3. Information received from Umtegolalo, a Zulu well known to Mr. Longeast, Interpreter to the Lieutenant-General, found wounded at Rorke’s
Drift on the 23rd January.
Statement made by Natives regarding the Action of the 22nd January, at the Sandhlwana Hill.
The Zulu army had, on the day of the 21st January, been bivouacked between the Upindo and Babmango Hills, from which position a portion of them were able to see our mounted men, viz., the Natal Carabineers and the Mounted Police, on the Ndhlaza Kazi Hill, and were seen by them.
The army consisted of the Undi Corps, the Nokenke and Umcityu Regiments, and the Nkobamakosi and Inbonambi Regiments, who were severally about 3,000, 7,000, and 10,000 strong, being the picked troops of the Zulu army.
During the night of the 21st January, they were ordered to move in small detached bodies to a position about a mile and a half to the east of the camp at Sandhlwana, on a stony table-land about 1000 yards distant from and within view of the spot visited by Lord Chelmsford and Colonel Glyn on the afternoon of the 21st January.
On arriving at this position, they were ordered to remain quiet, not showing themselves or lighting fires. Their formation was as follows:—The centre was occupied by the Undi Corps ; the right wing by the Nokenke and Umcityu ; and the left by the Inbonambi and the Nkobama Kosi Regiments.
Their orders from the King were to attack Colonel Glyn and No. 3 Column, and to drive it back across the boundary river. They had, however, no intention whatever of making any attack on the 22nd January, owing to the state of the moon being unfavourable from a superstitious point of view. The usual sprinkling of the warriors with medicine previous to an engagement had not taken place, nor had the war song been sung, or the religious ceremonies accompanying been performed. They were going to make their attack either during the night of the 22nd or at daylight on the 23rd, and, trusting in their number, felt quite secure of victory.
When, on the morning of the 22nd January the mounted Basutos, under the command of Colonel Durnford, R.E., discovered their position and fired at a portion of the Umcityu Regiment, that regiment immediately sprung up without orders, and charged. It was at once followed by the Nokenke, Inbonambi, and Nkobamakosi Regiments, the Undi Corps holding its ground.
Up to this point in the day there had been no fighting. Early in the morning, soon after the departure of Colonel Glyn and the troops with him, a bod (probably a company of the Natal Native Contingent) had been ordered to scout on the left, but do riot seem to have come upon the enemy. About nine A.M. (approximately), Colonel Durnford arrived with 250 mounted men and 250 Native Infantry, who were at once divided into three bodies, one being sent to the left, east (who came into contact with the Umcityu Regiment), one to the left front, and one to the rear, along the wagon-road (which is supposed to have gone after the baggage wagons brought up by Colonel Durnford,R.E).
At this period of the day the position of the troops was as follows. They were drawn up to the left of the Native Contingent Camp, with the guns facing the left. A message was now brought by a Natal Native Contingent officer, probably one of Colonel Durnford’s mounted men, that the Zulus were advancing in great force, and firing was heard towards the left (the firing of the mounted Basutos against the Umcityu Regiment).
It is stated by a wagon driver that a consultation now took place between Colonel Durnford and Colonel Pulleine, during which he imagined there was a difference of opinion, Colonel Pulleine ultimately, however, giving way to his superior officer.
A Company of the 1st Battalion 24th were then moved up to the neck between the Sandhlwana Hill and the position occupied by the Zulus, where they at once became engaged with the Umcityu Regiment whose advance they completely checked for the time. The distance of this neck is about a mile and a half from camp.
Meanwhile the Zulus had advanced in the following order. The Umcityu Regiment formed the right Centre, and was engaged with one company 1st Battalion 24th Regiment, and about 200 of Colonel Durnford’s natives; the left centre was composed of the Nokenke Regiment who were being shelled by the two guns as they advanced. Next to them on the left, came the Inbonambi Regiment with the Nkobamakosi Regiment outside of it) both making a turning movement and
threatening the front of the camp, while driving before them a body of Colonel Durnford’s mounted men, supported by a patrol of Volunteers. The Undi Corps, on seeing that the other four regiments had commenced the attack, as above, inarched off to their right, and, without fighting, made for the north side of the Sandhlwana Hill, being concealed by it until, their turning movement being completed, they made their appearance to the west of the Sandhlwana at the spot were the wagon road crosses the neck.
Meanwhile the Nkobaroakosi Regiment had become engaged on the left front of the camp with our infantry, and buffered very severely, being repulsed three times, until the arrival of the Inbonambi Regiment enabled them to push forward, along the south front of the camp and complete their turning movement. This produced an alteration in the position held by those defending the camp. Two companies of the 24th Regiment and all the mounted Europeans being sent to the extreme right of the camp, at the spot where the road cuts through it. The guns were moved to the right of the Native Contingent camp, having the nullah below them to their left lined by the Native Contingent; three companies of the 1st Battalion 24th Regiment remained on the left of the camp, supported on their left by the body of Mounted Basutos, who had been driven back by the Umcityu Regiment. The one company of the 1st Battalion 24th Regiment which had been thrown out to the neck, was now retiring, fighting.
By this time the attack of the enemy extended along the whole front of the camp, a distance of not less than 800 yards, and along the whole left, a distance of about 600 yards, and although they were still held in check by our fire, they were advancing rapidly towards the gaps between the troops. Up to this point their advance had been steady, and made without noise, but now they began to double and to call to one another. The camp followers and the Native Contingent began to fly, making for the right, and in a few minutes more the troops were forced to retire upon the tents to avoid being cut off, as the Zulus had now burst through the gaps.
So far, very few men had fallen on our side, the fire of the enemy being far from good, but as the men fell back the Zulus came with a rush, and in a very few minutes it became a hand to hand conflict. About this time also the Undi corps, made its appearance on the right rear of the camp, completely cutting off any retreat towards Rorke’s Drift. Fortunately the Nkobamakosi, instead of attempting to completely surround the camp by making a junction with the Undi, followed the retreating natives, thus leaving a narrow passage open for escape, which was taken advantage of by such as were able to escape out of the camp. A few were met and killed by the Uudi, but that corps, believing that the camp was already plundered, decided to make the best of their way to Rorke’s Drift, and plunder it, never dreaming that any opposition could be offered by the few men they knew to be there.
The loss of the Zulus must have been exceedingly heavy. The Umcityu were frightfully cut up by the single company of the 1st Battalion 24th Regiment, which was sent out of camp, and never returned; the Nkobamakosi fell in heaps ; the hill down which the Nokenke came was covered with slain; and the loss of the Undi at Rorke’s Drift cannot be less than 500; they killed all their own wounded who were unable to get away.
Much astonishment was expressed by the Zulus at the behaviour of our soldiers, firstly, regarding their death dealing powers considering their numbers; secondly, because they did not run away before the enormous numerical superiority of the enemy.