Moving Over A Flat Country With Plenty Of Flanking
Room, It Is Probable That He Would Have Been In Bloemfontein By
Christmas And At The Vaal River Late In January.
What could the
Boers do then?
They might remain before Ladysmith, and learn that
their capital and their gold mines had been taken in their absence.
Or they might abandon the siege and trek back to defend their own
homes. This, as it appears to a civilian critic, would have been
the least expensive means of fighting them; but after all the
strain had to come somewhere, and the long struggle of Ladysmith
may have meant a more certain and complete collapse in the future.
At least, by the plan actually adopted we saved Natal from total
devastation, and that must count against a great deal.
Having taken his line, Buller set about his task in a slow,
deliberate, but pertinacious fashion. It cannot be denied, however,
that the pertinacity was largely due to the stiffening counsel of
Roberts and the soldierly firmness of White who refused to
acquiesce in the suggestion of surrender. Let it be acknowledged
that Buller's was the hardest problem of the war, and that he
solved it. The mere acknowledgment goes far to soften criticism.
But the singular thing is that in his proceedings he showed
qualities which had not been generally attributed to him, and was
wanting in those very points which the public had imagined to be
characteristic of him. He had gone out with the reputation of a
downright John Bull fighter, who would take punishment or give it,
but slog his way through without wincing.
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