Through the eyes of a Field Coronet (Epic)
In the kaki coloured tent in Umbilo he writes
his life’s story while women, children and babies are dying,
slowly but surely are obliterated, he see how his nation is suffering
while the events are notched into his mind.
Lying even heavier on him is the treason
of some other Afrikaners who for own gain
have delivered him, to imprisonment in this place of hatred
and thoughts go through him to write a book.
The Afrikaner nation sprouted
who fought decades without defeat
against the super power Spain
mixed with French Huguenots
who left their homes and belongings,
with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
Associate this then with the fact
that these people fought formidable
for seven generations
against every onslaught that they got
from savages en wild animals
becoming marksmen, riding
and taming wild horses
with one bullet per day
to hunt a wild antelope,
who migrated right across the country
over hills in mass protest
and then you have
the most formidable adversary
and then let them fight
in a natural wilderness
where the hunter,
the sniper and horseman excels
and any enemy is at a lost.
Let them then also be patriotic
into their souls,
believe in and read
out of the word of God
and then there is almost nothing
that these people do fear.
The Zuid Afrikaanse republic
existed out of twenty one districts,
each with a magistrate for civil ethics,
a commandant to deter the enemy,
in control of a commando as their leader
and so structures appeared
with a commandant-general for much greater authority,
for the whole country.
A field coronet was in control of a ward
to issue commands in it
and the citizens themselves chose their men
as they thought best
and all men from sixteen to sixty had to do service,
if the need be, be prepared for war.
A field coronet was a respected man
as the magistrate, justice of the peace and prosecutor
and a military leader of a ward who could
call up citizens for duty to a commando in a laager
and he was a political representative
of the government and in a district
citizens chose own officers
as they saw it fit.
Commandos arouse when the Boers
had to defend themselves against attacks
from black tribes
and they came together in numbers
to be able to give proper resistance
and to stop pillage, murder and sorrow.
I. Battles against rebel captains Mesotie, Sebboel, Mapit and Magoeba
On the farm of Daniel Page
all the citizens of the ward come together
and Jacobus Potgieter hurried there
and they crowd around the rifles and ammunition
that the government was providing
just a little distance from the cornfields
and Jacobus was like many without a weapon,
but ready to serve his country
and from many hunting expeditions
with his brother in law, Jacobus was very capable
with a rifle.
This was however the first time
that he had been called up for war
and at dusk he was on the porch
when the field coronet arrived with a letter
addressed to the four black captains
who were rebelling
and it happened on the same night
that the field coronet still awake and active
had to depart with sixteen citizens
to Agatha near the native village
of captain Mesotie
and they were totally unaware
that they were awaited,
where they fought bravely
hurrying to the little fortress,
firing to try and win the struggle.
At Agatha they were cornered,
had to make holes
through the walls
to shoot from the building
in their fierce task
to resist the attackers.
The government after this incident sends
a big commando to help,
but the Mesotie tribe
fires at them with canons
from up high and from below
and with rifles and spears
they assaulted the Boers.
The Boers answer their attack
with their own cannons,
shooting into the bushes
where a little war erupts,
and the commando as both horsemen
and foot soldiers
rush down to the village
opening fire and the village starts to burn.
after his tribe loses the battle,
being tired from the events of the past days.
All his tribe’s rifles,
spears and many other weapons
and the village is stripped
of grain before the fire destroys it.
General PJ Joubert manages to
get captain Sebboel in control
and captain Mapit’s tribe
is caught and are crestfallen.
Magoeba flees with his tribe
into the thick bush and his village
is burnt to the ground and stripped,
but the Magoeba tribe circles out
taking half of Houtbergbos
and the town was almost lost to them.
Six forts are constructed
to try and get the Magoeba tribe under control.
The enemy however
draws the citizens manning the forts
out of the forts
while they wait in ambush
and surround them.
The government again calls up
a large commando
and even tribesmen from Swaziland come to help.
Some of the Swazi warriors
behead Magoeba and nineteen others with a sword,
praising the ancestral spirits
and the Boer citizens
win the war against the rest of the Magoeba tribe
pinning them against the hill
and taking them prisoner
and come to the aid of the Swazi’s in times of trouble.
II. The Jameson raid of 1896
Jacobus Potgieter was busy
trading yellow-wood planks
for cattle and was far from his farm,
when he heard about the nonsense
due to Jameson and his little gang
and he hurried to render his services
while they were invading the Transvaal,
but when he did reach Pretoria
the shots had already been fired
and the enemy had been imprisoned.
General Cronje had decided
to lead Jameson’s band into a trap
that was set near Krugersdorp
and at Doornkop the little battle was fought
and some of the citizens,
as agents of the government,
took good quality rifles and canon.
After this incident President Kruger
had set a ultimatum to the foreigners
and a large commando went to collect the rifles
that they had smuggled into the country.
Judge Gregorowski gave the members
of the reform committee the death penalty
but President Paul Kruger had mercy
and changed the sentence
to fifteen years imprisonment
and once again he considered the requests
for leniency, by changing the sentences to a large fine.
Even Cecil John Rhodes was involved
with the invasion
and he lost his position as prime minister
of the Cape colony
but the British government had refused
to pay a single cent
of the claim of damages,
and the problems with the foreigners
had not been solved.
III. The Magatoe war of 1897
Back in 1867 the parents of Jacobus Potgieter,
all the inhabitants of Schoemansdal,
had to flee from the forces of Magatoe
and the farmers were anxious
of the raids of pillage and plunder
of the “Babbler”
and Jacobus himself saw
the destruction of Magatoe’s tribe
and how the town and church, had to be left
to the mercy of Magatoe
and how they had to flee
further back into the republic.
The situation became more serious
and in 1897 the government
called together a commando
of four thousand citizens to stop the plunder
of Magatoe’s tribe and before the attack,
a day of prayer was held
asking God to have mercy on His nation.
The commando was still far away
into the hills, the cliffs,
when firing started from the Magatoe tribe
while their view was still obstructed
and Jacobus was in the front lines of the battle
where he and other Boers, with accurate shots
drove the enemy back
as most of them were marksmen.
Suddenly a thick cloud of fog appeared
enveloping the whole enemy village,
giving the Boers time to build entrenchments
from behind which they could harass the enemy.
When the entrenchments were ready
the thick cloud of fog over Magatoe’s village
started to dissipate and to general Joubert it seemed fit,
as he gave orders
to dropp canon shells and bullets
like rain on that village.
In a half hour’s time they stormed
into the village
while firing at will.
Most of Magatoe’s warriors
fled to safety
and some was killed,
and one rose from a hole
to try and resist,
but Magatoe’s tribe, the Matabele (Ndebele)
then fled to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)
and that formidable tribe
was taught a lesson
and after thirty years stopped harassing the Boers.
IV. Preview to the war with Britain
Jacobus had just been back at home
when in 1899 he had to leave it
and had to leave his family behind,
to get involved with the war against Britain.
He had been gone
on a two month long hunting expedition,
where he was hunting from the back of his horse
and so many animals were shot
that he filled an ox wagon,
but out of duty he had to go on commando
and had to leave his wife and children behind.
Along with his friends they hunted fifty animals.
The game consisted of giraffes, cape oryxes
and eland, many was shot at a time
and he first went back
to greet his family as he had to be on commando
by the eleventh of October
and he went on horseback without fear of the British.
After five hours on horseback from Houtbosberg
they got to the laager,
greeted other men there,
but had to leave again to the Soutpansberg hills
to meet with another commando coming from Spitskop
at the Crocodile River and was told,
that the government had declared war
on Great Britain and was ordered to go to war.
That evening one citizen was of the opinion
that the war would not last long,
as they were civilised men
and every one a marksmen
and he did hear that the British
was also a civilised people
could be sorted out, in a civilised manner
and he gave big value to that quality of them.
Somebody else thought
that it would take months long
and another person that for many evenings
they would have to gather around fires
and that the government has another plan
apart from war
to resist the British.
V. The start of the war
From a hillock
two Boer commandos storm from the back
into a British camp and start the battle
and a couple of British soldiers are shot,
a lot of them are captured, but it’s almost in vain
as most of them flee and get away.
The Boers follow them
in the direction of the Tuli River and at daybreak
some of the enemy combine forces
with comrades at a ox wagon
and the Boers shoot accurately
to try and stop them
and the British break from cover
and the enemy flee
to find shelter in a house
that is empty
and try to resist from the cover of it.
The house is shot to pieces
and for the third time on one day
the British again flee from that aria
against the superior numbers of Boers
and the next day
the Boers capture nine wagons, left behind
with ammunition and food.
The next day Boer scouts
find a large abandoned British camp
with tents, horses and mules where they stop
and while Jacobus tries to rid his feet from cramps,
he notices a large cloud of dust
that is coming in their direction,
that he interprets as enemy.
There’s a field coronet
that stands his man,
to resist the enemy
while two Boer commandos flee past him.
At dusk Jacobus Potgieter finds more men
with a canon on a hillock
and with just more than twenty Boer citizens
he is worried,
but prepares for and waits the enemy.
The more the night darkens,
the nearer the cloud of dust comes
and the Boers are ready to resist the enemy,
to let no Englishman pass them
and there’s a rumbling sound
and something is wrong
as no enemy appears
and they are taken by surprise
in the moonlight
without a shot being fired,
by a huge swarm of grasshoppers
of which the whole veldt is covered
where they swarm like ants.
Jacobus was really disillusioned and angry
about the cowardliness of officers,
of which some
do not return to the commando
and to him this is nearly treason
and to him they are worse than animals.
Sometimes some of the Boers
just asked permission
not to participate in the battle
(of which the general just had to bare knowledge)
and in that way the Boer forces decreased
and the permission could not be denied
and then the men went home, went away.
Generals could only react
against men deserting without permission
and some left the others
and was sometimes nearby
sometimes seen near to battlefields,
as spectators watching
how the battle develops
and some of these later worked for the enemy.
VI. The siege of Kimberley
The Soutpansberg commando got instructions
to go to the Modder Rivier,
to stop the enemy
who were marching along the railway track.
The commando was divided in two
and Jacobus Potgieter was ordered
to ride along with field coronet Alberts by train
to Modder River near to Magersfontein
and the other field coronets and the commandant
went to Colenso to help put it to siege
and to surround that town.
At the Modder River they met general Cronje
and seven thousand other citizens
and greeted each other.
Just a little later commandant-general De la Rey
and the Transvaal citizens were added to strengthen
the citizens from the Orange Free State
and quickly they got to work.
The Boers wanted to stop the British march,
before the enemy could cross the river
and tried to beat them with trenches and ramparts
and by this method break their attack.
The river was a natural strong point
for their defence
with sheltering that the enemy
would not be able to see
and trenches were placed near to the steep banks
The train bridge was blasted away
and three places was left to cross the river
from where they would stop the enemy.
General De la Rey thought that the main column
would come along the railway
to cross the river near to the bridge
and wanted to break this superior numbered force.
Just Bosmansdift and Rosmeadsdrift
were the other places where the river would suit the British,
considering the depth of the river and exposure
to fire that the Boers could manage.
The southern banks of the river
was taken by the Soutpansberg citizens to cover it,
with the men of general Cronje
as part of his plans
that covered the aria between Bosmansdrift
and the intersection of the Modder
and Riet Rivers and the men were enthusiastic
to try and shoot accurately.
General De la Rey with about eight hundred
Transvaal citizens was waiting on the right
near toe the rail crossing.
In the long grass and sand on the left
between the Riet River
and the Modder River some more citizens
were positioned to cover Bosmansdrift
if the enemy want to cross it.
General Prinsloo with a few thousand
Orange Free State citizens were
to the west of general de La Rey’s men
lying from the bridge up to Rosmeadsdrift
between rocky ledges.
In the shelter of the riverbank
behind the men the horses were kept
with them neighing every now and then
and on the northern side
of the Riet River a few canon
was placed behind the men.
Most of the canons were set up
next to the railway track
to cover the aria in front of general de La Rey
and to hit the main oncoming column.
A prayer before the battle was:
“Dear Father, here we are together
before the big battle
coming tomorrow, to pray
to you. We are scared,
that’s why we are here,
praying like we are now doing.
Over there are the British
also Christians like us. Maybe they
are also praying
just as we are doing. For this reason
I want to ask you
please do not take the part
of either one
and if it is your will,
stay out of it,
then tomorrow you will see something! ”
It was shouted: “Here they come! ”
When the canon behind them started shooting
the citizens started firing on the oncoming enemy
and the enemy took cover in an open aria
and the whole day long
they had to stay there on the ground
as they got shots
from Boers sheltered in trenches.
Every time during that day
that the enemy tried to storm forward
the Boers were taking marksmen shots
with their Mausers
and pinned them down, hour after hour
until the dark night.
For ten hours long
the enemy was lying there and nobody
was able to move
and every one that tried to get up
was shot down with Mauser fire
coming from positions that they were not aware of.
After the first rifle fire
the British answered with canon fire
whereupon with big success
the Boers answered with their long-tom canons
and the machinegun of the enemy
was destroyed by the Boers artillery
at the beginning of the battle
and the British were halted for hours long.
A British column moved past from the left
and swept general Prinsloo’s men back.
Under orders of commandant general de La Rey,
the Lichtenburg commando went to free them.
Following this the British was shot back
from Rosmeadsdrift, but a small number
of the British got past Bosmansdrift,
from where in the heat of the battle
they were also shot back
and the battle lasted into the dark night.
After sunset general De la Rey ordered
his men to fall back to Jacobsdal
and the citizens were happy with this decision.
The Free State citizens went to
their set positions at Spytfontein
and Scholsnek about twelve miles from Kimberley
to disappear into their trenches there.
General Cronje got about 7000 citizens
back from Mafakeng
to come and help at the Modder River
and Lord Methuen waited on reinforcements
to be able to stop the Boers.
Then the Boers went to work
to dig trenches at the feet
of the Magersfontein hillocks,
to strengthen their positions
and then they took cover in the trenches.
From the Merthon train stop for about three miles east,
at the foot of the Magersfontein hillocks
the main force of about 3500 citizens was set
in trenches up unto a low hill.
Next to the trenches, well camouflaged
small forts were built
from where the Boers could fire
at any place on the battlefield.
Jacobus Potgieter was placed with 600 men
in a position right against the railway track,
where general Cronje thought
that the British would try and break through.
About 1500 citizens were placed on the right wing,
north of the Modder River station
under command of general Andries Cronje,
but the left wing with 2500 citizens, east of Magersfontein
was without trenches and without a defence line.
To mislead the enemy
a few forts were build on the hillocks
with eleven canon set on the hillocks
and the trenches was hidden
by the camouflage of branches and grass.
When the British on 10 December 1899 started firing
with canon fire from Scholsnek
and were covering the aria with bombs,
it was the first time
that Jacobus Potgieter resisted them
under direct canon fire
and brave men with rifles fired back at the British.
General Piet Cronje called the citizens together
while looking at them earnestly:
“Citizens, the enemy is ready to move against us.
We have to remember one thing.
To fall back the lives of others
are placed in the balance,
and 20 to 30 lives are lost.
When the enemy move out against us, I will
set up a flying commando en lead it to them.”
General Cronje ordered them to wait
until the enemy moves and then to storm forward
for about five hundred paces
and then to take deadly shots
and not to look if anyone is being hit,
just to be aware of the enemy
and to read their movements.
General Cronje’s words were:
“This is the place where we have to beat the enemy! ”
Just at about midnight the British
started their march to Magersfontein
with general-major AG Wauchope leading in the front.
It was very cold and pitch dark
with rain pouring down
and they reached the hillocks
while thunderbolts were dropping down,
totally unaware of the trenches
onto which they were marching.
The enemy came in on an unexpected wing
and the citizens then killed a large number
of British soldiers in the dusk
and shot after shot was taken
and in the front Wauchope received
seven shots simultaneously
and the enemy was confused
while the Boers were mowing them down.
Some turned about to run back
and were falling over the ones behind them
causing still greater chaos
and it was still dark when the canons
were already getting involved.
The Boers were surrounded while the enemy
tried to break through,
to try and win Kimberley back,
but their attacks were stopped
at a great cost to the British,
who time and again
stormed into the Boer fire.
Then the enemy turned right to try and demolish
general Cronje’s left wing, to kill the Boers there,
but were shot down by the resisting Boers.
The whole day long the bombardment
of the British canons were falling
and at about twelve o’clock
general Cronje gave orders
to Jacobus Potgieter’s commando
to move running onto the left wing.
They stormed onto the enemy
and their attack was so effective
that the enemy turned around fleeing
and the Boers took the initiative
driving a great number of the British back.
With the British defeat
Jacobus could not establish
the number of enemy dead
as some were already taken away during the battle.
When Jacobus Potgieter walked on the battlefield
three days after the battle
there were bloody British flags
and some wounded moaning men totally without hope
and by then the dead had been driven away for days
and there were still hundreds that he found there
and after five days the enemy were still digging graves
and were still busy with funeral services.
Commando after commando
went home after that battle
and left the rest of the Boers there.
Cecil John Rhodes
were at the point of handing Kimberley over,
of letting the Boers into the town,
when Methuen attacked with 40000
soldiers as a flashpoint.
With a battle lasting three days long
the British broke through at Paardeberg,
firing hour after hour at the Boers
but the Boers broke this attack.
Then the huge British force tried to break through
the forces of the Orange Free State,
but were waited upon
by the men of commandant Jacobs.
Then they send a column past the backside
and they faced general Christian de Wet
and his men shot them out off their territory.
When the Boers had halted
the whole of the British force,
the British got some more reinforcements
to try again to break through on the eastern side
in such a great force
that the Boers could not stop them.
Jacobus Potgieter was at Scholsnek
with the Soutpansberg commando
for almost three months
under unstopped canon bombardment
and after the breakthrough
general Cronje gave orders to draw back.
“Leave your trenches and fight a way through to the laager.”
The next day the Boers were gone.
During the night Jacobus Potgieter
fled with the laager
and there were a lot of wagons
that had to go back.
Over farms and in the veldt,
women and children were joining them
and Jacobus caught a wild horse
and tamed it in that night
as if it was destined for him.
The wagons kept general Cronje’s commando back
causing the British to catch up with them
and they began shelling
from one of the woman’s farm
in a huge bombardment.
At eight o’clock that night
the Boers again moved out
and the superfluous things were thrown away
as many horses and oxen had been killed
by the bombardment and the distress was huge
and then general Christian de Wet
almost fought right through the British
to come and free general Cronje’s men.
Until eight o’clock that morning
the Boers were fleeing
as the enemy was formidable
and field coronets Jacobus Potgieter
and H Schnell were ordered
to go and find some horses
but to try and avoid the enemy.
The walking Boers were tired
without a proper opportunity
to get away from the British
and the remaining oxen
were thin and tired from the pulling
at the continuous fast pace
and from a shortage of grass
and they did not know
to eat the lye-bushes.
Jacobus Potgieter caught up
with general Cronje.
General Cronje was at the front side of the laager
and strong like steel,
checking the canon and was very worried
and then the commando again
came under British canon bombardment.
In the bushes Jacobus heard horses
and were chasing them
catching them and waged his life in the dark
before Jacobus took the horses into a bush
and decided not to go back in the dark
as it was too dangerous.
The next morning Jacobus tried
to go back to the laager
and came across other citizens
that had fled from the laager
and they told him
to turn back as the commando
was surrounded and the whole time
under enemy rifle and canon fire.
Jacobus Potgieter did not listen to them
and another group of citizens
that he crossed paths with
told him the same thing
and he was annoyed:
“If we turn around and leave our brothers
in their position of distress,
it can cost their lives
and we do not deserve anything better than death.
Come on brothers, bring your rifles! ”
Then on his own Jacobus Potgieter rode
still nearer to the laager
and he was in a hurry, not saving the horses
and he met commandant P Schutte
who asked him very worried:
“Where do you think,
you are going with those horses? ”
He explained that he was taking them
through to the laager
and commandant P Schutte was totally amazed
and said to him:
“Brother, before God nothing is impossible,
but those citizens in that laager
will never again come out of it.
The enemy has more than enough to take there.
Do not take more booty to them.
If you go to that laager with these horses
they will catch you and all of these horses.
Rather turn back and go to Brandfort and wait
for my report about the outcome.”
He listened to the advice of the commandant
and later he came to know that the enemy
had put 150 canons and 75000 soldiers
with continuous bombardment
against 4000 citizens and their 6 canons.
At long last general Cronje had to surrender
against the overpowering numbers
that day and night
came nearer to them
and without mercy the citizens
that were captured were sent
to St. Helena Island for imprisonment.
Of the fourteen field coronets ten was killed
and only Jacobus Potgieter and H Schnell did escape
while shots were fired at them
and a while later the British
marched into Bloemfontein
with the Boers
not really being able to stop them.
VII. The invasion of Natal
After the defeat at Paardeberg
Jacobus Potgieter was sent home
to rest for a month
and the trip took days
but it wasn’t really dangerous
and he took the horses along
as did not want to leave them with anyone.
Jacobus returned to the war
and had to go to Burgersberg in Natal
where he was very unhappy
with the leadership
of the commanding officers
and the fact that they did not take action
as general Piet Cronje and his men
were known for careful plans
and their bravery
and Jacobus was responsible
to give supplies like food, clothes
and ammunition to his comrades.
With the outbreak of the war
the citizens of general Joubert
went to Newcastle and Dundee
to conquer the coal fields.
The 4500 citizens of general Lucas Meyer
were on their way to the Talana hillocks,
to take the enemy on,
with general Erasmus leading his 5000 citizens
to the Mpate kopjes
and general de Kock’s 750 men went
to cut the railway connection at Elandslaagte.
Without great adversary Newcastle
on 16 October fell to the Boers
and on 20 October 1899
Dundee was bombarded
from the hillocks with shots
falling into the enemy camp
where big chaos broke out
among the 3800 soldiers
where the British general Penn-Symons
got them under control
and began with a counter attack
and then the British
were held behind a wall.
To inspire his troops
Penn-Symons ran through
the opening in the wall
where he got several fatal shots.
The British infantry
then stormed the hillock
and came under fire
from the Boers at the top
and their own artillery
that killed some of them.
After the Boers were driven away
from the hillock
they pursued the fleeing Boers
but the whole British horse battalion was unaware
of the men of general Erasmus
and all of them were captured
and their horses were taken from them.
On 19 October general de Kock’s men
assaulted the British trains
where they draw the few British soldiers into a fight
and started to unload the wagons.
An angry general White
rushed his 3500 soldiers to Elandslaagte
where they started to shell the Boers
catching the Boers of balance.
At Dundee brigadier general Yule took command
and under instructions from general White
the British were fleeing back to Ladysmith.
Another 9000 Boers
under chief commandant Prinsloo
but saw the British soldiers storming
over a open piece of veldt
from where they shot them back
with rifle fire, driving them right into Ladysmith.
When general Meyer resigned
field coronet Louis Botha got his position
and it did not take long
for him to proof his bravery
and to rise as a great leader.
In the hillocks at Ladysmith White’s soldiers
were waiting on the Boers
but started their bombardment
on a hillock without any Boer on it
and then the canons of the Boers fired back,
out shooting those of the British
and while the Boers long-tom canons
general Joubert attacked the British form all sides
where in humiliation White had lost
954 soldiers as prisoners of war.
From the surrounding hillocks
Ladysmith was bombarded by canon
where 12500 soldiers
and 7800 citizens were housed
with bombs coming down on them
and they were left with food
for two months and feed for only one month.
On 9 November the Boers attacked the town
with their commandos but could not take it
and the counter attack
of George White was resisted,
but then it happened
that the liberation column
of Buller started its march
trying to penetrate the Boer commandos,
but the Boers were waiting for them
on the other side of the Tugela River
and the British army
was unable to find the drift
to try and pass through the river
and were defeated in chaos
and 143 were killed,755 wounded
and 240 were taken prisoner of war
which had an impact on the career of Buller
and he was fired as supreme commander
and become only the commander
for the invasion through Natal
with Lord Roberts replacing him.
Although Buller then had 30000 soldiers,
his soldiers were thrashed
at Spioenkop and Vaalkrans
but with his great superior number of men,
eventually Buller liberated Ladysmith and Colenso
and Jacobus Potgieter
had been two months in Natal
when Buller’s big army attacked them.
With the death of general Joubert, from illness,
general Louis Botha
was appointed in his place
who ordered the Boer forces to pull back
to the border with the Transvaal
where trenches were prepared
to try and stop the enemy.
The British numbers were far too big
and a lot of Boers were killed
and the Boers could not stop the big force,
with which the British went through them
and later the Orange Free State and Transvaal
came under annexation from Great Britain.
VIII. The changing face of the war
After the defeat on the border of the Transvaal
the Boers gathered on 17 March at Kroonstad
and all their military and political leaders were there
and general Christiaan de Wet accepted leadership,
as commandant-general of the Orange Free State
and they talked and planned together.
Commandant-general de Wet’s plan
was to keep his men highly mobile,
to take the war to the rear guard of the enemy,
to settle the fight
from their horses with their rifles.
They would find food
and ammunition on the farms
and would constantly change
their position and ride on.
It was fruitless to fight
against overpowering numbers
in the front lines,
where the British were only waiting
to decimate the Boers and conditions
were worsened for the Boers
and to hit the enemy
where they expect it the least,
could do great damage to them
and had the possibility
to win the two countries back again.
But first the citizens had to go home
to rest for a month
and general de Wet was well aware,
that he was going to loose some soldiers,
but only the brave
and the most determined
would then come back to him.
The plan was then accepted
by commandant-general De la Rey
and both presidents Kruger and Steyn
for the Boers to ride out in raids
and not to spare any rear defence.
The whole matter
was a big embarrassment to the British.
The Boer patriots
attacked with surprise and again disappeared
before a big British force could react
and de Wet did become a big head ache to them
and they could not stop, the attacks from the Boers
or their guerrilla warfare tactics.
To cut the Boers supply lines
to let his army ride through the farms,
to drive out the women and children
and to put them in concentration camps
with armed soldiers closing down on farms
burning down farms, houses and even towns,
claiming the Boers possessions or selling it
and by force removing women and children.
He also armed the black tribesmen
to attack the farms,
to expel women and children with firearms,
to kill them and to rape
at night and during the day.
Some people believe that Kitchener carefully
chose numerous places
that was hideous,
where people was held in perilous conditions
but it remains a fact
that he did not spend a lot of time
on the planning
and choosing of the camps,
without any feelings for being humane,
or the considering of sicknesses and disasters.
There were fifty concentration camps
that are now being seen as places
of human suffering and sorrow
where about 110000 women
and children were held captured
and where more than 20000 starved
from the pests prevailing
through sickness of almost any kind,
glass that was grinded into the meal,
and glass and fishing hooks
in the salt meat and so on,
as if the British did not
possess humanity at all.
Some of the camps were in marches
or at wet muddy places
at cold windy places,
constructed next to rivers
without hygienic conditions to disrupt lives
and some women had to bath
and wash in pools after rain.
Sometimes people in these camps
had to stay in the open for lengths of time
exposed to sun, rain, hail and wind,
as if it was being planned to kill them
and sometimes they had to beg for clothes.
Food rations was inadequate
and some people starved
from lack of food,
meat from sick animals
were unhygienic cut into pieces.
Only one doctor was appointed
for every camp
with numbers of more than four thousand people,
mostly without hospital facilities
with a lot of complaints
that the medicine was poisoned
and medical treatment was not given to everybody.
IX. The war in the Soutpansberg
General Beyers was sent by the government
as leader to both the Soutpansberg
and Waterberg commandos,
to try and win the war against the British
and it was clear that he knew the art
of using the environment
as camouflage while attacking the British.
When Jacobus Potgieter arrived
in the Northern Transvaal
they had to avoid Pretoria
to get to Warmbaths,
as Pretoria had fallen to the enemy
and for two months
they were harassing the British
and when Paget had withdrawn to Pienaars River,
the Waterberg district was the frontline,
but there were many traitors among the Boers
who daily went to the British,
some were tired of fighting
against the British
and others later came back
on instruction of the British,
to try and convince
some more to surrender.
Jacobus was again chosen
as field coronet of Houtbergbos
and had to go there with immediate effect,
to appose the British.
With a overwhelming big force
Paget went to Pietersburg
that fell to the British on 29 March 1901,
where the British plundered
whatever they could
and they were placing women and children
into concentration camps
and took cattle to Pretoria as a source of food.
They were burning down houses,
were even casting salt onto the fields.
The British possession of Pietersburg
drove the Boers into the mountains
with the British in control
of the whole Northern Transvaal,
with Colenbrander and Plummer
driving the war there,
trying to destroy the Boer commando
of general Beyers.
Plummer made his invasion
along the Olifant River
and in that unknown aria
befriended the blacks,
giving firearms to them
to attack the women on farms
and with all the Boer traitors
that were acting for the British,
Jacobus Potgieter resigned as field coronet.
When the British at Heanertsburg
started fighting with the Boers,
the Boers saw a cloud
of dust coming along,
that was rising from the direction of Houtbosberg
and Jacobus Potgieter and W van Heerden
went out during the night
to scout on the enemy.
Just where they had seen the cloud of dust,
they arrived during the night at a black village
and sneaked up to the wall of the village
and called a black man over
to get some information from him
while trying to avoid the enemy.
The man told them lies
that only two wagons
belonging to the Boers had passed
and about the direction that the wagons
had gone he kept on being deceitful.
From the tracks Jacobus could see
that it was six wagons of the British,
and probably on the way to their camp,
he did not give the black man
any further attention
whose village had been instructed
by the British to attack the women
and children on the farms,
to rob and pillage with firearms.
Back at the commando a spy
told them about a British unit approaching
from another direction
and they had to go out scouting
to see what the British was up to,
but could find no signs of their presence
while they were riding along the whole day long.
At the place where the commando had been
a letter had been left:
“Come in the direction of Haenertsburg.”
Jacobus and field coronet Marais then decided
to get more information
and hurried to the farm
of Jacobus that was nearby.
On the farm Jacobus’s wife Margritha
ran crying up to them and said:
“Where were you the whole day?
The whole territory
has been taken by the British.
The canons were firing the whole day long
and the blacks have stolen all the cattle.
All the people have left! They said that they
would stay at a certain mountain
and we have to meet them there.
The enemy has gone into the mountains
with thousands of blacks
going along with them.”
It was already dark
and they went to the nearest neighbour
to try and get more information.
They greeted him: “How are things here? ”
The neighbour answered:
“The enemy went into the hills
shortly after the two of you had left.
went in the direction of Wolkberg.
The long-tom canon
had fired 16 shots. The enemy
was almost at the canon
when the 17th shot was fired. The canon crew
blew the canon into pieces with dynamite.
The blacks took all the cattle and sheep
and all of the clothes and blankets
of the women and children.
Also every thing in the house,
including all the food. Chickens and pigs
have been killed. The women
were pushed about by the blacks.”
From there they went to the houses
of other citizens to find some more answers
until two o’clock at night whereupon Marais said:
“Let us go to Wolkberg.”
Jacobus answered: “The blacks
are pillaging the women and children
and who knows if the are going to kill them as well.
I will stay here to look for some more citizens,
if your want to go to Wolkberg.”
Marais went to Wolkberg where he was
captured by the enemy,
Jacobus found nobody else
while he was riding to his farm
and he had to hide his horse
to be able to escape with it.
Then he sneaked around the house
to see if his family was safe
and all of them were well
and he was aware of the Lord’s mercy.
The next morning Jacobus
found two more citizens
and heard from them
about the pillaging done by the blacks,
that had happened to other families
and the blacks did not even
leave a blanket for the children,
or anything to eat
and the people
would not be able to forget these evil events
that for Jacobus spoke
of barbarism and the frailty of man
and in his heart he wished disaster on the British.
Jacobus Potgieter, JM Dames and L Alberts together
made plans to protect their families.
They decided that each man
would stay at his own house
as long as he could
and would fire on anyone coming near
until death to rescue their families.
When the blacks came with rifles
to pillage these citizens,
the Boers opened fire on them,
to stop the attacks
where they were around the houses,
like vultures waiting for the death
of the farmers.
But with shot upon shot
they were warded off,
where these farmers were on guard
sitting and praying
for God to stop the enemy.
They saw the British Calvary riding past
and had decided to wait on the enemy,
in order for the women to ask their protection,
but after three days and nights they were far too tired.
They then did decide to surrender, as they could not anymore
carry on with the blacks that were serving the enemy
and Jacobus Potgieter and L Alberts went to the enemy,
while J Dames stayed behind to guard their families.
Jacobus had decided to trust in God,
in faith to hold on to the salvation of the Lord
and with a heavy heart he went to surrender,
to try and protect his family with this deed.
The enemy was scared when they saw Jacobus
as they were people from
the Cape colony without arms,
that was part of the British force
and acted as drivers for wagons and mules.
They were in the riverbed,
at the long-tom canon
that had been shot into pieces
and were trying to get a piece
of the canon out of the water.
They greeted the drivers
and went to meet the British
at Najensbrook, about a hour from home,
where an officer
were giving orders in Afrikaans.
Jacobus asked: “What is going on?
I expect to meet Englishmen here.
Now I meet Boers as enemies? ”
One answers him: “What do you think?
We are many more than you.
Our commando is about 1200 strong
and we are mostly Boers
who are helping the British.”
Then Jacobus asks confused: “How can it be,
that you are fighting against your own nation? ”
“We are British subjects from
the Cape colony and Natal.”
Then Jacobus asks: “Where is your general?
I want to see him.”
Then the officer gave orders to a driver:
“Take this man to the general,
the main commander of the laager.”
The laager where they were going
was far from there and Jacobus and Alberts
still were carrying their rifles
and met the officer being angry about the events
of the day before and laid their weapons down
and asked the British officer:
“Why does it look as if you
are fighting with black people against us,
how do you let black people
pillage our homes and families? ”
Then the officer bursts loose:
“Why did you not surrender
before I had to come here?
You let me come here for no reason! ”
Whereupon Jacobus said: “It isn’t fair
to fight with the blacks against the whites.
Still more so, to let them attack our women! ”
The officer answered unruly:
“I have instructed the black people
not to do such things,
but they do not want to listen.”
Whereupon Jacobus answers him:
“I do not believe it! ”
The officer then told them
to go and wait on a certain farm for a day or so.
Whereupon Jacobus was still more angry:
“No! I do not have time to sit around.
Give orders to the blacks
to stop pillaging our families.”
The officer ordered Jacobus to wait
on his commander who had to come
and Jacobus harassed that commander
with the accusation
about the blacks pillaging
women and children
at which the officer granted his request
but at that time most of the farms
had already been pillaged,
and the women and kids were endangered
and treated very badly by the blacks.
Then the officer said: “I will let you go back.
Bring your families here.”
Whereupon Jacobus shook his head and replied:
“The blacks have robbed all the oxen and wagons.
How am I to do it? ”
The colonel then gave the blacks instructions
to give the oxen and wagons back
but they did not really care about his commands,
whereupon Jacobus went back to his family
where they were safe but full of sorrow.
The blacks had only returned six oxen
and no wagons
and at the house of L Alberts
there were some more problems,
with one hundred and three people
that had fled there
without clothes, food and blankets
and they were women and children
who had been molested
and pillaged by the blacks.
Jacobus was astonished
as some of these women
had walked 24 miles
and had carried
their small children on their backs.
A woman said: “The blacks pushed me around
against the ground.”
Another one: “The blacks stabbed me with a
Assegai (spear) in the breast.”
A third one said: “They were hitting me
with rifles against the chest.”
Another lady said: “I tried to keep a blanket
for my child,
but the black man grabbed it
and knocked me from my feet
whit a rifle.”
Some of the blacks
that were loyal workers and maids
did take some things to look after,
when they saw the band of robbers arriving
and stormed with these things into the bushes
and brought the possessions back later
and this humanity goes deep
into a person’s heart,
but it was single items
that they were able to take
like a blanket or sometimes a bed.
Some of the blacks acted shamefully,
raping some of those women
and it was what was reported
to Jacobus Johannes Potgieter,
and it is reported here truthfully
and of these things
Jacobus was also a witness
and the enemy had no idea
how he felt about these things
and to protect his family
he went to hand his rifle in.
There were 103 women and children
that Jacobus Potgieter and L Alberts
had to transport with three wagons,
but a lot had to walk
and this trip was dreadful.
That first night
some of the women went to sleep
at Jacobus’s house
as he still had some food,
that he shared with them
and his wife was looking
for sheets and blankets
to try and make beds on the ground.
Some women slept inside on the floor,
but others had to sleep outside
and it was really terrible,
to see vulnerable women lying around.
Jacobus went along with the wagons
up to the main road
and took leave of his wife and companions
and rode out to meet the enemy
and the colonel leading them
where he said to the colonel:
“The women and children,
103 of them in total are waiting on you.”
From the stories that the women
and children had heard
they were really scared of the British.
Jacobus was riding with the enemy
to lead them to the women and children
and he said to the colonel:
“I will go to the families and tell them
that you are coming,
that they do not have to fear.”
The colonel and some of his captains
came along to Kuiperkuil
where some of the women
and children were crying
out of fear for the enemy,
being scared to get hurt
and stayed in a group together.
The British loaded these people
on some more wagons
and turned with them in the road
taking them to Pietersburg
where they lived
in houses for a month long
and then just before dark one late afternoon,
was taken to the concentration camp
as sentenced people.
Some of the food that they got to eat,
(this is the honest truth)
was meat from cattle and sheep
that was contaminated with diseases
and these illnesses
were carried over to these people.
Some of the sick animals
were daily slaughtered there in front of the people
and the meat given to them to eat,
while the British knew about the illnesses
that the animals did possess.
Some of the rations were flour,
coffee and sugar and were given
sparingly to the people.
Some of the cattle had fire-illness,
some with lung-disease
and they got that food to eat
as if the British
had forgotten about these illnesses.
Some of the sheep had measles,
others were infected with heart-water
and this meat was given to the people to eat
as if there was no law in the country
while the British knew about these illnesses
and without food
these people would also have perished
and in this way the British
earned more hatred and caused a lot of sorrow.
Jacobus was digging graves for the dead,
sometimes as many as seventeen per day,
where they loaded as many
as twelve bodies at a time
on a wagon to bury them.
After a time the people refused to eat the meat
as they knew that it made them ill
and were caused their deaths
and they gained the trust of the English doctor
and he did examine the meat and did confirm
that it was terribly infected,
almost like a kind of acknowledgement
whereupon the sheep
were slaughtered and buried.
They then received tinned meat
with grain and sometimes fine pieces of glass
and fishhooks in them
that also droops
the British with inhumanity.
Jacobus took the names
and length and width
of every dead body
and wrote it in his diary
and in a way half estranged,
he took the bodies
after the funeral service to the graves
and covered them with sand.
In that concentration camp Jacobus dug
maybe seventeen graves on a day
and he was mourning while he witnessed
the death of so many people,
but the mule wagon could only take
ten to twelve coffins at a time
depending on the sizes of the coffins.
The crying and sorrow of this experience
stayed with him and his youngest child
Margritha Jacoba was only five months old
when they went into the concentration camp
being aware of people dying.
In every tent where he looked into,
Jacobus saw sick people infected
that they got from the sick meat.
After only two weeks
in the concentration camp
all of his children became ill.
Many things was terribly wrong
in that concentration camp.
All the people with measles died form it,
even adults who were kept in that camp.
Jacobus felt totally defenceless,
knew that the intentions
of the British was wrong
and the only thing
that he and his wife Margritha could do
was to reconcile them with the will of God
and three times a day they were praying
putting the protection of their children
before the throne of God.
X. Jacobus Potgieter escapes
For a long period of time
Jacobus did not receive any news
from the commando,
but at the insistence of the British
a traitor’s wife was sent to the Boers,
to try and convince them to surrender
and she brought news
about the commando’s whereabouts.
started to make plans to escape,
to walk away from the British,
to join the commando once more
and to get the enemy out of his country.
Mostly the lower class Boers joined the British
to kill Afrikaners for 5 shilling a day,
trying to force the Boers to loose the war.
The British even tried
to convince Jacobus to join them,
but he saw it as an evil plan
and was angry about it,
as he was forced unfairly
to surrender, to protect his family
With the passing time Jacobus made friends
with other men
and they were also involved in his escape plan,
at a time where the British were on the look out
for rebellion among the prisoners
Jacobus got thirty citizens
to lead them to freedom.
After many months Jacobus
and his friends got an opportunity
to ride along with the wagons
that was going out of the camp to collect firewood,
but the evening before the escape,
many of his friends became too scared to escape
and most of them decided to stay,
but only seven men
went through with the decision to escape.
They had a careful plan
and took food for four days
and two pairs of clothes along,
that was strong enough to last a year
while they trusted in God to lead them.
Unsure Jacobus greeted his wife and children
and scared that the British could have a suspicion of trouble
they left the crying children in the tent
while he greeted them.
Jacobus was well aware
about the dangers of this concentration camp
how the food, the bad circumstances
impacted on his children,
and asked God to look after them
and to guide the way back to the commando
through the coming dangers.
The seven men were somewhat sultry
when they got onto the wagons,
but in the wood fields they were industrious,
while the other men and blacks
were turning around them.
The escaping men were:
Jacobus Johannes Potgieter,
AJ van Jaarsveld, CJ Potgieter
(the brother of Jacobus) , SJ de Beer,
JH Venter, C Harmse and W van der Gijft,
who trusted their lives into the hands of God.
At twilight that night
they told the driver of their wagon
that they were going to escape,
were going to walk back to their commando,
but did not tell their plans to him
and they had difficulty in convincing him
to take the wagon back to the British
and from the blacks of the nearest rural village
they traded a blanket for a goat
and made a big fire to fry the meat,
while the other citizens
were still standing around them
and they ate as much as they could,
before they went to hide in the bushes
and the blacks were not aggressive
as long as they were with the British,
but became very hostile
the moment that they were not with the British.
With their clothes and a blanket each,
they left that camp in the wood fields
and without talking,
sneaked in the dark past the blacks
hiding in the bushes.
While working during the day they scouted the aria,
finding a route
and slipped away without being noticed.
There was a farm near to them
where they could find hidden rifles and ammunition,
that was buried there and Jacobus during the day
had cut a piece of wood to use as a digging tool,
but they first had to pass a large black village.
They kept to the bushes, trusting in God’s help
but when after an hour they arrived on the farm,
a light was burning in the house on the farm
and they were astonished to find people there
and thought that some of the men
who decided not to come along,
had betrayed them to the British
as the owner of the farm
had been captured by the British.
Sagrys de Beer said: “Let’s leave the rifles.
We are going to get captured here.
The voices that we hear are the voices of Boers,
but far too many Boers have joined the British
to fight against us.
We cannot trust anybody, or that they
will be on our side.”
Fifteen paces from the house
they then discussed the matter,
about either getting the rifles
or leaving the weapons and moving on.
Jacobus who really want the rifles
at first did not want to listen to advice and said:
“Grys, we cannot leave the rifles here,
we have to move over the wall silently
and go and dig the rifles out.”
“You will have us caught! Listen to the voices.
They are enemy Boers! ”
“Grys, just think about the black towns
that we will have to pass.”
“Kotie let us rather walk away while it is still dark.
Let us leave the rifles. Even if we go
over the wall unnoticed,
they will hear us when we start digging
with that piece of wood in your hand.
They will shoot us. If one of us are wounded
we will be very sorry that we did not leave
the guns here.
Kotie, let’s go. My maid
has hidden two of my rifles and ammunition
I will go to my farm.
My maid is trustworthy.”
“Grys, I will do as you say. Come, let us go.”
Thick fog were rising and they were lost,
Could not find the road and wandered along
until they found the road again
and then decided to stay near to it,
but the packs that they were carrying
were becoming heavy
and they were becoming tired.
Sagrys said: “Kotie, we have to sleep here.
Old Albert and Krisjan cannot walk any further.
They are tired. You have to take care
of the weakest man among us.”
“You are right, Grys.
We will have to get away from the road
and go down the cliff, to get a sleeping place.
When the British become aware that we have escaped,
they will start following our tracks.”
“Kotie, lets turn off here to the left.
The cliff is deep. They will never find us here.
If suddenly they find us, we can run along
the cliff in to the bushes.
If we reach the bushes,
they can bring thousands of men
to try and find us, but will have no success.
I know this region very well.”
“It sounds like a great plan,
come on guys lets go down the cliff.
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