Bloukrans battle

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Bloukrans battle

THE BLOUKRANS MASSACRE – 1838 After killing Retief and his party, Dingane’s impis (army) moved into the valleys to the west under the Drakensberg mountains where the Voortrekkers were encamped in family groups. They were stretched over a distance of 45 miles by 25 miles and were expecting good news from Retief’s meeting with Dingane. Three Zulu regiments (10,000 men) moved silently up the Bushman’s River towards the unsuspecting trekker camps that were unaware of Retief’s fate. They then attacked the dispersed laagers in these areas. At several points along the Bushman’s River where there was no warning, many Voortrekkers died and whole encampments were wiped out. One or two trekkers managed to escape and rode on horseback to warn the others. The Zulu impi, attacking from the east had however miscalculated the number of Voortrekkers – now more than one thousand wagons – and was distracted by claiming their cattle. This, and the fact that the Tugela River was in full flood, meant that the Zulu attack was not pressed home. Gert Maritz was encamped at Saailaager, some way behind the the other laagers, heard the gunfire and had time to make some hasty defences. Later, on the 17th, the Zulus attacked him but were on the South bank of the flooded Bushman’s River. By forming a human chain, they attempted to cross but the chain was broken repeatedly by musket fire from the laager. That same night the Zulu impi attacked the van Rensburg laager and forced the ten families there to flee to a nearby hill. Because of the haste of the retreat the men were short of ammunition. Only through the bravery of another trekker who dashed through the Zulu warriors with fresh ammunition were the trekkers saved. The area was subsequently called Weenen (‘weeping’), also to the Zulu it was called kwaNobamba – ‘the place where we caught them’. A Voortrekker commando sent from Durban to avenge Retief’s death was ambushed at Italeni with the cost of many lives. On the 57th anniversary of Blood River, the remains of the 370 who had lost their lives at Bloukrans were exhumed and buried together. There is a memorial on the spot.

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