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The Diary of a Siege

DIARY OF A SIEGE

23 JANUARY - 4 APRIL 1879

Day 1 Thu. 23 Jan Column arrives at Eshowe. Death of Pte Dunne, 'The Buffs', wounded at Nyezane.
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Fri. 24 Jan Reinforcements for Lt Col Ely's convoy sent from Eshowe. Trace of new entrenchment layed out.
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Sat. 25 Jan Work parties begin digging ditches. Lt Col Coates sent with convoy to Lower Thukela.
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Sun. 26 Jan Pearson receives Frere's note to the effect that Durnford has been defeated but that Chelmsford has won a victory. Death of Sgt Hydenburg, NNC, wounded at Nyezane.
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Day 5 Mon. 27 Jan Garrison told news of Durnford's defeat. Barrow takes mounted men on reconnaissance towards Mlalazi; Coates reaches Thukela.
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Tue. 28 Jan Barrow on recce to eNtumeni. Pearson receives Chelmsford's telegram instructing him to 'act in whatever manner you think desirable', and to be prepared for a major Zulu attack. Pearson decides to remain at Eshowe but to send back mounted men and NNC. Ely's convoy arrives. Tents abandoned, all men move into entrenchment. Barrow reaches Thukela.
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Wed. 29 Jan Pearson orders inventory of food and ammunition.
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Thu. 30 Jan Ninety oxen escape overnight. 1000 oxen are sent back to Lower Thukela; 500 are captured, the rest return to Eshowe.
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Fri. 31 Jan Ditch now completely surrounds entrenchment.
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Sat. 1 Feb Work begins on new cattle laager in ravine. Men placed on three-quarter rations. Death of Pte Kingston, 'The Buffs'
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Sun. 2 Feb Pearson receives full news of Isandlwana disaster, asks for more troops to be sent to Eshowe.
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Day 12 Mon. 3 Feb Garrison given full details of Isandlwana. Large numbers of Zulus seen in area. Fourty-four oxen die in laager overnight.
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Tue. 4 Feb Pearson told no extra troops will be sent to Eshowe.
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Wed. 5 Feb Work on fort continues; daily band concerts begin.
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Thu. 6 Feb List of officers' casualties at Isandlwana received, together with story of Rorke's Drift. Chelmsford asks Pearson to reduce garrison and move to Lower Thukela. Pearson asks for twenty wagons of supplies.
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Fri. 7 Feb Powder magazine built, outlying defences commenced.
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Sat. 8 Feb Late start to general work due to overnight rain.
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Sun. 9 Feb Basic work on entrenchment completed; Zulu's fire on Captain Shervinton's patrol.
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Day 19 Mon. 10 Feb Vendettes under fire.
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Tue. 11 Feb Pearson receives second letter urging him to retire with part of garrison to Thukela. Council of War decides to stay at Eshowe; Pearson informs Chelmsford they will nonetheless march out if orders are confirmed. Work on roadway within fort; death of Artificer Moore, HMS Active.
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Wed. 12 Feb General work on fort.
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Thu. 13 Feb Range markers layed out around fort. Death of Pte McLeod, 'The Buffs'
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Fri. 14 Feb Work started on caponnier in west face of fort.
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Sat. 15 Feb Death of Pte Oakley, 'The Buffs'
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Sun. 16 Feb March to Lower Thukela cancelled as no confirmation of order received from Chelmsford.
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Day 26 Mon. 17 Feb Very wet day, no work.
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Tue. 18 Feb Pearson writes to Chelmsford again; lecture by Rev Robertson.
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Wed. 19 Feb Pearson rides out on recce to Mlalazi.
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Thu. 20 Feb Second lecture by Rev Robertson.
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Fri. 21 Feb Oxen driven over a mile from fort for grazing. Firing heard from the direction of Thukela. Deaths of Lce Cpl Taylor, 'The Buffs', Ptes Shields and Knee, 99th.
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Sat. 22 Feb Cattle guards under fire; troops sent from fort to drive off attackers. Two imizi burnt, heavy rain at night.
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Sun. 23 Feb Fort flooded. Auction of foodstuffs left behind by Volunteers.
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Day 33 Mon. 24 Feb Pearson accompanies one raid; one umuzi burnt.
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Tue. 25 Feb Early rain prevents work in the morning.
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Wed. 26 Feb Work begins building wattle hut inside fort.
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Thu. 27 Feb General work continues.
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Fri. 28 Feb Late start to work due to bad weather; orders issued for major raid next day.
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Sat. 1 Mar Attack on eSiqwakeni ikhanda.
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Sun. 2 Mar Sun-flash signals observed at Lower Thukela.
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Day 40 Mon. 3 Mar Part of received message understood.
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Tue. 4 Mar Hot-air message balloon completed, but bad weather prevents launch. Death of Pte Paul, 99th.
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Wed. 5 Mar Pearson orders a recce to find a route for proposed new road towards Thukela.
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Thu. 6 Mar Sun-flash message fully understood. Relief column to start on 13/3. Signalling screen completed. Heavy rain returns. Death of Drummer Mortimer, 'The Buffs'.
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Fri. 7 Mar Attack on Cpl Carson whilst on vedette duty.
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Sat. 8 Mar Strong winds destroy signalling screen. Rain collapses caponnier on south face. Last of slaughter oxen eaten. Deaths of Ld Seaman Radford, HMS Active, Pte Barber, Army Hospital Corps.
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Sun. 9 Mar Zulus open fire on road party. Death of Pte Stack, 'The Buffs'.
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Day 47 Mon. 10 Mar Second signalling screen erected. Zulus attempt to surround road party, which is withdrawn. Runner arrives with fourteen-day old message, and is arrested as a spy.
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Tue. 11 Mar Lt Lewis of 'The Buffs' wounded while out with road party; torpedo exploded to deter Zulus from interfering with work. Attack on vedette post; Pte Brooks saved by Capt Shervinton. Large numbers of Zulus seen moving towards Nyezane to oppose relief column.
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Wed. 12 Mar More Zulus seen in direction of Nyezane: death of Capt Williams, 'The Buffs'.
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Thu. 13 Mar Road completed. Message received postponing relief until 1/4.
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Fri. 14 Mar Regular two-way communications established.
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Sat. 15 Mar Zulus observed retiring from Nyezane.
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Sun. 16 Mar Heavy thunderstorms herald three days of rain. Deaths of Pte Tubb, 99th, Marine Stagg and Midshipman Coker of HMS Active.
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Day 54 Mon. 17 Mar Cattle laager relocated: Pte Kent, 99th (MI) killed on vedette duty. Death of Pte Venn, 99th.
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Tue. 18 Mar Bad weather prevents work.
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Wed. 19 Mar Runner arrives at Eshowe with news that relief column will march on 29/3.
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Thu. 20 Mar Raid on umuzi close to fort.
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Fri. 21 Mar Death of Pte Coombes, 99th.
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Sat. 22 Mar Rain prevents work in afternoon.
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Sun. 23 Mar Two Zulu enboys arrested as spies.
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Day 61 Mon. 24 Mar Private sun-flash messages prohibited. Wagons withdrawn from fort and replaced with sod traverses.
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Tue. 25 Mar Work on new sod traverses continued.
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Wed. 26 Mar Death of Pte Roden, 99th.
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Thu. 27 Mar Second wattle hut completed. Death of Lt Davison, 99th and Pte Tarrant, 'The Buffs'.
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Fri. 28 Mar Two heavy rainstorms prevent work in afternoon. Death of Pte Lewis, 99th.
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Sat. 29 Mar Pearson receives request from Chelmsford to sally out and support his advance. Pearson replies that garrison is not fit enough. Runners arrive with medicine and newspapers.
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Sun. 30 Mar Relief column observed at amaTigulu river. Death of Lt Evelyn, 'The Buffs'.
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Day 68 Mon. 31 Mar Cavalry scouts observed ten miles distant.
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Tue. 1 Apr Relief column forms laager about ten miles from Eshowe.
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Wed. 2 Apr Relief column defeats Zulus at battle of Gingindlovu. Death of Able Seaman Smith, HMS Active.
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Thu. 3 Apr The siege of Eshowe lifted.
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Day 72 Fri. 4 Apr The garrison at Eshowe begins its return march to the Thukela. Death of Pte Monk, 'The Buffs'.
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