Ladysmith eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 183 pages of information about Ladysmith.

The men remained on the position all night under arms, soaked through and hardly fed.  Rum was issued, but half the carts lost their way in the dark, because the officers in charge had preferred to go fighting on the loose and got wounded.  The men lay in pools of rain among the dead.  Lieutenant Haag, 18th Hussars, kept apologising to the man next him for using his legs as a pillow.  At dawn he found the man was a Rifleman long dead, his head in a puddle of blood, his stiff arms raised to the sky.  Many such things happened.  Under the storm of fire it had been impossible to recover all the wounded before dark.  Some lay out fully twenty-four hours without help, or food, or drink.  One of the Light Horse was used by a Boer as a rest for his rifle.  When I reached Waggon Hill about nine this morning the last of the wounded were being brought down.  Nearly all the Light Horse dead (twenty of them) had been taken away separately, but at the foot of the hill lay a row of the Gordons, bloody and stiff, their Major, Miller-Wallnutt, at their head, conspicuous by his size.  The bodies of the Rifles were being collected.  Some still lay curled up and twisted among the dripping rocks.  Slowly the waggons were packed and sent off to the place of burial.

The broad path up the hill and the tracks along the top were stained with blood.  It lay in sticky pools, which even the rain could not wash out.  It was easy to see where the dead had fallen.  Most had lain behind some rock to fire and there met their end.  On the summit some Kaffirs were skinning eight oxen which had been spanned to the “Lady Anne’s” platform, and stood immovable during the fight.  Four had been shot in the action, the others had just been killed as rations.  Passing to the further edge where the Boers crept up I saw a Boer ambulance and an ox-waggon waiting.  Bearded Boers in their slouch hats stood round them with an English doctor from Harrismith, commandeered to serve.  Our men were carrying the Boer wounded and dead down the steep slope.  The dead were laid out in line, and put in the ox-waggon.  At that time there were seventeen of them waiting, but eight others were still on the hill, and I found them where they fell.  Most were grey-bearded men, rough old farmers, with wrinkled and kindly faces, hardened by a grand life in sun and weather.  They were dressed in flannel shirts, rough old jackets of brown cloth, rough trousers with braces, weather-stained slouch hats, and every variety of boot.  Only a few had socks.  Some wore the yellow “veldt-shoes,” some were bare-footed; their boots had probably been taken.  They lay in their blood, their glazed blue eyes looking over the rocks or up to the sky, their ashen hands half-clenched, their teeth yellow between their pale blue lips.

Beside the outer wall of “Lady Anne’s” sangar, his head resting on its stones, lay a white-bearded man, poorly dressed, but refined in face.  It was De Villiers, the commandant of the Harrismith district—­a relation, a brother perhaps, of the Chief Justice De Villiers, who entertained me at Bloemfontein less than four months ago.  Across his body lay that of a much younger man, with a short brown beard.  He is thought to have been one of the old man’s field cornets, and had fought up to the sangar at his side till a bullet pierced his eye and brain.

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Ladysmith from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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