White's Problem Was To Hold Tight To The Town And At The Same
Time To Strike Hard At Any Northern Force So As To Prevent Them
From Interfering With Yule's Retreat.
It was in the furtherance of
this scheme that he fought upon October 24th the action of
Rietfontein, an engagement slight in itself, but important on
account of the clear road which was secured for the weary forces
retiring from Dundee.
The army from the Free State, of which the commando vanquished at
Elandslaagte was the vanguard, had been slowly and steadily
debouching from the passes, and working south and eastwards to cut
the line between Dundee and Ladysmith. It was White's intention to
prevent them from crossing the Newcastle Road, and for this purpose
he sallied out of Ladysmith on Tuesday the 24th, having with him
two regiments of cavalry, the 5th Lancers and the 19th Hussars, the
42nd and 53rd field batteries with the 10th mountain battery, four
infantry regiments, the Devons, Liverpools, Gloucesters, and 2nd
King's Royal Rifles, the Imperial Light Horse, and the Natal
Volunteers - some four thousand men in all.
The enemy were found to be in possession of a line of hills within
seven miles of Ladysmith, the most conspicuous of which is called
Tinta Inyoni. It was no part of General White's plan to attempt to
drive him from this position - it is not wise generalship to fight
always upon ground of the enemy's choosing - but it was important to
hold him where he was, and to engage his attention during this last
day of the march of the retreating column.
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