The flight of the Boers continued for three days. Ladysmith, which lay directly in the line of the retreat, divided it into two streams, one of which flowed towards the Drakensberg, while the other went in the direction of Elandslaagte and Glencoe, some of the fugitives not outspanning until they reached Newcastle. So great was the demoralization that Kruger hurried down from Pretoria to Glencoe in the hope of staying it. He succeeded in persuading the burghers to hold the line of the Biggarsberg, but was almost immediately summoned away to the arena in the west; and only a few hours after he was upbraiding the fugitives from Ladysmith and the Tugela for their irresolution and want of faith, the fugitives of the Modder were streaming past him at Poplar Grove.
Buller has been severely criticized for allowing the Boers to retreat unpursued, taking with them all but two of their guns. Assuming however that his appreciation of the situation was correct, he probably acted wisely. He thought that his first duty was to put food into Ladysmith. All his guns, except one Field Battery at Colenso and one Horse Artillery Battery with Burn-Murdoch, as well as all his supply and regimental transport, were still on the right bank of the Tugela, for the crossing of which he had but one pontoon bridge. He therefore decided that the wagons must have precedence, and that the army must wait.
He was misled by his recollections and by his experience of the Parthian tactics of the burghers whom he commanded during the Zulu War of 1879, and from whom he says he learnt “all that he knew” about rearguards. He believed “that an attempt to force a Boer rearguard is merely a waste of men.” Yet only a week had passed since he told White that he thought there was “only a rearguard” between him and Ladysmith.
Thus in the glamour of an ancient rearguard reputation the enemy disappeared.
[Footnote 28: Not the Green Hill near Spion Kop. There were several Green Hills on the left bank of the Tugela.]
[Footnote 29: White, however, said that he saw no signs of a general retreat.]
[Footnote 30: The Cochrane daring and resourcefulness were not confined to the men of the clan. During the Jacobite troubles Grizel Cochrane, when her father was sentenced to death for treason, turned highway-woman, and held up the coach which was bringing his death warrant from London, and abstracted it from the mail-bag.]
Ladysmith at Bay
Eighty-seven years before the outbreak of the South African War, the British Army was besieging the city of Badajoz, in Spain. When it was taken by assault, a Spanish matron and her sister were molested and came for protection to the British Camp, where they were received by Harry Smith, a young Captain in the 95th Regiment, who when the Peninsular War was over, married the girl fugitive, Juana Maria de los Dolores de Leon.