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A Handbook of the Boer War

Who had retired from Noitgedacht towards the S


Boers, after their habit, were content with the tactical victory at Noitgedacht and refrained from endeavouring to improve upon it. French and Clements took the field without delay, and although they failed in their plan to pin Delarey and Beyers on to the wall of the Magaliesberg, the Boer leaders were compelled to separate. Their brilliant and brief co-operation did much to awake the British nation out of its torpor. There was no longer any talk of reducing the Army of occupation by one-half at the end of the year, and still more during the New Year; or of quenching the smouldering embers of the war with Baden-Powell's new South African Constabulary.

Late in December the pursuit of Delarey, who had retired from Noitgedacht towards the S.W., was resumed. At Ventersdorp he and his 700 men, after eluding a ponderous force of nearly 6,000 men with 40 guns, doubled back; and soon the same columns unsuccessfully encountered him at Cyferfontein, where he ambushed a mounted detachment and then disappeared.

Beyers, who went into the west after he was wrenched apart from Delarey, soon reappeared upon the stage in the Hekpoort Valley with 1,200 men. His position was precarious. In front of him was Paget, who had been sent round to intercept him; while pressing on his heels was a newly-formed mounted force under Babington, 2,000 strong. He extricated himself cleverly by brushing past Paget and advancing boldly in what

was apparently the line of greatest resistance.

[Sidenote: Map, p. 240.]

No one but a Boer leader with a supreme contempt for his enemy would have thought of placing himself within striking distance of Pretoria and Johannesburg. Yet on January 11, 1901, he audaciously laagered within a few miles of Johannesburg, unknown to the garrison. Next day he crossed the railway at Kaalfontein, half-way between the two cities, and disappeared in the Eastern Transvaal. That at this stage of the war it was possible for 1,200 men to cut the railway, and with scarcely the loss of a man to cross it, with guns and a long train of wagons, midway between the two chief cities of the Transvaal, showed how much still remained to be done.

The disturbances in the Orange River Colony brought about certain changes and redistributions in the Transvaal commands, by which leaders were, as in the circuits of Wesleyan ministers, removed from spheres familiar to them. Clements went to Pretoria in succession to Tucker, who was sent to Bloemfontein; E. Knox, who, fifteen months previously, had been in command of the squadrons of the 18th Hussars which were not made prisoners of war at Talana, took command of the column of Broadwood, who was sent across the Vaal; Cunningham succeeded Clements in the Magaliesberg district; Hart quitted Klerksdorp for the Orange River Colony; and French went away into the west.

On the Boer side a new name which was destined often to be on men's lips emerged from the crowd in January, 1901. A young lawyer named J.C. Smuts, who had received his legal education in England, and whom Delarey entrusted with a command, soon showed, and not for the first time, that a shrewd, resourceful, energetic and determined civilian was, at least in _guerilla_, more than a match for highly trained British officers.

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