Ladysmith eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 223 pages of information about Ladysmith.
worse, they would have isolated the still smaller force lately thrown forward to Dundee, so as to break the strong defensive position of the Biggarsberg, which cuts off the north of Natal, and can only be traversed by three difficult passes.  Dundee was just as much threatened from the east frontier beyond the Buffalo River, where the Transvaal Boers of the Utrecht and Vryheid district have been mustered in strong force for nearly a fortnight now.  With our two advanced posts “lapped up” (the phrase is a little musty here), our stores lost, and our reputation among the Dutch and native populations entirely ruined, the campaign would have begun badly.

For the Boers it was a fine strategic opportunity, and they were perfectly aware of that.  But “the Old Man,” as they affectionately call the President, had his own prudent reasons for refusing it.  “Let the enemy fire first,” he says, like the famous Frenchman, and so far he has been able to hold the most ardent of the encamped burghers in check.  “If he should not be able!” we kept saying.  We still say it morning and evening, but the pinch of the danger is passed.  Last Thursday night the 1st Devons and the 19th Hussars began to arrive and the crisis ended.  Yesterday before daybreak half the Gordons came.  We have now a mountain battery and three batteries of field artillery, the 19th Hussars (the 18th having gone forward to Dundee), besides the 5th Lancers (the “Irish Lancers"), who are in faultless condition, and a considerable mixed force of the Natal Volunteers.  Of these last, the Carbineers are perhaps the best, and generally serve as scouts towards the Free State frontier.  But all have good repute as horsemen, marksmen, and guides, and at present they are the force which the Boers fear most.  They are split up into several detachments—­the Border Mounted Rifles, the Natal Mounted Rifles (from Durban), the Imperial Light Horse, the Natal Police, and the Umvoti Mounted Rifles, who are chiefly Dutch.  Then of infantry there are the Natal Royal Rifles (only about 150 strong), the Durban Light Infantry, and the Natal Field Artillery.  As far as I can estimate, the total Natal Volunteer force will not exceed 2,000, but they are well armed, are accustomed to the Boer method of warfare, and will be watched with interest.  Unhappily, many of them here are already suffering from the change of life and food in camp.  That is inevitable when volunteers first take the field.

But Ladysmith has an evil reputation besides.  Last year the troops here were prostrated with enteric.  There is a little fever and a good deal of dysentery even now among the regulars.  The stream by the camp is condemned, and all water is supplied in tiny rations from pumps.  The main permanent camp is built of corrugated iron, practically the sole building material in South Africa, and quite universal for roofs, so that the country has few “architectural features” to boast of.  The cavalry are quartered in the

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Ladysmith from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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