Godfrey Lagden.

The Basutos; the mountaineers & their country; being a narrative of events relating to the tribe from its formation early in the nineteenth century to the present day (Volume 2) online

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British Government was not to desert in their extremity
those whose faithful alliance had been proved up to
the hilt.

At the time of the departure of the Transvaal
contingent the season of the year was favourable to
ploughing and the planting of spring crops so that,
as the burghers straggled away to their farms for that
purpose, General Fick found himself with a force too
emasculated to execute major operations. The Basuto
also devoted what attention they could to cultivation,
though seed grain was very scarce. For these reasons
there was a lull in the strife during the closing months
of 1865 broken only at intervals by bold expeditions
carried out swiftly by small Boer commandos main-
tained on the border for harassing tactics.

General Fick reported on December i that with
600 men and 2 guns he again attacked Molapo in
Leribe, driving him to a stronghold at Thaba Patsoa
twelve miles distant with a loss of twelve men ; but
it was a tough running fight, the Basuto disputing the
ground obstinately and hanging dangerously around
the camps every night. Returning to Platberg on

Desultory Fighting 383

the 6th he encountered a large body of the enemy
under Masupha who, according to the Adjutant-
General, offered the sternest resistance they had yet
experienced. They were defeated with the loss of
fifty and three burghers fell. On the 17th he was
obliged to storm again the Berea mountain which
had been reoccupied in menacing numbers by Masupha
who was driven off with loss.

Commandant Smit on the loth at Matsieng engaged
Letsie, killing fifteen and capturing stock. Com-
mandants L. Wessels and Roos on the 13th cleared
the Korannaberg with little difficulty losing one burgher
against a loss to the enemy of fifteen. Commandant
Webster on the 31st led a commando past the " Hell "
of old memory where a " cattle trap " laid for them
was avoided. Passing on to the plateaux in rear of
Matsieng he worried the enemy right up to Makwai's
mountain securing unexpectedly a fine lot of stock
deserted by the herds in panic. By such methods
the Basuto were harried and discomfited.

On January 8, 1866, the High Commissioner ac-
quainted Moshesh of his unwilling conviction that the
Chief had behaved with insincerity in not keeping his
promises to compensate Natal ; the Government could
not submit to such deceit and evasion in return for
its forbearance and good-will ; therefore he was under
the painful necessity of informing the Natal Govern-
ment they were free to enter Basutoland in sufficient
strength to seize what was required in satisfaction ;
further, he might feel obliged to ignore the Chief and
in future consult his principal sons in respect of
political relations. Thereupon he wrote in similar

384 The Basutos

terms to Letsie and Molapo, advising them to act
promptly in their father's behalf, otherwise he could
not entertain their repeated prayers for an extension
of the Queen's dominion over them. At the same
time he authorized the Governor of Natal to organize
an army of Zulus and Volunteers for the purpose of
bursting into Basutoland to levy the fine if not
redeemed before a date of which due notice was to be

In addition to his official letters of January 8, Sir
Philip Wodehouse wrote several of the same date of
a confidential character showing that, in spite of
Moshesh's shortcomings, he was anxious to succour
the Basutos. To that end he addressed the Governor
of Natal in the following sense, trusting it might have
a restraining effect : —

The latest accounts from the Free State justified a
belief that the commandos were disorganized and the
people generally so weary of war as to render it not
improbable that negotiations for peace may in some
form be set on foot : it was therefore inexpedient by
any action on our part that could be avoided to revive
the hopes of the Boers and thus give fresh life to
hostilities. Much allowance should be made for the
distracted condition of the Basutos. It was clear that
no one would undertake to punish Ramanella in the
absence of an unequivocal order from Moshesh ; in
fact any decided effort to do so would drive him into
the arms of the Boers. Every Chief of importance in
the tribe had appealed urgently for the Queen's pro-
tection but it was doubtful how Her Majesty's

Faulty Natal Claims 385

Government would view such an arrangement.
Believing that much good would result from such a
change he, the Governor, would gladly keep open the
door for negotiations to that effect and therefore,
while not absolutely tying the hands of Natal, he
begged they would weigh the circumstances and
moderate their action accordingly.

To Mr. Burnet he wrote also confidentially,
desiring him to privately inform the missionaries that
he was personally favourable to the proposal of ex-
tending British rule over Basutoland if peace or a
suspension of hostilities could be brought about ; but
the Basuto would put it out of his power to take
advantage of this so long as the Natal claim was
unrequited. The missionaries must therefore be
invited to move the old Chief and his sons to re-
spond effectively to the orders and advice given to

This comprehensive correspondence of January 8
had scarcely been posted when the Governor dis-
covered that owinor to incorrect information from
Natal as to their true losses he had been led to demand
from the Basuto 10,000 cattle when 4,000 would have
sufficed, 2,141 of which had been delivered after
Burnet's mission. He expressed himself as greatly
annoyed at having been induced inadvertently to
impose an excessive penalty for an act committed by
a solitary chieftain without consent of the heads of
the tribe during a state of disorder brought on by a
border war in which many of the losers of property
were engaged. He thereupon considered it his im-

3^^ The Basutos

perative duty to cancel by a despatch of January 1 1
his authority for Natal to invade Basutoland and
forbade any advance whatever without his further

Influenced by this irritating affair, Sir Philip Wode-
house whose sympathetic leanings towards the Basuto
had for some time been manifest deemed it a fitting
moment to lay the whole case before the Imperial
Government and suggest annexation. In a despatch
of January 13, 1866, he reminded the Secretary of
State of the frequent and sincere solicitations of the
tribe to be taken over as the sole chance of saving
them from confusion and distress and of preserving
peace in South Africa. The Free State was always
too weak to protect its own subjects, repel invasion or
govern the Basuto. The war between them promised
to impoverish both races and in the end to leave oiie
strong enough perhaps to crush its neighbour. Basuto-
land was split up into divisions owing to the failing
of Moshesh. Nevertheless the people had advanced
and were worthy of help. They were amenable to
order, were prepared to pay for the cost of administra-
tion, and consequently he, the Governor, was convinced
it was our duty and interest to accede to their wishes.
For all those reasons he recommended that the country
should be declared as part of Cape Colony, to be
rendered subject to its laws but placed under the
authority of the High Commissioner.

Evidently nervous lest the position should be com-
promised, the Secretary of State, then Mr. Cardwell,
replied with unusual haste. In a despatch of March 9,
1866, he stated that : —

Attitude of Imperial Government 387

The extension of British rule in South Africa was
a matter too serious in its bearings to be entertained
without some overruling necessity such as had not yet
arisen nor was likely to arise in the present case : it
was natural that Moshesh, old, failing in health, harassed
by war, perplexed by domestic difficulties, should be
willing to submit to a power whose protection would
at once shield him from external danger and relieve
him from internal embarrassment. But, the danger
being over, the pressure of control might be felt and
feelings change ; even if he was satisfied, rival ambi-
tions might, at his decease, unite in resisting a
superiority irksome to all.

When native rites and customs were repugnant to
Christianity and involved usages inconsistent with the
free institutions of British rule, difficulties were intro-
duced which it was desirable to avoid by abstaining
from the extension of sovereignty — otherwise it gave
the alternative of forcible repression or the recognition
of practices alien to our principles. But it remained
to consider whether there were not other means to
accomplish the object in view. Were it made clear
to chiefs and people that if, in the case of measures
taken for their express benefit, they did not provide the
means by taxation, or disobeyed orders, our protection
might at once be withdrawn and they would then be
left to their fate, it would be easier to withdraw an
Agent, such as had been formerly proposed, than to
retire from a sovereignty. Sovereignty involved cor-
relative obligations under which public and personal
right grew up such as it was difficult if not dishonour-
able to compromise for the sake of some political con-



The BasutoS

venience arising at the time. It ought not therefore to
be lightly undertaken, and could not easily be given up.
The Secretary of State in conclusion was not pre-
pared to authorize the Basuto tribe being taken under
the immediate authority of the Queen.

This made it quite clear that annexation was out
of the question ; but it revived and sanctioned the
old expedient of appointing a Resident Agent which
the Governor in his anxiety might reasonably have
done at once and was preparing to do. In order
however to show his embarrassments under changes
of Imperial policy, the conflicting instructions he
received upon that subject are placed side by side : —

Mr. Cardwell.

March 9, 1866.
I shall rejoice in any
safe and practical exertion
of your moral authority
either by the estabHshment
of an Agent at Thaba
Bosigo, or by other
means. . . .

Lord Carnarvon.
July 25, 1866.

I do not think any
advantage will be secured
by appointing an officer to
reside with the Basutos.
Our connection with the
tribe should be strictly
limited to a friendly medi-
ation such as can lead to
no closer or entangling
relationship. I am aware
that my predecessor sanc-
tioned your making such
an appointment, . . . but
I shall be glad if you can
abstain from doing so. . . .

Offers of Mediation 3^9

Sir Philip Wodehouse followed up his recom-
mendation to the Secretary of State by an offer on
January 20, to President Brand, to negotiate between
the Free State and Basuto in the hope of promoting
an equitable peace. He assumed that both sides had
suffered heavily and that each wanted a guarantee
for the future rather than a struggle about the past.
He allowed himself to hope that by mediation he
could attain that object, for the Basuto had persistently
pleaded to be taken under British protection and would
defer to advice. The offer was made purely in the
cause of humanity and civilization.

The President laid the matter before his Volksraad
and on February 23 replied. After reviewing all the
circumstances regarding the war and its genesis, he
was authorized to state that the Government and
people of the Orange Free State felt that a solid and
substantial peace could only be obtained by prosecuting
the war with vigour. Peace by mediation would not
produce that effect with savages who had invariably
shown utter disregard for treaties and promises.
Therefore they felt unable at present to accept His
Excellency's offer.

During the progress of these negotiations the war
was kept going in a desultory manner. In retaliation
for the worrying by small commandos the Bataung
under Molitsane made a daring raid up to the precincts
of the town of Winburg on January 8, killing a Boer
and his son found on the outskirts and a few native
cattle herds, and sweeping off the entire stock pasturing
on the commonage. General Fick happening to be
camped in the neighbourhood went to the rescue with

39° The Basutos

200 burghers, drove off the enemy and recaptured all
the stock except 100 valuable horses. The town was
subjected to several attacks of this nature during the
next month.

On January 22 a large force estimated at 3,000
hailing from Molapo's attacked the town of Bethlehem
from three sides with the intention, as confessed by a
prisoner, of burning the place and putting the in-
habitants to the sword. Commandant De Villiers
with a patrol of 125 burghers and some Batlokoa
allies galloped to its relief, and after a sturdy fight
beat off the attack, killing, according to report, 200
in a vigorous pursuit. A young Boer was found
murdered in the environs, and Commandant Senekal,
one of the bravest of the pioneers, was shot dead in
the pursuit at the mouth of a cave. The same day
Commandant Joubert believing a body of raiders were
secreted at Mekuatling rushed the mission station,
killing ten and confiscating the cattle of the Christians.
Commandants Webster and Piet Wessels with less
success engaged Poshudi's people who menaced their
laager near Bushman's Kop, Thirty of them were
killed but the enemy could not be dislodged from the

The month of February saw the Free State field
force largely augmented by burghers returning from
furlough and animated by patriotic sentiments roused
in the Volksraad by the President's speeches and by
resolutions passed after declining the Governor's
mediation to pursue the war without flinching. The
army was reorganized. The total strength of 2,000
was formed into four columns of about 500 each

Photo by Capt. French.


p. go]

A Mountain Expedition 391

who, having regard to the fact that domestic mis-
understandings hindered the Basuto from moving any
longer in large masses, were to act independently
from central laagers at Harrismith, Winburg, Mekuat-
ling and Bushman's Kop. The scheme was to bustle
the enemy by rapid manoeuvres, go for their cattle
and give them no rest. It had the effect of driving
all outlying units of Basuto opposition across the
Caledon, compelling them to fall into defensive posi-
tions on the higher plateaux beyond, thus narrowing
the theatre of operations.

The campaign took a decided turn when on
February 23 a flying column under Fick of 546 picked
burghers and 61 native scouts, without transport or
provisions other than could be carried on horseback,
started on a precarious expedition to penetrate the
Drakensburg with the idea of threatening the Basuto
from behind their formidable frontal defences, at the
same time menacing their cattle posts where great
herds were clustered.

It was a favourable season of the year for the
stratagem, the grass being still nourishing for horses
and the worst rains over. Nevertheless it was a bold
undertaking as the nights were intensely cold and the
men had no covering. Skirmishing along the upper
Caledon for some miles, the column ascended a pass
near Butha Buthe, the ancient residence of Moshesh,
and were soon encamped at the Mont-aux-Sources,
getting a first view of the magnificent panorama, with
Natal nestling below on the far side. Thence, being
in no mood for the study of scenery, they skirted
sharply along the Orange River for a considerable

39^ The Basutos

distance capturing cattle and shooting without mercy
the defenceless herds, thirty of whom fell at different
times. It is difficult to distinguish this form of killing
from the occasional acts of violence perpetrated by
Basuto raiders on defenceless persons, excepting of
course those cases where treachery was employed. All
such incidents were deplorable ; but they must be
ranked together. At one point only did the column
meet with opposition when a body of the enemy stated
in the report to number 2,000 made a sudden attack
from a masked position. This being repulsed, the
column retired leisurely towards their laager near
Winburg, having taken much booty which owing
to the difficulty of driving down dwindled to 2,722
cattle, 184 horses and 3,500 sheep.

The result of this successful expedition was twofold :

(i) It proved to the Boers that strong well-organized
parties could safely venture amongst the strongholds
of the inner mountains, and to the Basuto that they
were no longer immune from attack on that side ;
neither could their cattle any longer find sanctuary

(2) It had immediate effect. On March 4, just
after General Fick returned to Leribe, Molapo sent
to beg for an armistice pending surrender and terms
of peace he was prepared to make on his own account.
This was granted and his son Joel given up as a

Molapo lost no time in notifying the action he had
taken to Moshesh who, staggered at the blow, besought
General Kick to make the armistice universal in order
that an effort might be made to bring about a general

Molapo makes Terms 393

peace. These overtures led to a suspension of
hostilities all round until the arrival, March 21, on the
border of President Brand and his Executive Council.
Negotiations with Moshesh however were fruitless,
he regarding the terms offered as tantamount to
obliteration of his tribe.

Consequently, active hostilities were resumed by
the Free State columns. Commandant Wessels carried
out a swift movement with great dash in central
Basutoland. Sweeping past the '* Hell " devastating
the villages everywhere found he swung round through
Molomo's Hoek towards Cornet Spruit, beat off
several attacks and returned to his laager near the
Caledon laden with booty. Similar activity directed
from Harrismith was less fortunate. Commandant
Dreyer, a man of conspicuous character and Chairman
of the Volksraad, while returning from a raid at
Witzie's Hoek was ambushed. Most of his patrol
escaped ; but he and a few burghers forming the
vanguard were cut off and assegaied.

In the interval President Brand proceeded to
Ficksburg where on March 26 he entered into a
Treaty with Molapo who signed away his birthright.

He agreed : —

1 . To recognize the various Proclamations by which
his country was annexed to the Free State ;

2. To evacuate all territory beyond the Caledon
River ;

3. To pay 2,000 cattle as a fine ;

4. To become a subject of the Free State and
receive a Landdrost whose orders he would obey ;

394 The Basutos

5, To abstain from all hostile acts, from aiding
or abetting the other Basuto chiefs, from sheltering
them or their cattle ;

6. To surrender a son and chieftain as hostages
for good behaviour.

This treaty of Molapo proved what appeared to be
the first step towards capitulation and dismemberment
of the Basuto nation from whom several hundred
square miles of coveted land were thus abstracted.
Moshesh realized that the desertion of his son gave
the Free State the essential base from which operations
could be easily directed against Thaba Bosigo and
the country be overrun. His flank was in fact
completely turned and the patrols were already harass-
ing him to death. He therefore summoned a Pitso
of his people and resolved with their consent that
the safest course was at all hazards to come to
such terms as would lead to the disbandment of the
Free State forces, thus allowing him to harvest the
autumn crops pending a resumption of hostilities
at a later date if and when the circumstances were

With that view he made overtures to the President
who arranged to meet him on April 2 at the old
burgher camp under Thaba Bosigo. As he was too
ill, or frightened, to attend in person he sent a selection
of his sons and sub-chiefs to represent him at the
meeting. The President wisely abstained from sug-
gesting impossible conditions like those imposed in
August 1865 relative to enormous fines, surrender of
arms and independence, and evacuation of Thaba

Moshesh driven to Terms 395

Bosigo. He was too eager for peace to risk failure
by straining too far.

On April 3 the parties in conference concluded
a formal Agreement which was immediately sent up
the mountain to Moshesh who attached his signature
and seal.

Treaty of Peace between the President of
THE Orange Free State and the Chief

Whereas the Chief Moshesh has signijfied in writing
to His Honour the President of the Orange Free
State his desire to open negotiations for peace, and
has accepted as the basis of such negotiations the
acknowledgment of the territory annexed to the Orange
Free State during the war ; and whereas the Chief
Moshesh has declared that he is too indisposed to
proceed to the place of meeting appointed by his
Honour the President, which declaration has been
certified by the medical man at the camp before Thaba
Bosigo, after examination held by him, to be in
conformity with truth ; and whereas the Chief Moshesh
has in consequence thereof granted a full power in
writing, dated Thaba Bosigo 3rd April 1866, to his
brother Paulus Moperi, together with his son Nehemiah,
to assist him in the same, in order to establish the
conditions of peace, under promise of approval and
ratification of the same. It is therefore agrreed between
His Plonour the President of the Orange Free State
and the said Paulus Moperi, assisted by the said
Nehemiah Moshesh, regarding the following Articles : —

39^ The Basutos

Jrticle I. — The Chief Moshesh acknowledges the
territory annexed by proclamation of Commandant-
General J. J. J. Fick to the Orange Free State, which
proclamation was later confirmed by His Honour the
President, with advice and consent of the Executive
Council, and finally ratified by the Volksraad on 7th
February 1866, to be territory of the Orange Free
State, and to constitute thereafter a portion of the
same, the boundary line between the Orange Free
State and Basutoland being henceforth fixed as follows :
From Bamboesplaats near Pampoenspruit, with a
straight line to about three miles to the east of
Letsie's new town ; thence with a straight line north-
wards to Caledon River ; up along Caledon River to
the Putisani, up along Putisani to its source, and
thence along the Drakensberg to the Natal British

Article II. — The Chief Moshesh binds himself to
cause the proclaimed territory, specified in Article I.,
to be immediately evacuated by his people ; such
of them as fail to comply with that condition shall
be regarded as enemies, and shall be expelled by the
armed forces of the Orange Free State without any
hostile interference whatever on the part of the Chief
Moshesh or his people.

Article III. — The boundary line mentioned in
Article I. shall be beaconed off by one or more
Government land surveyors, previous notice whereof
shall be given by His Honour the President to the
Chief Moshesh, the latter having the option to
appoint one or two representatives to be present at
such beaconing off.

The Terms 397

Article IF. — The Chief Moshesh acknowledges the
Chief Molapo and his people as subjects of the
Orange Free State, conformably to Article VI. of
the treaty of peace concluded between His Honour
the President and the said Chief on 26th March

Article V, — The Chief Moshesh binds himself to
deliver at the camp of Chief Commandant Wessels
1,000 head of large cattle as war expenses, and
2,000 head of large cattle as compensation for injury
done to the Orange Free State ; 80 head of said
cattle to be delivered on the 4th April 1866 before
sunset, and the remainder at the latest on the nth
April 1866.

Article VI, — The Chief Moshesh binds himself to
deliver out to the Orange Free State government, on
production of a warrant signed by competent authority,
such criminals as may be demanded by the same of the
Chief Moshesh.

Article VII. — As a guarantee for the due, faithful
and full performance of the stipulations of Article V.,
the Chief Moshesh binds himself to send to the
camp of Commandant Wessels two of his sons as
hostages, who shall remain there until the delivery
of the cattle mentioned in Article V. shall have taken
place in full.

Article VIII. — The Chief Moshesh binds himself
to take care that in future his subjects do not enter
or pass through the territory of the Orange Free
State otherwise than in conformity with such condi-
tions and regulations as shall be enacted by the

39 S The Basutos

Article IX. — The Chief Moshesh acknowledges
that the Chief Moroko, who has been an ally of
the Orange Free State in the war against the Basutos,

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Online LibraryGodfrey LagdenThe Basutos; the mountaineers & their country; being a narrative of events relating to the tribe from its formation early in the nineteenth century to the present day (Volume 2) → online text (page 4 of 23)