Battle of Isandlwana


Battle of Isandlwana

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Isandlwana
partof=the Anglo-Zulu War


caption=Depiction of the battle from the "Illustrated London News"
date=22 January 1879
place=coord|28|21|32|S|30|39|9|E|display=inline,title|type:mountain
Isandlwana, South Africa
result=Zulu victory
combatant1=
combatant2=Zulu Kingdom
commander1=Henry Pulleine
Anthony Durnford
commander2=Ntshingwayo kaMAhole Khoza
Mavumengwana kaMdlela
Dabulamanzi kaMpande
strength1=8,000 [cite book|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=Fz1CAAAAIAAJ&pgis=1|author=Frances Ellen Colenso, Edward Durnford|title=History of the Zulu War and Its Origin|location=London|date=1880|publisher=Chapman and Hall|pages=pp. 263-264 gives 7800: 1752 Imperial and Colonial troops and 6054 Native Contingent and 377 Conductors and Drivers for the Number 2 Column under Durnford and the Number 3 Column under Glynn which made up Chelmsford Main Column] Main Column:
1,400 to 2,000 engaged
2 of 6 RHA cannon [cite book|author=Horace Smith-Dorrien|title=Memories of Forty-eight Years Service|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=-j9nAAAAMAAJ&pgis=1|date=1925|publisher=E.P. Dutton|chapter=Chapter 1B]
1 Rocket Battery

strength2=20,000 Zulu, [cite book|author=Peter Doyle, Matthew R. Bennett|title=Fields of Battle: Terrain in Military History|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=hUetZ-ICvt4C|publisher=Kluwer Academic Publishers|date=2002|isbn=1-4020-0433-8|chapter=Tony Pollard essay, "The Mountain is their Monument"|pages=p. 120 "...around 20,000...". F.E. Colenso, "History of the Zulu War and Its Origin", London, 1880, p. 313, "The Zulu army, he (Nugwende) says, numbered 20,0000..." and p. 312, "...full nominal strength reaches a total of 30,900 men but the actual numbers are estimated at from 20,000 to 25,000]
ca. 10,000 to 15,000 engaged
4,000 to 5,000 to Rorke's Drift
casualties1=1,329 killed:
52 officers
800 British regulars
477 others
2 cannon captured
casualties2=1,000 killed [Ian Knight,"Isandlwana 1879: The Great Zulu Victory", Osprey, 2002, ISBN-13: 978-1841765112. Knight's estimate of Zulu casualties is more in keeping with those suffered by the Zulu at Kambula where a British column forms an excellent defensive position with a wagon lager, six 7 pounder artillery pieces and 2,000 soldiers and inflicts 800(counted bodies)-1000 killed on the Zulu.] [Horace Smith-Dorrien, "Memories of Forty-eight Years Sevice" Chapter 1D, "The next few days after the battle, St. Matthew's simile, " Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together," was fully illustrated, for literally the sky was darkened at times by continuous streams of " Aasvogels " heading from all directions to the battlefield marked by that precipitous and conspicuous crag, like a lion couchant, " Isandhlwana " where nearly 900 British and 2,000 or 3,000 natives, friend and foe, had breathed their last on the fatal 22nd." As can be seen from this account there were from "both sides" a total of 2 to 3 thousand natives killed]
2,000 wounded
The Battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879 was the opening, major encounter in the Zulu War between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom. A 20,000 strong Zulu army equipped mainly with spears and shields annihilated a mixed British and native force armed with modern firearms and artillery. 850 British soldiers and around 450 African soldiers in British service died. Those in the firing line were killed to a man. Only 50 European enlisted men and five officers escaped, in addition to several hundred Africans who fled the battlefield. The Zulus suffered some 1000 dead and many wounded.

Isandlwana remains the worst military defeat for Britain at the hands of a colonial force. [Peter Doyle, Matthew R. Bennett, "Fields of Battle", Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002, ISBN 1-4020-0433-8, Tony Pollard essay, "The Mountain is their Monument",p. 118, "It was here...the British army suffered it worst defeat at the hands of a technologically inferior indigenous force.".] A tactical victory for the Zulus, the defeat pushed the British into a much more aggressive approach to the Anglo-Zulu Wars, destroying King Cetshwayo's hopes of a negotiated peace. [Edward M. Spiers, "The Scottish Soldier and Empire, 1854-1902", Edinburgh University Press, 2006 ISBN 10-7486-2354 X, p.42, "... reports of the annihilation...prompted the Cabinet to send reinforcements and galvanized interest in the war." Ian Knight, "Zulu War", Osprey, 2004, p. 11, "The home government, embarrassed by Isandlwana, sought to restore British honour by despatching more reinforcements..."]

Sir Bartle Frere,High Commissioner of southern Africa for The British empire, on his own initiative and without the approval of Her Majesty's Government, [Edward M. Spiers, "The Scottish Soldier and Empire, 1854-1902", Edinburgh University Press, 2006 ISBN 10-7486-2354 X, p.41. Also: "Ian Knight, "Zulu War", Osprey, 2004, p. 9, "By late 1878 Frere had manipulated a diplomatic crisis with the Zulus..." ] and with the intent of instigating a war with the Zulu, presented an ultimatum on 11 December, 1878, to the Zulu king Cetshwayo with which the Zulu king could not comply. [F.E. Colenso, "History of the Zulu War and Its Origin", London, 1880, pp. 261-262, "the terms...are evidently such as he (Cetshwayo) may not improbably refuse, even at the risk of war... to preclude you from incurring the delay...involved in consulting Her Majesty's Government upon a subject of so much importance as the terms..."] Cetshwayo did not comply, and Bartle Frere sent Chelmsford to invade Zululand.

Preliminary manoeuvres

Lord Chelmsford, the Commander-in-Chief of British forces during the war, initially planned a five pronged invasion of Zululand designed to encircle the Zulu army and force them to fight as he was concerned that the Zulus would avoid battle. In the event he settled on three invading columns with the main center column, now consisting of the previously called No. 3 Column and Durnford's No.2 Column, under his direct command. He moved his troops from where they were stationed in Pietermaritzburg to a forward camp at Helpmekaar, past Greytown. On 9 January 1879 they moved to Rorke's Drift, and early on January 11 commenced crossing the Buffalo River into Zululand.

The backbone of the British force under Lord Chelmsford consisted of twelve regular infantry companies: six each of both the 1st and 2nd battalions, 24th Foot, 2nd Warwickshire Regiment, which were hardened and reliable troops. In addition, there were approximately 2,500 local African auxiliaries of the Natal Native Contingent, led by European officers but considered generally of poor quality; some irregular cavalry units, and a detachment of artillery consisting of two field guns and several Congreve rockets. Adding on wagon drivers, camp followers and servants, there were more than 4,000 men in the Number 3 Column [F.E. Colenso, "History of the Zulu War and Its Origin", London, 1880, pp. 263, 1747 Imperial and Colonial Troops, 2566 Native Contingent, 293 Drivers] , not including Durnford's Number 2 Column. Because of the urgency required to accomplish their scheme, Bartle Frere and Chelmsford began the invasion during rainy season. This had the unfortunate consequence of slowing the British advance to a crawl. [F.E. Colenso, "History of the Zulu War and Its Origin", London, 1880, pp. 264-266; p.273, Chelmsford, Jan. 16th: "No.3 Column cannot move forward eight miles... for at least four days..."]

Cetshwayo sent the 24,000 warrior strong main Zulu impi from near present-day Ulundi, on the 17th of January, across the White Umfolozi River. On the 18th, some 4,000 warriors were detached from the main body to attack Pearson's column near Eshowe. The remaining 20,000 Zulus camped at the isiPhezi ikhanda. On the 19th they arrived and camped near Babanango mountain. On the 20th they moved and camped near Siphezi mountain. Finally, on the 21st they moved into the Ngwebeni valley from where they planned to attack the British on the 23rd and where they stayed concealed until their discovery by Raw's scouts on the 22nd of January. The speed of the Zulu advance compared to the British is marked. The Zulu impi had advanced over 50 miles in 5 days while Chelmsford had only advanced a bit over 10 miles in 10 days.

The British under Lord Chelmsford pitched camp at Isandlwana on January 20th, but did not follow standing orders to entrench. No laager, circling of the wagons, was formed. Chelmsford did not see the need for to laager, stating, "It would take a week to make.". [F.E. Colenso, "History of the Zulu War and Its Origin", London, 1880, p. 294] But the chief reason for the failure to take defensive precautions appears to have been British command severely underestimating the Zulu capabilities. The experience of numerous colonial wars fought in Africa was that the massed firepower of relatively small bodies of professional European troops armed with modern firearms and artillery, and supplemented by local allies and levies, would march out to meet the natives whose ragged, badly equipped armies would put up a brave struggle, but in the end would succumb. Chelmsford believed that a force of over 4,000 including 1,000 British infantry, armed with Martini-Henry rifles, and artillery, was more than sufficient to overwhelm any attack through sheer firepower particularly as the Zulus were mostly armed only with spears and cowhide shields, although there were a few firearms such as Brown Bess muskets. Indeed, with a force of this size, it was the logistical arrangements of managing the supply chain and the huge number of wagons and oxen to support any forward advance which occupied Chelmsford's thoughts, rather than any fear that the camp might be attacked.

Once he had established the camp at Isandlwana, Chelmsford sent out two battalions of the Natal Native Contingent to scout ahead. They skirmished with elements of a Zulu force which Chelmsford believed to be the vanguard of the main enemy army. Such was the over-confidence in British military training and firepower that he divided his force, taking about 2,500 men, including half of the British infantry contingent, and set out to find the main Zulu force with the intention of bringing them to battle, so as to achieve a decisive victory. It never occurred to Chelmsford that the Zulus he saw were diverting him away from their main force.

Chelmsford left five companies, around 70–80 fighting men in each, of the 1st battalion and one stronger company of around 150 men from the 2nd battalion of the 24th behind to guard the camp, under the command of Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pulleine. Pulleine's orders were to defend the camp and wait for further instructions to support the General as and when called upon. Pulleine also had around 500 men of the Natal Native Contingent and approximately 200 local irregulars who were mounted. He also had two artillery pieces, with around 70 men of the Royal Artillery. In total, some 1,300 men and 2 guns to defend the camp.

Pulleine, left in command of a rear position, was an administrator with no experience of front-line command on a campaign. Nevertheless, he commanded a strong force, particularly in respect of the six veteran regular infantry companies, which were experienced at colonial combat. The mounted vedettes, cavalry scouts, patrolling some 7 miles from camp reported at 7A.M. that bodies of Zulus, numbering around 4,000 men, could be seen. Further reports arrived to Pulleine during the early morning, each reporting movements, both large and small, of Zulus. There was speculation among the officers whether these troops were intending to march against Chelmsford's rear or towards the camp itself.

Around 10:30A.M., Colonel Anthony Durnford arrived from Rorke's Drift with 5 troops of the Natal Native horse and a rocket battery. This put the issue of command to the fore because Durnford was senior and by tradition would have assumed command [Pulleine's rank was Brevet Lieutenant Colonel, in other words he was still being paid as a Major] . However, he did not over-rule Pulleine's dispositions and after lunch he quickly decided to take to the iniative and move forward to engage a Zulu force which, at that point, Pulleine and Durnford judged to be moving against Chelmsford's rear. He asked for a company of the 24th, but Pulleine was reluctant to agree since his orders had been specifically to defend the camp.

Chelmsford had underestimated the disciplined, well led, well motivated and confident Zulu. The failure to secure an effective defensive position, the poor intelligence about the location of the main Zulu army, Chelmsford's decision to split his force in half, and the Zulus' tactical exploitation of the terrain and the weaknesses in the British formation, all combined to prove catastrophic for the troops at Isandlwana.

The battle

The Zulu Army was commanded by "inDunas" (Princes) Ntshingwayo kaMahole Khozalo and Mavumengwana kaNdlela Ntuli. The "inDuna" Dabulamanzi kaMpande, half brother of Cetshwayo, commanded the Undi Corps. [Morris, "Washing of the Spears"]

While Chelmsford was in the field seeking them, the entire Zulu army had outmanoeuvred him, moving behind his force with the intention of attacking the British army on the 23rd. They were discovered at around 8A.M. by men of Lt. Raw's troop of scouts who chased a number of Zulus into a valley, only then seeing around 20,000 men of the main enemy force sitting in total quiet. Having been discovered the Zulu force leapt to the offensive. Raw's men began a fighting retreat back to the camp and a messenger was sent to warn Pulleine of the situation. Pulleine observed Zulus on the hills to his left front and sent word to Chelmsford which was received by the General between 9 and 10A.M.. [F.E. Colenso, "History of the Zulu War and Its Origin", London, 1880, pp.287,288.]

The Zulu attack then developed in the traditional horns and chest of the buffalo, with the aim of encircling the British position. From Pulleine's vantage point in the camp, at first only the right horn and then the chest (centre) of the attack seemed to be developing. Pulleine sent out first one, then all of his six companies of the 24th Foot into an extended firing line, with the aim of meeting the Zulu attack head on and checking it with firepower. Durnford's men, upon meeting elements of the Zulu centre, had retreated to a donga, a dried out watercourse, on the British right flank where they formed a defensive line. The Rocket Battery under Durnford's command was overrun very early in the engagement. The two battalions of native troops were in Durnford's line, however only one in ten was armed with a rifle [Horace Smith-Dorrien, "Memories of Forty-eight Years Service" Chapter 1B] and many of them started to leave the battlefield at this point. Pulleine only made one slight change to the original disposition after about twenty minutes of firing, which was to bring in the companies in the firing line slightly closer to the camp.

For a few hours [Horace Smith-Dorrien, "Memories of Forty-eight Years Service" Chapter 1B gives a start time for the battle of around 8 AM with the Zulus falling back behind the hills until noon and the final Zulu advance beginning at 1 PM] until noon, the disciplined British volleys pinned down the Zulu centre, inflicting some casualties and causing the advance to stall. Indeed, morale remained high within the British line. The Martini-Henri rifle was a powerful weapon and the men were experienced. Additionally, the fire of the cannons of the Royal Horse Artillery forced some Zulu regiments to take cover behind the reverse slope of a hill. Nevertheless, the left horn of the Zulu advance was moving to outflank the British right flank position and envelop it.

Durnford's men, who had been fighting longest, began to withdraw and their rate of fire diminished. Durnford's withdrawal exposed the right flank of the British regulars, which, with the general threat of the Zulu encirclement, caused Pulleine to order a withdrawal back to the camp. Durnford's retreat also exposed G Company, 2nd/24th, which was overrun relatively quickly. The retreat was performed with order and discipline and the men of the 24th conducted a fighting withdrawal into the camp.

An officer in advance from Chelmsford's force gave this eyewitness account of the final stage of the battle at about 3 P.M..

"In a few seconds we distinctly saw the guns fired again, one after the other, sharp. This was done several times -a pause, and then a flash - flash! The sun was shining on the camp at the time, and then the camp looked dark, just as if a shadow was passing over it. The guns did not fire after that, and in a few minutes all the tents had disappeared." [F.E. Colenso, "History of the Zulu War and Its Origin", London, 1880, p. 292, the officer states it was 3 P.M..]

The presence of large numbers of bodies grouped together suggests the resistance was more protracted than originally thought and they made a number of desperate last stands. Evidence of this is that many of the bodies, today marked by cairns, were found in several large groups around the camp — including one stand of around 150 men. A Zulu account describes a group of the 24th forming a square on the neck of Isandlwana. [F.E. Colenso, "History of the Zulu War and Its Origin", London, 1880, p. 413.] What is clear is that the slaughter was complete in the area around the camp and back to Natal along the Fugitive's Drift. The fighting had been hand-to-hand and no quarter given to the British regulars. The Zulus had been commanded to ignore the civilians in black coats. [Horace Smith-Dorrien, "Memories of Forty-eight Years Service" Chapter 1c] The British fought back-to-back [see Charles Edwin Fripp's painting in the National Army Museum] with bayonet and rifle butt when their ammunition had finally been expended.

Aftermath

Isandlwana was an immediate catastrophe for the British. However, the victory of the Zulus did not end the war. With the decisive defeat of Chelmsford's central column, the entire invasion of Zululand collapsed and would have to be restaged. Not only were there heavy manpower casualties to the Main Column, but most of the supplies, ammunition, draught animals were lost. Unfortunately for the Zulu, as King Cetshwayo feared, the embarrassment of the defeat would force the policy makers in London, who to this point had not supported the war, to rally to the support of the pro-war contingent in the Natal government and commit whatever resources were needed to defeat the Zulu. Despite local numerical superiority, the Zulus did not have manpower, technological resources or logistical capacity to match the British in another, more extended, campaign.

Following the news of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift the British and Colonials were in complete panic over the possibility of a counter invasion of Natal by the Zulu. [F.E. Colenso," History of the Zulu War and Its Origin", London, 1880, pp.308-311] Unknown to them, Cetshwayo, still hoping to avoid a total war, had prohibited any crossing of the border in retaliation and was incensed over the violation of the border by the attack on Rorke's Drift. [F.E. Colenso, "History of the Zulu War and Its Origin", London, 1880, p.311, "the Zulus who in the flush of victory crossed into Natal at Rorke's Drift...were called back with the words, 'Against the orders of your king!' ".]

The British government's reasoning for a new invasion was threefold. The first was jingoistic to a degree and national honour demanded that the enemy, victors in one battle, should lose the war. [Ian Knight, "The Zulu War 1879", Osprey, 2003,ISBN 1 84176 612 7, p.8, "Imperial pride ensured that the government in London would have to support British troops in the field, at least until military supremacy had been achieved.".] The second concerned the domestic political implications with ramifications at the next parliamentary elections. [Ian Knight, "The Zulu War 1879", Osprey, 2003,ISBN 1 84176 612 7, p.67 ] However, despite the new invasion the British Prime Minister Disraeli and his party would lose the 1880 election. Finally, there were considerations affecting the Empire: unless the British were seen to win a clear-cut victory against the Zulus, it would send a signal that the British Empire was not invulnerable and that the defeat of a British field army could alter policy. [Donald R. Morris, Mangosuthu Buthelezi,"The Washing of the Spears", p.446, ] Until then, one of the arguments against a war with the Zulu was that the costs could not be justified.Fact|date=October 2008 If the Zulu victory at Isandlwana encouraged resistance elsewhere against the Empire, then committing the resources necessary to defeat the Zulu would in the long term prove cheaper than fighting wars the Zulu success inspired against British Imperialism elsewhere. [F.E. Colenso, "History of the Zulu War and Its Origin", London, 1880, p.474, "A considerable number of Boers who had never willingly accepted the annexation of their country by the English, had taken the opportunity ... after the disaster of 22nd January... to regain their independence...".Also: Ian Knight, "The Zulu War 1879", Osprey, 2003, ISBN 1 84176 612 7, p.67.]

Near the end of the battle, about 4000 Zulu warriors of the unengaged reserve Undi impi, after cutting off the retreat of the survivors to the Buffalo River southwest of Isandlwana, crossed the river and attacked the fortified mission station at Rorke's Drift. It was defended by only 139 British soldiers, but the battle at Rorke's Drift turned out very differently from the Battle at Isandlwana. The British inflicted serious casualties upon the attacking Zulu, and successfully beat them back. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to defenders of Rorke's Drift, the most ever received by a regiment for a single action.

After Isandlwana, the British field army was heavily reinforced and re-invaded Zululand, and Sir Garnet Wolseley was sent to relieve Chelmsford, as well as Bartle Frere. Chelmsford, however, avoided handing over command to Wolseley and managed to defeat the Zulus in a number of engagements, the last of which was the Battle of Ulundi followed by capture of King Cetshwayo. The British encouraged the subkings of the Zulus to rule their subkingdoms without acknowledging a central Zulu power. By the time King Cetshwayo was allowed to return home there was no longer an independent Zulu kingdom.

The measure of respect the British gained for their opponents as a result of Isandlawna can be seen that in none of the other engagements of the Zulu War did the British attempt to fight again in their typical linear formation in an open field battle with the main Zulu impi. Even in the final Battle of Ulundi the British army formed up in a square and the famous Thin Red Line of legend is nowhere in evidence.

"Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
"But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,"
- Rudyard Kipling

Order of battle

The following order of battle was arrayed on the day. [cite book|title=Isandlwana 1879|author=Ian Knight, Adam Hook|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=Brwn2jz-mMMC|date=2002|publisher=Osprey Publishing|isbn=1841765112|pages=p49] [F.E. Colenso, "History of the Zulu War and Its Origin", London, 1880, p. 313, "The Zulu army, he (Nugwende) says, numbered 20,0000..." and p. 312, "...full nominal strength reaches a total of 30,900 men but the actual numbers are estimated at from 20,000 to 25,000]

British forces

No 2 Column

*11 battery, 3 brigade: 3x9 pounder rockets - 9 men, 1 officer
*Mounted auxiliaries, Natal Native Horse - 256 men, 6 officers
*1 Battalion, 1st regiment, Natal Native Contingent - 240 men, 7 officers

No 3 Column

*N battery, 5 brigade: 2x7 pounder guns - 70 men, 2 officers
*1 Battalion, 24 Regiment - 402 men, 14 officers
*2 Battalion, 24 Regiment - 178 men, 5 officers
*Mounted troops - 115 officers and men
*Detachments - 50 officers and men
*1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment Natal Native Contingent- 391 men, 19 officers

Zulu forces [F.E. Colenso, "History of the Zulu War and Its Origin", London, 1880, pp.407-413 records two accounts of Zulu eyewitness participants at the battle. In one account the Zulu army is described as:" ...consisting of the Ulundi corps about 3,000 strong, the Nokenke Regiment, 2,000 strong; the Ngobamakosi Regiment, including the Uve, about 5,000 strong: the Umeityu, about 4,000 strong; the Nodengwu, 2,000 strong; the Umbonambi, 3,000 strong; and the Udlhoko, about 1,000 strong, or a total of about 20,000 men in all..." and in the other account the Zulu army is described as "...eight regiments strong (20,000 to 25,000 men)...The regiments were Kandampenvu (or Umcityu), Ngobamakosi, Uve, Nokenke, Umbonambi, Udhloko, Nodwengu (name of military kraal of the Inkulutyane Regiment), and Undi (which comprises the Tulwana, Ndhlodho, and Indhluyengwe)."]

Right horn

uDududu, uNokenke regiments, part uNodwengu corps - 3,000 to 4,000 men

Chest

umCijo, uThulwana regiments; part uNodwengu corps - 7,000 to 9,000 men

Left horn

inGobamakhosi, uMbonambi, uVe regiments - 5,000 to 6,000 men [Donald R. Morris, Mangosuthu Buthelezi,"The Washing of the Spears", Da Capo Press, 1998, p.369]

Reserve

Undi corps, uDloko regiment - 4,000 men to 5,000 [Donald R. Morris, Mangosuthu Buthelezi,"The Washing of the Spears", Da Capo Press, 1998, p.370, "played no part in the battle".]

Reasons for the Zulu victory

The primary reason for the Zulu victory is that the Zulus, unlike the British, kept their main fighting force concentrated. Further, they made a very successful effort to conceal the advance and location of this force until they were within a few hours striking distance of their enemy. In comparison, the British made no such efforts on their part. Finally, when the location of the main Zulu Impi was discovered by British scouts the Zulus, without hesitation, immediately advanced and attacked achieving tactical surprise. [Peter Doyle, Matthew R. Bennett, "Fields of Battle", Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002, ISBN 1-4020-0433-8, Tony Pollard essay, "The Mountain is their Monument",p. 126-127.] This tactical surprise prevented the British, although they now had some warning of a Zulu advance, from concentrating their central column. It also left little time and gave scant information for Pulleine to organize a sufficient defence for his command. Simply put, the Zulus had completely outmanoeuvred Chelmsford and their victory at Isandlwana would wreck the British invasion of Zululand until a second, far larger, British army could be shipped to South Africa.

In addition to the obvious courage exhibited by the Zulu warriors, there are several factors that contributed to the ferocity and effectiveness of the attack. The warriors were initially indoctrinated into the Zulu army, using methods not unlike those employed by modern armies for recruit training. They were isolated from their families and the surrounding communities in an attempt to resocialize them, to encourage and force them to adopt common attitudes and common modes of thinking. The army employed classic military indoctrination techniques, such as drill and war dances, in order to coalesce individuals into cohesive fighting units.

Reasons for the British defeat

Debate persists as to how and why the British lost the battle. Many arguments focus on possible, local, tactical occurrences as opposed to the strategic lapses and failings in grand tactics on the part of high command under Chelmsford and Bartle Frere.

The tactical arguments for the defeat:

*The initial view, reported by Horace Smith-Dorrien, was that the British had difficulty unpacking their ammunition boxes fast enough and that the quarter-masters were reluctant to distribute ammunition to units other than their own. Well-equipped and well-trained British soldiers could fire 10 rounds a minute. Even assuming a poor strike rate, 1,000 men should in theory have been able to inflict 25,000 casualties in a few minutes against an enemy only equipped with spears and clubs. The lack of ammunition caused a lull in the defence. [Horace Smith-Dorrien [http://www.richthofen.com/smith-dorrien/dorrien01b.htm Memories of Forty-Eight Years' Service] ] In subsequent engagements with the Zulu, the ammunition boxes were unscrewed in advance for rapid distribution.
*Donald Morris in "The Washing of the Spears" argues that the men, fighting too far from the camp, ran out of ammunition, starting first with Durnford's men who were holding the right flank and who had been in action longer, which precipitated a slowdown in the rate of fire against the Zulus. This argument suggests that the ammunition was too far from the firing line and that the seventy rounds each man took to the firing line was not sufficient. However, this approach has subsequently been all but discounted by modern historians, who have had the benefit of detailed surveys of the battlefield in 2001. The "ammunition" explanation, however, still remains a prevalent myth as to why the British were defeated and, certainly, in the immediate aftermath of the battle it was a more palatable excuse for the disaster - brave troops who would have held out had not their ammunition failed - than putting it down to human error on behalf of the commanding officers - none of whom anticpiated the risk or need for more secure defensive precautions, or whom, once the Zulus had made their presence known, seemed able to take the measures needed to secure the camp.
*Perhaps the most persuasive view, however, recently supported with evidence from the battlefield, such as Ian Knight and Lt. Colonel Snook's works , the latter having written "How Can Man Die Better?", suggest that although Durnford's men probably did run out of ammunition, the majority of men in the firing line did not. The discovery of the British line so far out from the camp has led Ian Knight to conclude that the British were defending too large a perimeter.

Anecdotes

One of the survivors was Lieutenant Horace Smith-Dorrien, who would go on to command the British II Corps in Flanders more than 35 years later during the First World War. Two other officers, Lieutenants Teignmouth Melvill and Nevill Coghill, were killed after escaping across the Buffalo River 5 kilometers distant, back into Natal. Both were subsequently awarded posthumous Victoria Crosses for their attempt to save the regiment's colours. Because the medal was not at that time awarded posthumously, these awards were not made until 1907. It is however unclear why Lieutenant Melvill took the colours. A story which circulated after the battle among the 24th Regiment is that when all was lost, Pulleine ordered Melvill to save the colours to prevent the disgrace of them being captured by the enemy. However, Pulleine was likely dead by the time Melvill retrieved them and so it is also likely that no such order was given. Another possible reason was that he had intended to rally the remnants of the battalion using the colours, however, if this was so, he probably would have uncased the colours and ridden towards one of the points of resistance still holding out against the Zulus. A Victoria Cross was also awarded to another survivor, Private Samuel Wassall, for the rescue of a fellow soldier; he received it the following September.

References

Bibliography

* Barthorp, M "The Zulu War: Isandhlwana to Ulundi" Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002, ISBN 0-304-36270-0
* Colenso, Frances.E., assisted in those portions of the work that touch on military matters by Lieut.-Colonel Edward Durnford; "History of the Zulu War and Its Origin", London, 1880
* Doyle, Peter; Bennett, Matthew R. ; "Fields of Battle", Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002, ISBN 1-4020-0433-8
* David, Saul "Zulu", The Heroism and Tragedy of the Zulu War of 1879, 2005
* Furneaux, R "The Zulu War: Isandhlwana & Rorke's Drift" W&N (Great Battles of History Series), 1963
* Greaves, Adrian "Rorke's Drift" Cassell, 2003 ISBN 0-304-36641-2
* Greaves, Adrian "Isandlwana" Cassell & Co, 2001, ISBN 0-304-35700-6
* Knight, Ian & Castle, Ian "Zulu War 1879", Twilight of a Warrior Nation; Osprey Campaign Series #14, Osprey Publishing 1992, 2002 ISBN 1-841-76511-2
* Lock, Ron & Quantrill, Peter "Zulu Victory: The Epic of Isandlwana and the Cover-up" Jonathan Ball Publishers, Johannesburg & Cape Town, 2002 ISBN 1-86842-214-3
* Morris,Donald R.; Buthelezi, Mangosuthu "The Washing of the Spears", Da Capo Press, 1998
* Snook, Mike "How Can Man Die Better: The Secrets of Isandlwana Revealed" Greenhill Books, 2006. ISBN 1-85367-656-X

External links

* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/zulu_08.shtml Zulu: The True Story By Dr. Saul David]
* [http://www.rapidttp.com/milhist/vol044gc.html The South African Military History Society Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift]
* [http://www.richthofen.com/smith-dorrien/dorrien01a.htm Personal account of the battle by Horace Smith-Dorrien]
* [http://www.zulunet.co.za/izl/isandlwana.htm Zulunet description of the battle]
* [http://sirius.sgic.fi/~juha/zulu.htm List of British officers killed during the Zulu war]
* [http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/19thcentury/rorkesdrift/dayoneprep.aspx Military History Online]
* [http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/case_zulu/ Secrets of the Dead — Day of the Zulu]
* [http://www.travellersimpressions.com/process/articlepage.php?storycode=rg0003 Travellers Impressions]
* [http://www.britishbattles.com/zulu-war/isandlwana.htm The Battle of Isandlwana]
* [http://www.national-army-museum.ac.uk/exhibitions/changingTheWorld/page2-3.shtml Battle of Isandlwana, 22 January 1879] (thumbnail of Charles Edwin Fripp’s painting of the 24th Regiment’s last stand at Isandlwana)

ee also

*List of Zulu War Victoria Cross recipients
*Military history of South Africa
*Zulu Dawn
*Battle of Blood River

Audio and video

* "Impi", song written by South African music superstar Johnny Clegg and performed by his band Juluka on the album "African Litany"
* Rattray, David. "Day of the Dead Moon". Audio series narrated by author regarding Anglo-Zulu War
* [http://www.cwideprods.co.uk/html/showreels.html Zulu - The Warriors Return (clip from 52 mns TV documentary)]
* 'Blood Mountain' - Produced and Directed by Michael Maloney – Countrywide Productions - Narrated by Ian Knight, world renowned authority on the Zulu nation - 45 mins


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