The Battle of Blood River by Pastor Mark Downey
"Five of you shall chase an hundred and one hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight, and your enemies shall fall by the sword" (Lev. 26:8). I am honored, with extreme prejudice, to tell you the story of Blood River. Until recently, I only had a cursory knowledge of this event from a couple of pages in Richard Kelly Hoskins' book, "Vigilantes of Christendom". Researching this subject was a joy. As I collected information, I noticed some of the details had been sanitized from a variety of politically correct sources. There are those who would reduce Blood River to secular history, but the Holy Spirit will not permit me to ignore the divine ramifications and the miraculous destiny that our Lord has planned for His people, Israel.
We don't hear too much about the tribe of Nephtali, but its heraldry of the hind parallels to that of the South African gazelle. However, it is not just coincidence of coat of arms where we find the identity of the White man in South African history. Before we look at Blood River, it's important to know what happened before that, just as circumstances were critical to the Christian foundations of America.
One of the marks of Israel would be that we become explorers, having command of the seas and would colonize the desolate places. In 1498, Vasco daGama would sail his flagship around the Cape of Good Hope, the southern tip of Africa for a commercial trade route to India. The only civilized people who spent much time ashore were the survivors of shipwrecks. In 1662, the Cape settlement numbered about 250 White people, whom nearly half were servants of the Dutch East India Company. The company made a serious effort to encourage immigration, and by 1707, the population was about 1800 people, owning about 1,100 slaves (White). The modern Afrikaners are descended from this servant class who were freed at that time, along with about 200 French Huguenots, and being discharged from the Cape, were sent out into the frontiers to settle the land. The commercial interest had no vision of a New Netherlands in South Africa, nevertheless, during the 18th century that's exactly what was happening to the predominate Dutch Calvinists, realizing another mark of Israel: possessing great natural resources. By 1795, they increased to 1500 and regarded South Africa as their only home. Half of these people were the trekboers living further into the interior, and within a few years, it became possible to take occupation of 6000 acres for semi-nomadic farming and ranching. The result was a continuous expansion twice as large as England. Some officials expressed concern over their isolation. But, like their counterparts, the American pioneers of the Old West, they were rugged individualists preserving a sound domestic morality from the Bible. They also traveled in covered wagons and formed defensive circles called 'laagers'. They were a humble, salt of the earth type of Israelite entering the wilderness that would transform into a promise land of challenges and blessings.
During these years of prosperity, South Africa was attracting the attention of British evangelicals, who were pushing to free the nonwhite races. In 1835 the damnable Brits passed an insane piece of civil rights legislation called Ordinance 50, in which all policies of racial segregation were banned, the Negro was given full citizenship to vote, severe taxes were imposed, the prohibition of their native language, Afrikaans, and the stipulation that any repeal or amendments could only be done in England. This law of race traitors left the Afrikaners (the White Christians) feeling that they had lost control over their lives and destiny to a foreign power arrayed against them on the side of those who were not of their race.
Missionaries from the Anglican church, headed by the Queen, preached a radical pro-Negro policy advocating interracial marriage. As an example to others, many missionaries and demented Whites in the Cape Colony married Black women and founded interracial schools. They urged the Black and White children to socialize with each other. They brazenly paraded the children through the streets with signs saying 'we are of one blood'. The Voortrekkers or Boers knew that the blasphemy of institutionalized miscegenation would doom their culture. They defied the demands of the British to return to the coastal cities, and those within proximity to the Cape Colony, unable to survive or comprehend these liberal ideas, abandoned their businesses and farms, which were quickly pilfered by wandering free Negros and British carpetbaggers grabbing property for their own use. Negro tribes were now pouring into South Africa to take advantage of the British order that no retaliation be taken against Blacks who raped, looted and murdered Whites. The colonial magistrate actually ordered that the rampaging Blacks be considered innocent because, if they were treated with tolerance, they would behave properly.
Anna Steenkamp recorded that the British had placed the Negros on an equal footing with the Christians, contrary to the laws of God so that it was intolerable for any decent Christian to bow down beneath such a yoke "wherefore we withdrew in order thus to preserve our doctrines in purity. " Imbued with this spirit, some 12,000 Afrikaners packed their bags and loaded their covered wagons and left the colony, and started the famous 'Great Trek' into the unknown desolate lands of the north. At the same time, the Zulus were moving south into the same area. Being that they were not indigenous to this area, the land could not have been stolen from them.
The fierce Zulu warriors were at the peak of their power and knew no mercy. Often the Zulus would pretend friendship or ask for a truce, and then would brutally slaughter the emissaries. They would surround White farming communities and attack with spears and hatchets. Women and children would be raped and then tortured to death. The most famous of massacres, which prompted Blood River, was February 5, 1838, when the Voortrekkers tried to negotiate a land settlement with the Zulu king, Dengane. As the treacherous savages received Piet Retief and 70 unarmed Boers in their encampment, that evening, while feasting and celebrating the signing of a treaty ceding land to the Whites, the Zulus butchered every single man. In the months to follow, the Zulus went on the warpath, attacking and killing as many as 500 men, women and children at several other locations in the Natal area.
Dengane was best known for murdering Shaka and developing a highly mobile army reputed to cover as much as 40 miles in one day, and ruthlessly known for his scorched earth actions. His bloodstained reputation was personified in wanton cruelty. On November 18, 1838, the Voortrekkers undeterred by the massacres, were reinforced by timely supplies brought up by a charismatic Dutch farmer, Andries Pretorius, of which the city of Pretoria was named in his memory, becoming the capital of South Africa. However, under the Mandela-ANC regime, the city has been renamed to Tshwane, meaning Apetown. The Boers were without a leader and immediately elected Pretorius as commander general of the wagon trains. Pretorius was a combination of George Washington and Nathan Bedford Forrest and proceeded to avenge the White settlers' hell by defeating the Zulu presence in Natal and the organization of a Christian government. Pretorius developed a commando militia of 468 men in short order and began recon, scouting for the ideal logistics in which to secure the best possible advantage.
He received reports that the Zulus were on the hunt to find them. The number of Zulus have been estimated to be between 10,000-15,000 savages who were born and bred for the purpose of warfare, which was half of their total population. Their weapons were lethal also; arrows with an accuracy of up to 60 meters away, spears, clubs, machetes and hatchets in the hands of trained killers. In contrast, the Boers were farmers, and all they had were primitive, inaccurate, muzzle-loaded flintlock muskets, and 3 old cannons loaded with any kind of scrap metal they could find to serve as shrapnel and, their most valuable military asset . . . God.
The Holy Spirit must have led them to the perfect spot for a fortified position, a stronghold with a deep erosion channel (what Americans in the southwest call an arroyo, and what the Boers call a donga).
It was a 14 foot deep trench on one side and the Ncome river into which it flowed on the other side; on the remaining sides were open plains to easily rake with gunfire. The laager was ingeniously configurated with 64 covered wagons drawn up close to one another with the shaft of one tied firmly to the deck of the one in front and the wheels were joined with chains. A large gateway in the middle of the crescent allowed for last minute access for their animals and an exit for their cavalry. A straight wall of wagons ran parallel with the donga about 20 meters from the edge. The other wagons were arranged in a wide crescent from one end of the wall to the other end, resembling a capital D.
Pretorius' inspiration, however, was not in the art of war; no, it was the way he forged and fortified the spirit of his men prior to the battle with a covenant made on December 9th and repeated every evening up to the 16th. They not only knelt down to pray, they were also making a solemn vow to our God in Heaven, as Sarel Cilliers, Pretorius' deputy commandant led the 464 commando pledging these words:
"My brothers and fellow citizens, here we stand in the presence of the Holy God, creator of heaven and earth, to make a vow unto Him, that if His protection shall be with us and He give our enemy into our hand so that we might be victorious over him, that this day and date every year shall be spent as a memorial and a day of thanksgiving, just as a Sabbath is spent and that we shall erect a temple to His honor wherever it will be pleasing to Him and that we shall also instruct our children that they must also share in it, as well as for our generations yet to come. Because the Honor of His name shall thereby be glorified and the glory and honor of the victory shall be given Him. "
The trekkers arrived at Blood River on December 14th and set camp. Within the laager were their 900 oxen, 500 horses and other livestock. On the 15th, Pretorius sent out a patrol to entice the thousands of Zulus to attack, but they retired, hoping to lure the Boers into an ambush. Pretorius, of course, declined and the Zulus' fate was that they then had to attack. One of Dengane's war leaders planned to follow the Boer horsemen, cross the river and attack them that night, but the distance was further than they thought and they kept getting lost in a thick mist on a moonless night. Many Zulus reached the laager during the night, but they had no civilized infrastructure and there was confusion. It wasn't until dawn that the dense fog began burning off and most of the Zulu army were still crossing the river. The Zulus could have laid siege to the laager by waiting until the remaining two-thirds of their forces crossed over. Instead, some of the Zulu warriors who had crossed over attacked impulsively, being cut down, charge after charge. This first wave was successfully repulsed as the morning sun began to heat the terrain.
The atmosphere must have been incredible to the White Christians as the beating of war drums escalated. Hissing like a snake, the Zulus would dance and then begin their charge, decorated with necklaces made of human skulls and bones, screaming faces painted grotesquely. If you can imagine a thousand boom boxes playing rap music full blast at a Bloods and Crips convention, doesn't come close to the blood curdling sounds of these maniacal aborigines. By noon the infernal temperatures could not beat back a second wave of attacks until it had almost reached the wagons. Inside the laager, a herd of cattle was threatened to stampede into the donga because of the smoke and roar of gunfire, so men were dispatched to that side and went outside the laager engaging in bitter hand to hand combat as reinforcements arrived to a few yards to the donga where the Zulus were packed solidly like sardines, and every one of them was shot dead. In spite of the downpour of spears and arrows that the spear chuckers chucked, all of the animals miraculously remained calm.
The Zulus now attacked with even greater ferocity, crossing the river in droves. The Boers would fire and reload again and again for hours, making each shot count. When the Zulus retreated to about 500 yards, they hesitated to launch a third attack. The frenzied Blacks were in fear of what was happening to them. Where was the Zulu god that day? By this time, the slaughter was so great that the waters of the river turned red with blood. Ammo was running low, so Pretorius sent men out on horseback to draw the Zulus out. Two charges brought little results, but a third assault and counterattack of 300 horsemen split the Zulu army in half. The Boers displayed such bravery that the Zulus were terror stricken and fled with the Whites in pursuit. A late charge by the most elite of the Zulu warriors was of no avail as they became entangled with retreating cannon fodder. The Boer horsemen were able to pick off the Zulus lining the banks of the river. The final attack lasted almost an hour and, when it began to weaken, Pretorius put the Zulus to flight as his cavalry pursued them for hours. Towards midday, the pursuit was called off.
Three to four thousand Zulu impis (the best of their warriors) lay dead. Not one White man or any of his animals were killed. There were only three minor wounds, including Pretorius himself. As the dust settled from battle and victory was realized, the men did not have a big party, but rather a solemn thanksgiving service was held. The plain and simple fact of the matter is that it was a miracle of God. According to the historical record, not hysterical antichrist propaganda, there were surviving Zulus of that day of battle and testified to witnessing an army of White soldiers firing from a white cloud that hovered above the laager all day. It sounds like the shekinah cloud of glory with the host of heaven. "Let them be as chaff before the wind, and let the angel of the Lord chase them" Ps. 35:5.
The Afrikaners know their survival is completely dependent on divine intervention. Blood River has been called the mythical underpinnings of apartheid rule. The Christian Boers did not ascribe the military victory to their armaments; they interpreted the battle as a sign from God. With the battle behind them, they believed even more strongly that White predominance over Blacks is the will of God. Indeed, it is their mandate, it is OUR mandate to take dominion of the earth. And to that, we should all say amen.
In addition to the above sermon "The Battle of Blood River", we recently received an e-mail that touched our hearts. We asked the fellow if we could publish the article and he gave his permission.
I am a 27 year old Afrikaaner (White South African), having just read your page on the Battle of Blood River. Several of my ancestors took part in that very battle. I would like to confirm that what you wrote is absolutely correct and happened just as you wrote.
I would like to add that my great great great grandmother, Anna Smit, who was married to Jacob Smit was in the laager aiding the men by ensuring that their ammunition was supplied at the correct rate. She has written in her diary a very interesting event of which I would like to share with you:
Women were not allowed to fire weapons or actively participate in battle unless their husbands were killed. Anna, in angst, prayed openly as the battle progressed. She asked God to use her as He saw fit to ensure His will was done.
As she prayed, she saw a great mist above the laager with a seering light shining through. She immediately knew that although she could not fire a weapon, she could supply the men with the ammo they needed as supplies of ammo were not evenly distributed around the laager. As she moved around, she was quite open and a target for spears from the Zulu warriors. However, every time a spear was thrown towards her, the shining Presence above the laager would protect her. Not a single spear even landed within 10 feet of her. This, depsite the fact the Zulu's could throw a light spear and impale an animal from 100 feet away.
What touches me about this is what happened next.
As she moved the ammo around, she prayed over the ammo. She writes in her diary that (translated), "I could move the crates and boxes of ammunition but I could not open them for when they were opened by the men and the ammunition removed, I witnessed the blood of Christ on it".
Anna lived to the good age of 97 (in 1899 when she died that was an exceptional age). She had 13 children - all of whom were raised in a strong Christian home in the middle of a savage continent. It shows that nothing, NOTHING, can stand in the way of God's will.
I will always honor her.
Thank you for reading my email.
I pray God blesses your ministry.
Johan van der Berg
Commentary from MainestateGop Blog:
It should also be noted that 30 years later, a Zulu force less than half the strength that fought against the band oof settlers annihilated an entire British column of the 24th foot regiment on the hills of Islhandwana. The British militery, the most powerful at the time and armed with the most modern in weaponry stood no chance against 4000 zulus and their march towards Natal was stopped only by a small platoon in the trade outpost of Rorke's drift and due to an attrition of supplies and exhaustion.
In the opinion of this writer, it was indeed a miracle as with other battles in history where small numbers overcame greater force.