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12th September 2003re a.d.c.Coghills knee injury.
By L.J.Knight
did lieut,James Patrick Daly.1-24. throw an assagai in the officers mess which struck lieut,Coghill in the left knee. and was the "chicken" story just that .a story. or do we believe as in the Curling letters that it was a combination of both which left him so lame.
12th September 2003Peter Ewart
The "chicken story" is genuine and Coghill himself is the source. In his diary he recounts the incident which happened during the return from Chelmsford's reconnaissance to the SE of the new camp on the 20th. "On the way home we found some fowls at a deserted kraal and in capturing them I put my knee out wh(ich) kept me in my tent for some days."

As the entry includes incidents from the 21st as well, presumably the entry was made that day. "Some days" might, however, imply that it was made on the morning of the 22nd itself, given that this was only two days after the accident and that he did write to his parents that morning. Can Martin Everitt perhaps clarify the date of this entry from the original, or a copy of same? (I quote from " Whom the Gods Love").

Some versions suggest the chicken was "for the General's pot" but I've always assumed this was simply a colourful way of describing the incident, unless someone else knows of an independent source?

The source for the horseplay with the assegai is apparently a letter home from Daly himself in Dec 1878 (which I haven't seen). Is there some ambiguity about the timing of this incident? If Daly implied it was a recent event, during the invasion preparations for example, Gon (p77) suggests it occurred at Christmas 1876. Has he mis-interpreted two or three separate sources, perhaps - Daly's letter, a Coghill account, the 24th's itinerary? He doesn't provide detailed footnotes & doesn't quote from Daly's letter. (And I'm not aware that Coghill mentioned it).

Or has Gon got it right? After all, were Daly & Coghill in very close proximity anyway during the last quarter of 1878, when Coghill was being worked hard by Frere in PMB, rather than messing with the 24th's officers? Can you throw any light on this, Martin?

I don't know of any other references to either knee injury before Isandlwana, although I think some officers may have referred to it afterwards. It has been said that the old injury was aggravated on the 20th, but Coghill says he "put it out", whereas an assegai injury sounds like a wound. I don't think Curling's letters mentioned it, although the editors of the recent publication imply a connection in their comments between quotations.

And we don't know (or I don't, anyway) that it was even the same knee, do we?

13th September 2003Julian Whybra
Remember none of the men were writing for posterity - since Coghill wrote just before Isandhlwana that he'd put his knee out chasing a chicken he has no reason to lie or cover up or defend someone's character. I'm sure he simply did what he said he did.
13th September 2003L.J.Knight
thank you both for be hit in the knee by an assagai would i'm sure leave more than a mere scratch. why would'nt Coghill cover up for a brother officer.?i'm sure there must must have been great embarassment all round, and Coghill trying to conceal the true severity of the wound, and maybe the nature of the country it was slow to heal, no antibiotics. it just makes me wonder.
13th September 2003Peter Ewart
I hadn't thought of either of these incidents in that way at all. I've no doubt both accidents occurred exactly as described, although I don't think I've read Daly's letter. (Is it published?) I doubt if there is anything sinister to them other than perfectly routine larking about with the assgai and an unfortunate fall on the 20th. I suppose the possibility of the fall in the homestead on the way back from the reconnaissance having, perhaps, worsened the original injury depends on two things: Was it the same knee? Was the first accident
only shortly before the second?

I know little about the Daly letter but have been told that Daly wrote it in Dec 1878. Can anyone confirm that? Has anyone seen the actual letter with its date rather than a transcript? I'd very much like to see the date on the orginal.

It's not really important (& I'm certainly not implying anything on the lines of the above) but I find it strange that some observers have suggested the second blow aggravated the first as I know of no source that links the two. Is there one, please?

The reason I have a sneaking suspicion that Gon may, after all, have been correct (i.e. Dec 76 for the assegai prank) is the unlikelihood of it having occurred in late 78. Coghill mentioned his fall in a letter home & also reported shortly before that he was suffering from toothache, headache and eye trouble in the final weeks of his life. But not the assegai accident (unless the original diary/letters contain a ref which WtGL doesn't).

Now (and someone pick me up on this if I've missed something) Coghill arrived on his return to SA at Cape Town on 12th Sep 1878, taking out a draft of the 2nd Buffs, not the 24th (so not yet in Daly's presence). He was still at Simonstown on 21 Sep & moved to PMB via Durban shortly afterwards. From then, he worked closely with Frere on the boundary commission problem & associated preparations, while his own Reg't was marching up from King William's Town. When Coghill was finally released, he only caught up with his Reg't on the day before the invasion - at R/Drift. I very much doubt if the Daly incident occurred after the 11th, as he mentions all the other little maladies of Jan in his correspondence but not that.

I conclude from all this that Daly couldn't have pranged him in late 78 & was hardly likely to have done so in Zululand itself - so surely it must have been on Coghill's previous tour, which is exactly what Gon says anyway.

Have I missed something? Is there any other reliable source for the Daly incident? Most importantly, what is the date of Daly's letter? (Not a reported date, but a verified date on the original document). Where is it?

PS - I mentioned in my earlier posting that Coghill wrote to his parents on 22nd whereas I see it was to Clery.
16th September 2003Julian Whybra
Peter, just for information, Coghill's diary entry (in which the 'knee' incident of the 20th is related) was written up on the morning of the 22nd January - the last sentence refers to an event occurring at 3 am that morning.
23rd September 2003Peter Ewart
Thanks for that, Julian. (Missed your note until now).