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 CR Last stand at isandlwana 1879

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Ulzana
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Date d'inscription : 15/02/2015

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MessageSujet: CR Last stand at isandlwana 1879   CR Last stand at isandlwana 1879 I_icon_minitimeSam 25 Mai - 10:23

Wargame is not just gaming, but a way of discovering History too.
Military history, of course, and why peoples fight each other.

Part I    Just a quick analysis of European  settlement and colonization of South Africa  

CR Last stand at isandlwana 1879 Arriva10

Dutch immigrants landed in South Africa near the Cape of good hope in the middle of 17th century, founding  the Cape town

They were mostly calvinists, sometimes fleeing european countries religious wars and discriminations, in search of lands or good fortune.
Like the americans first settlers, they were very religious people,often  believing they were the "chosen people" of God
and this land , their "promised land".


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Slavery  was growing high at that time, a lucrative commercial system.
Natives black chieftains selling vanquished rivals prisoners for firearms and european goods.


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The Dutch colonists needed cheap human labor.


Britain send british colonists to the Cape in 1820, with the project to make South Africa another crown 's jewel.

These colonists were not eager to work hard in remote dusty  farms, and prefered to live in ports and towns, in eastern and north eastern South Africa.




The afrikaners didn't want to live Under Britain rule.
In 1838 Britain abolished slavery, which was considered as an economic necessity by the afrikans Farmers.




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Many  moved  north and north east, the "great trek" began, a harsh and Dangerous but fantastic adventure in a magnificent countryside.



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Most of them began to spread east and north to grab lands and build farms and cultivate lands.
Rivalry for lands with  natives people  (like Khoikhoi and particularly the Xhosas) and the forced labor by slavery lead to many wars (9 Kaffir wars) during a century  from 1780 to 1879.
Many Skirmishes, attacks on native villages or raid on farms, created a profound resentment  between black natives and white settlers.
Racism and hate were the fruits of this antagonism.


South Africa became a motley collection of small colonised states, some Under Britain rule, others Afrikans "free states".


In 1879, Natal , on the northern eastern coast, was a small british colony, its capital Pietermaritzburg had 5000 citizens,
who where anxious.

"The thoughts of native insurrection amongst even the military weak clans of Natal was worrying enough.
The prospect of of the mighty zulus descending on the colony was a nightmare of wholly different proportions."
"Sir Bartle Frere, Governor of the Cape an high commissioner for southern Africa , was only too keen aware that the king  of the zulus  could fiel close to 40 000 fighting men."
LT Col Mike Snook "How can man die better".


"King Cetshwayo had been crowned by Sir Theophilus Shepstone (Natal secretary of native affairs).
And the zulu so called potentate was a client king of the British Empire"  Mike Snook.


But…


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Shepstone and Frere began looking for some justifications for actions  against the zulus.
When a few violent incidents (inter zulus clans rivalry ) took place along the border Shepstone claimed the zulu king supported those outrages".

Ty Bomba "ST 314

"They sent an ultimatum to the zulu king.
Demanding the effective disbandment of the zulu army, and cession of lands"

Accepting  would amount to the end of the zulu nation...and death of Cetshwayo (at the and of any rival).

"Cetshwayo rejected it."

They had provoked "un fait accompli", London reluctance to fight another colonial war had been overcome.
It would be a sure victory, a good occasion to be distinguished in a Glorious action.
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MessageSujet: Re: CR Last stand at isandlwana 1879   CR Last stand at isandlwana 1879 I_icon_minitimeSam 25 Mai - 15:12

Part II   Military considerations :  The Zulus

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Shaka was at the head of the zulus at the end of the  teens of XIX th century.
He changed the art of warfare of the zulu nation.
The warriors were in regimented, formations highly  disciplined and extremely efficient on a battlefield.


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Instead of the  native groups of javeliners habits, the zulus were searching the close combat with a new weapon : the Ilkwa, a short stabbing roman legionary  gladius looking assegai.

His shield could be thrusted towards the enemy face or hook his shield to discover his body then the zulu could stab with his ilkwa.

An impi (little zulu army composed of many régiments from a mere thousands to 20 000 warriors) was, like the roman legion, efficiently coordinated.
It adopted the Bull formation:
The center (the Chest of the bull) 's mission was to fix the enemy, the wings (the horns ) 's was to surround it and prevent its withdrawal.
The reserve (the loins ) 's was to reinforce a stalled part of the impi or pursuit the routed.

A zulu impi was Deadly in combat and very mobile.
Each warrior carried only its shield and weapons (a small part of them had muskets), and was fleet footed, young boys carried some supply behind
The impi could travel many miles per day on any ground, easy as difficult.
The zulus were masters in using terrain to hide themselves, and in appearing  suddenly withour being detected.

The other natives tribes could not cope with such a war machine.
The zulus forced their rival native tribes to leave their lands if they wanted to survive, or submit to them.


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But the Voortrekkers (the africans settlers or colonists) had found a way to stop the impi and make it pay bloodily: the laager.

Like the american settlers in the old far west, they formed a circle with their large wagons attached to one another, but they fortified them with  earth mounds, and blocks of stones to prevent easy zulus infiltration.


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In 1838 the impi of King Dingane was defeated with horrendous losses at the battle of blood river.

Anyway, Afrikans had earned a great respect for the zulu military power.



Part III     The military considérations: the british imperial war machine.


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by January 1879 Chelmsford 's army was assembled along the zulu frontier…

"Mindful of the infinitly Superior mobility of the zulu amabutho (régiments)  and the resultant necessity to preevnt a counter invasion of natal, he divided his limited resources between non fewer than five columns (three of them being major ones)".
Mike Snook


Chelmsford was confident: anytime there was a regular infantry nucleus, armed with their Martini Henry rifle: the black natives were routed or nearly destroyed.
The british infantry had fought many times the Xhosas in difficult terrain and won each skirmishes.
The only times, the natives had prevailed, it was against Natal Native Contingent (black levies partialy armed with old rifles, or assegais) or auxiliary mounted infantry (colonial volunteers on horse).
Durnford was wounded and battered in such an encounter.


Chelmsford thought that each of his three principals columns was safe with their two battalions of regular foot infantry.

For him, the british firepower had changed the tactical situation.
No need to make the laager, it would be too tiresome and too time consuming to erect one.
It was old fashioned tactics, a modern army could be spared of.


Its problems were in the operational area:

The "road " to Ulundi (Zulu royal Kraal ) ...was not a road.  

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Just a path crossing many dongas (often steep thalwegs), a nightmare for the hundreds large supply wagons.
They needed dozens of cows to cross such obstacles and formed many miles long columns.
During which the army was very  exposed to a sudden attack of the main impi.
It was necessary to recon the countryside to detect the enemy long before it could be in position to charge.
But the british invasion columns had no regular cavalry, just some small groups of colonial mounted volunteers or mounted  natives.

And...Chelmsford wanted to attack the  Kraals bordering Natal, to destroy any threats  which could appear once the main army column would have bypassed them.


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But he needed more troops to do that, than the small groups of mounted colonials at his disposition.

And he wanted to have some action as soon as possible, persuaded than if he could bring a big zulu detachment to combat his troops ' firepower would win the day.
The movement of all these wagon trains were so slow, that it could take month to get to Ulundi.

So he many launched NNC (natal native contingent companies of men on foot) against the first Kraals detected.
Skirmishes with zulus obliged him to reinforce them with some british  companies, because the NNC would be doomed against a strong party of zulus.

The forces supposed to guard the camp at Isandlwana were obliged to send some companies.

Then 1500 zulus were detected in the South east in a difficult terrain of gorges and stony Kops, his NNC and regulars were obliged to stay on a hill on a whole  night, exposed to a vicious all dark night attack.

Afraid of that he reinforced them a second times with 4 regulars companies of the 2/24th.

Once, two battalions stength,  the Isdandlwana camp garrison was reduced again to only 5 companies of the 1/24th and one of the 2/24th:
just 6 companies of british infantry and 2 guns (4 ones joined the 4 cies gone to the rescue) somme NNC and allied izigoza zulus were not able to deliver much firepower..


The camp at Isandlwana was now understrength…

Some will say later it would have stand with 10 companies, 6 was not enough.

Some officers asked for some retranchments, no orders were given: the terrain was hard ground with many stones,
trenches would not have been efficient said Chelmsford, but Breatsworks would have.
Not one km long breastworks (the camp was very dispersed) but some small redoubts made of makeshift crude stone Walls, with plenty of ammo reserves Inside, supporting each other with rifle fire
Partially protected from zulu fire  by the improvised "stone Walls", and in some way  from stabbing  ilkwas,
the regulars could have survived this awful January the 22nd  afternoon

Chelmsford's  forces were attracted in the South east direction, where the great impi was supposed to be lurking laying unseen in some dead ground.

But the main impi was not there, it was  hidden in the north eastern, less than two miles from the camp…

A zulu prisoner, under physical, pressure had said that many hours before, but Chelmsford didn't heard.
He has his own idea.

The british military war machine was formidable, but his great leader and his staff were too confident in the firepower of the british infantry.

This rule of iron needed one of two conditions:

1/ To be fortified behind makeshift Walls of crates, sandbags or stones (like in Rorkes drift in the late afternnon of the 22nd  or later at  Khambula battle) .
or
2/ To be numerous, 10 companies minimum, the more the  better, with some well protected artillery pieces, and plenty of ammo,
and not deployed  … but in a huge square formation, (like in Ulundi battle later).

It 's easy, with our knowledge today to criticize historical great officers, they didn't know this rule of iron,
they discovered it ...after Isandlwana 's disaster.
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