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20th June 2003Where was Dalton injured?
By A.Maniac
3) Was Dalton shot behind the biscuit boxes, as Chard says, or on the north wall, as in other sources?
Chard writes:
While firing from behind the biscuit boxes, Dalton, who had been using his rifle with deadly effect, and by his quickness and coolness had been the means of saving many men's lives, was shot through the body. I was standing near him at the time, and he handed me his rifle so coolly that I had no idea until afterwards of how severely he was wounded. He waited quite quietly for me to take the cartridges he had left out of his pockets. We put him inside our mealie sack redoubt, building it up around him.

Hitch writes:
There was a certain space of about nine yards where the barricading was uncompleted. It was, of course, the weakest link in the chain, and the Zulus were not long in discovering this fact. In this position eight of us - Bromhead, Nicholls, Fagan, Cole, Dalton, Schiess, Williams, ands myself - made a stand, and it was here, I think, that the hardest work was done. Though the situation was so uncomfortable, there was no bungling. Each man in a businesslike manner singled out the nigger who was nearest him, and dealt out death if he could. ..Rush after rush had been repelled. Of the eight who held the unbarricaded position only two of us were left, Lieutenant Bromhead and myself. Nicholls, Fagan, and Cole were killed, whilst Dalton and Williams were wounded. So Bromhead and I went on together for about an hour, and a rough time we had too.

Smith writes:
Mr. Dalton who is a tall man, was continually going along the barricades, fearlessly exposing himself and cheering the men, and using his own rifle most effectively. A Zulu ran up near the barricade. Mr. Dalton called out "Pot that fellow" and himself aimed over the parapet at another, when his rifle dropped and he turned round, quite pale, and said that he had been shot. The doctor was by his side at once, and found that a bullet had passed quite through above the right shoulder. Unable any longer to use his rifle (although he did not cease to direct the fire of the men who were near him) he handed it to Mr. Byrne, who used it as well.

It seems pretty clear to me that Chard has misled us again. Do you agree?

20th June 2003Peter Ewart
Chard's reports were long & detailed, mentioning many incidents. Exactly the same goes for Smith's reports. I'd be astonished if they'd witnessed first hand each and every one of the moments they describe.

Chard, presumably knowing he'd be expected to to produce a report, surely gathered information from as many survivors as possible & assembled the whole into a cohesive narrative. Just getting the approximate times and chronology correct would not have been easy. I suggest he couldn't possibly have witnessed - or remembered - every single incident he included, but (for a man who appears to have eschewed self-advertisement during a period when opportunities apparently beckoned) he still produced a clear account which not unnaturally put the best possible light on matters without overdoing it. An engineer, one imagines his reporting style sought accuracy above all.

Smith had always enjoyed writing & was experienced at compiling regular reports. His "report" and his letter to the press was not "required" by anyone (a much shorter letter to a friend was understandable but he may have been invited to submit something to the Colony's press once writing paper had arrived from the Colony and it was known he'd taken part). Given his circumstances and situation at the time, I am less convinced of his antipathy towards self-advertisement than I am of Chard's.

Again, I don't think he could possibly have witnessed every individual incident he wrote about but he did have plenty of time while attending the wounded during the ensuing days, for interviewing - or simply providing comfort to - the survivors, picking up snippets here and there. I'm still not convinced that he didn't assist Chard in his report, indeed it would be strange of he hadn't, if Chard was gathering in various testimonies from as many reliable witnesses as possible.

Discrepancies between Chard's and Smith's accounts are inevitable, as they are between other survivors. They weren't written in ideal circumstances, nor with the idea of minute analysis by posterity, nor were the compilers quite yet aware of how much attention would soon be paid to their little scrap, compared with the main events of that day.

I wonder if the term "misled" is not just a little harsh, therefore?

20th June 2003Peter Ewart
I didn't really answer your question properly as Chard claimed to have been an actual eyewitness to this event.

I suggest: Chard took the rifle & then handed it to Byrne (thereby keeping his eyewitness statement intact!)

Or: Smith (who doesn't claim to have witnessed it) was in error in recording that it was handed to Byrne as he got the story second hand.

20th June 2003Dave Nolan
What was it that that the Duke of Wellington said about events recorded at a battle and at a dance?
22nd June 2003A.Maniac
thanks for this helpful view
What did Mr-Wellseley say actually?
25th June 2003Peter Ewart
Not sure what the great Duke said but on 22 & 23 Jan 1879 there were certainly many opportunities for Chinese Whispers! (Messengers galloping down from the plateau, scribbled notes from the camp to Mangeni, verbal messages to-ing and fro-ing across the plain (& hardly any of them supposedly finding Chelmsford!) as well as the frantic warnings from the fugitives to the R/Drift depot - and, as so often in warfare, each officer or man being aware only of what he'd actually seen, or perhaps heard second hand, not the overall picture.

Add a dearth of survivors (and allow for the traumatic experience) and it is no wonder that many reports, letters and other accounts about that day differ on almost every detail.

I suppose the classic example (no doubt apocryphal!) is the old chestnut:

"The Germans are advancing on the west flank - send reinforcements."

Which became so garbled it somehow metamorphosed into:

"The Germans are dancing on wet planks - send three and fourpence."

Given the confusion in the camp on the Wednesday morning as a result of repeatedly conflicting and often vague reports from vedettes on the plain and plateau, one might almost substitute "Zulus" for "Germans."

25th June 2003A.Maniac
Yes, I see a close parallel here with the sometimes conflicting reports of the Gospel writers in the New Testament. Here, as there, it seems that the differences are in fact a mark of authenticity and our task is to see past the sometimes confusing details to work out the picture for ourselves. Everybody will work it out slightly differently of course and this is where open-mindedness and tolerance come in!