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By stephen mann
I have enjoyed this site a lot since discovering it lat week- well done. It has led me back to the books which have raised some further points:

(i) the impression I have always had is that the only kind of organised retreat from the camp area was that of Anstey etc who retreated in a solid formation about 2 miles before being overcome in the Mzanyana (or something) valley about 2 miles behind the hill.
However how does this fit in with Mehlokazulu's description of the "soldiers retiring with the wagons"? I know wagons were inspanned pre-batlle (Essex? says this) but was there an orderly attempt to extricate wagons under escort? Mehlo's account mentions the soldiers flanking the wagons. Sounds quite unlike anything else referred to in the accounts/ evidence on the ground unless:-
(a) Mehlo mistranslated;
(b) He is referring to one ambulance wagon found down the nek by Black (?)(how many such wagons would the regiments out have?);
(c) Perhaps Ansteys men were able to extract one or more ammuniion wagons and were able to hold out until separated from these?
Otherwise, sounds highly unlikely that any of the civilian waggoners thought they could escape in an ox-drawn wagon or that the command thought there was any point or possibility in sending the chuck-wagons off the field given zulu mobility and wagon speed.

(ii) One of the first chaps on the field after 22nd said they found "the drummer boy" who had been hanged "with the rein still round his neck". Perhaps this one incident (exaggerated of course) gave rise to all the stories about crucifiction/ meat hooks under chins since the writer's contemporary account seems to reflect that what was expected to be found was one person who had been hanged and nothing else;

(iii) some one posted earlier about whether the dead had been "misused" (er-hum) by the zulus after death (or before). I thought this a bit far-fetched but Morris says that part of the whole "avoid swelling up" superstition required a warrior who had killed to not only slit the stomach etc but also to have intercourse with a woman from a different kraal to "pass on" the evil spirit to her and that if the warrior failed to achieve this he could substitute a less natural means of "passing it on". From what else Morris tells us about Zulu society the chances of being allowed to have a casual quickie with an unmarried maiden from another kraal seem pretty low (less so the prospect of being allowed the use of someone else's wife) so unless the lads were going to do some extreme post-battle bonding of their own, it would seem the British corpses/ prisoners would suit purpose.
Obviously, this assumes Morris is accurately representing Zulu custom and belief but it at least provides a context for the allegattion.

(iii) Zulus firing farms on the Biggarsberg at time of RD: any record of any civiians killed or captured in these raids? How far in land did they raid over the Buffalo? Any other English residents close to the Drift? What did they do on invasion?
9th March 2005Paul Cubbin
Stephen - Firstly, I assume we're talking about Isandlwana?
When I found this site a couple of months back I found that my carefully nurtured knowledge of Morris' work was largely in vain as (apparently) he was apt to make errors due to various reasons. Sometimes he gave too much credence to unreliable sources, sometimes he lacked evidence that only came to light after he had written his book and sometimes the naughty wee scamp appears to have simply made stuff up if it sounded entertaining! The vast majority of 'The Washing of the Spears' is a great in-depth look at Zulu society and their rise and fall....but the general opinion of those members of this site whose own research seems to go way beyond mine (and, indeed Morris') is that his book needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.
As to Mehlokazulu's account, it seems to me that an alternative translation may be "soldiers retiring to the wagons". Who knows how subtle Zulu grammar is, perhaps a nuance was tweaked and the meaning altered.
To my mind the Edendale contingent retained their cohesion best during retreat and were able to aid survivors swimming the river by well placed, disciplined volleys over their heads.
Post mortem 'abuse' of corpses did occur - how much probably lies in the land of conjecture. My impression has always been that it took the form of stabbing and cutting (in a battle frenzy?) rather than anything else; plus, of cousre, the disembowelling. I've never heard any hint of the dead being sodomised or anything like that....where did you get that from, Amsterdam? I'm not sure how 'pent up' the Zulus were, but I'VE certainly never been that desperate....then again, I'm from Cardiff and there's a lot of livestock just a short drive away.....
9th March 2005stephen mann

Yes- Isandhlwana. The Mehlokazulu account is transcribed in a book I bought at the Imperial War Museum (or was it the National Army Museum) about 10 years ago called "The Zulu War Then & Now".
My first thought for Mehlokazulu was mis-translation and I assume that must be the answer. The only wagon that (on my limited reading) tried to escape the nek was an ambulance that one of the reconaissance parties found later.
The bit about sodomy has been debated at great length in some earlier threads posts (I had never heard nor imagined it beforehand) but the bit from Morris I referred to perhaps provided an explanation if it was in fact true. No wonder those mules from the rocket battery jumped up on rocks and wouldn't come down!
9th March 2005Chris John
Perhaps do you think that Mehlokazulu could have mistaken the retreating artillery guns for waggons, as these may ahve been flanked by the men who had escaped the rocket battery massacre? something to think about perhaps?????
10th March 2005Julian whybra
Mehlokazulu - mistranslation - Paul is correct -
'with the waggons' being in the sense 'being with the waggons'.
The ambulance only reached the waggon park on the top of the saddle - it appears on the right in the famous 'lone sentry' photo and has other waggons nearby.
Sodomy - I've never come across this in any contemporary accounts, Zulu or European.
Morris - entertaining and well-written but everything needs checking if you're going to quote from him/use him as a source.
10th March 2005stephen mann
Julian- I recall seeing a photo of a single soldier standing by a wagon on the field from 1879- and Ian Knight did a comparative photo in "Zulu War Then and Now". Is that the one? If so, I think that was a flat-bed normal wagon although I may be remembering it wrong.
10th March 2005stephen mann
Julian- I recall seeing a photo of a single soldier standing by a wagon on the field from 1879- and Ian Knight did a comparative photo in "Zulu War Then and Now". Is that the one? If so, I think that was a flat-bed normal wagon although I may be remembering it wrong.
10th March 2005Paul Cubbin
Stephen - if its the same photo I'm thinking of, its a lone sentry standing on the battlefield several weeks later (well, not alone obviously, unless he had the camera on self-timer). The flat bed wagons can be seen scattered around the general area of the camp with a few bones here and there in the foreground. Many of the wagons were retrieved for later use or sale.
10th March 2005Coll

I think Julian means the wagon to the extreme right of the photograph, of which you can only see part of it, but enough to make out the frame for the canvas cover.

The soldier standing at the other wagon in the middle of the photograph apparently has a spade and may have been part of the later burial parties, a pickaxe also appears lying on the ground at the bottom of the photograph, which I guess would have been necessary after recent comments of the hard compact ground around Isandlwana.

However, the pickaxe may have actually belonged to the camp and just happens to be in the picture where it was discarded after the battle.


11th March 2005stephen mann
Mehlokazulu's account (unless there is more mis-transation) really does sound like some wagons were moving off the field and the soldiers marched alongside. He refers to the soldiers getting the oxen in and then marching alongside. Makes the general mis-translation point less likely? Note that elsewhere Zulus are referred to as removing a number of wagons from the field so perhaps these were the ones Mehlokazulu saw, as it would no doubt have been more convenient for the zuus to remove the ones already inspanned with oxen. Guess we'll never know.
12th March 2005Coll

The account mentions that they turned the oxen, but this could mean the oxen were stampeding across the nek drove on by the fear of all the men heading in that direction, any that may have been inspanned may have also tried to move away dragging, if possible, maybe the smaller, lighter wagons, but without any drivers to guide them. Accounts talk of a mad dash with both animals and men from both armies, all mixed up together.

The account also refers to soldiers on both sides of wagons without tents, probably meaning the larger flatbeds, but I think he was meaning the stands made around the wagon park, Pope and Godwin-Austen and men, Wardell's stand, and of course Younghusband and his company round at the mountain side of the park.

The Zulus took a few of the wagons, although maybe using the oxen, there were enough Zulus to actually move the wagons by just using the warriors.

13th March 2005Julian whybra
Stephen - the waggon to the right of the photo is the ammunition waggon.
13th March 2005Julian whybra
Apologies, it's late, my typing error, I meant to type ambulance waggon - not ammunition waggon.