In the N.E. Transvaal B. Viljoen and Muller had been quiescent throughout the summer. The former lay usually at Pilgrim’s Rest; the latter haunted the hilly country west and S.W. of Lydenburg; neither leader being able to get much work out of passive and spiritless followers. When Schalk Burger, the Acting President of the Transvaal, and the rest of the Government were driven across the Delagoa Bay Railway by Bruce Hamilton in December, Park, who was in command of the solitary British force north of the line, aided by a column from Belfast, made an unsuccessful attempt to capture the wandering Government.
B. Viljoen was anxious for its safety and persuaded it to take refuge with him at Pilgrim’s Rest. It started on the journey with him; but fortunately its courage failed it, and Viljoen was left to return alone and to be taken prisoner near Lydenburg on January 25. Troops were slipped at it but were evaded; and it withdrew to the west across the Olifant’s River. It maintained itself until March 12, when by leave of Lord Kitchener it passed through Balmoral into conference with Steyn and the remnants of the Orange Free State Government at Kroonstad and thence to Klerksdorp.
In the “protected area” P. Viljoen had perforce to be left unmolested until the end of March, when the conclusion of the third drive in the Orange River Colony set some troops free for work elsewhere. His commandos, about 800 strong, were discovered in laager twenty miles east of Springs by a cavalry column under Lawley during a night raid on April 1. After a temporary panic they not only rallied, but drove away the attacking force and pursued it until restrained by the intervention of another portion of Lawley’s command which had remained in camp. The incident called for strenuous measures. During the last three weeks of April the whole district was driven by Bruce Hamilton; at first from north to south starting from the vicinity of Carolina, then by a counter march from south to north through the “protected area,” the latter movement being repeated in the reverse direction. P. Viljoen was not found in the wilderness, while his colleague Alberts escaped with 500 burghers into the Orange River Colony, whither he was followed by Bruce Hamilton.
III. WESTERN TRANSVAAL
[Sidenote: Map. p. 292.]
Meanwhile in the Western Transvaal Delarey had remained undisturbed save by the building of blockhouse lines. The situation elsewhere had not suffered active measures to be taken in the district controlled by him, which extended from the corner between the Vaal and the Western Railway almost to the Magaliesberg, and for which on the British side Methuen and Kekewich were the commanders chiefly responsible. During the earlier summer months some small incidents occurred which were usually favourable to the British cause.