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A Handbook of the Boer War

Who was covering Waterval with 2


Throughout

the month of May there had been alarms and excursions in the capital of the South African Republic. The sound of the _plon-plon_ of the British Army was daily growing more distinct. The house of Ucalegon was on fire. The Volksraad met on May 7, and after a session of three days handed over the situation to the wavering executive Government, which had already made arrangements for an eastward retirement. Kruger, fearing lest his retreat by the Delagoa Bay railway should be cut off, slipped away to Machadodorp on May 29; the forts were emptied and abandoned, and Botha was bidden to do the best he could with the remnants of the Transvaal forces. On June 3 he took up a position on a ridge a few miles south of the city and prepared for the worst.

French, on the left front of the advance, was ambushed in a defile by a commando which had come up out of the west, but cleared himself with slight loss. The forts were dumb. Only the ridges between the city and Six-Mile Spruit were found to be held. The southern ridge was taken, and when the northern ridge was turned by Ian Hamilton, who was recalled from acting at large in support of French, the Boers retired. French passed through Zilikat's Nek and marched on Pretoria north of the Magaliesberg. On June 5 the capital of the South African Republic surrendered to Lord Roberts.

The Boers streamed away towards the east. An attempt made a few days before to cut the Delagoa

Bay railway failed, not, however, through the fault of Hunter-Weston, who led the enterprise. The force given to him was insufficient for the purpose, and he was unable to repeat the exploits of Bloemfontein and Kroonstad.

The prisoners of war, whom to the number of 3,000 the Boers had not been able to drag away with them in their hurried flight, and who were in confinement at Waterval twelve miles north of the city, were brilliantly liberated on June 4 by some squadrons of cavalry; which not only ran the gauntlet of the Wonderboom defile, but passed through the Boer posts at the further Poort and snatched away the prize from under the eyes of Delarey, who was covering Waterval with 2,000 burghers and some guns.

On the day of Lord Robert's entry into Pretoria, Buller was still in Natal. They had started simultaneously, and in thirty-four days the main body had marched 300 miles, but the tardigrade Natal Army was now on Lord Roberts' right rear. It had been his hope that Buller would advance step by step with him, and having reached the Transvaal, would strike northwards and establish himself on the Delagoa Bay railway and deny it to Kruger. At Kroonstad, Lord Roberts, seeing that he could not expect assistance from Buller, contemplated detaching Ian Hamilton and sending him into the Eastern Transvaal, but the fear of unduly weakening the main body in view of probable opposition at the Vaal, Johannesburg, and Pretoria, caused him to give up the project. As events turned out, it would in all probability have been successful.

Pretoria was in the hands of the British Army, Kruger was in flight, the war was over said the experts. Without having fought a single action that could be termed a battle, and at a cost of less than 500 casualties, of which but sixty-one men were killed, Lord Roberts had passed from Bloemfontein and had seized the perverse city in which most of the South African troubles of the past twenty-five years had been brewed. The Free State, though kicking, was apparently helpless. There were, however, not a few observers on the spot to whom the easy success and the few casualties were of ominous import. A change in the method of the opposition to be offered in the future to the invader was indicated. The Boers were discovering that they were incapable of waging systematic warfare and were on the point of resorting to _guerilla_, for which they, as well as the arena, were by nature particularly well adapted.


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