The Zulu war is widely remembered for the bloody attacks on Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift. This war took place in 1879, where over 15,000 British troop invaded Zululand, the modern day Republic of South Africa. However, the build up to the Zulu war began in 1877, when Sir Henry Frere landed in South Africa from Britain to unite the colony under the British Confederation. Upon arrival, Frere realized how hard it was to unite the Boars, independent blacks and other British colonies. He therefore embarked on how to defeat the Zulu Kingdom as the only pathway to success.
However, the move by Frere to assault Zulu proved to be a tough one as London did not approve of it. He therefore sought the support of Sir Theophilus Shepstone, with convincing reasons for the attack. Shepstone saw the sense in attacking Zulu. He argued that there had been increasing cases of incursions on the border with Zulus, which was affecting the stability of his territories. He also took issue with increasing firearms in the wrong hands of the Zulu, which was fueling cases of war. Following this development, Frere sent an ultimatum to the King of Zulu, Cetshwayo, requiring him to dissolve his army with immediate effect. However, Frere knew that Zulu would not bow to him. He organized an attack under the commander of Lord Chelmsford.
It is worthy noting that before the Zulu war, Tugela River was the border between the British colony of Natal and the Zululand. King Cetshwayo had an army of between 40000 and 60000, which was prepared to face external aggression by the British forces. Lord Chelmsford attacked Zulu in January 1879, after the ultimatum for Cetshwayo to disband his army expired. However, the tall grasses in Zululand weighed negatively on the British forces, causing them to advance into the land without taking recommended precautions. Following this blunder, the Zulu army triumphed over British at Isandhlwana, resulting into the death of about 800 British solders. The Zulus also took approximately 1000 riffles with ammunition.
However, upon the arrival of British reinforcement, Cetshwayo fled. In April of 1879, a French Prince, arrived in South Africa in search of adventure. This was a setback to the British fighters. Napoleon III’s son joined the British mission to conquer Zululand. He significantly undermined the enemy and was killed in May, following a surprise attack by the enemy. This was embarrassment to the British army in Zulu, which proved its inability to protect him. Nevertheless, British victory continued and in July, they overpowered Cetshwayo at Ulundi. This led to the annexation of Zululand to Natal in 1887, making it formally under British rule.
In understanding the Zulu war timeline, it is paramount to underscore that the ultimatum, which Britain gave Zulu carried thirteen points, to none of which the addressee responded to, prompting an assault that was later repulsed. Besides the disbandment of the military, king Cetshwayo was also required to surrender three sons of Sihayo and his brother for trial in the Natal Courts. Cetshwayo was also to pay 100 heads of cattle as fine for the ills committed by those to be tried and his delay to surrender the offenders to face justice.
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