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130 years ago the Zulu war had its most famous battles.
Early in the morning of 22nd January, Colonel Pearson’s column in the south was attacked by a second Zulu impi (army) at the river iNyezane. The impi was estimated at 4,000 to 6,000. The attack was repulsed quickly by the British. However, the British moved to nearby Eshowe and made a defensive fort. They were besieged until 3rd April.
Meanwhile, the British Central column made an advanced base at Rorke’s Drift and then moved onwards. Near to Rorke’s Drift British troops burned a krall (homestead) owned by a local induna, Inkhosi Sihayo kaXongo.
They set up camp in front of the mountain at Isandlwana and started scouting for the main Zulu Army. The scouts disturbed the Zulus who were resting. Both sides were surprised and this prompted an immediate Zulu attack. The Zulu commanders, managed to bring some order to the advancing forces. They sent a small right horn behind the mountain to outflank the British. The chest and left horn pressed home the attack overwhelming the British troops. The battle started about 12.00 and was over by 16.00. 858 British soldiers and 471 African allies were killed. Zulu casualties were 2,000 dead either on the field or from wounds. The Zulus captured 1,000 rifles with the whole of the column’s reserve ammunition supply.
The Zulu reserve from Isandlwana were disappointed not to have been involved in a great victory and ran the 10 km distance to Rorke’s Drift. The first warriors arrived about 16.00, eager to attack the British. The supply base was defended by 139 British troops commanded by Lieutenant John Chard, Royal Engineers, and Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead of the 24th Foot. The British built defensive walls from supply boxes and flour sacks. Approximately 4,500 Zulus attacked the post continually during the evening and on into the night. Each time, they were repulsed by rifle fire and bayonets. Before dawn, the Zulus withdrew after having taken at least 500 casualties.