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The Assegai and the Bayonet: the History of the Zulus during the 19th Century—The Story of the Zulus by J. Y. Gibson, with Two Zulu Accounts of the Battle of Isandhlwana by Bertram Mitford

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The Assegai and the Bayonet: the History of the Zulus during the 19th Century—The Story of the Zulus by J. Y. Gibson, with Two Zulu Accounts of the Battle of Isandhlwana by Bertram Mitford
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Author(s): J. Y. Gibson & Bertram Mitford
Date Published: 2017/12
Page Count: 292
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-699-6
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-698-9

A collision of cultures in South Africa

The principal work in this book was originally published under the title The Story of the Zulus, which might lead the reader to believe it was a work of ethnology. In fact, although the history of the birth and the development of the Zulus and the structure of Zulu society is touched upon briefly the majority of the work concerns the struggles in power, politics and war in eastern Southern Africa during the nineteenth century, concentrating particularly on the arrival of the British in the region and its dealings and collisions with the Zulu nation. Tensions were inevitably always high and bloodshed between the Zulus and Dutch and British settlers became increasingly frequent. The  Anglo-Zulu War which inevitably broke out was initially disastrous for  British forces. The entire conflict is explained in detail, as is its aftermath, as the fugitive Zulu king was hunted down and eventually captured. A power vacuum among the Zulus then resulted in more bloodshed until peace was eventually established in the region towards the turn of the twentieth century. Also included are two rare first-hand accounts by Zulu warriors who were present at the Battle of Isandlwana. Contains many illustrations, photographs and maps not present in the original edition.

Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket; our hardbacks are cloth bound and feature gold foil lettering on their spines and fabric head and tail bands.

The 22nd of January was the day of the new moon. She was to begin her new life at eight minutes before two o’clock in the afternoon, and her “dark day” was considered by the Zulus as unfitting for an engagement in battle. It was, therefore, their design to defer attack till the 23rd. But the events of the day were destined to be guided rather by accident than by the will of those in direction. The year was one of scarcity. Many had little food to bring with them; others had travelled far, and such little supplies as they had taken with them from their homes were exhausted.
Hunger prevailed amongst them, and foraging parties were early astir to gather what could be found in deserted maize fields. These parties came into collision with the British outposts; and by nine o’clock a despatch reached the general from Colonel Pulleine reporting that firing had taken place on his left front. The firing thus reported occurred at about seven o’clock in the morning. Still the presence of a large Zulu Army was unsuspected.
The strength of the force seen was reported to be about 400; they showed no disposition to engage in battle; they retired in all directions. Such preparations for meeting an attack as were considered necessary in the early morning had been discontinued when Colonel Durnford arrived from Rorke’s Drift, shortly before eleven o’clock, and all was then quiet and orderly. Lieutenant Milne, of the Royal Navy, had been able to view the camp through a powerful telescope from the summit of a high hill, and to assure the general that nothing unusual was happening there.
Colonel Durnford did not remain in camp longer than was necessary to ascertain the position of affairs, as it was understood by Colonel Pulleine. Matters were evidently involved in some doubt which it was highly necessary to clear up. He therefore took a step which had the accidental effect of drawing on an attack for which the troops were unprepared. Sending Captain George Shepstone along the ridge to the left, with a party of mounted natives, he proceeded himself toward the left front with the remainder of that force, leaving orders for the rocket battery to follow him. He passed somewhat to the right of a small conical hill standing at the base of the ridge, and proceeded, as it chanced, directly to the Zulu camp.
The Zulu army, which has been computed to have numbered about 20,000 men, may be said to have been composed of four divisions: (1) the Ulundi, comprising the Tulwana, with its Indhluyengwe auxiliaries, and the Indhlondhlo regiment; (2) the Gqikazi, consisting of the Dhlokwe, with auxiliaries called Makwentu; (3) the Nodwengu, comprising the Dududu, Isangqu and Nokenke; and (4) the Umcitshu, or Kandempemvu, the Umbonambi and Ingobamakosi regiments.
There had been much agitation in the camp, occasioned by the firing that had taken place in the morning, and restraint was becoming difficult when Captain Shepstone, having seen a foraging party driving a small herd of cattle which they had found, pursued them to within view of it. He at once hastened to report the discovery which he had made, while two divisions of the Zulu army—those numbered three and four above—thinking they were being attacked, sprang to their arms and broke away from the control of their commanders. The companies leapt forward spontaneously to join their leaders or captains.
It was about this time, as well as can be gathered, that Colonel Durnford came within sight of the Zulus. Division three had streamed out to the Zulu right, along the ridge of the Nqutu range; four had started out to the left, and this he at once encountered, fighting bravely, but borne back from post to post by superiority of numbers. His rocket battery never overtook him. Attracted by the firing it had deviated from the course which he had taken and proceeded to scale the ridge by way of the conical hill. Of what it accomplished little is known, but, as he retired in the direction of the camp, he found it to have been completely wrecked.
In the meantime, the Zulu commanders had been using their utmost endeavours to restrain their men until they could be seated in an umkumbi, or semi-circle, and sent into the fight in proper battle order. In this they succeeded as regards divisions one and two; the process occupying a considerable time, and resulting in important events.
Several companies of the 24th Regiment were sent out on the ridge to the British left to stay the Zulu “right horn,” while, reinforced by Natal Volunteers, Durnford made an obstinate stand against their left in the watercourse traversing the ground towards the right front.
But neither attempt was found possible. The Zulus describe the whizzing of bullets around them as having been like to the passing of a, swarm of bees. Cannons roared and shells burst in their midst. Hundreds fell pierced by the first or lacerated by the second.
But still they pressed forward till they overwhelmed the infantry opposed to their right, and drove in the artillery; till the volunteers and native troops, from want of ammunition and close pressure, had to relinquish their position and fall back on the camp. By this time the Zulu right wing was streaming past both sides of the Isandhlwana Hill and threatening to cut off the only retreat, seeing which the mounted natives made a dash for safety through the neck, over which the column had come two days previously, and down the Manzamnyama Valley to a crossing in the Buffalo River, since known as Fugitive’s Drift, saving also by their example some few of those Europeans who were not too long in following it.
How the end came must be left to the imagination of the readers. It was not witnessed by a European who lived to tell the tale. After those had left who were in time to get outside the Zulu circle, and some few of whom reached Natal soil and safety, there was still a struggle that lasted for a considerable time, the living witnesses to which are those Zulus only who were engaged in it. Some idea of its concluding scene can be gathered from the declamations of some of these, as, with staring eyes and foaming lips, they recount the incidents of their own progress to the goal.
Pictures are presented of Zulus falling flat on the ground on the issue of smoke from the cannon to evade the projectiles; tossing their heads from side to side as the bullets passed close to the right or left of them; of the final assault when the soldiers stood at bay, and their men were seen slashed almost in two with swords, or their skulls shattered with clubbed rifles. But the awfulness of the scene would have been beyond the powers of description, even of any who might have beheld it. The aspect of the victorious Zulus was truly ferocious. There is a question which cannot be solved with certainty one way or the other whether the king had ordered that quarter was to be given.
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