Ladysmith eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 223 pages of information about Ladysmith.

The remnants of them were struggling to get away in the twilight over a bit of rocky plain on our left.  There the Dragoon Guards got them, and three times went through.  A Dragoon Guards corporal who was there tells me the Boers fell off their horses and rolled among the rocks, hiding their heads in their arms and calling for mercy—­calling to be shot, anything to escape the stab of those terrible lances.  But not many escaped.  “We just gave them a good dig as they lay,” were the corporal’s words.  Next day most of the lances were bloody.

The victory was ours.  We had gained a stony and muddy little hill strewn with the bodies of dead and wounded peasants, clerks, lawyers, and other kinds of men.  Most were from Johannesburg.  Nearly all spoke English like their native language.  In one corner on the slope of the hill towards their little camp and waggons I counted fourteen dead together.  In one of the tents were three dead men, all killed by the same shell, apparently whilst asleep.  Yet I do not think there were more than thirty actually killed among the rocks in all.  It is true that darkness fell rapidly, and the rain was blinding; but I was nearly two hours on the ground moving about.  The wounded lay very thick, groaning and appealing for help.  In coming down I nearly trod on the upturned white face of an old white-bearded man.  He was lying quite silent, with a kind of dignity.  We asked who he was.  He said:  “I am Kock, the father of Judge Kock.  No, I am not the commandant. He is the commandant.”  But the old man was wrong.  He himself had been in command, though instead of fighting he had read the Bible and prayed.  One bullet had passed through his shoulder, another through his groin.  So he lay still and read no more.  Near him was a boy with a hand just a mixture of shreds and bones and blood.  But he too was very quiet, and only asked for a handkerchief to bind it together.  Others were gradually dying.  Many were not found till daylight.  The dead of both sides lay unburied till Monday.

In the mud and stones just above the captured guns, General French stood giving directions for the bivouac, and dictating a message to Sir George White praising the troops, especially the infantry who had been commanded by Colonel Ian Hamilton.  The assemble kept sounding over the hill, and Gordons tried to sift themselves from Manchesters, and Light Horse from Devons.  All were shouting and questioning and calling to each other in the dark.  Soon they settled down; the Boers had left scores of saddles, coats, and Kaffir blankets, provisions, too, water-bottles, chickens, and in one case a flask of carbolic disinfectant, which a British soldier analysed as “furrin wine.”  So, on the whole, the fellows made themselves fairly comfortable in spite of the cold and wet.  Then I felt my way down over the rocks, taking care, if possible, not to tread on anything human, and then sought out the difficult twelve-mile track to Ladysmith over the veldt and hills, lighted towards midnight by a waning and clouded moon.

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Ladysmith from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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