Boer Commando Reduced to Desperate Straits Before They Would Give In
Internal Dissensions and Unsanitary Conditions Compel Cronje to Stop Fighting
The Lewiston Daily Sun, Lewiston, Maine, 5 April 1900
[Correspondent of the Associated Press.]
London, March 28.—By means of the latest mails from Cape Town, the papers have been able to tell the story of the defeat of the "Lion of South Africa."
The Times correspondent at Paardeberg is able to give some idea of what transpired in the Boer camp, prior to surrender.
"The Red House," he writes, "a kind of Dak bungalow which is found near every drift in South Africa, was used as Cronje's headquarters. On Tuesday, the 20th, was marked by the severest bombardment of the entire investment, and a Boer doctor described the position as awful. The losses inflicted upon the horses were the turning point of the siege. Decomposition set in and the absolute need of clean air caused a serious rebellion in the camp, most of the 4,000 men demanding the surrender should be made at once.
"From that moment the Boers scarcely obeyed orders. A sharp division between the Transvaalers and the Orange Free State Boers ensued, and the only bond of sympathy that united them, besides their common adversity was a long-hidden hatred of the Germans in their ranks. Until sunrise, on the 27th, the state of affairs among the Boers was pitiful. Apart from the ever increasing hunger, despair of relief and unhealthiness of the position, mutual recriminations destroyed the last consolation of adversity, good fellowship, and Cronje sat aloof, silent and unapproachable.
"The events of the early morning of the 27th, can best be told from outside.
"Brigadier General MacDonald sent from his bed a note to Lord Roberts, reminding him that Tuesday was the anniversary of that disaster, which, we all remembered, he has by example, order and threat himself, done his best to avert, even while the panic had been at its heights; Sir Henry Colville submitted a suggested attack backed by the same unanswerable plea.
"For a moment Lord Roberts demurred to the plans; it seemed likely to cost too heavily, but the insistence of Canada broke down his reluctance and the men of the oldest colony were sent out in the small hours of Tuesday morning to redeem the blot on the name of the mother country.
"From the existing trench, some 700 yards long, on the northern bank held jointly by the Gordons and the Canadians, the latter were ordered to advance in two lines—each, of course, in extended orders—30 yards apart, the first with bayonets fixed, the second reinforced by 50 Royal Engineers under Col. Kincaid and Capt. Boileau.
"In dead silence and covered by a darkness, only faintly illuminated by the merest rim of the dying moon, the three companies of Canadians moved on over the brush strewn ground. For ober 400 yards the noiseless advance continued, but when within 80 yards of the Boer trench the trampling of the scrub betrayed the moment.
"Instantly the outer trench burst into fire which was kept up almost without intermission from 5 o'clock till 10 minutes past the hour. The Canadians flinging themselves under, kept up an incessant fire on the trenches, guided only by the flashes of their enemy's rifles, and the Boers admit that they quickly reduced them to the necessity of lifting their rifles over their heads to the edge of the earthwork, and pulling their triggers at random.
"Beginning at this line, the engineers dug a trench from the inner edge of the bank to the crest, and then for fifty or sixty yards out through the scrub. The Canadian retired three yards to this protection and waited for dawn, confident in their new position, which had entered the protected angle of the Boer position and commanded alike the rifle pits of the banks and the trefoil-shaped embrasures on the north.
"Cronje saw that matters were desperate. Col. Otter and Col. Kincaid called a hasty consultation, which was disturbed by the sight of Sir henry Colville, General of the Ninth Division, quickly riding down within 500 yards of the northern Boer trench to bring the news that even while the last few shots were being fired a horseman was hurrying in with a white flag and Cronje's unconditional surrender, to take effect at sunrise."