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and asking me to meet him on which have come out so clearly his return journey. With his in the long and anxious thoughts usual thoughtfulness he sent me that I, in common with Colley's a collection of the most import- other friends, have given to this ant papers to study.
sad tragedy, that I must ease We met at Cawnpore, and I my mind by stating them. travelled with him, a few hours' The key-note to Sir George journey, to Allahabad. How Colley's character was, I unwell I remember that journey, hesitatingly assert, its remarkand the conversation which able chivalry. And by this I seemed to me all too hopelessly mean not merely that he was short, and yet in which he brave physically and mentally, sketched to the salient but that he was as modest as points of the military and po- he was brave; and that, unlitical situation, and the char- til some rude shock convinced acters of the men with whom him to the contrary, he had I should be brought into con- perfect faith in other men. tact, and advised me so gently And if in his judgment there and so tactfully as to what to were defects, they were due to avoid as well as what to do! his chivalric belief that others At Allahabad his wife was were as brave as himself, which waiting for him, and we dined may have led him to risk too together in the station. And much : they were, in fact, les then, as the train bore them défauts de ses qualités — the away to Bombay, we gave each faults of a great mind. other our last hand-grip.
He has been criticised for adIt was not my fault that I vancing to fight the Boers in was not with him when he the first instance with insufficifell. On New Year's Day ent forces. Sir William Butler 1881, I took up the post of (p. 283) has shown out of ColMilitary Attaché at Paris, and ley's own mouth his reasons for a day later heard Colley was this course :
“ Unless I can in advancing to the frontier some way relieve the pressure against the Boers.
I at once
on Potchefstroom before the wrote home and asked to be middle of next month, I am sent out to serve under him; afraid that garrison and its but was told there was
guns must fall into the Boers' chance for me, unless he spe- hands. This it is which has decially applied for my services. termined me to move on withI immediately telegraphed to out awaiting further reinforcehim stating this, and offering ments.”1 him my services in any capac- Now, I have in my mind a ity. I never received any re- day in 1895 when there burst ply. And the next few weeks like a shell among the Viceroy's brought the fatal end.
Council in India the news that There are one or two points the little garrison of Chitral was
See also p. 285: “If Potchefstroom could hold out, one might sit and smoke here with advantage, but they cannot last beyond the middle of February.”
beleaguered by the enemy. I at Laing's Nek, Now what do not think I am improperly was the opinion generally held divulging secrets when I say at that time of the fighting that there were among us in capacity of the Boers? I find that council some who had op- that in an article in ‘Maga' posed the policy which placed on “The South African Questhat small escort in Chitral, tion” in July 1878 I wrote, some who were strongly op- “The Boers have strangely posed to increased military ex- degenerated from the courage penditure,
of their fathers.” I can speak gravely anxious about our fin- positively to the fact that ancial situation. We all knew among Englishmen living in the that, to relieve that small garri- Transvaal at the beginning of son, we must march through a 1880, when I was there, the mass of powerful hostile tribes, personal courage of the Boers must employ a large force to was rated very low. We knew overawe the tribes, so as to that when they asked the carry out the relief in time, and Swazis to help them to attack must incur a very large expen- Sekukuni, they had kept out of diture. Yet all those difficulties harm's way, and left the Swazis were put aside, and all conflict- to fight alone. Even as late as ing views were merged in the December 11, 1880, Sir Owen one determination that at any Lanyon wrote to Colley: “They risk and at any cost we must [the Boers] are incapable of relieve our troops in danger. united action, and they are And if that was the view taken mortal cowards." by a council of civilians, among I do not find any trace in whom that day I was the only Colley's letters, before Laing's soldier present, how can any one Nek, that he looked upon the suppose it possible that Sir Boers as cowards. But I do George Colley, every inch a find him writing (p. 256) in soldier, with the sole responsi- August 1880, “Though there is bility on his shoulders both for a little 'shake - hands - to-daypolicy and military command, and-fight-to-morrow' style of could have sat still and refused talk, it seems rather put on for to run even the greatest risks in swagger than in earnest.” In order to rescue the garrisons December Lanyon wrote to him that were besieged, whose sup- (p. 267), "I shall be very much plies could not, he knew, hold surprised if they do anything out beyond a certain date? I openly.” “The game is one of should have a small opinion of brag” (p. 268). "A number any soldier who, in those cir- of them are pressed men and cumstances, would have won't fight” (p. 268). On 21st mained inactive. To such a December, after the 94th Regispirit as Colley's inaction was ment had been cut up at Bronimpossible.
ker Spruit, Colley wrote (p. With his small force of 269),
of 269), "Had they charged, I scarcely 1200 fighting men he believe they would have driven advanced to attack the Boers the Boers back"; and again
(p. 275), “I am still inclined to boldly down the hill to meet our believe that the actual resolute fighting element is small, com- He now retired, and took up posed of an inconsiderable fac- an entrenched position at Prostion, and of the young bloods of pect Hill, waiting for reinforcethe country.” And I think this ments. Sir William Butler has tends distinctly to show that, discussed, with what seems to before his first fight at Laing's me perfect fairness, the question Nek, Colley did not realise how whether he should have retired strong and determined a resist- to Newcastle. I feel convinced ance he would meet.
that the adverse influence which The attack
the Boer such a move must have had on position at Laing's Nek was the condition of the besieged à combined front and flank garrisons was the prevailing attack-an operation which, if factor in Colley's mind against successful, is generally signally retirement. so, but in which failure of com- A few days later it became bination on the part of those necessary to clear his communiengaged is apt to have evil cations with Newcastle; and results. The front attack was his attempt to do this resulted up a steep hill, the ascent of in the action of Ingogo. Here which was covered from the he was on the defensive; the Boer fire, except such as could Boers attacked. Heavy as were be delivered from another hill their losses, our troops held their on the flank. The flank attack ground till night closed the was intended to take this latter scene; and the troops were then hill first, but it failed to do so: drawn off back to Mount Prosit was then too late to stop the pect. front attack, and the men who It rends the heart of one made it were exposed through- who knew and loved the man out its whole
to severe to read Butler's picture on flanking fire. It was met vali- pages 310 and 31ỉ of what antly in front; and Colley's he must have gone through own words, quoted by me on and suffered in the days impage 560, were proved true: mediately following Ingogo. I advance
succeed bear no ill- will to those who against good troops holding a think his judgment faulty, who fair position till these have blame his conduct of military been, not merely shaken, but operations, though personally I practically broken and de- have thought over the problem stroyed as a fighting body.” in every way, and I cannot After Laing's Nek there was see, given the imperative need no more room in his mind for of striving to relieve the garriany delusion as to the fighting sons, what better he could have qualities of the Boers. “I must done. But how any one with say,” he wrote to Sir Garnet the feelings of a man can read Wolseley, “they were no cow- those pages and still feel aught ards, exposing themselves free- but admiration for him personly to artillery fire, and coming ally, passes my comprehension,
Major Brownlow, who bore the honour of the British such a gallant part in the troops if peace were made beaction of Laing's Nek, writes : fore Laing's Nek was taken ; “I think it is not generally secondly, his determination, as known that if his orders had above shown, to take Laing's been carried out at Laing's Nek himself with the Nek there is little doubt that troops who had failed there, we should have won the day.” and whose honour he considIt was open to Colley to cast ered was at stake; thirdly, his the blame on others; but writ- conviction of the difficulty, ing to his wife at this time amounting almost to impossiof deepest trouble, he says, in bility, of forcing a strong poreference to one then dead : sition by a front attack “Something of this will doubt- conviction born, as
we have less leak out, for I have heard seen, of his tactical studies, officers and men discussing it. and which must have been But I would ten thousand times immensely strengthened by (1) rather any amount of criticism the failure of his own front were heaped on me than one attack at Laing's Nek, (2) the word cast at him. I can re- failure of the Boers to take the trieve myself; he cannot. position at Ingogo, and (3) the
On 4th February he wrote fact that the Boers had never to welcome Sir Evelyn Wood, ventured to attack him at told him his future plans, and Mount Prospect. what his wishes were, and said, The occupation of Majuba “ You will, I am sure, under Hill would afford him, so far stand that I mean to take the as could be judged from his Nek myself.” In this letter he observations from a distance, a expressed his intention to add strong defensive position, practhe 15th Hussars, 2nd Batta- tically impregnable to assault, lion 60th Rifles, and 92nd
92nd the possession of which would Highlanders to his own force, make the Boer position at and to leave Sir Evelyn Wood Laing's Nek untenable by them, command of a second column, would in this way compel them composed of three other bat- to retire, enable him to occupy talions of infantry and two and hold Laing's Nek when sufbatteries of artillery. This is ficient reinforcements arrived, important, in view of something and thus at once satisfy the I shall have to
honour of the troops, and ensure In considering his subsequent that peace should not be made action, it seems
that before that honour was satisfied. there are three things which Therefore, as soon as (pp. 349, must be borne prominently in 361) it entered into his head mind. First (see pp. 339, 343), that the Boers were about to his fear that the home Govern- occupy it and entrench it themment was inclined to make selves, before even he had peace with the Boers as with brought up the whole of the a victorious foe, while he con- troops which, in his letter to ceived it would be a slur upon Wood of 4th February, he had
said he meant to take as part had selected sites for redoubts of his own column,—he resolved on the hill-top, “the general," to seize and occupy Majuba says Herbert Stewart in his without delay.1
report (see p. 379 of the Life), I think it is a perfectly fair "decided that he would not criticism that he should not at once commence their conhave attempted this occupation struction, considering that the of Majuba till he had a stronger men might be fatigued by a force under his immediate com- march which, although short, mand -a force available either was nevertheless severe." As to reinforce the troops on the Sir William Butler shortly hill, or to follow up the Boers puts it, “the sense of security at once, and occupy Laing's was the real explanation of the Nek as soon as they evacuated non - entrenchment.” A false it in consequence of his occupa- sense of security, no doubt; tion of Majuba. But it is almost but Colley is not the only certain that in seeking for the general who, under such sense, cause of anything in Colley's deliberately, for the sake of actions which may seem ob- giving rest to his men, did not scure, we shall not go far astray take precautionary measures. if we seek first for some chival. In my review of Lieut.-Col. rous motive, and I have already Henderson's Life of Stonewall stated some such motives for his Jackson, in ‘Maga' for last hastening the movement, the December, I called attention to immediate determining cause a similar case (the march to being the apparent intention of Manassas in 1861) in the folthe enemy to fortify the hill. lowing words
Another perfectly fair criticism is that Colley did not
“Jackson's brigade led the ad
The men did their best ; but at once have the position en- the want of practice in marching, trenched. His motive for this, the absence of that habit of discipline right or wrong, seem to me which produces order, caused unnecperfectly clear. I feel
essary fatigue and delay, and the
men arrived at their first bivouac so that, for the reasons I have
exhausted that Jackson would not already given, he believed the
even put out outposts, but saying, hill, even without entrench- 'Let the poor fellows sleep, I will ments, to be safe against as- watch the camp myself,' himself sault. Holding this opinion,
stood sentry over his unconscious
troops." he wished to let the men rest before undertaking this labour. When I wrote that, Butler's For this statement I have the Life of Colley had not apauthority of Herbert Stewart, peared, and Majuba was not who said the
to Sir in my mind. It did not enter Garnet Wolseley. Even when into my head to criticise or there was light enough to blame Stonewall Jackson's deshow the ground, and Colley liberate act, extraordinary as it
1 It was not till the morning after the occupation of the hill that he sent back to Newcastle to bring up the 15th Hussars and the remainder of the 60th Rifles.