Not many weeks, however, elapsed before there was trouble in Griqualand, a considerable portion of which was in the hands of rebel descendants of the burghers of the Great Trek, who were joined by rebels expelled from the districts south of the Orange during the late operations. A column had been sent out against them from Kimberley by Methuen in March, but Lord Roberts disapproved of the expedition and it was recalled. At the request of Sir A. Milner, who from the first had been of the opinion that the British hold on South Africa was in greater danger from rebellion in the Colony than from the commandos of the two Republics, Lord Roberts consented to send a force into Griqualand under the command of Warren, who was brought round from Natal, and returned to the country through which he had worked in the Bechuanaland Expedition of 1885. In the middle of May, Warren set out from Belmont. The only regular troops in his column were a few Irish mounted infantry. Douglas was easily taken on May 21, and on his way to Campbell he was compelled by supply and transport difficulties to halt at Faber’s Put, where at dawn on May 30 he was surprised by the rebels, who, knowing that they had not to face regular troops, anticipated an easy victory. They succeeded in almost surrounding the camp before the alarm was given, but after a brief struggle were driven off.
Early in June Campbell and Griquatown were occupied; and on the 24th Kuruman, which had been in the hands of the rebels for nearly six months, was recovered. Near Khies, lower down the Orange, the force which had been left to watch the banks after the suppression of the Prieska rebellion, some of the fugitives from which had returned to the river under the leadership of a Jew, attacked and carried their laager. This and the Faber’s Put affair were the only serious fights in the clearing of the Colony north of the Orange.
Thus by the end of June Lord Roberts had secured the railway from Mafeking and Kimberley to the south.
Bloemfontein to Pretoria
[Sidenote: Map, p. 260.]
The agile mind of Lord Roberts rather than the heavy hand of his Chief of the Staff is discernible in the method of the advance on the Transvaal.
There were two courses open to the British Army. It might have deliberately pulverized and extinguished each atom of opposition within reach in the Free State, and have taken no step to the front until the rear and the flanks were absolutely and finally clear of the enemy; or it might have advanced boldly towards the Transvaal with the ordinary precautions for the protection of the lines of communication and of the flanks.