Causes of the Boer War
rapid influx of British and other foreigners to exploit the diamond
riches of the Boer Republics was a major factor in the war
Video on the Boer War
The Boer war was fought between Great Britian and the two Boer
republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State in South Africa, from
1899 to 1902. Boers were the Dutch population of South Africa. The
word Boer comes from the Dutch word for farmer. In the 17th century
the Dutch East India Company began to use the Cape of good Hope
as a way station for ship sailing to asia .
The first Dutch settlement
in South Africa was made at Capetown in 1652 by about 80 Hollander
led by Jan van Riebeeck.In 1707, the Dutch East India Company
forbade further immigration from Holland due to disputes among the
settlers.In the 18th century, the Boers advanced toward the north,
reaching the Orange rive to the northwest and the Great Fish river
to the east .Here they meet the Bantus, and began a long conflict
with them .The rule of the Dutch East India Company was ended in
1795, when the British seized the Cape of good Hope in order
to prevent the French from seizing it .In 1803, the British returned
it to Holland, but took it again a few years later .At this time
the dutch numbered about 15,000.
The Rhodes Colossus
Striding from Cape Town to Cairo
Punch, December 10, 1892. Rhodes , achieved wealth and power from his Kimberly
diamond mines, planned a railway from the Cape to Cairo, to be run
through British held territory, but it was never accomplished .
video - Reenactment of a Anglo-Boer War Battle (Mafeking) Edison 1900
The British had trouble with the
Boers from the beginning of their rule in South Africa. In 1816
there was a rebellion by the Boers against the British. In 1820
about 5,000 British settlers came to South Africa. In 1834 slavery
was abolished in the British Empire. The Boers felt the compensation
given them by the British government was inadequate. In 1835 hundereds
of Boers left the Cape, beginning an exodus that would continue
for a decade, called the "Great Trek', seeking land where they
would be free of British rule .Those who made the trek were called
voortrekkers .The Boers formed settlement beyong British rule
in the Orange Free Statte and the Transvaal. In 1872, the colony
was granted autonomy, the Boers were able to control the local administration.The First Boer War
(1880–1881), also known as the "Transvaal War," was a relatively brief
conflict in which Boer settlers successfully resisted a British attempt
to annex the Transvaal, and re-established an independent republic.
Breaker Morant Boer Commando Attack
1886 Gold Rush
In 1886, large deposites of gold were found in Transvaal,
leading to a gold rush such as the American Gold rush in California.
The area became flooded with outsiders (Uitlanders). The
Boers began to feel overwhelemed by these outsiders . The president
of the Transvaal, Paul Kruger taxed the Uitlanders heavily
and denied them political rights, afraid the Boers would lose control
of the state.At this time, there were approximately 30,000 white male Boer voters and potentially 60,000 white male Uitlanders.The
Boers built a railway to Delagoa Bay in Portuguese East Africa to
have access to a port not controlled by the British.
The war most commonly referred to as the "Boer War" is the Second Boer War.Known
in in Afrikaans as the Boereoorlog or Tweede Vryheidsoorlog ("Second War of Liberation").
Boer War was occasioned by the British protests against the Transvaal
governments treatment of Uitlanders (foreigners), most British
nationals , who entered the area after a gold strike.
The Jameson Raid 1895
The Jameson Raid ( New Year weekend of 1895-96) was an attemped coup
by members of the British South Africa Company ( headed by Rhodes). A
group 470 British cavalrymen led by Dr. Leander Starr Jameson,
Rhodes assistant, went raid on Johannesburg.in the Transvaal
Republic. Jameson's force was tracked from the moment that it crossed
the border and first encountered resistance very early on January 1
when there was a very brief exchange of fire with a Boer outpost.They
expected the Uitlanders to rise up and overthrow
the Boer republic, but they did not rise up and the raiders were
defeated and surrendered on Jan 2. The Boer government later
handed the men over to the British for trial and the British prisoners
were returned to London.Jameson and was sentenced to 15 months for
leading the raid. Rhodes was forced to resign his post as prime
minister of the Cape colony. The Transvaal government was paid almost
£1 million in compensation by the British South Africa Company.Paul
Kruger used this money to buy artillery and rifles from Gernany. The
Kaiser had praised the Boers for their actions, raing anti-Boer and
anti-Greman sentiment in the UK.
anti-war riot in 1899 before the war
British declaration of War, October 1899
naval gun fires at Boer linesat Magersfontein in Dec, 1899
Britain claimed that they had never given up control
of the Boer Republics, and Kruger insisted they were completely
In September 1899 Joseph Chamberlain
(the British Colonial Secretary) sent an ultimatum to the Boers,
demanding full equality for those uitlanders resident in the Transvaal.
seeing no other option than war, issued his own ultimatum, giving the
British 48 hours to withdraw all their troops from the border of the
Transvaal, failing which the Transvaal, allied with the Orange Free
State, would declare war against the British. The rejection of the
ultimatum followed and war was declared.The Orange Free state associated itself
with the Transvaal. Hostilities began in October 1899, with one
force of Boers occupying Mafeking and another Kimberly .The news
was greeting with an upsurge in patriotism in Britian. The British
expected to dipatch the Boers as they had other colonial peoples.
The were in for a rude shock in the early months of the war .In
one week in December, 1899, known in the UK as the 'Black Week'
the British lost three battles with thousands of British
soldiers killed. A new British commander, Lord Roberts, recovered
the initiative in 1900 and copied the Boer Kommando methods .
at the Siege of Mafeking. From Sept 19, 1899 to May 1900, 8,000 Boer troops
laid siege to around 2,000 British troops .The Boers decided that the town was too heavily defended to take,
they moved most of their force away in Sept, 1899 and the remainder
in May when a British relief force was approaching .The relief of
Mafeking led to wild rejoicing in Britain .
and concentration camps to control insurgents had firist been used
Spanish against Cubans.
British blockhouse in South Africa.
de Wet, one of the most successful Boer guerrilla leaders who
concentrated on attacking British supply lines after 1900. de Wet
abolished the Boer use of wagon train so the commandos would be
more mobile. He survived the war and died in 1922.
had three distinct phases. First, the Boers mounted
pre-emptive strikes into British-held territory in Natal and the Cape
Colony, besieging the British garrisons of Ladysmith, Mafeking and
Kimberley. The Boers then won a series of tactical victories at Colenso
and Spion Kop
against a failed British counteroffensive to relieve the three sieges.
Second, after the introduction of greatly increased British troop
numbers under the command of Lord Roberts,
another, and this time successful, British offensive was launched in
1900 to relieve the sieges. After Natal and the Cape Colony were
secure, the British were able to invade the Transvaal and the
republic's capital, Pretoria, was captured in June 1900.
British moved civilians to civilians into concentration camps
to prevent them from aiding Afrikaan guerillas,
and set up block houses to prevent the movement of guerillas. Over 26,000 died
in concentration camps.
Finally, beginning in March 1900, the Boers engaged a protracted hard-fought guerrilla warfare
against the British forces. This lasted a further eighteen months,
during which the Boers raided targets such as British troop columns, telegraph sites, railways
and storage depots. In an effort to cut off supplies to the raiders,
the British, now under the leadership of Lord Kitchener, responded with
a scorched earth policy of destroying Boer farms and moving civilians
into concentration camps.
wreck caused by Kommandos. A young Winston Churchill, working as
a correspondent was captured on a train and was imprisoned in a POW camp in Pretoria
The campaign had been expected by the British government to be over
within months, and the protracted war became increasingly unpopular
especially after revelations about the conditions in the concentration
camps (where thousands died of disease and malnutrition). The demand
for peace led to a settlement of hostilities, and in 1902, the Treaty of Vereeniging was signed.
The two republics were absorbed into the British Empire, although the
British were forced to make a number of concessions and reparations to
the Boers. The granting of limited autonomy for the area ultimately led
to the establishment of the Union of South Africa.
The war had a lasting effect on the region and on British domestic
politics. The war, known as the last British imperial war, was the
longest (almost three years), the most expensive (over £200 million),
and the most disastrous of all wars for Britain between 1815 and 1914.
The Treaty of Vereeniging in 1902 ended the war. By this time
the British had 300,000 troops in South Africa .
Many of the Boers referred to the war as the second of the Freedom Wars. The most resistant of Boers wanted to continue the fight and were known as "bittereinders" (or irreconcilables) and at the end of the war a number of Boer fighters such as Deneys Reitz
chose exile rather than sign an undertaking that they would abide by
the peace terms. Over the following decade, many returned to South
Africa and never signed the undertaking. Some, like Reitz, eventually
reconciled themselves to the new status quo, but others could not.
and Indian War
Dietlof Van Warmelo 1901
free at Project Gutenberg
A Boer Journal of the Boer War,
by Deneys Reitz,well written account of a commandos present at virtually every major event of the war.
He would fight for Britain in WWI.
Morant, dramatic account of
the true story of the court-martial of three soldiers attached to the
Bushveld Carbineers, a guerrilla warfare unit of the British army that
operated during the Boer War