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A Handbook of the Boer War

Baden Powell thoroughly understood the Boer temperament


What

should be done in a besieged place with such an embarrassing asset as ten tons of dynamite? Buller would have handed them over to his second in command for disposal, and then if any accident occurred would have disclaimed responsibility for it. Gatacre would have taken the chances, but would not have hesitated to pitch his tent if necessary beside them. Colvile would have searched his orders for instructions. Baden-Powell, not being able to rid himself of the explosive by firing it, arranged that it should be fired by the enemy. He loaded it on railway trucks, which he propelled a few miles out of the town and then abandoned. There was no Laocoon to warn the Boers, and they rushed at what they thought was an armoured train in trouble. In the skirmish the dynamite exploded, and although no one was hurt the enemy was terribly scared, and the resisting powers of the garrison virtually augmented.

Baden-Powell thoroughly understood the Boer temperament. Many generations' isolation from the progressive European world had rendered it peculiarly liable to be ensnared by simple expedients. It was not wanting in "slimness," but it was the "slimness" or cunning of a primitive race, and was easily gulled by wiles that might have been employed against a tribe of Red Indians. Baden-Powell alone of all the British leaders was aware of this, and he owed much of his success to the knowledge. With but one man to defend each ten yards of his perimeter of seven

miles he hypnotized Cronje, a dull man bewildered by a resourceful. His versatility instantly found a way out of each difficulty that beset him. Before he sent out a party detailed for a night attack that might easily go astray, he bethought himself of the device by which a ship is often guided into her haven, and hung up two lamps in the town as leading lights across the veld.

Cronje soon found that Mafeking was not an easy prey. Although in all probability he might at any time have overwhelmed it by sheer weight of numbers, he refrained from making the attempt. It hit out so vigorously and was believed to be so well protected by mines that he requisitioned a big gun from Pretoria, which was mounted south of the town and came into action on October 23. With a weapon throwing a shell more than three times heavier than all the shells that could be fired in salvo by the artillery of the defence, there was no doubt in his mind that the place must fall before the end of the month.

The arrival of the gun quickened the attack for a time. The native location S.W. of the town was made the object of a feint on October 25 to be immediately followed by a real attack elsewhere, but the Baralongs, who had been armed, resisted so stoutly that the operation failed. By the beginning of November the Boers had been cleared out of a newly made advanced trench on the east side; and Cannon Kopje on the south, the possession of which by them would have made a considerable section of the defence works and perhaps even the town itself untenable, was held under a converging fire of artillery by fifty troopers of the British South African Police against a thousand Boers.


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