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Zulu Warriors

Zulu Warriors: The Battle for the South African Frontier

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Zulu Warriors
    Book Description:

    Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the British embarked on a concerted series of campaigns in South Africa. Within three years they waged five wars against African states with the intent of destroying their military might and political independence and unifying southern Africa under imperial control. This is the first work to tell the story of this cluster of conflicts as a single whole and to narrate the experiences of the militarily outmatched African societies.Deftly fusing the widely differing European and African perspectives on events, John Laband details the fateful decisions of individual leaders and generals and explores why many Africans chose to join the British and colonial forces. The Xhosa, Zulu, and other African military cultures are brought to vivid life, showing how varying notions of warrior honor and manliness influenced the outcomes for African fighting men and their societies.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-20619-7
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  5. List of Maps
    (pp. ix-ix)
  6. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  7. Note on Terminology
    (pp. xi-xii)
  8. Prologue

    • CHAPTER 1 The Shadow of Isandlwana
      (pp. 3-14)

      When I first approached Isandlwana Mountain forty-five years ago, it was with depleted enthusiasm. We had been bumping and sliding interminably in an antique Landrover along the snaking tracks which in those days passed for roads in Zululand, and had been chugging precariously across streams swollen by the summer rains. The undulating grassy plain, punctuated by the occasional flat-topped hill with its rocky coronet, swept unimpeded to the far horizon. Only the rare sight of a ragged herd boy, desultorily driving a few scrawny cattle or goats towards a distant huddle of thatched huts, persuaded me we were not entirely...

    • CHAPTER 2 Bushman’s River Pass
      (pp. 15-26)

      A mighty chain of mountains with fantastically serrated pinnacles and massive, flat-topped buttresses of precipitously sided basalt runs for six hundred miles up the eastern flank of southern Africa. This formidable barrier was known to isiZulu-speaking Africans as the uKhahlamba, or ‘the row of upward-pointing spears’, and to white colonists as the Drakensberg, or ‘dragon mountains’. In 1873 it divided the British Colony of Natal, sprawling across the rolling hills and plains below, from Basutoland, on the high escarpment ten thousand feet above. During late spring it is typical of the climate on the uKhahlamba’s eastern flanks to be incessantly...

  9. The Boer–Pedi War, 1876–1877

    • CHAPTER 3 Bopedi
      (pp. 29-45)

      Unexpectedly, it was neither a fresh African rebellion against colonial rule, such as Langalibalele’s, nor a war against a black kingdom abutting British territory that finally precipitated the series of wars that slammed the half-open South African frontier shut. Rather, it was a spluttering conflict on the north-eastern borders of an independent, settler-ruled republic far away from the immediate sphere of British control.

      When Britain formally annexed the Cape of Good Hope from the Dutch in 1814 to secure its sea route to India, some twenty-seven thousand white colonists already lived there. These Cape Dutch were derived from Dutch, Flemish,...

    • CHAPTER 4 Sobhuza’s Dream
      (pp. 46-58)

      If the Boers of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek or South African Republic (ZAR) believed themselves to be menaced by the Maroteng paramountcy, for their part the Bapedi felt that they were being harried and raided from every point of the compass. In 1851 the amaZulu to the south of them mounted a major raid. Sekwati withdrew into his fortified capital of Phiring and defied them, eventually driving them off in considerable disarray. Even so, the amaZulu remained the dominant power in the region and Sekwati was anxious to avoid another attack. So he sent token tribute to King Mpande kaSenzangakhona in...

    • CHAPTER 5 ‘The Boers Are Killing Me’
      (pp. 59-72)

      To the Boers of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek or South African Republic (ZAR) the eclipse of the amaSwazi whom they had depended upon as a counterweight to the Bapedi was an alarming development, made worse by the concomitant local military ascendancy of the resurgent Maroteng paramountcy. Many Africans living in the open frontier zone now saw it as safe to gravitate back to the Maroteng and resist harsh and insistent Boer demands for their labour and taxes. From the Boer perspective, it was essential to cut the Maroteng back to size.¹ Quite unintentionally, the Christian Dinkwanyane brought the matter to a...

    • CHAPTER 6 The ‘Black Conspiracy’
      (pp. 73-80)

      When on 12 April 1877 Sir Theophilus Shepstone began to exercise his authority as Administrator of the Transvaal Territory, he understood that the Bapedi were suffering privations as a result of the Boer–Pedi War, and that Sekhukhune’s authority and prestige had been seriously tarnished. Nevertheless, the Bapedi had not been defeated and their regiments were still in the field, and it was unclear whether Sekhukhune saw himself as falling under the control of the new British administration. Shepstone had no doubt that he must submit. There was an irony here because, before they took over the Transvaal, the British...

  10. The Ninth Cape Frontier War, 1877–1878

    • CHAPTER 7 EmaXhoseni
      (pp. 83-95)

      Certainly, as Shepstone had been informed, in the early spring of 1877 settlers in the Eastern Province of the Cape Colony were in a fretful state. Between 1779 and 1853 eight increasingly destructive wars had been fought along the fluctuating eastern frontier that pitted white settlers, along with British troops and their African allies, against the amaXhosa people. Now, fears of renewed war against the amaXhosa were being buoyed up by swirling rumours about the mythical black conspiracy to drive the white man out of southern Africa. Perversely, these anxieties went hand in hand with impatience finally to clear the...

    • CHAPTER 8 ‘They Must Be Humbled and Subdued’
      (pp. 96-108)

      With their administration established at the Cape, the British devoted almost the next seven decades to aggressively attempting to close the eastern frontier to meet white settler demands for land, labour and security, always at the expense of the amaXhosa and other Africans. When they found it difficult to defeat the Xhosa warriors in the field, the British and Cape troops increasingly adopted a brutal, total approach to frontier warfare that targeted the homes, livestock, fields and lives of civilians in order to break the spirit of the amaXhosa and bring about their submission.¹

      These wars progressively pushed the Cape...

    • CHAPTER 9 ‘I Am in a Corner’
      (pp. 109-119)

      Far from finally pacifying the Cape Eastern Frontier, Wodehouse’s settlement of 1866 succeeded only in preparing the ground for the final, cataclysmic war against the Xhosa people. This was a campaign the colonials and British would wage with deliberate ruthlessness, while the amaXhosa would fight back, in Noël Mostert’s haunting phrase, ‘with a heroic sense of finality’.¹

      In 1869 Maqoma, the great Xhosa military hero, was released from detention on Robben Island and returned to live among his people in the Ciskei. His daunting, brooding presence so unnerved the settlers that they successfully agitated to have him sent back in...

    • CHAPTER 10 Calling in the ‘amaJohnnies’
      (pp. 120-128)

      In fact, far from being extinguished, the flames of war were about to burst into a furious blaze. During Griffith’s campaign in Gcalekaland, some Gcaleka had sought sanctuary in the Ciskei. Frere decided these refugees on Cape soil must be disarmed and targeted Makinana, a chief of the Ndlambe amaXhosa.¹ When Charles Brownlee at the head of a FAMP patrol attempted to enforce the High Commissioner’s edict, Makinana and his followers took flight to the nearby Ngqika location. Responding to settler panic that this action might trigger an Ngqika uprising, and without waiting to consult the prickly colonial authorities, General...

    • CHAPTER 11 Not the ‘White Man’s Dogs’
      (pp. 129-137)

      While Colonel Glyn waited at Ibeka for reinforcement and concentrated his supplies, Gcaleka forces stole a march on him. They moved west to the bush-filled valleys and ravines that radiated from the lower Kei valley along the Ciskei border. From there, Khiva, the distinguished Gcaleka general, slipped through the British cordon surrounding the Ngqika location on 22 December 1877. He brought a message from Sarhili begging Sandile to bring all the lineages of the Rharhabe amaXhosa into the war. Once before, Sandile had baulked. At the time of the battle of Ibeka in September, he had refused a Gcaleka request...

    • CHAPTER 12 ‘Rather Like a Rat Hunt’
      (pp. 138-150)

      Before Thesiger sailed for the Cape, Sir John Mitchell, who had fought in the last two Cape Frontier Wars, warned him that he should expect a protracted campaign of ambushes and skirmishes, and that he would have to adapt his military thinking to the realities of irregular warfare on the frontier.¹ Indeed, one of the real strengths of Victorian soldiers when conducting one of their many small-scale colonial campaigns was their usual readiness to adjust their military doctrine to local conditions.² Unfortunately, the aristocratic Thesiger had spent the greater part of his military career in India prosaically engaged with the...

  11. The Northern Border War, 1878

    • CHAPTER 13 A ‘Hideous and Disgusting Place’
      (pp. 153-165)

      On the far edges of the arid Great Karoo, the remote, dusty little frontier settlement of Hopetown in the Cape Colony straggled along the breathlessly hot south bank of the Orange River. The Khoesan called the wide stream with its little islands the Garieb, or Great River, and along its verges green bush stood out against the drab, surrounding thirstlands. Hopetown owed its existence to a drift that crossed the great river there, some sixty miles upstream of its confluence with its main tributary, the Vaal River, which allowed passage to the territory of the independent Boer republic of the...

    • CHAPTER 14 Resisting with ‘Fixity of Purpose’
      (pp. 166-182)

      By late 1877 the British authorities in Griqualand West were aware that many Batlhaping were declaring openly that the British had unjustly encroached on their lands and that ‘they would resist by fighting even if they lost’.¹ It was Andries Mothibi,KgosiBotlasitse’s intemperate half-brother, who turned words into action. In October 1877, with armed men at his back, Andries ordered white settlers off the land around Borigelong, just within the borders of Griqualand West and formerly part of Botlasitse’smorafe. The magistrate stationed at Barkly West scurried north and arrested him, but a threatening crowd of some two hundred...

  12. The First Anglo-Pedi War, 1878

    • CHAPTER 15 ‘The Ground Was His’
      (pp. 185-194)

      Unnerved and smarting from his humiliation on Conference Hill in October 1877 at the hands of the representatives of the Zulu nation, Shepstone, the Administrator of the Transvaal, wrote to Carnarvon that ‘the sooner the root of all evil, which I consider to be Zulu power and military organization is dealt with the easier our task will be.’¹ Meanwhile, because Shepstone firmly believed that Sekhukhune, the Maroteng paramount, was Cetshwayo’s obedientally,² he was determined to bring him to heel and force him to acknowledge that he was a subject of the Transvaal.

      In fact, Sekhukhune was unwilling to become embroiled...

  13. The Anglo-Zulu War, 1879

    • CHAPTER 16 Preparing to ‘Draw the Monster’s Teeth and Claws’
      (pp. 197-206)

      On a bright, chilly winter’s day in July 1878 an eagle was plying the thermals above the Mahlabathini plain in the very heart of the Zulu kingdom. Scattered across the open, rolling plain were thirteen enormous, elliptical arrangements of beehive huts of thatch. These were royal military homesteads, oramakhanda(singularikhanda), where the king’s age-grade regiments, oramabutho(singulaributho), periodically mustered to serve their ruler. The greatestikhandaof them all was oNdini, Cetshwayo’s chief residence, with a circumference of 2,375 yards. At the head was theisigodlo, or private royal enclosure, where the king lived with his...

    • CHAPTER 17 The Meat of Heroes
      (pp. 207-217)

      While growing numbers of British troops menaced the kingdom’s borders and Frere wound the political crisis to breaking-point, King Cetshwayo and hisibandladiscussed the threatening situation with mounting concern.¹ In September and again in October 1878 they partially mobilized theamabuthoin response to border alarms. Cornelius Vijn, a white trader who found himself detained in Zululand during the war, noted that bitter resentment of those ‘very bad people’, the British, began to sweep the country. Widespread rumour had it ‘that the Whites had come to capture all the males, to be sent to England and there kept to...

    • CHAPTER 18 ‘We Shall Go and Eat Up the White Men’
      (pp. 218-225)

      From the spies he deployed in Natal, the Transvaal and Delagoa Bay, Cetshwayo learned the precise strength and intentions of the British columns poised to cross his borders.¹ Zulu kings habitually employed spies to keep then apprised of what was occurring throughout their kingdom, and in time of war the king expected his subjects to report on the enemy’s movements and gather intelligence in hostile territory. The British were aware even before they crossed the border that they were under constant Zulu surveillance, but it took them some time before they realized that the deserters and refugees they succoured or...

    • CHAPTER 19 ‘How Can We Give You Mercy?’
      (pp. 226-239)

      With the expiry of the ultimatum on 11 January 1879, the British Centre Column already concentrated at Rorke’s Drift on the Mzinyathi River began its laborious advance into Zululand.¹ The amaZulu did not seem appropriately awed by the spectacle of military might, and taunted the British, calling out ‘ “What were we doing riding along there?” “We had better try and come up;” “Were we looking for a place to build our kraals?” etc., etc.’.²

      Chelmsford inevitably overshadowed Colonel Glyn, the veteran of the Ninth Cape Frontier War and the column’s nominal commander, and assumed active control of its direction....

    • CHAPTER 20 ‘No Quarter, Boys!’
      (pp. 240-249)

      The deadliness of British firearms left many Zulu warriors—even those who had been victorious—severely shaken, and they immediately dispersed to their homes instead of returning to oNdini to report, as was expected of them. Those who did follow the custom were in a highly contagious state of ritual contamination and had to be purified before they could see the king. For four days they were separated from their companions in specialimiziand fed on cattle captured in battle. Daily, they washed ritually in a river and returned toncinda, or to suck medicine from their finger-tips and...

    • CHAPTER 21 ‘The Army Is Now Thoroughly Beaten’
      (pp. 250-262)

      In Zululand, as Sibhalo kaHibana revealed under interrogation, rapidly spreading word of the devastating defeats at Khambula and Gingindlovu ‘where so large a number was killed, shook the country’.¹ With hisamabuthoscattered in disarray to their homes and his strategy for prosecuting the war in ruins, Cetshwayo was left perplexed by what to do next. Ironically, so too was Chelmsford.² He knew he had entirely regained the initiative, but he was taxed in deciding how best to employ the embarrassing number of reinforcements rushed out to him by the anxious government. Besides, the growing concentration of troops in Natal...

  14. The Second Anglo-Pedi War, 1879

    • CHAPTER 22 ‘Short, Sharp and Decisive’
      (pp. 265-278)

      On 26 February 1879 Colonel Rowlands’s No. 5 Column in garrison on the Phongolo River was attached to Colonel Wood’s command in north-western Zululand for the remainder of the Anglo-Zulu War. This meant there were no British troops left deployed in the vicinity of Bopedi to exert pressure on Sekhukhune. Buoyed up by his success in the First Anglo-Pedi War of 1878, his regiments went on the offensive, capturing cattle to make up recent losses and striking at chiefdoms that had repudiated their ties with the Maroteng paramountcy. Yet, as was soon to be made apparent, this military flourish was...

  15. Conclusion

    • CHAPTER 23 Paying the Price
      (pp. 281-287)

      Army General Order No. 134 of October 1880 authorized the distribution of the South Africa Medal with its golden yellow ribbon with dark blue vertical stripes to all soldiers and other personnel involved in the campaigns fought between 25 September 1877 and 2 December 1879.

      A medal bar was attached to the suspender of the silver medal (which depicted Queen Victoria in profile) bearing the dates during which the recipient had served in one or several of these campaigns: 1877, 1877–8, 1879 or 1877–8–9.¹ Of these campaigns only one—the Anglo-Zulu War—was included in the list...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 288-319)
  17. BIBLIOGRAPHY of Printed Works Cited in the Notes
    (pp. 320-331)
  18. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 332-332)
  19. Index
    (pp. 333-346)