Tourism, Accommodation and Historical Attractions in Natal, South Africa

The Natal Battlefields

The Voortrekkers - Settlement at Last

Britain, bled dry by the Napoleonic Wars, gets out of the annexation of the Free State. Potgieter and Pretorius also pass away.


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Diplomacy Commences

The old humanitarianism had been replaced by hard faced materialism and Whitehall was increasingly of the opinion that this troublesome area of Africa was costing too much in terms of lives and money. Accordingly two bureaucrats, Owen and Hogge were dispatched to investigate ways of extricating Whitehall with some dignity from the highveld.

The two worthies found it imperative that the friendship of Pretorius be achieved and thus the price on his head (now 2,000) be removed and he be invited to discuss the situation and any remedies with them. Accordingly Pretorius travelled to meet the two at a makeshift camp on the banks of the Sand River.

Although Pretorius stated that he could not speak on behalf of all those living across the Vaal, it was soon decided that the independence of the Transvaal be recognized by Britain providing that it abolished slavery and did not interfere in the affairs of the Sovereignty. The date was the 17th January 1852.

Potgieter and Pretorius are Reconciled

Potgieter then rode to Pretorius' settlement at Rustenberg and after due hesitancy was induced to enter his rival's tent. After anxious minutes, the flap was pulled back to show the two men with their hands clasped over a bible. There was great rejoicing for at last, after all these years the Voortrekkers finally had found unity. What they were not to know however was that the two men had agreed that their heirs would rule the Transvaal after their deaths.

The End of Potgieter and Pretorius

In August 1852, Potgieter lead his last commando, against the Bepedi but it was too much and he fell ill. Three days before his 60th birthday, on 16th December 1852 - the Day of the Covenant - he died. Eight months later, Andries Pretorius also passed away.

The Brits Disengage

The strains of Napoleon in Europe were also telling on Whitehall. Sir Harry Smith was told to rid himself of the Sovereignty and when procrastinating, was summarily replaced by Sir George Cathcart as Governor of the Cape.

Cathcart was to smooth ruffled feathers and ensure the effective disengagement with the Sovereignty but instead thought he was something of a Harry Smith and provoked war with the Basutos. His army was almost beaten at the battle of Berea.

Frustrated, Whitehall sent out another bureaucrat - Sir George Clerk - this time to relieve poor Warden in Bloemfontein and beat a hasty retreat from the Sovereignty.

Independence at Last

Accordingly, independence was hastily bestowed on a group of perplexed but nevertheless happy burghers at Bloemfontein on the 23rd February 1854. The Griquas had been abandoned by the British and were to march hundreds of miles over the Drakensberg to found their own nation and all those in the Sovereignty that considered themselves British were thus deprived of it.

A British soldier collapsed and died even as the Union Jack was being lowered in Bloemfontein.

The last chapter for the Voortrekkers was about to end - until 1881.

Next: The Voortrekkers - Epilogue.

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