These Incidents Must Now Be Set
Down In The Order Of Their Occurrence, With Their Relation To Each
Other So Far As It Is Possible To Trace It.
General Louis Botha, with the double intention of making an
offensive move and of distracting the wavering burghers from
close examination of Lord Kitchener's proclamation, assembled his
forces in the second week of September in the Ermelo district.
Thence he moved them rapidly towards Natal, with the result that
the volunteers of that colony had once more to grasp their rifles
and hasten to the frontier. The whole situation bore for an instant
an absurd resemblance to that of two years before - Botha playing
the part of Joubert, and Lyttelton, who commanded on the frontier,
that of White. It only remained, to make the parallel complete,
that some one should represent Penn Symons, and this perilous role
fell to a gallant officer, Major Gough, commanding a detached force
which thought itself strong enough to hold its own, and only
learned by actual experiment that it was not.
This officer, with a small force consisting of three companies of
Mounted Infantry with two guns of the 69th R.F.A., was operating in
the neighbourhood of Utrecht in the south-eastern corner of the
Transvaal, on the very path along which Botha must descend. On
September 17th he had crossed De Jagers Drift on the Blood River,
not very far from Dundee, when he found himself in touch with the
enemy. His mission was to open a path for an empty convoy returning
from Vryheid, and in order to do so it was necessary that Blood
River Poort, where the Boers were now seen, should be cleared.
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