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A Handbook of the Boer War

Cronje was gone into captivity


cavalry did not greatly distinguish itself. Two brilliant exploits, the rush from Klip Drift to Kimberley, and the heading off of Cronje at Vendutie Drift, practically exhausted it. Its reconnaissance work during the advance was poorly executed, and after each fight came the same report, that the horses were unable to pursue the retiring burghers. Overloading, indifferent march discipline and horsemastership, night marches without previously watering and feeding the horses, reduced Lord Roberts' mounted troops to but a fraction of their nominal strength; and raised a question whether French, whose military capacity was undeniable, might not be more usefully employed in infantry operations.

There is more than a substratum of truth in the remark once made by a caustic foreign critic, that an Englishman talks more and knows less about horses and their management than any other man.


[Footnote 34: In the Egyptian War of 1882 Arabi was similarly misled by Sir Garnet Wolseley, who making as if to land his Army near Aboukir Bay, suddenly took it into the Suez Canal, and threw it ashore at Ismailia.]

[Footnote 35: 350,000 horses were used up during the campaign, in other words, the war strength of one cavalry regiment every other day. The removal of a cavalry officer from his command after the battle of Graspan, because he could not do with

exhausted horses what was expected of him by an infantry officer, will perhaps account for a considerable portion of the wastage.]

[Footnote 36: It is stated on the authority of the United States Military attach? that Kitchener said next day that if he had known the power of the Mauser behind entrenchments, he would not have attempted to assault the laager.]

[Footnote 37: They were originally granted as a counterpoise to the irregularities of the system of promotion by purchase.]

[Footnote 38: See Colonel du Cane's translation of Vol. II. of the German Official Account, p. 52.]


Alarms and Excursions

The occupation of Bloemfontein by the British Army in March, 1900, ushered in the second or _guerilla_ period of the war. Hitherto the struggle had been mainly, though not entirely, maintained against considerable bodies of Boers, who though widely dispersed acted more or less under a common direction; but after the capture of the Free State capital, a system of partisan and irregular warfare was adopted by the enemy.

The change was not suddenly effected. It was an instinctive, almost an imperceptible, development rendered necessary by circumstances. The reverses on the Modder, the failure at Ladysmith, the ill success which attended the attempts to raise the fiery cross in the northern districts of Cape Colony, indicated to the burghers the cause of the instability of their military machine. They discovered, in time, that its centre of gravity was too highly pitched and must be brought nearer the earth. For five months the war had been carried on under the orders of a federal syndicate composed of the two Presidents sitting with casual military assessors, scarcely one of whom was a strategist or capable of viewing the Boer cause synoptically. Cronje was gone into captivity; Joubert was suspected to be half-hearted; and Botha, who had begun so well in Natal, was a disappointment.

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