Moreover, a great fault of the burghers had come to light at Nooitgedacht—namely, that they shirked their duty in their eagerness for plunder. He was afraid that if they took the town their plundering spirit would get the better of them and so give the enemy a chance of catching them or putting them to flight. Lastly he said that he was going to act in opposition to the orders received from the Commandant-General, and would send the Zoutpansbergers and Waterbergers home that evening, as it was impossible for them in their condition to undertake any military operations. He himself also was going home, but would return after a few weeks, as a large commando, led if possible by himself, was to invade Cape Colony.
Kemp was made fighting General; the Rev. Mr. Kriel left with General Beyers; Klaassen took the place of Kemp, and Liebenberg was appointed Field-Cornet of our commando.
The return to their homes of the Waterbergers and Zoutpansbergers roused a feeling of dissatisfaction in us. Owing to the horse-sickness in those regions, and the home-sickness of the men themselves, we concluded that we were not likely to see them again. We also thought it would have been better to have invaded the Colony long ago, instead of aimlessly wandering about the Hoogeveld as we had been doing. In all probability our Generals put off the invasion as long as possible because many of the men—nearly all the Waterbergers and Zoutpansbergers—were against it. Such were the difficulties against which our Generals had to fight.
In private, both Kemp and Beyers acknowledged to me that a march into the Colony was strictly necessary. I do not mean to criticise, but only to give an idea of the spirit reigning among the burghers at that time.
[Footnote A: ‘Trappers.’]
CAMPED NEAR TAFELKOP
General Beyers’ force was again split into small commandos, which it was the intention of our officers to join into one large force, and so make their way through the ranks of the enemy. But this plan was not a success, for the enemy were too strong for us.
The Krugersdorp and Pretoriadorp commandos one night crossed the railway within sight of the khaki camp-lights at Irene Station—quite close to our capital, in full view of khaki’s warning, ‘No admittance!’ We passed Zwartkop, crossed Dwarsvlei, and had to turn back to the right through Hartleyskloof, as we came across a camp of the enemy. We then entered the Moot district, dreaded for its terrible horse-sickness, and in the beginning of March we arrived at Tafelkop, to the north-east of Lichtenburg, near Mabaalstad.