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Time Periods => 1870-1900 => Boer War -- 1899-1902 => Topic started by: young90th on October 27, 2008, 08:15:00 PM
The Second Boer War not yet a big reenacting topic is starting to come into our orbit. About a6 months ago a 8 of guys got together at Lincoln University and had the first Boer War reenactment. I am now a proud member of the Pretoria Commandos. This is a paper I wrote after my initial research.
The Second Boer War
The second Boer war lasted for three bitter years costing over 39000 lives, and straining the British Empire of resources. This was the first of many wars the British would fight during Queen Victoria?s reign. The reasons for the war revolve around land, gold, power, and a grudge.
In the 19th century South Africa was dominated by the British Cape Colony, and the two free states of the Boers. These two states, The Orange Free state and the Transvaal Republic, worked closely together after the First Boer War in 1880. The British attempted to overthrow these republics multiple times leading to a very fragile relationship between the Boers and the British. In 1886 the largest deposit of gold in the world was found near the capital of the Transvaal Republic Pretoria. A wave of Uitlanders (foreigners) seeking gold flooded the country seeking gold to the point that they almost outnumbered the natives of the country. This resulted in a number of problems especially the Republics refusal to grant equal rights to the uitlanders. Another key component of the conflict was Cecil Rhodes, the British governor of the Cape colony, who wanted to spread the British Empire across all of Africa; he played a key role in fueling the conflict. In 1895 the spark would light the fuse to conflict when a group of Cape Colony policemen, farmers and other civilians armed to the teeth set out from Bechuandaland to Johansaburg to free it from Boer control and start an uprising of Uitlanders. This was short lived, The Boer Authorities had all ready heard of the plan and after a short firefight the Raiders surrendered. This would become known as the Jameson Raid for the man who led it, Starr Jameson. Jameson was imprisoned for 15 years but was widely recognized by many English as a Hero. This was ?the real declaration of war?.
Boereoolog means The Second War of Liberation. And that is exactly what it was. The average Boer farmer looked no match to the well-armed and well-trained soldier of the British Empire. But these farmers would soon trade their plows for Mausers and put up a bloody fight to free them.
In September 1899 the British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain offered a choice for the States. Either give equal rights to the British immigrants or the British would declare war. Seeing that to avoid war was impossible the President of Transvaal offered an ultimatum as well. Remove all the British troops from the border in 48 hours or prepare for war. These Ultimatums were never carried out but added still more pressure on the situation. The top finally blew on October 11, 1899 when war was declared.
As war started in South Africa the Boer States mobilized an army of 40,000 farmers ready to launched an all out war which they did. The Boer Commandoes, as they would become known as, used very simple tactics hitting the enemy where he least expected it and then vanishing into the land, and laying ambushes using every scrap of cover. The Boers also used light Calvary, with tactics first used the in American Civil, with deadly afficiatles sweeping in and destroying the enemy and riding off into the sun before the British could even react. The Boers quickly struck the Cape Colony from October 1899 to January 1900. The British were shocked after this series of victories thinking this war would be easy for the mighty empire, but this was quickly proven wrong. The two biggest battles during this time were the siege Mafeking and Kimberly. But as the Boers discovered these victories would be short lived, as ship after ship of British reinforcements arrived in South Africa.
The winds changed in January 1900, as General Robert the commander of the British forces took up the offences attacking Ladysmith and fighting the battle of Spion Kop. These battles were the beginning of Offensive, but the main operation would start in February. On the 14th and 15th of February Roberts sent a whole Calvary division to relieve the besieged town of Kimberly which succeeded. As the Boer Army, which was fighting at Kimberly, retreated the Roberts Army Surrounded them laying siege to the army for one week before they surrendered 4,000 men. The first big victory for the British was the capture of the Free Orange States capital city of Bloemfontein on March 13. This was followed by a series of key victories till at last the British took Johannesburg on May 31st and the capital of Transvaal Pretoria on June 5th. Now the British had taken over both States, but as they found out they only controlled the land that they stood on.
Now the British set in for a comfortable ruling of South Africa the war was over and all that was left were farmers. But the farmers were the soldiers of the Boer and they would continue to fight for years to come harassing the British on every road crossing every stream and in every town.
Starting in September 1900 the Boer people launched a guerilla war. They traveled the country avoiding British columns living off the land and the local population. The population was not beat but continued to support the Boer soldiers, with arms, food, intelligence, and fresh recruits. All men were the army now and even young boys joined up acting as scouts and doing other small jobs. The lack of a supply line never fazed the Boers, they would strip the British soldier off almost everything leaving them dead only in there long underwear. This Guerilla style war reeked havoc on the British destroying lone columns of soldiers and Block Houses, this alone cost the British in the first strike of this kind of warfare 155 casualties, seven guns, 117 wagons and the capture of 428 troops.
The British, to fight this kind of warfare put in place the scorched earth policy, which resulted in ruining the countries. The Scorched earth Policy allowed British troops to burn farms and towns, poison wells, salt fields, interning women and children in consecration camps and other acts of destroying the Boers lifeline. The camps were set up for the Boer people to live after the British destroyed there house or farm. All these camps were filthy and Dysentery, measles, typhoid and malnutrition were rampant. There were a total of 45 camps for Boer families and 64 camps for black Africans who were not even considered a threat to the British. This was the first time that a whole country was uprooted and put in camps. POW?s were to dangerous to be left in Africa the British being afraid they would be freed by locals, sent them to branches of the empire such as India and the Caribbean. Over 7,000 POW?s were sent over seas.
The Guerilla war continued the Boers having to intension of surrendering. In 1900 the Guerillas in the Pretoria were very effective, with Roberts assumption the war was over he had replaced his crack troops with irregular militia who didn?t stand a chance against the battle harden Boers. In Late January of 1901 a man named De Wet, led a renewed Boer army to capture the Cape Colony. This was supposed to trigger an uprising of the Cape Boers but the plan failed, the British chasing the Boers back over the Orange River.
The Boers at this point realized they could only hold out so long. Some operations still took place but by and large the war stopped.
On May 31st the War ended. This was not the first time the Boers had tried to end the war, oh no they had offered their surrender before but the British denied their terms until now. Victory came with a price though; The Boers would receive 3,000,000 to rebuild their countries and would also be granted limited self-government in 1906. As the Boer People returned to there farms and homes they found them destroyed and uninhabitable. Many farmers found that their soil had been salted and still were unable to farm, forcing them to move to the cities such as Pretoria and Johannesburg.
Though the Boers were beat they by no means liked the British. The Boers tried to gain freedom again in 1916 but this rebellion was quickly quenched. Some High ranking Boer soldiers would rather suffer exile then sign the treaty and lived out there lives in other African countries. This war, now a mere foot note in history was then the beginning of the many rebellions against the British Empire mainly the Irish. The Irish agreed with the Boer rebels and sent aid and even men to fight with them. This also led to the Easter rising in April 1916.
In total there were 75,000 dead. The Butchers bill read as followed; 22,000 British soldiers dead, 7,000 Boers soldiers dead, and 28,000 Boer civilians dead.
*The Name given to the war meaning ? The Second War of Liberation
** This was the name given to the guerilla fighters meaning ?Irresponsible?s?
*** Simple ?The End?