Another Affair in the Waterkloof
Eastern Cape Colony, South Africa
6 November, 1851

 Thomas Baines' Waterkloof
A scenario by Trevor Brabyn
for With MacDuff to the Frontier

        Introduction
        Terrain
        Figures
             British
             Colonial
             Xhosa / Kat River Khoikhoi
        Forces and Deployments
             British
             Xhosa / Kat River Khoikhoi
        Special Rules
        Victory Conditions
        What Really Happened
        Sources

(Image at right: The previous British attempt upon the Waterkloof fastness of Maqoma, which failed on 14 October 1851, a watercolour sketched from the rear of Somerset's division on the day of battle, by the artist Thomas Baines who was present at many of the actions of the Eighth Frontier War. From Thomas Baines: Eastern Cape Sketches 1848 to 1852 by Jane Carruthers.) 

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Introduction:

The year is 1851, in the middle of the Eighth Cape Frontier War, one of the many that have marked the white advance up the eastern hinterland of South Africa. The colonists (British in this particular region) are arriving by the boatload and want vacant, fertile land to graze their cattle upon; their neighbors the Xhosa to the north are faced with political turmoil from drought, Mfecane repercussions, and famine; Xhosa bands cross the border to steal cattle; settlers take communal reprisals; sooner or later you have a native revolt. However in the Waterkloof, "a long, narrow valley, eight or nine miles in length, surrounded by high mountains... almost inaccessible, being covered with rocks, caverns, trees, undergrowth, monkey-rope, etc." (Fisher 520) in the Kroomie Range bordering the Kat River country, the fastness of the great Rharabe Xhosa chief Maqoma, the situation has has become a little bit thicker than this.

Background - Maqoma's Xhosa:

Maqoma in 1834 There can be no dearth of grievances for Maqoma. It is thirty-two years now since the affable Sir Charles Somerset rewarded his Ngqika Xhosa allies of the Fifth Frontier War (1818-19) by casting them out with the rest of the "Kaffirs" to lands beyond the Kat River in order to create a deserted, "Neutral Territory" as a buffer between Cape Colony and the Xhosa.  It was in 1822, twenty-nine years ago, that Maqoma's band of them, amaRharabe, which had inherited a tract of almost completely barren ground by that treaty, first tried returning to its ancestral lands in the fertile upper Kat valley, within this Neutral Territory, and an adjacent part of Cape Colony.  Twenty-three years ago, in 1828, Commissioner-General Andries Stockenström - the one so soft on the "beasts" that the colonial press later branded him as having been inflicted upon them by the home government solely "to override the indefeasible right of Englishmen to cut off Hintsa's ears" - expelled them again as squatters, opening their Kat River District to settlement. Another two years, and Maqoma was permitted to resettle on good land near Fort Wiltshire, only to be expelled once more in 1833 by Stockenström's successor, old Sir Charles' thick-headed son Henry Somerset.

(Image above left: The victorious Maqoma at Burnshill, the opening battle of the 7th Frontier War in 1846, wearing the two blue-crane feathers on the head for a warrior who had killed a man in battle [William Fehr Collection].)

Since the bitter Sixth Frontier War (1834-35), Maqoma's people have been firmly lodged in the rugged Amatola Range, back in their old homeland, and for some time after that war, the government actually consented to it.  In 1837, an exasperated Colonial Office ordered the old Neutral Territory to be returned to the Xhosa entirely (renamed, the "Ceded Territory"), and all British ambitions to retain the "Queen Adelaide Province," territories captured during the Sixth Frontier War embracing it as well as all the rest of the Xhosa lands beyond it, abandoned.  But this arrangement could not survive the fall of Robert Peel's government in 1846, and the new Colonial Secretary, Earl Grey, appointed men - first Sir Henry Pottinger and then Sir Harry Smith, fresh from Aliwal - governors of the Cape who favored policies of annexation.  By the end of an ensuing, Seventh Frontier War (1846-47), the Xhosa lands stood once again, as all either absorbed into a new province ("British Kaffraria"), or, as in the case of the Ceded Territory, set aside for something special.  Now, however, there would be no empty "Neutral Territory," let alone a more general, "Queen Adelaide"-style arrangement, now pursued in Kaffraria, whereby Maqoma's party might be allowed to remain.  The Ceded Territory was to be opened directly to white settlement, a formal annexation of Cape Colony.

As for Maqoma himself, he had been sitting things out somewhat ingloriously for most of the Seventh Frontier War with his wives in Grahamstown alehouses, and had been imprisoned in Port Elizabeth for political reasons by the time Sir Harry Smith arrived, in December 1847.  Landing to cheering crowds, Sir Harry made a point of visiting Maqoma in jail, and before the assembled townsfolk, castigated him for treachery and forced him to prostrate himself.  With his boot on Maqoma's neck, he proclaimed, "This is to teach you that I have come hither to teach Kaffirland that I am chief and master here and in this way I shall treat the enemies of the Queen of England" (Smith 586).  The humiliation was complete.  With Maqoma's return to the Kat Valley, it has only been a matter of time before amaRharabe would erupt in revolt.

Hunting in the Kroome Background - The Kat Valley Khoikhoi:
In refusing to vacate the former Ceded Territory for white settlement, Maqoma has come upon some unexpected allies. The Kat River Settlement, created under Stockenström in the 1820s, was a British liberal experiment by which "Hottentots" and "coloureds" - Khoikhoi and Basters from Cape Colony with some Mfengu (or "Fingo") refugees from Shaka's conquests - would be set up as landowning settlers in the Kat Valley District, bordering on the Neutral Territory.  They were to be treated as having the same land rights of white burghers, and full protection of the Crown as British subjects; ideally, this would gradually serve to "civilise" and enfranchise the Khoikhoi, provide a convenient way of siphoning off squatters on white farms, and create a bulwark of "loyalist" blacks against the Xhosa.  However, bureaucratic excess in dealing with vagrants in the new settlements, prompted by the resentment of whites settled nearby (who, in any case, wanted the land for themselves), and the vitriol of the Grahamstown colonial press, culminated in a troop of police riding through the settlement, pillaging, and setting fire to some buildings in June of 1850.  This incident thoroughly alienated the wary coloured settlers, and some of them began to raid white stock and run for the hills, to join Maqoma's rebels. When Henry Somerset's army finally swept through, and broke up the settlement in February of 1851, there was left nothing to hold the remainder back.  The Cape Mounted Rifles, many of whose troopers' homes had been in the settlement and had been destroyed, suffered mutiny also and had had to be disbanded, adding hundreds of crack, British-trained soldiers into the "Kaffir" ranks.

(Image at right: "Saturday, 25 October [1851], Elephant's bush, Kroomie," another watercolour by Thomas Baines, showing officers of the 74th Highlanders in a pensive stance. From Eastern Cape Sketches.)

The Fighting to Date:
Other than two massed attacks on Fort Beaufort by the Kat River colonists in January of 1851, which resulted in the outpost's temporary abandonment, most of the actual fighting has so far consisted of parties of Ngqika raiding isolated farmsteads. The bands then return to their forested mountain fastnesses, while colonial military expeditions attempt with little success to dislodge them. According to one white settler,

The enemy did not come out boldly to fight at first, but had to be hunted out of the dense jungles, where they took up their abode, and lived on plunder, sending out strong parties, to attack any small party, or lay in ambush for any stock that was being sent from place to place. The farmers were obliged to look about and do something to support their families, so they moved out in parties of four or five men to the farms, for the purpose of cultivating the lands, and upon these small parties, the marauders made sudden attacks, carrying off their cattle, and in some cases men lost their lives in defending them (Staples 40).

In early June, Sir Harry Smith admitted that colonial military operations into the Amatola Mountains had had "no perceptible effect as regards the termination of hostilities," whilst the whole of British Kaffraria and the Ceded Territory had been "overrun by numerous and lawless banditti, by spoilers and ruthless murderers" (Milton 204).

Map of the Fort Beaufort District theatre

(Image above: The Kroomie theatre of operations. Fort Beaufort and outlying farms are marked; the latter would have been abandoned and burnt by November 1851 thanks to Xhosa and Khoikhoi depredations. From George Cathcart, The Correspondence of Sir George Cathcart relative to his military operations in Kaffraria... [London: 1856], 121.)

The Waterkloof Operations:
Stronghold in the Kroomie Now it is the Waterkloof's turn. Two previous expeditions under Henry Somerset and Colonel Fordyce, 74th Highlanders, were sent against Maqoma's stronghold there, a village weakly fortified with log slabs and heaped rocks, but strong because of its location on the summit of a narrow nek of high ground separating two deep and densely forested valleys, called by the whites respectively Waterkloof and Harry's Kloof, deep in the Kroome mountains. Colonel Fordyce took a party of 613 men of the 74th Highlanders and the Mfengu levies up there to reconnoiter on 7 September, suffering a severe beating by a estimated 4,000 rebels on the way back (McKay 93-109). On 14 October, the first two-pronged assault by converging was undertaken by Henry Somerset and Colonel Fordyce, but dense fog made it difficult for the forces to meet up and in the end the mission was abortive.

(Image at right: A a more romanticised oil-on-canvas version of Thomas Baines' rough watercolour of the 14 October action at top, showing the hut circle of the village stronghold on Mount Misery in the distance, the artillery and levies or burghers in the foreground , and the deep forested valley of Waterkloof dropping off to the left [William Fehr Collection].)

The next attempt is scheduled for today, 6 November 1851; Fordyce is coming up from Mundell's farm on the the Kroome Plain to the north, Somerset from the Kroome heights and Fuller's Hoek directions to the south and east. It is rumored that Maqoma's main force has removed to the Amatolas now, and "there does not appear to be two hundred of the enemy in Waterkloof," according to the correspondents of the Grahamstown Journal (rep. in McKay 178). Take the colonial press, always critical of the bumbling military, as you like it, but in this kind of country, there is no guarantee of any easy winnings.

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Scenario MapTerrain:

The climate here is temperate, and generally wetter and cooler than the parched landscapes of Natal and the Transvaal with which most wargamers will be familiar. This battle takes place in the summertime, however, so the overall look is a little browner than at other times of year - like Southern England or North Island New Zealand in their respective summertimes or Southern California in February. The "jungle" is not like Southeast Asian rainforest (so put away your palm trees and aquarium plants) but rather just thick woods with lots of underbrush and the distinctive South African "monkey rope" creeper vines growing everywhere. The descent from the Mount and nek into the kloofs on either side is quite precipitous, a sheer cliff in some spots, and drops further downhill towards the table edges; but for a less space-intensive solution than modelling the entire raised portion of the table with polystyrene/styrofoam, you can just mark out the edges with different-coloured paper, cloth, or a string border and imagine the rest - the scenario rules make no distinction on this count.

Mount Misery is a high point in the middle of the nek, higher towards Fordyce's edge of the map; a painting of it by Thomas Baines appears above. The Grahamstown Journal report of 15 November 1851 described Maqoma's followers' village upon it as "...near the summit of the kloof, which they have fortified with a breastwork of detached rocks..." (rep. in McKay 177). Baines' painting reveals it as being quite high up near the summit of Mount Misery, a circle of beehive grass huts arranged in a circle, with low ramparts encircling. 

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Figures:

British Figures:

HM 74th and 2nd HM 43rd  












(Images, clockwise from top left: A private of HM 74th Highlanders, showing the Bedford buff hunting smock, brown leather belts, tartan trews unique to this regiment, and the Kilmarnock cap with diced band worn also by HM 91st, though with plain trousers and uniform coatees, from 1st Corps Miniatures promotional art; Another illustration of the 74th in action, a detail of a painting by Thomas Baines of the Ambush of Fordyce's column on 7 September 1851 now hanging in the Regimental Headquarters, the Royal Highland Fusiliers in Glasgow; Officers and men of HM 43rd regiment in camp, March 1852, another watercolour by Baines, showing the dress coatees stripped of lace for the rigors of campaign worn also by HM 91st, plus other non-regulation adaptations such as the mixing of blue winter and white summer trousers, covered and uncovered forage caps, some with added leather peaks, civilian wideawake hat, and so on. The officers seem to have departed from uniform altogether [Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection]; HM 2nd Foot on the march in shell jackets, detail from "A Convoy of Waggons," an illustration in Scenes in Kafirland by L. Graham and H. Robinson.)

The British regular army figures are all obtainable from 1st Corps Miniatures in the UK, and the less-distinctive English infantry regiments among them could equally be represented by 1840s New Zealand Wars figures from Old Glory and Strategem/Trent, or the old Sikh Wars figures from Wargames Foundry if you can find them secondhand. For the artillery, Foundry Sikh Wars or Opium Wars are your best bet, as I am not aware that 1st Corps makes British gunners for this conflict. For both infantry and artillery, Crimean War figures are too late, although probably only the most crotchety would likely point it out.

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Colonial Figures:

CMR CMR CMR CMR Burgher
Fingo levy Fingo levy Fingo levy Burgher

(Images above, clockwise from top left: Four repesenations of the Cape Mounted Rifles, all from paintings and sketches by Thomas Baines except for the second one, which is a modern illustration by Brian Aldridge; then two of the British mounted burgher volunteers, the top one from the plate of the wagon train in Scenes in Kafirland by L. Graham and H. Robinson, the bottom one a pencil sketch by Thomas Baines; and finally three men of the Mfengu levies all by Baines again, the watercolours from Eastern Cape Sketches and the oil-on-canvas a painting in the William Fehr Collection entitled "The loyal Fingo".)

The CMR and other Colonial figures are again, all available in 25mm from 1st Corps Miniatures, although for the English burghers on foot we also have Old Glory "Wagon Train settlers" from their earlier "Warpaint" Old West line - tall figures, and mostly unarmed, but nevertheless including some excellent pioneer types with muskets. The Old Glory Texas War of Independence Texans for San Jaquinto are also rather handy for this if without obviously American items like fringed buckskin coats and eagle feathers, as are some of the Bobby Jackson "Gangs of New York" musket-armed figures available from the Virtual Armchair General, the Mike Broadbent Designs "Sergeant Steele" pose from his old Ned Kelly range available through Nic Robson of Eureka Miniatures, and various other civilian, Missouri guerilla, sans-culottes, or Franc-Tireurs types from the Wargames Foundry Old West, Franco- Prussian War and French Revolution ranges.

For the Mfengu you might also want to check out the Abbotts Miniatures Napoleonic West Indies "Negro infantry" for variety from the coming 1st Corps figures, although you will have to remove the bayonets from their muskets for complete accuracy.

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Xhosa & Kat River Khoikhoi Figures:

Rebel war party Maqoma

(Images above: Left: A good sampling of the various so-called "Kaffir" insurgents in the 8th Frontier War from a 19th-century engraving - Xhosa, Kat River Khoikhoi, and Cape Mounted Rifles deserters. The hodgepodge mixture of all three groups is actually quite accurate. The loincloths shown on some of the Xhosa  men however reflect only the Victorian sensibilities of the artist and were not a common item of dress [Anne S.K Brown Military Collection]. Right : The tough, fed-up middle-aged Maqoma of the 8th Frontier War, a watercolour by G. Remy, 1852).

In 25mm, all the necessary figures are made by 1st Corps Miniatures in the UK to quite a good standard; for variety Greg Blake's Cannon Fodder Miniatures in Australia used also to make a Xhosa range that included some even better figures, and these can sometimes still be had by special order, if you order enough. For "coloured" Kat River colonists, the current Cannon Fodder Alamo Texians include some usable poses, as do the Wargames Foundry "Darkest Africa" 19th-century Belgian Force Publique "Tribal Auxiliaries" in cast-off European hats and coats, and the Abbotts Miniatures "Negro infantry" from their Napoleonic West Indies range. The pending 1st Corps "Fingo levies" will also be usable as-is for the Kat rebels, dress and armament being the same.

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Forces and Deployments:

British under Fordyce and Somerset:

Fordyce's force:
Enters the anywhere along table edge shown on Turn 1 in skirmish order, unless for some reason the player wants to start in some other formation, which he may.

Lieutenant-Colonel John Fordyce                       => 1 Fordyce figure on foot
700 men drawn from HM 74th and  HM 91st     => 2 battalions of 21 men including command
240 Fingoes                                                       => 1 battalion of 15 men including command
[200] mounted burghers                                     => 1 unit of 12 men including command
2 small field pieces                                             => 2 light brass mule-borne mountain guns with 4 Royal Artillery crewmen
 Total of 1,150 men

Somerset's Force:
Enters anywhere along the table edge shown  on Turn 2 in skirmish order, unless for some reason the player wants to start in some other formation, which he may.

Major-General Henry Somerset                          => 1 Somerset figure on horseback with ADC/bugler
~700 men drawn from HM 2nd and HM 12th     => 2 battalions of 21 men including command
[210?] CMR                                                      => 1 battalion of 13 men including command
3 Field guns                                                        => 3 field guns with limbers and 9 Royal Artillery crewmen

Ngqika Xhosa and Kat River Khoikhoi under Maqoma:
Units may start concealed anywhere on the table except the clear, open nek areas, in line, mass, or skirmish order.

Maqoma                                                             => 1 Maqoma figure
4 sub-generals                                                     => 4 sub-generals
200, maybe quite a lot more.                               => 6 units of 21 men including leaders.

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Rules:

The rules used are Ross MacFarlane's With MacDuff to the Frontier. Originally published in The Courier in 1997, this game is meant for the more recent version available free on his website, pretty much straight-up. The only special conditions are as follows:

Troop Classifications:
The British regulars count as Steady Regular musket-armed Infantry, Fieldcraft 1, with a drummer or bugler, a "colonel" on foot, and 4 company officers (usually represented on the tabletop by figures with NCO chevrons) in each 21-figure battalion.

The Mfengu or "Fingo" levies count as Unsteady Regular Light Infantry with muskets (poor shots), fieldcraft 3 (their historical role being mainly as spotters for the infantry), with a "colonel" and 3 company officers, 14 figures altogether.

The Burgher volunteers count as Irregular Mounted Light Infantry (poor shots), with smoothbore muzzle-loading carbines, fieldcraft 2. They are 12 men including a field-cornet ("colonel") and one second-in-command.

The CMR count as Steady Regular Light Horse (aka Mounted Rifles), with smoothbore muzzle-loading carbines, fieldcraft 2. They are 13 including a "colonel," a bugler, and 3 company officers.

Maqoma's people all count as Irregular Light Infantry with muskets, fieldcraft 3, in units of 21 each including 1 leader and 1 second-in-command. He is being given a lot of sub-chiefs and leaders to reflect the high degree of coordination his people showed at Waterkloof.

Entering the Kloof:
"Onward they went until the edge of the forest had been gained. But oh, horror! the forest could not be entered at that point; where the grassy flat terminated, a deep chasm intervened between it and the forest" (McKay 165-166).

British/colonial battalions and detached companies entering the kloofs from the clear must roll 1D6 at the edge to see if there is a way down at that point. On a roll of 6, it is impassable and the move stops with the unit poised on the edge. It will have to try again somewhere else by moving at least 6" along the edge of the kloof from where they were on  asubsequent turn and making the same roll again.

The Tractless Kloof:
"No. 2 company, which had been ordered to assault the part between the Kroomie pass and Waterkloof pass on Mount Misery, instead of moving directly to the front, kept inclining to its right. Fordyce, being on a height, perceived the enemy in their front, but the company moving along a hollow at the time, did not observe them" (McKay 163).

The forested kloofs count as broken terrain for any unit moving inside them, and as "a wood" for visibility. Once 6" or more inside them at the beginning of a move, the "getting lost" rules under the movement section also apply for battalions and detached companies. Note that under these rules, with fieldcraft 3, the Fingoes and Maqoma's people cannot get lost and therefore need not roll. Additionally, for those British units rolling, the General (Somerset or Fordyce) can add +1 to the die roll by attaching himself to the unit for that turn, with the attendant danger of being vulnerable to leader casualties on that unit.

Reminder on leader casualties:
Make sure to remember to play using leader casualties if, like me, you're prone to forgetting - they were critical in this battle.

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Victory Conditions:

The British objectives are to take Maqoma's stronghold on Mount Misery and clear the kloofs of insurgents.

If the British take Mount Misery and clear both kloofs of rebels it is a decisive British victory.
If the British take Mount Misery and clear one kloof of rebels it is a partial British vicrtory.
If the British take only Mount Misery or one kloof then it is a partial Xhosa victory.
If the British take neither Mount Misery nor either kloof it is a decisive Xhosa victory.

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What Really Happened:

In the wee hours of the morning on 4 November, Fordyce's column began its arduous flanking march from Fort Beaufort to Mandell's Farm via Hermanus' Hill to the north, encumbered with their artillery and the ox-wagons of the commissariat. Sergeant McKay of the 74th Foot recalled later, "On the previous day much rain had fallen, and the rugged, stony road which wound up the hill was said to be impassable for wagons. However, we got the train in motion (as difficult a job as to get so many line-of-battle ships to sea), and managed to crawl to the beginning of the ascent, when despite sjambok, whip, and the unceasing swearing of the wagoners, we could move no farther, the roads being in such a miserable plight" (161). It was not until the 6th that Fordyce was in readiness for the assault.

Out of contact with Somerset, but with orders to march up the narrow grassy nek dividing the gaping Water- and Harry's kloofs in preparation for the assault on Maqoma's village there, Fordyce marched his men that morning down to the nek, deploying his guns on a height by a mealie patch or root garden slightly behind which he had used previously on 14 October for the same purpose. Maqoma had concealed his warriors in the bush, trees, and creepers of the kloofs, lining their heads, and opened when Fordyce's men, exposed on the nek above, were in range. All the soldiers could perceive were puffs of white smoke below them to their left and right, and a variety of balls and missiles buzzing through their ranks.


Fighting in the Waterkloof"Until the guns and brigade arrived at the position above mentioned, no enemy worthy of notice appeared, -- behind rocks, screened by forest and bush, they had taken cover; and although the artillery began with shell, and skirmishers dashed on towards the jungle, firing and being fired at, yet the unfortunate troops did not perceive half a dozen of the enemy to practice at, so much concealed did the enemy keep themselves within the bush" (McKay 163).

(Image at right: John Blades Curry's watercolour of the kind of fighting he witnessed at the Waterkloof in 1852 as a young Burgher volunteer, which is in fact no less accurate a depiction of the action of 6 November, from Fifty Years in the Cape Colony [1900].)

Fordyce immediately put his men into skirmishing order and flung out companies into the bush to the right and left, and by 9 am had committed the whole of the 74th and 91st to rooting out their ambushers in the forested  kloofs. Ordering his artillery to advance another 400 yards down toward the nek, he saw from their position one of the companies of Highlanders veering off to the right, not seeing the enemy to their front since they were then moving along a hollow.
Fordyce was running down onto the exposed nek waving his hat and bellowing for the company to keep to the front, not being heard above the din of musketry and cannon-shot, when a stray shot, some said from a "Hottentot" marksman perched in a tree, passed through his chest, and he fell mortally wounded.

Death of Fordyce"Colour-Sergt. McDougal and others were quickly by his side, and raised him up, when he calmly requested to be carried to a shady place out of the scorching heat, and ordered the doctor to be sent for. He was conveyed up the hill, and placed under a tree. Dr. Frazer was soon in attendance, but alas! the bullet had done its work. As Colonel Yarborough sat by his side, his senses began to leave him, and imagination took hold of his once powerful mind. Then, as if with redoubled force, his wandering intellect would return to the battle-field whereon he lay, and as the roar of the musketry reverberated far around in the deep kloofs, and the wild hurrahs of his charging men rang far and near along the mountain ridges and deep valleys, - he turned his head towards Colonel Yarborough, and said, "Yarborough, Yarborough, what will become of those poor men? My poor regiment! Yarborough, look after them, look after them!" (McKay 164).

(Image above: detail showing the mortally wounded Lieutenant-Colonel, from Thomas Baines' famous oil-on-canvas painting, "The Death of Colonel Fordyce" [William Fehr Collection].)

 With a few more mumbling words about home and family, the brave and popular war-captain sighed his last breath. In short succession thereafter also fell Lieutenant Carey, Sergeant Diamond and several other men of the 74th in the fighting in the bush. Lieutenant Gordon's light company of this regiment had by that time been detached in support of two companies of the 91st  on the left, but No. 2 Company of HM 74th on the right, the same company that Fordyce was trying to direct when he died, was still in danger.

"Colonel Yarborough, who had assumed the command after the death of Colonel Fordyce, ordered this company to close upon their right. It was Gordon's wish to advance and support No. 2. When the light company had formed up, Yarborough said to them, 'Now, my men, your colonel is dead; your leader is no more; off with the blankets from your backs, and for the sake of the country which we all love, and your own honour, advance and revenge the death of your chief.' " (McKay 165)

 Storming back accross the open nek with a cheer, the lights took heavy casualties in the crossfire from the hidden Xhosa, Gordon himself falling shot in both legs, which dounbled over when he tried to regain his feet. He, "lying with his mangled limbs on the blood-dyed grass, waved his rifle in the air and roared out to the men to continue the charge and revenge the death of their colonel" (McKay 165). However when they reached the edge of the bush, they found only a deep chasm, impossible to enter at that point, and had to double back over the open ground to find cover, Sergeant Kearney being in the meantime hit at as well and half-falling off the edge of the precipice wounded. Some men tried to rescue him, resulting in the death of one by a bullet through the gut. The 74th's grenadier company, under Captain Duff, which had successfully driven off the Xhosa from the head of the Waterkloof,  was requested to support them but demurred, having been ordered to hold their gains by Yarborough.

Desperate Fight(Image at left: "The death of Col Fordyce," as depicted by W.R. King in 1851. Although clearly based on the erroneous information contained in the Illustrated London News report on the action that he had died at a village well inside the kloof while leading a charge back up the slope at musketmen concealed in the trees, it captures the desperateness of the 74th's position very well [Africana Museum].)

The whole of Yarborough's force in this way remained pinned in their positions on either side of the nek all day, and were still there when Colonel Somerset's column arrived, he having by then overcome the stronghold with his own force, of which we have not as good an account. The lights were relieved fi
nally by two companies of HM 12th, who ran at the Highlanders' bugle-call to recover the body of Sergeant Kearney, "but it had been dragged over the edge of the rock, and was nowhere to be seen. With heavy hearts we retired, leaving the 12th to hold the ground we had so dearly paid for" (McKay 167).

A mob of "Kaffirs" now having slain the beloved colonel and two officers (Gordon having died of his wounds) besides two sergeants and twelve to fifteen other men of the same prestigious Highland regiment of the British regular army, and another storm coming on, Somerset was forced to abandon the position in the late afternoon and retire to bivouac where his artillery were on the open Kroomie heights to resume operations in the morning. One of the correspondents for the Grahamstown Journal wrote of Fordyce's leaderless camp, "His death had a great effect upon all the men, nor could you get a smile out of any man, black or white, for a long time. The enemy seemed determined not to give way, but obstinately to hold their position, and to watch with vigilance all our movements. They stole a span of oxen from our camp on the first day, and on the second day of the fight they got off with two spans" (McKay 179-180).

Retreat from WaterkloofThe 74th spent as a force for the time being, it was left to the other regiments to make another attempt at regaining the stronghold and surrounding kloofs again, the bulk of the fighting in Yarborough's division falling upon the 91st and the Mfengu. The action was short and usuccessful, one company of the 91st being badly cut up, and was called off in the afternoon because of the torrential rain. One more soaking night was spent in the Kroomie camp, General Somerset's men rapidly losing heart. "The men made fires, to keep themselves as comfortable as possible under the circumstances; but a cloudy darkness and mist soon enveloped us, extinguishing all fires, and with cheerless spirits we remained shivering through the night, hoping for morning to come, that the sun might warm and dry us. But the morning brought no change, the weather continuing wet and disagreeable," wrote McKay (171). Lieutenant Devenish of the Mfengu levy also fell mortally wounded that night by a stray Xhosa musket-ball, and the Grahamstown correspondent added, "
The bodies of our men who had been buried were found the next morning dragged out of their graves, dreadfully mutilated" (McKay 180). Their morale now at rock bottom, the British gave up the struggle and made back for Fort Beaufort.

(Image above right: "Return from the fight, Tuesday Octr 14, 1851, looking down the Waterkloof," watercolour by Thomas Baines showing the retreating British carrying their wounded. On the horizon Mount Misery, the location of Maqoma's stronghold, can just be made out between the slopes of the kloof. From Thomas Baines: Eastern Cape Sketches 1848 to 1852 by Jane Carruthers.)

So ended another fruitless foray into the Waterkloof. For his part, General Somerset blamed the dead Fordyce for attacking too early, before he could be assured of support at the point of convergence.
The Grahamstown correspondent who was also present reflected, "Never in my experience did the enemy fight so desperately. The rebels held such position and fired so correctly that it is astonishing how so many of us escaped ... It is not supposed that the main strength of the enemy is any longer in the neighborhood, but still they are very numerous, and they must be expelled at last. The troops cannot be withdrawn. The Kafirs have only to be driven from all their strong points, I fear, to occupy them again as soon as the troops shall have gone" (McKay 180).  The British would not be able to expunge the Waterkloof of rebels until the capitulation of the Kat River Khoikhoi in September of 1852, almost a year later; the fighting dragged on in the remote parts of the Amatolas until March of 1853, when Sir Harry Smith's successor, Governor George Cathcart finally granted Maqoma and his relation the paramount Ngqika Xhosa chief Sandile, along with the other Xhosa insurgents an official pardon, in return for yet another banishment from the Amatolas.

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Sources:

Cameron, Trewhella, and S. B. Spies, eds. An Illustrated History of South Africa. Johannesburg: Jonathan Bell, 1986.

Carruthers, Jane. Thomas Baines: Eastern Cape Sketches, 1848-1852. Johannesburg: Brenthurst Press, 1990.

Currey, John Blades. John Blades Currey: 1850-1900, Fifty Years in the Cape Colony. Ed. Phillida Brooke Simons. Johannesburg, Brenthurst Press, 1986.

Cory, Geoffrey E. The Rise of South Africa: A history of the origin of South African colonisation and of its development towards the East from the earliest times to 1857. Vol. V. of 6 vols. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1930.

Featherstone, Donald. Victorian Colonial Warfare: Africa, from the campaigns against the Kaffirs to the South African War. London: Blandford Press, 1992.

Fisher, John. "The Kaffir and Basuto Campaigns of 1852 and 1853 as described by an Old Soldier who served in them." Ed. Hugh Pearse. United Services Magazine (1898) 520-536.

MacFarlane, Ross. With MacDuff to the Frontier III: 25 Dec. 2003 Draft. Wargames rules. With MacDuff on the Web. 11 September 2004. Ross Macfarlane. 11 January 2005 <http://www.lochsloy.ca/macduff/With0MacIII.htm>.

McKay, James. Reminiscences of the Last Kafir War, illustrated with numerous anecdotes [by] James McKay, Late Sergeant in Her Majesty's 74th Highlanders. Cape Town: C. Struik, 1970.

Milton, John. The Edges of War: A History of Frontier Wars (1702-1878). Cape Town: Juta, 1983.

Oakes, Dougie, ed. Reader's Digest Illustrated History of South Africa: The Real Story. New York: Reader's Digest Association, 1988.

Smith, Harry. The Autobiography of Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Smith, Baronet of Aliwal on the Sutlej, G.C.B. Ed. G. C. Moore Smith. London: John Murray, Abermale Street, 1903.

Smithers, A. J. The Kaffir Wars: 1779-1877. London: Leo Cooper, 1973.

Staples, Isaiah. A Narrative of the Eighth Frontier War of 1851 ~ 1853. Ed. J. de Villiers. Pretoria: The State Library-Die Staatsbiblioteek, 1974.

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