Anglo-Zulu War: Part II

Hello, folks! Today we are going to talk about the Battle of Rorke’s Drift and the Battle of Ulundi, which were decisive victories for the British empire.


King Cetshwayo

The battle of Rorke’s drift was an amazing battle in history, and both sides showed incredible bravery and courage. After the disaster of Isandlwana, the Zulu king, Cetshwayo, ordered all of his Zulu commanders not to attack the Boer territory. He did not want to appear as a savage aggressor; he wanted the eyes of the world to see the British as invaders and his people as defenders. This is exactly what they were doing until a Zulu general called Dabulamanzi Kampande screwed it up. Without permission, he ordered his army of nearly 4,000 Zulus (who did not fight at the battle of Isandlwana) to attack the tiny station of Rorke’s Drift, where a small number of British soldiers were encamped. These soldiers, who numbered 150 in total, were a part of the British force who had fought at Isandlwana. They stopped to rest and recuperate at Rorke’s Drift, because many of the soldiers were sick and wounded.

Upon hearing of their defeat at Isandlwana, British commander Lieutenant John Chard and second-in-command Gonville Bromhead started turning Rorke’s Drift into a fortress, building seven-foot high walls made of mealie (a type of seed) bags. A large force of Boer cavalry (Natal native horse, or NNH) arrived and informed Chard that 4,000 Zulus were heading towards Rorke’s Drift. Commander Lieutenant Henderson said his men were tired and running short of ammo. Chard asked if Henderson could delay or stall  the Zulus to buy time. Henderson agreed and ordered his cavalry to deploy to the east. At 4:20, the battle began. After a few volleys, the NNH cavalry fled, and Henderson told Chard he was heading for Helpmekkaar. Thinking the situation lost, the few horseman positioned nearby under Captain Stevenson fled. Enraged, Chard ordered his men to shoot Stevenson’s horsemen, and one man was killed.


The Zulus started attacking in hordes, but the Zulu tactic “the horns of the buffalo” was useless against a well-entrenched foe, and such was the case at Rorke’s Drift, where volley fire decimated the Zulus. The Zulus had not even planned nor prepared their assault, and their attacks were not even coordinated. This battle is magnificently portrayed in the 1964 movie “Zulu,” which made Micheal Caine a star. This was also the prequel to the movie “Zulu Dawn,” made 15 years later. This film is, however, not historically accurate, but it brilliantly shows how both sides were incredibly brave. Anyway, the Zulu attacks nearly broke through due to sheer weight of numbers, but the British volley fire system always stopped this from happening.The Zulus started to attack the hospital and managed to break through, but Chard had made a second defensive line of boxes, behind which his men fell back (as seen in the painting above). Through the night, the Zulus attacked the cattle kraal, which was evacuated at around 10 pm, leaving the British with a small position around the storehouse. The British were exhausted, having fought nearly 10 hours against constant Zulu assault.


The Defense of Rorke’s Drift

At dawn the British found out that the Zulus were gone. The battle had been a terrible mistake for the overconfident Zulus. It made them look like savages out to murder wounded British  soldiers. In other words, they looked like the aggressor. Now the British reinforced and started a second invasion. On July 4, 1879, 5,000 British and African troops neared Ulundi, the capital, facing  15,000 Zulus. But this time the British had a tactic that was to counter the “Horns of the Buffalo.” They formed a “massive square,” and this tactic meant that they could not be flanked by the Zulus. The British also had 10 cannons and two Gatling guns. The Zulus attacked, but the British were ready. The combination of the Martini rifle, the Gatling gun, and canister shot was too much for the Zulus, and they ran. Then the British burnt Ulundi. This was the last battle of the Anglo-Zulu war but not the end of the history of the Zulu people.

The Zulu War, the Burning of Ulundi



9 thoughts on “Anglo-Zulu War: Part II

  1. So the “Zulu Dawn” movie is accurate, but its prequel isn’t?
    Why specifically is the Battle of Rorke’s Drift one of your favorites?
    And then what happened to the Zulus? Or will you be talking about that in another post… 🙂


  2. I know; it’s hard to favor either side in some wars, because both are so wrong. 😦
    The coalition in the Napoleonic wars was the British, right?

    And this wouldn’t let me reply with the actual reply button to your comment, so it’ll probably be at the bottom. Sorry about that. :\


    • It’s fine. There were 7 coalitions the first and second coalitions aimed at brining down revolutionary France. The other 5 coalitions were formed during the napoleonic wars. The 6th and 7th coalitions comprised of Austria Prussia (Germany) Russia and Britain. So I favor the the sixth coalition


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