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   Chapter 29 No.29

Three Years' War By Christiaan Rudolf De Wet Characters: 6694

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Was Ours a Guerilla War?

Something almost miraculous now happened! Hardly had we been three hours across the river when it became completely unfordable!

We knew that we should have now a few days at least in which to rest ourselves, and we marched slowly to the farm of Lubbeshoop. From there I sent General Fourie to operate in the south-eastern districts, where he had been before, and despatched Judge Hertzog to the south-western districts.

We were of the opinion that we should be able to do better work if we divided the commandos up into small parties. We could not risk any great battles, and, if we divided our forces, the English would have to divide their forces too.

The commandos were now divided as follows:

1. The district of Kroonstad: the men under Commandants Philip De Vos, Jan Cilliers and Maree.

Sub-district of Heilbron: the men under Commandants F.E. Mentz, Lucas Steenekamp and J. Van de Merwe.

All of these were under Vice-Commander-in-Chief Johannes Hattingh.

2. The district of Vrede: the men under Commandants Ross and Manie Botha.

Sub-district of Harrismith: the men under Commandants Jan Meijer, Jan Jacobsz,[91] and (at a later period) Brukes.

All of these were under Vice-Commander-in-Chief Wessel Wessels.

3. The district of Winburg: the men under Commandant Hasebroek.

The sub-district of Ladybrand: the men under Commandant Koen.

The sub-district of Ficksburg: the men under Commandant Steyn.[92]

The sub-district of Bethlehem: the men under Commandant Michal Prinsloo.

All of these men were under Vice-Commander-in-Chief C.C. Froneman.

4. The district of Boshof: the men under Commandant J.N. Jacobsz, P. Erasmus and H. Theunissen.[93]

Sub-district of Hoopstad: the men under Commandants Jacobus Theron (of Winburg) and A.J. Bester (of Brandfort).

All of these were under Vice-Commander-in-Chief C.C.J. Badenhorst.

5. The district of Philippolis: the men under Commandants Munnik and Hertzog.

Sub-district of Fauresmith: the men under Commandant Charles Nieuwouwdt.

Sub-district of Jacobsdal: the men under Commandant Hendrik Pretorius.

Sub-district of Petrusburg: the men under Commandant Van du Berg.

All of these were under Vice-Commander-in-Chief Judge J.B.M. Hertzog, who also was in command of the western part of Bloemfontein.

6. The district of the southern part of Bloemfontein: the men under Commandants Ackerman and Willem Kolbe.

Sub-district of Thaba'Nchu: the men under Commandant J.P. Strijl (a member of the Volksraad).

Sub-districts of Bethulie and Smithfield: the men under Commandant Gideon Joubert.

Sub-district of Rouxville: the men under Commandant Frederik Rheeders.

Sub-district of Wepener: the men under Commandant R. Coetzee.

All of these were under Vice-Commander-in-Chief Piet Fourie, and later on under George Brand.

Not long after this arrangement had been made the district under General Froneman was divided into two divisions, and Commandant Michal Prinsloo was promoted to be Vice-Commander-in-Chief of Bethlehem and Ficksburg as separate sub-districts. Bethlehem was then given three Commandants, namely, Commandants Olivier, Rautenbach and Bruwer.

All this new arrangement of our forces made it impossible for great battles to be fought; it offered us the opportunity of frequently e

ngaging the enemy in skirmishes, and inflicting heavier losses upon them than would otherwise have been the case. For the same reason our losses grew larger from month to month, but they did not increase in the same proportion as those of the enemy. Again, we captured more prisoners than formerly. It is much to be regretted that we were unable to keep them, for had we been in a position to do so, the world would have been astonished at their number. But unfortunately we were now unable to retain any of our prisoners. We had no St. Helena, Ceylon or Bermuda, whither we could send them. Thus, whilst every prisoner which the English captured meant one less man for us, the thousands of prisoners we took from the English were no loss to them at all, for in most cases it was only a few hours before they could fight again. All that was required was that a rifle should be ready in the camp on a prisoner's return, and he was prepared for service once more.

The fact that we fought throughout the Free State in small detachments, put the English to some trouble, for they felt themselves obliged to discover a vocabulary of names to apply to us!

Thus when Lord Roberts on the 24th of May, 1900, proclaimed the Orange Free State (and afterwards the Transvaal) as annexed by the British Crown, he described those who continued to fight as rebels. Then again we were called "Sniping Bands" and "Brigands." But the list of epithets was not exhausted yet, for it appeared that we were "Guerillas," and our leaders "Guerilla Chiefs!"

I was always at a loss to understand by what right the English designated us "Guerillas." They had, however, to withdraw the soubriquet at the Peace Negotiations, when they acknowledged that our leaders formed a legal government.

Let me say a few words more about this term "Guerillas." We will suppose that England has captured New York, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, or any other capital of a free and independent State, Kingdom or Empire, and that the Government of such State, Kingdom or Empire still continues to defend itself. Would England then be entitled to call their antagonists "Guerillas"? Or, we will suppose that England's capital has been taken by another nation, but the English Government still remains in existence. Could England then be considered to be annexed by the other nation, and could the enemy term the English "Guerillas"? Surely it would be impossible!

The only case in which one can use this word, is when one civilized nation has so completely vanquished another, that not only is the capital taken, but also the country from border to border is so completely conquered that any resistance is out of the question.

But that nothing like this had happened in South Africa is clear to every one who recalls the names of Lindley,[94] Roodewal, Dewetsdorp, Vlakfontein, Tafelkop[95] and Tweefontein, not to speak of many other glorious battle-fields on which we fought after the so-called annexation.

Nor must we forget to mention the defeat that Lord Methuen received at the hands of General De la Rey immediately before the conclusion of peace; a defeat which put the crown on all our victories.

But, as I have already said, it very soon appeared that when England stamped us as "Guerillas," they really did not mean to use the word at all.

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