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A Sketch of the Kafir and Zulu Wars

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A Sketch of the Kafir and Zulu Wars
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Author(s): Henry Hallam Parr
Date Published: 2010/08
Page Count: 120
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-265-9
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-266-6

A soldiers view of war against Kafirs and Zulus

The author of this book was a young officer of the Somerset Light Infantry despatched to South Africa in the mid-Victorian period as part of the Queen Empress’ red-coated forces that extended and maintained her Empire in the Dark Continent. His account is particularly interesting in that it puts the war against Cetywayo's Zulu nation within the context of the ongoing wars with the martial tribes of the region which led up to it. Parr's was experience and knowledge gained at first hand and so in addition to his appreciation and evaluation of the greater events in which he was embroiled he also provides the reader with intimate details and anecdotes of his own personal experiences of campaigning in the Cape. An essential component of every library on the Zulu conflict and available in the Leonaur edition in softback and hardcover with dust jacket for collectors.

The sun came up above the hills to the right front of our trench, and the morning became very hot, the sky perfectly clear, and only the faintest breath of wind. The men, however, pushed merrily on in high spirits, hoping that at last they were going to have “a real bit of fighting.”<br>
At 8.30 a.m. we arrived underneath the conical hill, and found near it the force which had been detached the previous day. An advance was at once ordered in the direction the Zulu force was reported to be, but the morning was spent in endeavouring to get to close quarters with an enemy who could and did avoid us at pleasure.<br>
The cavalry of the force exchanged long shots at a body of Zulus who retreated and dispersed among the hills. The Native Contingent and a detachment of the infantry cut off a small body of Zulus, and forced them to take refuge in some caves, whence they were driven with a loss of about thirty or forty killed.<br>
Shortly after noon the hills among which we were operating were clear of the enemy, and the men were ordered to get their dinners. It was a welcome order, for the infantry, having started from camp at 4.30 a.m., had marched for four hours, and had been toiling up and down the hills under the hot South African sun ever since.<br>
About 1 p.m. it was decided that the camp at Isandhlwana should be struck, and the headquarters advanced to a position selected near the conical hill. The troops at Isandhlwana were to march on the morning of the 23rd to the camp near the conical hill, and the troops already in the neighbourhood were to bivouac on the new camping-ground that night.<br>
Lord Chelmsford and the headquarters staff, after these orders had been issued, started with the mounted men to return to the Isandhlwana camp.<br>
At 3 p.m. we marched to the site of the new camp. We had just off-saddled, and many of us were half asleep, thinking, as is usually the case with men living in the open air, of when we should get our next meal. Suddenly (it was about half-past three) someone said, “Hallo! there’s a man in a hurry. He ought to have a horse behind every hill if he intends to keep on at that rate.”<br>
“Who’s the man?” said another.<br>
“I can’t see; have you your glasses?” said the first speaker. “By Jove! it’s G——” (naming one of the general’s aides-de-camp). “I hope nothing has gone wrong.” Interest in the rider being awakened, we watched him gallop on up the hill towards us, his horse evidently blown and weary. “Well, G——, what is it? you seem in a great hurry.”<br>
“The General’s orders are that you are to saddle up and march on Isandhlwana at once,” said G——; “the Zulus have got into our camp.”<br>
“The Zulus have! You’re not joking?”<br>
“I wish I was. Lonsdale met the General about five miles from the camp; he had ridden up close to the camp, and had seen the enemy in amongst the tents. The General is waiting for you with the mounted men.”<br>
“Boot and saddle” sounded, and in a quarter of an hour the force was on its march back. While on the way we tried hard to solve satisfactorily the problem—“The Zulus in our camp, what had become of the force left to hold it?”<br>
Half an hour after we had left our temporary bivouac, Isandhlwana Hill came in sight, and with field-glasses we could see the tents still standing. Surely there could not have been a serious attack threatening, or the tents would have been struck at once. <br>
On the march we met two or three Natal Native Pioneers who had been left behind, and who had ‘started late to join their company, and had bidden when the Zulus advanced. These men were closely questioned as we hurried along. “They had seen,” they said, “the hills and all the ground near the camp thick with Zulus; they had attacked the camp; there had been much firing; the big guns had fired, oh, many times; the Zulus had got very near the camp, but they could not say if they had got into it.” On the whole the matter seemed so improbable, so impossible, that we began to think there must have been exaggeration somewhere, and to hope things might not be so bad after all. “There had been an attack on the camp, perhaps a severe one. At the worst the Zulus had got near the camp and had been beaten, and were waiting to resume their onset. We should reach in time to take the enemy in flank and rear, if daylight would only hold out”<br>
Though the men of the 24th, weary as they were, stepped out well, the road seemed a hundred times longer than when we had stepped it twelve hours before, and it was half-past seven before we met the general, whom we found awaiting us at a point two and a half miles from Isandhlwana. Then our new-formed hopes were swept away, and we learnt that the worst news we had heard was only too true, and there was no doubt but that a great disaster had befallen our arms.<br>
The Zulus had taken our camp, and we were in Zulu Land at that moment without ammunition or provisions, and we must regain at all hazards the road to Rorke’s Drift that night.<br>
The general said a few words of encouragement to the men, and was answered by a cheer, and then the force was formed up to advance on the ridge of Isandhlwana.<br>
The four guns of Harness’s battery were formed in line on the road; on either flank of the guns were three companies of the 2-24th, and next again a battalion of the Natal Contingent; on the flanks were the mounted men.<br>
It fell quite dark as we neared the camp, and we could see fires burning near the ridge, where we expected to find the enemy holding it in force. At about two thousand yards the line was halted, while the guns opened and fired two rounds. We advanced to within about twelve hundred yards, and fired two more rounds. Then, with fixed bayonets, we advanced into the camp, and made our way through, men and horses stumbling and falling over tents half-upset, broken waggons, dead bodies of soldiers and of Zulus, dead oxen, dead horses, dead mules, burst sacks of grain, empty ammunition boxes, articles of camp equipment; and on the ridge, amongst the dead bodies of our comrades, formed our bivouac.<br>
And what had happened at Isandhlwana camp since we left it that morning?
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