, confidence, and tranquillity of the Colony if you should be able to keep an efficient Corps in reserve in a second line.
"Wishing you every success,
"Believe me, ever yours most sincerely,
"Lieut.-General Sir Harry Smith, Bt., G.C.B."
It must have been satisfactory to Sir Harry to feel that in establishing his two lines of defence he had anticipated the advice of his great master.
While Somerset made a successful patrol against the combined Kafirs and Hottentots of the sources of the Kat River, and Mackinnon another in the Amatolas, there were still no signs of the submission of the enemy. Meanwhile news came of trouble with Moshesh in the Orange River Sovereignty, and the prospect of a new war there, and this was followed by a revolt of the Hottentots of the missionary station of Theopolis, 25 miles from Grahamstown. The period of six months for which the Hottentot levies in the army had been enlisted was now expiring, and there was no disposition among them to enlist again, and in this way the force would be reduced to 1800 men. Nothing could be done till further reinforcements arrived from England. "The almost general rebellion among the eastern Hottentots," wrote Sir Harry on the 17th June, "paralyzes my movements in British Kaffraria and compels me to hold a force ready for the protection of Grahamstown." Owing to the cutting off of the mails, his letters to his wife at Cape Town were now written almost entirely in Spanish.
The following letter to his sister Mrs. Sargant shows the feeling excited in him by Sir William Molesworth's attack on him in the House of Commons on April 10th, in which he was accused of burdening the empire by the annexation of 105,000 square miles of new territory and provoking his local troubles by high-handed and despotic government.
"King William's Town, 18th June, 1851.
"MY DEAREST ALICE,
"I wish I was half the active fellow now I was then, for I have need of it, seeing I am Her Majesty's Despotic Bashaw, from Cape Point to Delagoa Bay to the east, and to the great newly discovered lake to the north-west–without a legislature, and in the midst of a war with cruel and treacherous and ungrateful savages and renegade and revolted Hottentots. These Hottentots have been treated as the most favoured people, enjoying all the rights, civil and religious, of the inhabitants at large of the Colony–fed as a population when starving,–yet have these ungrateful wretches in great numbers (not all) revolted and joined their hereditary and oppressive enemy the Kafir, who drove them from the Kye over the Fish River, and who have destroyed them as a nation.
"I have had so much to do and some little anxiety of mind, although I sleep like a dormouse, that I have not written lately to one so dear to me, but Juana has. The war-making Kafirs are cowed by the continued exertions among them of my numerous and vigorous patrols, but they are in that state of doggedness they will neither come in nor fight. By every communication I have open to me, I offer peace to the people, but the chiefs must await my decision, their conduct has been so treacherous, cunning, and deceitful. I have succeeded in maintaining in peace and tranquillity nearly one-half of the population of British Kaffraria, those fortunately next to the sea, while the Gaika Kafirs, natives of the mountains adjoining the Hottentot great location of the Kat Province, are all at war. This shows my system cannot be oppressive, or I should have had no friendly Kafirs, whereas the latter escort my waggons with supplies, slaughter cattle, carry my mails, assist me in every way in their power, which affords better argument in refutation of the Radical and garbled untruths, though founded on facts, of Sir W. Molesworth. I will give you an example [of one] among other accusations of my despotism. The Kafir Hermanus, who by birth is a negro slave, was ever heretofore with his people an enemy to the Kafir, because it was his interest to be friendly to us. After the war of 1835-6, Sir B. D'Urban gave him a grant of a beautiful tract of country within the Colony upon the ever-supplying-water, the Blinkwater, stream. His title was disputed by some of the colonists, and it was complained that he paid no quitrent as they all did. It was just, and only just, that if he was protected by the government, he should contribute, equally with others, his quota for its maintenance. I therefore, as a part of a general system, exacted a quitrent, a mere trifle, which was the best possible title and deed of occupation, yet does this throating Sir W. M. bring forward this as an act of despotism. It is really ludicrous.
"But for this inexplicable Hottentot revolution, I would have put down the Kafirs in six weeks. These Hottentots are the most favoured race on earth, yet have a set of Radical London Society missionaries been preaching to them like evil spirits that they were an oppressed and ill-used race, until, encouraged by violent meetings all over the Colony upon the convict question, they have met with arms in their hands, arms given to them by us, for the purpose of joining the Kafirs to drive the English over the Zwartkop River beyond Uitenhage.
"I have endeavoured to administer this government so as to allow the all-powerful sun to shine forth its glory upon all its inhabitants, whether black or white, equally, and I have no other object than the welfare of the people generally. I have said, 'Lay before me your wants; they shall be considered and your wishes met if practicable.' This was appreciated until the d— convict question arose. The emancipated blacks in Cape Town, the Hottentots in the Kat River, held anti-convict meetings got up by white Radicals, who have thus induced the coloured classes upon this frontier and in many other parts of the Colony to believe that separate interests exist for white and black.
"The Kafir has been fostered by the most benevolent acts of kindness by me as a Governor. My study has been to ameliorate their condition from brutes to Christians, from savages to civilized men. They progressed in three years beyond all belief until some white-faced devils (the sable king often wears a white face) got in among them, persuaded the chiefs my object was their extermination, and while the people clung with avidity to my protection from the former tyranny they groaned under, the chiefs asserted their feudal authority, and such is man in a wild state of nature, he cleaves to the hereditary rule of oppressors of his forefathers–with tears in his eyes. I have seen many weep when they came to say to me farewell; 'Our country will be lost.' Let Sir W. M. and his myrmidons deny this; he cannot, but he can assert that just measures are foul, despotic, and arbitrary acts.
"Juana is in better spirits now since the reinforcements have arrived, I hope. Since I have received the dear Duke's kind letter, Juana regards me as supported by old friends and present master.205 The latter gentleman and I understand each other. I will be censured by no man, but I will endeavour to obey where I can. He affronted me by finding fault with an 'abortive attempt to reform the Legislative Council,' which made my blood boil, although my remonstrance was as mild as milk. I think the recent attempt he and his colleagues have made to form a government has been fully as abortive as mine, and they have discovered the impossibility of making legislators of men who will not undertake office. Since the outbreak all his communications have been most complimentary.
"P.S.–I have been urged by many friends to send home some one to support the cause of my government. I won't. It is a weak line of conduct to appeal to friendship when conduct is in intention free from imputation of evil. Let Miss Coutts peruse this if she can. You had better copy it in your legible hand, for the enormous quantity I write has as much impaired my autograph as hard roads the fore-legs of a trotting horse, if England still produces one. That she does asses, I know."
One of Sir Harry's nephews, writing home on the 21st, says–
"My uncle's health, thank God, considering all things, is far from bad, but he is obliged to be very careful, and cannot stand exposure to damp or cold. The Hottentots are mostly in the colony in small bands, plundering the poor defenceless farmers; constant outrages are committed by these rascals. . . . Sir Harry confidently expects that two or three regiments will be speedily sent out, and sincerely do I hope they may, for to end the war with his present force is impossible."
On the last four days of June a combined movement to clear the Amatolas which had long been preparing was at last accomplished, the 1st Division under the command of Somerset co-operating with the 2nd under Michel (Colonel Mackinnon being ill), assisted by Tylden with 300 men from Whittlesea. The operations were conducted by four columns converging to a centre. They were completely successful, but Sir Harry saw no signs that they had hastened the end of the war, and warned the inhabitants of the colony that the beaten Kafirs were likely to go about in small marauding parties as "wolves"–an anticipation too sadly realized by the rush which was now made into the Colony, and the terrible depredations which accompanied it.
The trial of the Kat River rebels resulted in 47 of them being sentenced to death–a sentence which Sir Harry commuted to penal servitude for life; so bringing on himself in some quarters the charge of excessive leniency. Chase, who considers the commutation a "grave mistake," excuses it on the ground that Sir Harry "pitied the poor creatures, knowing that they had been deluded into the belief that they are taught by the precept of the Bible to fight for independence with the sword of Gideon." 206 It is better to accept the explanation given by Sir Harry himself in his dispatch of the 7th April, 1852.
"Surrounded as I and Major-General Somerset were by these people drawn from the eastern and western districts, one false step or untimely exercise of power and martial law would have plunged the whole into the chaos of revolution. Her Majesty's troops must have abandoned their advanced positions and fallen back on Grahamstown, and the T'Slambie tribes would have risen as well as every curly-headed black from Cape Town to Natal." 207
During July and August bands of the enemy filled the country between Fort Beaufort and the Fish River, penetrating later into Lower Albany itself, and burning and marauding wherever they appeared. It was natural that the colonists should appeal to the Commander-in-Chief to assist them. Feeling, however, that if he fell back from King William's Town, his retreat would be the signal for tribes on the east, hitherto passive, to join the Gaikas, he expressed his wish to continue operations in the Amatolas, and ordered Somerset to establish posts of burghers, if they would turn out, at every eligible point. Somerset replied that the burghers could not now withstand the attacks, and he had established a camp at Haddon on the Koonap; and a month later Sir Harry sent Colonel Eyre with the 73rd Regiment from King William's Town to Bathurst to protect Grahamstown and Lower Albany.
And so the war went on, the Commander ever sending out fresh patrols to harass the foe in his fastnesses,–on the 8th August he says that the 73rd Regiment has now marched 2838 miles since the outbreak of hostilities,–maintaining every single post, yet still, for want of an adequate force, unable to effect any decisive action. Meanwhile there were fresh defections among the Hottentots in the Cape Corps, and news came from Warden in the Orange River Sovereignty that many of the Boers there would not assist him against Moshesh, and their fellow-countrymen over the Vaal were disposed to back them in their hostility to the British Government. He was bidden to act only on the defensive till troops could be sent to him.
In August the 2nd (Queen's) Regiment arrived from England, and soon after part of the 12th Regt. from the Mauritius. But there were a mass of hostile Kafirs and Hottentots in the Colony estimated at more than 6000, one body being in the Fish River Bush 30 miles to the north-east of Grahamstown, the other under Macomo in the Waterkloof 50 miles to the north-west, and in a patrol made by Colonel Mackinnon in the Fish River Bush on the 8th September, Captain Oldham and 25 men were killed and 41 wounded, and the bush was re-occupied by the Kafirs immediately. Meanwhile Somerset had failed in expelling Macomo, and Kreili and Fakoo seemed on the brink of openly throwing in their lot with Sandilli.
Under these circumstances, although now reinforced by the 60th Rifles and the 12th Lancers, Sir Harry asks on the 15th October for 400 English recruits for the Cape Corps and two additional regiments of infantry. Meanwhile there were fresh operations of the most arduous kind in the Waterkloof, and Somerset at the end of October succeeded in dislodging Macomo from his fastness. In consequence of that success, Sir Harry was able to write on the 1st November that he was now able to undertake tasks of a more extensive character, and proposed, after sweeping the Amatolas and driving the enemy from the Fish River Bush, if he concentrated there, to march across the Kei with three columns to invade Kreili, whose country was the great refuge of the beaten Gaikas, after which it might be necessary to send a force over the Orange River against Moshesh.
On November 12th, having received a despatch from Lord Grey suggesting that, failing the support of the Boers in the Orange River Sovereignty, the territory should be relinquished, Sir Harry forwarded it to his Assistant-Commissioners, Major Hogg and Mr. Owen, with a strong expression of his own views of such a proposal.
"If Her Majesty's sovereignty over this territory were now rescinded, the step would be regarded by every man of colour in South Africa as an unprecedented and unlooked-for victory to his race, and be the signal of revolt or continued resistance to British authority from Cape Town to the territory of Panda, and thence to the Great Lake. No measure during my administration of this Government has caused me so much consideration as that relating to the affairs of the Sovereignty. Property there, even during the late disturbances, has increased in value, and although the funds are not now flourishing, I am confident that locally they will speedily improve to a great extent. I am equally confident that if any change were made in the present state of things in the theoretical hope of gaining over a discontented party by yielding to their demands, such a precedence would evince weakness on our part, fraught with every evil, and perpetuate the belief that persevering resistance to Her Majesty's authority would ultimately ensure success. It would, at the same time, be not only disastrous to the parties now dissatisfied, but would sacrifice to the vengeance of the disaffected those who have remained loyal and faithful."
In this Sir Harry saw more clearly than most of his contemporaries. When, contrary to the strong opinion of the Colony,208 the Sovereignty was abandoned in 1854, and a Republic hostile to England was allowed to take its place, only one man, the present Lord Norton, opposed the change in the House of Commons, and he on very narrow grounds, and Sir Harry Smith's successor in the Governorship of the Cape wrote in blind satisfaction, "The foolish Sovereignty farce is at length over, and we have done with it."209
In November, in the course of Somerset's continued operations to clear the Waterkloof, Lieut-Col. Fordyce of the 74th and four other officers fell by an ambuscade, an incident the more unfortunate as the English public, unable to realize the enormous difficulties of the situation, was already much excited by the slow progress made in the war. Those difficulties were enumerated by Sir Harry Smith on 18th Dec. in reply to a querulous dispatch of Lord Grey. He reminded him that he had had to carry on a desultory war over an extent of country twice the size of Great Britain and Ireland, overrun by a most enterprising horde of savages, and to maintain twelve forts. Had one retrograde step been made, the whole population of British Kaffraria would have been in a blaze. What soldiers could do, his had done.
"So long as the insurgents held together and acted in large bodies, they were defeated on forty-five different occasions between the 24th Dec. and 21st Oct. . . . I have maintained throughout my positions and forts–no convoy has been cut off, and no rencontre, however sanguinary, has been unattended with success." Now that the reinforcements have arrived, they "will rescue the Colony from its misery. . . and relieve the Governor of the Cape from difficulties, obstacles, opposition, and rebellion, such as it has been the fortune of few men to encounter."
The worst was already past. In the middle of January Sir Harry reports that the operations beyond the Kei have met with signal success, that 30,000 head of cattle have been captured, 7000 Fingoes rescued from thraldom, and that a meeting of all the Gaika chiefs and their councillors has deputed emissaries to sue for peace, and that he has insisted on an unconditional surrender. At the same time he has seven columns of troops ready to move, if his terms are not agreed to.
Accordingly, when he received on 5th February a rather sarcastic dispatch from Lord Grey written on the 15th December, he was in a good position to reply to it. Lord Grey wrote–
"It is some relief . . . to find that you are so highly satisfied with the conduct of the officers and men under your orders, and that you regard the operations under Major-General Somerset on the 14th and 16th October as having been attended with important success. I confess that from that officer's own report, . . . that is not the light in which I should have regarded these affairs. The very serious amount of our losses, and the fact that at the conclusion of the operations of the last day to which your intelligence reaches, it was the rear, and not the van, of the British force which was engaged with the enemy, and that the latter must therefore have been the assailants, would appear to me scarcely to justify the tone of satisfaction with which you relate these occurrences."
In reply to this piece of civilian criticism, Sir Harry writes–
"Those, my Lord, who have witnessed military operations, and are best acquainted with their varying character, success attending them in one part of the field, while in others partial bodies may be held in check, will not consider the affair of a rearguard as the criterion by which to judge of their general result. Neither in ancient nor in modern war has a rencontre of the kind been so regarded. And the peculiarity of the present contest must be borne in mind; it must be remembered that this Kafir warfare is of the most completely guerrilla and desultory nature, in which neither front, flank, nor rear is acknowledged, and where the disciplined few have to contend with the undisciplined but most daring and intrepid many, in the midst of the holds and fastnesses of the latter. . . . The country in which the operations were carried on is far more difficult to ascend and penetrate than even the Amatolas; hence the gallant and enterprising exertions of the troops became the more conspicuous, and called forth that expression of my satisfaction dictated by experience in war, which enables a Commander to estimate justly the success he has obtained, and to commend as it deserves the conduct of his officers and soldiers.
"In my dispatch of the 19th November I have reported the ultimate success of Major-General Somerset's operations. Although the loss of Lieut.-Col. Fordyce and of the other officers who unfortunately fell by an ambuscade of not more . . . than 20 rebels, was deeply to be regretted, the success which I anticipated and have reported, but which your Lordship does not regard in the same light, founding your opinion on the affair of a rearguard, enabled me immediately to so organize the troops as effectually to watch and guard the frontier line to prevent inroads, and at the same time to invade the territory of the paramount chief, Kreili. The uninterrupted successes of the troops beyond the Kei . . . established their superiority far and near. Meanwhile I was enabled to collect a depot of provisions for 1000 infantry and 500 horse at Bloemfontein, in case necessity should arise for a movement in that direction. . . . Thus, my Lord, viewing matters as a whole, you will, I think, consider me borne out by general results in having expressed my satisfaction at the conduct of the officers and troops, whose exertions and success I foresaw would lead to the result which has been attained, a general entreaty for peace by the enemy beyond the Kei, as well as by the rebels of British Kaffraria."
Peace was in prospect, but it was not yet attained, and after a week's suspension of hostilities, seven columns were again operating in the Amatolas. Little or no resistance was met with. A fresh operation in the Waterkloof was now determined on. Accompanying the troops himself, Sir Harry established his headquarters on 5th March at Fort Beaufort, and on the 9th at Blinkwater Post. On the 11th Eyre, after enormous difficulties in a precipitous country, captured "Macomo's Den"–a success of such magical effect that resistance seemed to vanish after it.
On the 17th March Sir Harry pronounced that the difficult and till then well-maintained positions of the enemy, the Waterkloof, Blinkwater, and Fuller's Hoek, were completely cleared, and he was at once moving with Michel's and Eyre's columns with fifteen days' provisions to dislodge Tyalie and penetrate into the heart of the Amatolas, while Somerset pursued the retreating enemy, and the Tambookies were assailed from Whittlesea. "Every part of the rebel enemy's country will then be assailed."
But in the same dispatch in which he announced that the enemy was being at last driven to bay, he had to acknowledge the receipt of Lord Grey's dispatch of 24th January, informing him that for a want of "energy and judgment" in conducting the war he was recalled, and that General the Hon George Cathcart would shortly arrive in South Africa to supersede him. It is needless to picture the bitter mortification of the veteran Commander, who, after gallantly facing unexampled difficulties, saw the sweets of victory snatched from his grasp and the military qualities which had brought him fame condemned by a civilian of half his years. Lord Grey's dispatch–universally condemned in England and in the Colony210–and Harry Smith's vindication may be read in full in Appendix V. to this volume, their length precluding them from finding a place here.
It was a consolation to the recalled General to learn that the Duke of Wellington, speaking in the House of Lords on 5th February, had entirely repudiated Lord Grey's censure.
"I wish to express my sense of the services of General Sir Harry Smith, now in the command of the troops in the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope. Sir Harry Smith is an officer who, from the high reputation which he has already attained in the service, does not require any commendation from me. But having filled a high command in several important military operations carried on under his direction, and having been recalled by Her Majesty's Government, it is but just to him to say that I, who am his commanding officer, though at a great distance, entirely approve of all his operations–of all the orders he has given to the troops, and of all the arrangements he made for their success. I approve entirely of the conduct of the troops in all their operations. I am fully sensible of the difficulties under which they laboured, and of the gallantry with which they overcame all those difficulties, and of the great success which attended their exertions. (Cheers.) My firm belief is that everything has been done by the commanding General, by the forces, and by his officers, in order to carry into execution the instructions of Her Majesty's Government. . . . I am proud to say that I have observed no serious error in the conduct of these late operations. . . . The only fault I find with Sir Harry Smith is" [that after storming a native fastness he did not destroy it by opening roads into it for the movement of regular troops with the utmost rapidity].
The Duke, however, acknowledged that to do what he suggested was not the work of a moment.211
But the bitterness of his recall did not cool the energy with which Sir Harry maintained the war against the flagging enemy. The Amatolas were scoured again, and the satisfactory report brought in by Colonel Michel: "The Gaika tribes generally have migrated from these strongholds. Two companies may traverse with safety where heretofore a large column was required. I deem the war in this quarter virtually concluded." With such news the Governor returned to King William's Town on 26th March. On 7th April he wrote his last dispatch as Governor and Commander-in-Chief. He was able to say–
"I transfer the civil government without a single particle of business in arrear, and with a treasury without a debt, while all the civil officers have worked under me with energy and zeal. The war impending over the Orange River territory has been averted, while had its prosecution become imperative, I had collected an ample depôt of commissariat supplies at Bloemfontein. Amicable relationship has been established with the Transvaal emigrant Boers.212 The turbulent Boers within the Sovereignty, when convicted of overt acts of disloyalty, have had heavy pecuniary fines inflicted on them, many of which to the amount of £1075 have already been promptly paid, which I have caused to be placed in the imperial chest and to its credit. Property rises considerably in value, and the revenue of the Sovereignty exceeds its expenditure.
"The flourishing condition of Natal is deeply indebted in the able and judicious government of Mr. Pine, who, a letter to me of the 20th March, thus expresses himself: 'The only service I have really rendered your Excellency was the sending the contingent into the Sovereignty; and the greater part of any merit there may be attached to that service belongs fairly to you. It is an easy thing for a subordinate officer to do his duty when he feels that he has a chief above him, who, provided he acts honestly and straightforwardly will support him whether he succeeds or fails. Such a chief I have had in your Excellency.'
"I relinquish the command of the troops . . . at a period when, according to the reports I have received, . . . the mass of the Gaikas have been expelled from the Amatolas–when the Kafirs, Cis- as well as Trans-Keian, have repeatedly sued for peace, and when the war is virtually terminated."213
On the same day Sir Harry issued the following farewell to his troops, dated "Headquarters, King William's Town":–
"His Excellency Lieut.-General the Hon. George Cathcart having been appointed by the Queen to relieve me, I this day relinquish the command.
"Brother officers and soldiers! Nothing is more painful than to bid farewell to old and faithful friends. I have served my Queen and country many years; and attached as I have ever been to gallant soldiers, none were ever more endeared to me than those serving in the arduous campaign of 1851-2 in South Africa. The unceasing labours, the night-marches, the burning sun, the torrents of rain have been encountered with a cheerfulness as conspicuous as the intrepidity with which you have met the enemy in so many enterprising fights and skirmishes in his own mountain fastnesses and strongholds, and from which you have ever driven him victoriously.
"I leave you, my comrades, in the fervent hope of laying before your Queen, your country, and His Grace the Duke of Wellington these services as they deserve, which reflect so much honour upon you.
"Farewell, my comrades! your honour and interests will be ever more dear to me than my own.
"H. G. SMITH."
In a reply (also dated "7th April") to an address from the inhabitants of King William's Town, in which they assured him. "We could have well wished that Her Majesty's Government had thought fit to have left the final settlement of this war in the hands of your Excellency," Sir Harry chivalrously put in a plea for those who had inflicted upon him so bitter a humiliation. "You on the spot must have observed how slow the progress of the war occasionally appeared. It may therefore be readily conceived how much Her Majesty's Government must have been disappointed, who could alone judge of events by reports, and had not the various circumstances before them which were apparent to you."
General Cathcart reached King William's Town late on the 9th April, having taken the oaths as Governor at Cape Town on 31st March. Sir Harry received him on the 10th with the same generosity with which in 1836 he had received Capt. Stockenstrom under similar circumstances, and, as General Cathcart writes,214 devoted the whole of the day "to the purpose of giving me every insight into the affairs of the colony generally, and more particularly of the eastern frontier."
Next morning at 3, Sir Harry left King William's Town with his staff. In the darkness of night the inhabitants and troops turned out voluntarily, cheered him enthusiastically, and in considerable numbers escorted him to Fort Murray. Here, though it was still dark, he was met by a body of Kafirs under Pato, who greeted him with shouts of "Inkosi Inkulu!" and, refusing all other escort, he committed himself to their hands. He was much affected, we are told, at parting with his officers, and his voice was scarcely audible when he uttered his last words, "Gentlemen, take care of the soldiers. God bless you!" He then continued his journey with the friendly Kafirs, who were joined on the way by other parties of Kafirs, horse and foot. It was a strange and romantic spectacle.215
A few days later, on board the Styx he reached Cape Town. He was received by an immense concourse, cheering enthusiastically, and carried to his carriage under a triumphal arch. Though extremely unwell, he bore himself with his usual energy, and from his carriage rose and briefly thanked the multitude, adding emphatically, "I have done my duty to the Cape of Good Hope." A public dinner was offered him, but in his situation he felt it right to decline it, upon which the conveners opened a subscription for a "more lasting tribute of respect and esteem." It took the form of a gift of plate.
During his three days' stay at Cape Town, addresses were presented to him by the inhabitants, by the tradesmen and mechanics, and by the inhabitants of Rondebosch, where he had resided both as Colonel Smith and as Governor. In his reply to the first, he said–
"In the service of this colony I have spent some of the best years of my life, and, excepting those during which I have been Governor, some of the happiest. At such a moment as this, nothing can be remembered by me, and I am equally certain nothing can be remembered by the citizens of Cape Town and the colonists at large, excepting what would serve to keep alive old kindness and good feeling, and to bury all past differences and temporary estrangements in oblivion."
To the tradesmen and mechanics, he said, "I am myself a working man. Whatever reputation I may have at any time possessed, I gained simply and solely by being a working man who put his heart into his work."
To the inhabitants of Rondebosch, after referring to the difficulties he had had to contend with and the failure of his efforts for the good of the Kafirs, he added, "Let us all hope that the distinguished officer who has succeeded me in the government will be able to settle permanently the elements which are already subsiding into peace, and let us all be ready to aid him, heart and hand, in his arduous undertaking." Those words were the expression of a noble nature incapable of jealousy.
On Saturday, 17th April, at 2 o'clock, Sir Harry and Lady Smith embarked on H.M.S. Gladiator. The multitude of people that turned out to bid them good-bye exceeded anything ever seen in the Colony before; triumphal arches had been erected, the horses were taken out of the carriage, and cheer after cheer arose, to which Sir Harry, in spite of illness, responded with almost juvenile animation, while Lady Smith sat by his side in tears.216
Cape Town honoured itself in honouring the veteran who, whatever his faults of judgment, had served the Colony single-heartedly to the utmost of his strength, who by his military genius and promptitude in action had conferred upon it in the past enormous benefits, and whose warmth of heart and loyalty of character had endeared him to all who had known him.
As a Governor he had not been indeed beyond criticism. In his relations with Hintza in 1835 he had shown an excessive confidence in the protestations of a savage, and he had seen that confidence abused. The same fault committed in the closing months of 1850 had preceded events still more deplorable. In questions of imperial policy his views were large and far-sighted. In regard to his civil government, one may say that he had to face a series of situations which might well have puzzled the most practised statesman. Standing alone with an unpopular Colonial Secretary and a Legislative Council utterly discredited, he had the task of smoothing the way for the introduction of representative government, unaided by the support of the people at large, who on their part, when a grievance presented itself, being without any constitutional means of enforcing their views, were driven to make a sort of civil war on their own executive. Sir Harry was himself a believer in the advantages of popular government, but he was also a soldier who felt himself bound to render implicit obedience to his superior officer. If in this situation he temporarily lost popularity and encountered obloquy and misrepresentation of the grossest kind, it can only be set to his credit. As to his management of the Kafir War, for which he was recalled, one may safely leave his reputation in the hands of the Duke of Wellington.
The general judgment of the Colony upon him is perhaps expressed by Chase, who calls him "the eagle-eyed and ubiquitous, a better general than statesman," and adds–
"All men sympathized with the Governor on his recall. With some share of bluster (in the best acceptation of that term), he was in private life most warm-hearted, generous, and amiable, unforgetful of services done to him when plain Colonel Smith. Those who had the honour of being admitted to his confidence, and therefore best knew him, can bear testimony to his ardent desire to benefit the Colony and to his personal regard for its inhabitants. It is true, when under excitement, he employed somewhat strong expletives, which, like sheet lightning, are terrifying yet harmless; but the writer can add from personal and intimate knowledge that, notwithstanding this blemish, he was, perhaps strange to say, a devout and religious man."217
Besides Whittlesea and Aliwal North, two towns in South Africa keep alive the memory of Sir Harry Smith's administration–Harrismith, over the Orange River, founded early in 1849, and Ladysmith, in Natal, founded in 1851. I may add that Sir Harry's autobiography now sees the light, only on account of the reawakening of interest in him and in his wife during those long weeks of the beginning of 1900 in which the fate of Ladysmith held the whole British race in suspense.
170 Told me by General Sir Edward Holdich, who sailed with Sir Harry as his aide-de-camp.
171 Theal's History of South Africa, iv. p. 308.
172 Mrs. Ward, Five Years in Kaffirland.
173 After the abandonment of the Province of Queen Adelaide, King William's Town had been deserted. Mrs. Ward, early in 1847 (p. 147), speaks of "the ruins of what had once promised to be a flourishing town." "The walls of Sir Harry Smith's abode are still standing." Sir Harry now ordered Colonel Mackinnon to cause it to be laid out in squares and streets on both sides the Buffalo. He also established in British Kaffraria a chain of forts, and four military villages called Juanasburg, Woburn, Auckland, and Ely.
174 Theal, iv. p. 311.
175 The choice of this date shows Sir Harry's pleasure in restoring all his old arrangements. It was the date of the great meeting of chiefs in 1836 (see pp. 437, 438, and Appendix V.), and it was then arranged that on every 7th January there should be a similar meeting.
176 Theal, iv. p. 315.
177 On his way he stayed from January 12th to 14th at Shiloh, and then selected a site for a town at the junction of the Klipplaats and Ox Kraal Rivers to which he gave the name of his native place, Whittlesea.
178 Theal, iv. p. 421.
179 Ibid., iv. p. 422.
180 Theal, iv. p. 427.
181 The question was submitted to a Committee of Privy Council, whose report was approved on 13th July, 1850. They gave it as their opinion that to abandon a sovereignty virtually assumed by Sir P. Maitland in 1845 and proclaimed by Sir H. Smith in 1848 would be productive of more evil than good. But they add sentences which read strangely in these changed times. "We cannot pass from this part of the subject without submitting for your Majesty's consideration our opinion that very serious dangers are inseparable from the recent and still more from any future, extension of your Majesty's dominions in Southern Africa. That policy has enlarged, and, if pursued further, may indefinitely enlarge, the demands on the revenue and the military force of this kingdom with a view to objects of no perceptible national importance, and to the hindrance of other objects in which the welfare of the nation at large is deeply involved. . . . Unless some decisive method can be taken to prevent further advances in the same direction, it will be impossible to assign any limit to the growth of these unprofitable acquisitions, or to the extent and number of the burdensome obligations inseparable from them. In humbly advising that the Orange River Sovereignty should be added to the dominions of your Majesty's crown, we think ourselves therefore bound to qualify that recommendation by the further advice that all officers, who represent, or who may hereafter represent, your Majesty in Southern Africa, should be interdicted, in terms as explicit as can be employed and under sanctions as grave as can be devised, from making any addition, whether permanent or provisional, of any territory however small to the existing dominions of your Majesty in the African Continent, and from doing any act, or using any language, conveying, or which could reasonably be construed to convey, any promise or pledge of that nature. And we are further of opinion that the proposed interdict should be published in the most formal manner in your Majesty's name, that so, in the contingency of any future disregard of it by your Majesty's officers, your Majesty may be able to overrule any such act, or to disappoint any such promise of theirs, without risking the imputation of any breach of the public faith."
182 J. Noble, South Africa (1877), p. 126.
183 "The Governor–likened to a thunderbolt in presence of an enemy–acted with characteristic promptitude."–Noble, p. 132.
184 Called in Sir Harry Smith's dispatch "Kroom Alem Boh," by Theal "Kromme-Elleboog."
185 "Up to this moment he was confident that no European in South Africa would point a weapon against his person. In this confidence he had dressed himself that morning in blue jacket, white cord trousers, and drab felt hat, the same clothing which he had worn when he met Mr. Pretorius in the emigrant camp on the Tugela seven months before. He was exceedingly anxious to avoid a collision."–Theal, iv. p. 437.
186 A picture of the sharp skirmish of Boomplaats (from a drawing by the late Lieut.-Col. Evelyn) appeared in the Graphic, 17th Feb., 1900, with some comments by Major-General C. E. Webber.
187 "It was remarkable how his Excellency came out unhurt, for from the beginning to the end he was in the thickest of the fire."–Noble, p. 135.
188 It appeared afterwards that only nine Boers were killed.
189 In connexion with this, I may quote a story told to my sister, Miss Moore Smith of Durban, by the late Sir Theophilus Shepstone. "Sir Harry always read part of the service on Sunday morning at Grahamstown [? in 1835], and was so particular that all should come that he imposed a fine of half a crown on every absentee. He read extremely well, and was very proud of it. One Sunday a dog came into the room when service was going on, and began to create a disturbance. Sir Harry stood it for a little time, then in the middle of a prayer said suddenly, 'Take that d—d dog away,' after which he continued his prayer in the same tone as before."
190 The execution of Dreyer as a rebel was long bitterly resented by the Boers.
191 Here, or near here, on 12th May, 1849, the town of Aliwal North was founded by Mr. Chase, the Civil Commissioner.–Wilmot and Chase p. 417.
192 Under Sir Henry Pottinger's rule the Eastern Province had had an able Lieutenant-Governor in Sir Henry Young, and there was a strong feeling during Sir Harry's governorship that the interests of the Eastern Province could not be ensured by a government at Cape Town. Sir Harry himself finally gave in to this view, and on 14th June, 1851, recommended "a separate and distinct government for the Eastern Province."
193 In May and June, 1849, Sir Harry was seriously ill from a carbuncle on his neck. On 20th June he gave a ball at Government House, which many refused to attend owing to the agitation against the Government. Sir Harry, with soldierly punctiliousness, appeared among his guests for half an hour, but his appearance was so ghastly, and made the more so by his dark green Rifle uniform, that it was said "one might have imagined that he had just stepped out of his coffin."
194 Mr. W. A. Newman (Memoir of J. Montagu) quotes a reply made by Sir Harry to the Anti-Convict Association on 18th June: "This is the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. For four and forty years have I served my sovereign–I say it with pride–and I would rather that God Almighty should strike me dead than disobey the orders of Her Majesty's Government and thereby commit an act of open rebellion."
195 Chase writes (Wilmot and Chase, p. 458), "Sir Harry, perfect soldier as he was, had an instinctive horror of shedding blood, which was never more strongly developed than when he curbed the military from retaliating the insults offered to Her Majesty and to themselves by the mobs of the western metropolis during the anti-convict émeute." We may remember that he had shown the same spirit during the Radical disturbances at Glasgow (see pp. 326-328, 335).
196 In connexion, however, with the delays encountered in receiving the new constitution, Lord Grey was much reviled both in the Colony and in England. Sir W. Napier (Life of C. Napier, iv. p. 327) quotes the following epigram.–"This point was long disputed at the Cape,
What was the devil's colour and his shape.
The Hottentots, of course, declared him white,
The Englishmen pronounced him black as night;
But now they split the difference and say
Beyond all question that Old Nick is Grey."
197 On the 20th December, Sutu, Sandilli's mother, was made chief.
198 Wilmot and Chase, Annals of the Cape Colony (1869), p. 437.
199 W. A. Newman's Memoir of J. Montagu, 1855.
200 A good deal might have been excused in a document issued under such circumstances, but the word "exterminate" was not a happy one, and was frequently seized on afterwards by opponents of Sir Harry in England. How little it represented the writer's real feeling is shown by a sentence in a letter to his wife of 24th May, 1851: "I hope yet to see all the ringleaders hung, while I would willingly forgive the poor wretches who have been led astray by the wickedness of others."
201 Consisting of the 6th, 73rd, 91st, and 45th Regiments.
202 Dispatch to Lord Grey, 17th March, 1852.
203 Cape Town Mail, April 5th and 8th, 1851.
"Horse Guards, 7th March, 1851.
"It appears to me that this insurrection of the Caffres is general and quite unjustifiable, sudden, and treacherous.
"In my opinion Sir Henry Smith ought to have the means in Regular Troops and Light Equipments of ordnance to form two bodies of troops, each capable of acting independently in the field, each of which should give countenance and support to the detachments of Boers, Hottentots, and loyal Caffres, by which the rebel and insurgent Caffres should be attacked and driven out of the country.
"The occupation of the numerous posts in the country marked Adelaide in the map was very proper and necessary when the frontier was the Buffalo River, but it would be much better to carry it to the Key and there fix it permanently, and to form a place d'armes or fortified Barrack for Troops somewhere about King William's Town, between that and Fort Wellington, or possibly a little to the westward near the sources of the river.
"In such place d'armes there might be the means of giving cover to more than the small body which might be required for the permanent garrison."
205 Lord Grey.
206 Wilmot and Chase, p. 458.
207 Cp. pp. 791 bot., 792. The Cape Town Mail (some indication of colonial feeling) protested both on the 25th January and on 5th April against the military execution of rebels.
208 The Cape Town Mail of 9th Dec. 1851 wrote prophetically, "This abandonment of a really flourishing and promising British colony would be an Imperial calamity; but the full extent of the mischief would not be understood until it became necessary, as in a few years it certainly would be found, to reconquer the territory so dishonourably and foolishly deserted;" and Chase in 1869 speaks of the "abandonment of that splendid country, the Orange River Sovereignty, through a gross ignorance and a disgraceful misstatement of its capabilities, and permitting in its place the formation of the Free State Republic–one of the most imprudent acts ever committed, involving the Colony in entanglements, troubles, and cost, the end and consequence of which cannot be predicted."
209 Correspondence of Gen. Sir G. Cathcart, p. 358.
210 Lord John Russell stated that the dispatch had never been seen by the Queen, and Lord Ellenborough, in a kind letter dated "Feb. 7," says, "What I am told is that Lord Grey recalled you, not without asking the Duke's opinion, but against it, after he had asked it."
211 Sir George Napier, himself an ex-Governor of the Cape, wrote in April, 1852:–"Had the Duke of Wellington ever seen the 'Cape bush,' he would not have said what he did about making roads through it; the thing is quite out of the question. . . . You may rely upon it that Sir Harry Smith would never have delayed one day in making roads had it been feasible . . . As for Harry Smith, I am glad to see Lord Grey is abused by everybody for the harsh unjust manner of his recall. In my opinion the great mistake Smith made was in ever giving in to Lord Grey's folly of withdrawing a single soldier; and when the war did break out, he should have at once acknowledged his error, and boldly demanded reinforcements to the extent of 5000 troops at once. I still hope he may be able to finish the war before his successor arrives, for till lately he had not force to do more than he did.–Life of Sir W. Napier, ii. pp. 643.
212 By the Sand River Convention signed on 17th January, 1852 by the Assistant-Commissioners Major Hogg and Mr. Owen, and subsequently ratified by General Cathcart, the Transvaal emigrant farmers had their independence recognized, and being thus reconciled to us were detached from the Boers within the Orange River Sovereignty, who now had no one to look to but the British Government. The Convention was no doubt politic on the assumption that the Sovereignty was to be resolutely kept. When the Sovereignty was abandoned, it took a different character. But for this Sir Harry Smith was not responsible.
213 The supersession of the Governor at this crisis was no doubt a main cause of the war's being protracted, though in a less severe form, for some months longer. See Mr. Brownlee's report dated "Fort Cox, 4th March, 1852."
214 Correspondence of General Sir George Cathcart (1856), p. 36.
215 Cape Town Mail, 20th April, 1852. Sir Harry's departure from King William's Town in 1836 was strangely similar. See pp. 458, 459.
216 See Cape Town Mail, April 17th and 20th, 1852.
217 Wilmot and Chase, pp. 417, 459. With regard to Mr. Chase's last assertion, it is perhaps worth remarking that Sir Harry Smith reflected the spirit of the Romantic School in his religious feelings as well as in much else.
The weakness which Mr. Chase previously mentions is thus referred to in the Natal Witness (Jan. 1889): "It was a common habit with Sir Harry Smith to threaten to jump down people's throats,–boots, spurs, and all; and he once on a field of battle sent a message, seasoned with some fearful expletives, to a colonel that if he kept his regiment so much to the front, he'd have him knee-haltered. But the fine old General drew a line at swearing and never allowed of personal abuse."