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DateOriginal Topic
23rd April 2005Isandlhwana
By Jon
When Lord Chelmsford split his forces, himself moving to Ulundi, and leaving Pulleine in charge of Isandlhwana, with Durnford moving in to reinforce Pulleine, if the Zulus had attacked Ulundi and wiped out Chelmsford and his force, who would have took over command of the remaining force, Pulleine, Durnford or someone else?
23rd April 2005Peter Ewart

There was no intention of splitting his column for more than a matter of hours. Chelmsford wasn't going anywhere near Ulundi with only half his force. On the morning of the 22nd, he sent orders from up ahead for the force remaining at Isandlwana to strike camp and follow on (or, technically, I think the orders Gardener carried were for half the remaining force to pack things up for the time being, wasn't it?)

Ulundi was way, way off to the east and, even without any fighting along the way, would have taken the full column many days, if not a week or two, to reach, depending on the state of the trader's track. It was the British intention eventually to attack Ulundi (when they got there) - the Zulus wouldn't want to attack their own capital, although would defend it just as they did when they attacked the British force which finally arrived there in July.

On the other hand, Chelmsford's force could well have been attacked in the Isipezi/Magogo/ Silutshane area, where it spent most of the 22nd, and could conceivably have been wiped out. In which case your question remains relevant.

Of course, that presupposes that Chelmsford's orders did indeed call up Durnford to Isandlwana to reinforce Pulleine, rather than leave him with no clear instructions at all, which is arguable, and that as the commander of a separate column, Durnford had a separate but equal role to Pulleine.

It also presupposes that the Zulu army, having wiped out Chelmsford, didn't also move on to attack and defeat the force at Isandlwana, as happened in reality. If they had wiped out Chelmsford's force on the 22nd instead of the camp, however, then one imagines that the central column's advance would still have stalled in the same way that it actually did, and both Pulleine's (i.e Glyn's) and Durnford's columns would have retired to Natal & sought orders from Frere. In the interim, presumably Durnford would have been senior.