[Footnote 52: De Wet says that he went at the request of Liebenberg, who was in charge of the commandos operating between the Vaal and the Magaliesberg, and who had previously been engaged in the Bechuanaland rebellion.]
[Footnote 53: Twenty-three centuries previously, a Greek Army, after a march of many weeks, reached the sea. The emotion of the men at the sight has been thus described by their leader in a well-known passage which Hertzog might well have in substance incorporated in his reports to De Wet: “No sooner had the men in front caught sight of the sea than a great cry arose, and Xenophon with the rearguard, catching the sound of it, conjectured that another set of enemies must surely be attacking the front. But as the shout became louder and nearer, and those who from time to time came up began racing at the top of their speed towards the shouters and the shouting continually recommenced with yet greater volume as the numbers increased, Xenophon settled in his mind that something extraordinary must have happened, and mounted his horse and taking with him Lycius and the cavalry, galloped on. And presently they could hear the soldiers shouting and passing on the joyful word [Greek: Thalatta, Thalatta]”—Anabasis, IV, 7.]
[Footnote 54: De Wet ascribes his success to a feint which he made in the direction of Springhaan’s Nek, and which he asserts threw the columns off the scent; but it is improbable that the feint had anything to do with it. At the time of De Wet’s crossing at Israel’s Poort Hamilton had only reached Sannah’s Post, nor was Knox marching on the Nek.]
Lord Kitchener at Work
The nation at home, which at the close of 1900 was confidently expecting the end of the war at an early date, was not long obsessed by its optimism. Efforts not less vigorous than patriotic were made not only by Great Britain, but also by the Colonies and South African Loyalists, to give Lord Kitchener the troops he needed.
At the end of May, 1901, he had at his disposal a force which, including all classes of irregulars, semi-combatants, and non-combatants, was not less than 230,000; of whom more than one-third were mounted. The rule hitherto observed, that the native races were to be employed in servile capacities only, was relaxed, and in certain cases natives were allowed to carry arms when acting as scouts or patrols.
It is impossible to ascertain with any degree of accuracy either the actual or the potential strength of the enemy at this period. It has been estimated that, excluding the burghers actually on commando, there were less than 30,000 Boers able to take up arms if inclined to do so; but this number must only be regarded as the maximum strength of a possible and to a great extent an unreliable reserve upon which the commandos in action, at no given moment much exceeding 12,000 burghers, could draw to supply the wastage of war.