The Battle of Blood River, 1838 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 16 December 2010 12:58


The Battle of Blood River, 1838

The Day of the Vow was a public holiday in the empire of the Republic of South Africa (RSA) until the early 90s. Beyond this, it is a religious and a national holy day for the Boers, that the new capitalist-communist regime of the empire that rules over southern Africa has abolished, in an attempt to exterminate the Boer volk - even on the cultural, historical and spiritual side.

The following text, written by Arthur Kemp in the 1990, recounts the Battle of Blood River, and the Vow that has gone before it.

Sarel Cilliers. The Vow[…] [In] the period 1836 to 1840, known as the Great Trek […] the Trekkers [Voortrekkers. Ed.] who had reached the Natal interior under their leader Piet Retief, decided to try and negotiate land rights from the Zulu king Dingaan. At first, Retief appeared to have been successful, and Dingaan offered to give the Trekkers land if they recovered some cattle stolen from him by a lesser chief, one Siyonkella. This Retief and his small group then proceeded to do, and were welcomed back at the Zulu chief’s capital, Ungunggundlovu.
There Retief signed a written treaty with Dingaan, granting the Trekkers land rights, but as proceedings drew to a close Dingaan ordered his soldiers to seize Retief and his small delegation. Retief and his men were taken to a hill just outside Dingaan’s kraal and cruelly clubbed to their deaths, having been tricked into leaving their fire arms outside the king’s kraal.
The bodies were left on the hill and as tradition forbade the removal of any personal effects from people executed on that spot, another Trekker leader found Retief’s body, still with the written treaty between himself and Dingaan intact, some ten months later.
Immediately after murdering Retief, Dingaan sent his army to attack the Trekker camps, consisting mainly of women, children and elderly men, who were anxiously awaiting news of Retief’s negotiations with Dingaan. The attack on the Trekker women and children was carried out on 17 February 1838, and saw 56 women, 185 children and 40 elderly men slaughtered in the most gruesome fashion. The psychological effect upon the Trekkers in Natal, whose total numbers at that stage were under 1000, was enormous. The site of the massacre was named Weenen (Dutch for “weeping”) and has retained the name to this day.
A new Trekker leader, Andries Pretorius, decided that a final showdown with the Zulus would be necessary. On 28 November 1838, he led a commando consisting of 468 Trekkers, 1 Scotsman and 2 Englishmen, all in 57 wagons, in search of Dingaan’s army.
On Sunday 9 December, sensing the approaching battle with the Zulus, this relatively small group of men held a church service in the open veld at the Wasbank River, and made a pledge to the Christian God [JHWH. Ed.] that if they were granted victory, then they and their descendants would forever more celebrate [… the day of the battle. Ed.] “as if it were a Sabbath” in remembrance of the victory and their debt to their God [JHWH. Ed.]. […]
On Sunday 15 December 1838 the Trekker commando arrived at the river the Zulu called the Ncome. The site had been chosen with care, since the Trekker forces were expecting the Zulu attack at any moment. The wagons were drawn into a circle, called a laager in Dutch. Along the one side of the laager ran a deep natural ditch, and some 300m to the east ran the river. At dawn of the 16th, as the mist lifted, the Trekker force of 471 men was confronted by a Zulu army of over 15 000.
Wave after wave of Zulus attacked, and each time were forced to retreat by the Trekker fire power. After several hours the Trekkers sent out a group of men on horseback to drive the Zulu army into the corner between the ditch and the river. Here the Zulus were decimated, and many only escaped by swimming across the river. So many perished there that the river itself ran red with their blood, leading to the battle being called the Battle of Blood River. The Zulu forces were defeated and Dingaan fled.
The battle seemed all the more wondrous […], when the final casualty total was counted - more than 3000 Zulu dead and not one Trekker even seriously injured.

The Battle of Blood River, 1838. Map