And here, almost at the end of the Boer War, the Boer general Jan Smuts, with his harum-scarum escort of guerrillas, meets his chief opponent, Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, after months of hit and run warfare across the immensities of the veldt. Smut’s journey has taken a week. At last they reach the little station of Kroonstad, in the Orange Free State, where Kitchener is to meet them. The train draws into the station. The Boers, thin, tired, and sun-blistered, watch expectantly out the windows.
Presently the British general arrives. Reddish brown himself from the sun and long campaigning, magnificently uniformed, expressionless, his blue eyes ice cold above his famous mustaches, he rides into the station yard on a sleek black charger. Around him ride, in stiff English style, three or four staff officers, red-tabbed and severe. As they clatter up the yard the Boers see with astonishment- perhaps even with a trace of awe- that behind the officers rides a bodyguard of turbaned Pathans from the northwest frontiers of India, crimson-jacketed, with jackboots polished like glass and gold mounted scimitars at their sides. The splendor of empire has arrived in the Kroostad station yard.
…For though the propagandists might argue otherwise, the values of Boer and Briton were in most ways fundamentally akin. The Boers put their trust in Jehovah, a God of black and white whose will was their command; the British believed no less profoundly in an ethos that combined Christianity with an atavistic stoicism. The Boers were fighting for independence, which they believed to be their sacred right; the British were fighting for an Empire that they though represented all that was best in human progress, headed by a queen who was almost divine herself.
On the Boer side was the sense of Volk, of national unity, of family support, a sense of earth, livelihood, and immediacy. On the British there was a noble comradeship between officers and men, an uncomplaining acceptance of hardship, a touching devotion even to the most incompetent generals. When the Boers took a position, often within an hour they had brought their women-folk out to share their triumph and inspect the scenes of victory; when the British took one, the first thing they did was raise three cheers for the queen.
It was a war of striking personalities, forcefully imposed upon events. The Boer leaders were like chieftains, close to the soil, the hearth, the national intuition. Though they look similar in old photographs, they were men of many different kinds and tastes. President Kruger was a true primitive, a coarse, powerful, courageous, emotional man, whose life was the life of his people. Squat, ugly, dogmatic, he liked to boast that he had once amputated his own gangrenous thumb with a pocket knife, and even at the height of his power he habitually sat on the stoep of his Pretoria house, swinging on a rocking chair, smoking a clay pipe, and receiving all comers. ( to be continued)…
(see link at end)…Botha was a warrior, no doubt, but primarily he was a man who loved the peacefulness of a farm, the pleasures of a happy home-life, and the laughter of his four children more than the tramp of victorious troops or the roar of cannon.
There are a few men who have a certain magnetic power which attracts and holds the admiration of others. Louis Botha was a man of this class. Strangers who saw him for the first time loved him. There was an indescribable something about him which caused men looking at him for the first time to pledge their friendship for all time. The light in his blue eyes seemed to mesmerise men, to draw them, willing or unwilling, to him. It was not the quality which gained friends for Kruger nor that which made Joubert popular, but rather a mysterious, involuntary influence which he exerted over everybody with whom he came in contact. A man less handsome, of less commanding appearance than Botha might have possessed such a power, and been considered less extraordinary than he, b
t was not wholly his personal appearance—for he was the handsomest man in the Boer army—which aroused the admiration of men. His voice, his eyes, his facial expression and his manner—all combined to strengthen the man’s power over others. It may have been personal magnetism or a mysterious charm which he possessed—but it was the mark of a great man.
The early part of Botha’s career as a general was fraught with many difficulties, the majority of which could be traced to his lack of years. The Boer mind could not grasp the fact that a man of thirty-five years could be a military leader, and for a long time the Boers treated the young commander with a certain amount of contempt. The old takhaars laughed at him when he asked them to perform any duties, and called him a boy. They were unable to understand for a long time why they should act upon the advice or orders of a man many years younger than they themselves, and it was not until Botha had fought Colenso and Spion Kop that the old burghers commenced to realise that ability was not always monopolised by men with hoary beards. Before they had these manifestations of Botha’s military genius hundreds of the burghers absolutely refused to obey his commands, and even went to the length of protesting to the Government against his continued tenure of the important post. Read More:http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16462/16462-h/16462-h.htm