A large number of burghers, however, as soon as they heard that Prinsloo had agreed to surrender, hurried away under Haasbroek, and scraped through the Golden Gate and joined Olivier and Hattingh outside the Basin. They were successful in evading the capitulation, for Olivier, when informed of it officially under a flag of truce, also declined to be bound by Prinsloo’s act, and Hunter was unable to insist upon it. He trekked away towards Harrismith unmolested by the troops watching the Golden Gate, and he baffled for four weeks the columns sent in pursuit by Hunter, who, however, prevented him joining De Wet. He was taken prisoner near Winburg on August 27.
The tangible result of the Brandwater Basin operations was the capture of more than 4,000 Boers and of three guns, two of which had been lost at Sannah’s Post. The mountains in which the burghers had taken refuge became a prison, from which they were taken when Hunter came on circuit for the gaol delivery, and on conviction they were sent beyond the seas.
Yet subsequent events showed that Lord Roberts would have made a good bargain if he could have exchanged all the burghers and the guns, and all the loot of horses, cattle, and sheep, for one man who had slipped through Slabbert’s Nek on July 15, 1900.
[Footnote 44: Napoleon said that “a military order must not be passively obeyed except when it is given by a superior who is on the spot at the moment the order is given, knows the state of things, and can hear objections and give full explanations to the officer charged with executing the order.”]
[Footnote 45: Also called Vredefort Road Station.]
[Footnote 46: 660,000 rounds of Lee-Metford ammunition were buried by him for future use.]
[Footnote 47: In the Russian War the Japanese gave orders that a Russian admiral, who was a wounded prisoner of war on board a Japanese torpedo boat, was to be shot if any attempt was made by the Russians to capture it.]
Nec Celer nec Audax
[Sidenote: Map, p. 50.]
Lord Roberts had almost as much difficulty in bringing Buller out of Ladysmith as he had had in putting him into it. The relieved garrison, wasted and enfeebled by the rigours of the siege, was unfit to take the field, but there does not seem to have been any good reason why the relieving force, or at least a portion of it, should not have been pushed forward boldly without delay. The inaction invited the retreating enemy to halt and occupy the Biggarsberg Range; only a few days after Buller had informed Lord Roberts that he did not expect that any stand would be made south of Laing’s Nek. Buller did indeed propose on March 3 to advance on Northern Natal, as well as to attack the Drakensberg passes leading into the Free State; but Lord Roberts thought the scheme premature and ordered him to remain on the defensive,