Academic journal article Military Review

A Rain of Lead: The Siege and Surrender of the British at Potchefstroom

Academic journal article Military Review

A Rain of Lead: The Siege and Surrender of the British at Potchefstroom

Article excerpt

A RAIN OF LEAD: The Siege and Surrender of the British at Potchefstroom, Ian Bennett, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2001, 256 pages, $34.95.

In Africa in 1880-1881, a detachment of about 200 soldiers and two cannon, garrisoned in a 25-yard-- square earthen fort, withstood a Boer siege for 95 days. The fort, located outside of Potchefstoom, Transvaal, South Africa, had no internal source of water, and the artillery horses and wagon oxen were kept outside in the fort's surrounding trench. Under-provisioned in food and ammunition and burdened with civilian women and children, British commander Lieutenant Colonel Winsloe faced a Boer force many times his detachment's size.

Because of the Boers' desire to publish a proclamation reestablishing the independence of the South African Republic, a skirmish occurred that resulted in the siege of the fort and government offices in Potchefstroom. The offices held out in isolation for four days before surrendering.

Meanwhile, at the fort, the parapet was not sufficiently high, so the soldiers used their bags of provisions to add to its strength. The lack of water was felt immediately. The soldiers could not refill water barrels until night. As the siege tightened, they could not even accomplish this, so they dug a well-unsuccessfully. Eventually, they had to release what animals they possessed, which had been the source of their fresh meat supply. …

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