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A Handbook of the Boer War

And forced to hurry on towards Hopetown


to this time the whole of the stress of the pursuit had fallen upon Knox and Plumer. As soon as the news of De Wet's entry into the Cape Colony reached Lord Kitchener, he hurried down from the Transvaal to De Aar to superintend the casting of the nets. His first dispositions were made with the object of preventing De Wet and Hertzog breaking away into the districts lying west of the railway to Capetown, and an ingenious and elaborate scheme of columns springing out from the line in succession from the north, was arranged. It was not, however, put into action, for Knox and Plumer had headed back De Wet, and for the time being had prevented a junction between him and Hertzog. It was no longer a case of a stern chase, but of the fencing in of a comparatively limited area, into which more than a dozen columns were thrown, and which by February 24 was reduced to the district bounded on three sides by the railways and on the fourth by the Orange.

When on February 21 Plumer was able to resume the pursuit, Knox having discovered his mistake was recrossing the Brak, and De Wet on the left bank of the Orange was unsuccessfully searching for practicable drifts. He succeeded, however, in transferring a few of his men to the right bank in a boat at Makow's Drift, but was overtaken by Plumer before he could complete the movement, and forced to hurry on towards Hopetown. In the course of one week he had marched in the direction of almost every point in the

compass, and was now heading E.S.E.

When within fifteen miles of Hopetown he lost two guns, and on the same day ran up against a new obstacle, a column under Paris, which had come down from Kimberley and which had extended itself westward from Hopetown. He succeeded in wriggling through the line without detection during the night; while Paris, unaware of what had occurred and thinking that De Wet was still in front of him, pushed on next morning and came into action, not with De Wet, but with Plumer, who was pursuing De Wet in the opposite direction. On February 24 De Wet crossed the railway eastwards a few miles south of Orange River Station.

As soon as Hertzog in the Carnarvon district heard of the approach of De Wet he trekked up towards the Brak to meet him, having first detached a portion of his command under Brand to make a circuit through Britstown. Brand was followed by B. Hamilton, who had been set on to his trail, but regained touch with his leader on February 20, when the news came that De Wet was in difficulties and that the raid must be abandoned.

Hertzog and Brand joined forces across the river and trekked to the east, having thrown Plumer off the scent for a day. On February 25 Hertzog crossed the railway. Three Boer leaders were now groping for each other in the Fog of War: De Wet, Hertzog, and Fourie, who had been left behind to do what he could to extricate the transport which De Wet had been compelled to abandon when he crossed the railway westwards on February 16, and who had been lost sight of by the British columns. The forces of gravitation are, however, irresistible, and as Hertzog and Brand could not be long kept apart, so also De Wet, Hertzog, and Fourie soon came together.

De Wet trekked along the left bank of the Orange for nearly sixty miles, but found every drift impassable. On February 26 he reached Zand Drift. A fortnight previously a sudden flood had checked his pursuers, now another flood was checking his retreat from them at the same spot, and he was hemmed in by a swollen river and a dozen active columns. Most men would have yielded to the situation, but his tenacity of purpose never faltered. Early on the morning of February 27 Hertzog, who had picked up Fourie a few hours before, joined him.

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