S.Africa’s Early Race Wars: WAR OF THE AX: 1846-47: Xhosa or Kaffir wars

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[Some of these early wars were between White Farmers and Blacks and they bear some of a resemblance to what we nowadays call "Farm Attacks" and "Farm Murders". It's a thing I've not dug deeply into, but it interests me. Jan] This article appears in Historical Dictionary of the British Empire.


This war in 1846-47 was the seventh of the nine Xhosa or ‘Kaffir wars’ in the Cape Colony. Tsili, arrested for stealing an ax, was rescued by his friends, but a Khoikhoi prisoner to whom he was manacled was killed during the rescue. This was the pretext for the war, but the roots of the conflict were in the many unresolved issues from the sixth war in 1834-5. Although Sir Benjamin D’Urban’s annexation of Queen Adelaide Province had been rescinded by Lord Glenelg, a new system of treaties had been imposed on the Xhosa chiefs. However, their divided and limited authority could not always control their desperate people who had lost cattle and land to the whites. With increasing impoverishment, any drought made the situation worse. A large party of whites had been outraged by the disannexation and continued to demand a conquest of the Xhosa and confiscation of all their land. The harsh treatment and killing of Hintsa (see article) in 1835 was symptomatic of the attitude of many British military and government officials; ‘uncivilized’ people like the Xhosa could best be controlled by harsh, high-handed actions. Xhosa distrust was very great.

Sir Peregrine Maitland arrived as governor in 1844 to find tensions high and the treaty system collapsing. He began to make unilateral changes to the treaties and to treat the chiefs peremptorily. He was convinced that a preemptive attack would quickly settle the Xhosa. The Tsili incident was used as the excuse for launching a war on the Xhosa. But victory was not as quick as had been expected. Rain quickly bogged down the British wagons and the Xhosa burned all the grass for the oxen and horses; the British attack stalled. The Khoikhoi troops were mutinous because of low pay and low morale and colonial whites were reluctant to participate. Moreover, the Xhosa had learned to avoid pitched battles. Adopting guerrilla tactics of hit and fade into the bush country, the Xhosa had many successes in the early fighting. Nevertheless, just when they appeared closer to military victory than ever before, many Xhosa chiefs sued for peace. The Xhosa were starving; far from wanting war as the hawkish party among the whites had claimed, the failure of the crops the year before had left them desperately needing peace. Some chiefs adopted a passive stance and refused to fight. They did not admit defeat, but simply attempted to return to normal life. Others eluded British attempts to capture them and continued the fight for about 18 months. However, the systematic destruction of houses, crops and food by British forces eventually made further Xhosa resistance impossible. Some warriors were reduced to eating the hides on their shields, and the women and children were starving.

Maitland had been replaced in January 1847 by Sir Henry Pottinger who brought the war to a close. However, Sir Harry Smith, who had been deeply involved with D’Urban’s administration in the 1830s and who returned from India to become governor in December 1847, made the settlement which was very similar to D’Urban’s approach in 1835. Smith reannexed the lands disannexed in 1837—the ‘Ceded Territory’ directly to the Cape and the rest of Queen Adelaide Province as a separate imperial colony named British Kaffraria. Many whites, both settlers and officials, appeared to believe that the Xhosa could always be pushed farther east; the Xhosa had been pushed successively east of the Great Fish and then beyond the Keiskamma Rivers. In 1835, the demand was to push them east of the Kei and even beyond the Mbashe. However, Smith recognized that this was impossible and that the increasing desperation of the Xhosa resistance was related to the intolerable congestion and crowding they were experiencing. Thus, British Kaffraria was to be reserved primarily for occupation by the Xhosa. However, Smith’s arrogant and humiliating treatment of the Xhosa chiefs, especially the Ngqika chief Sandile, brought renewed war in December 1850. (References: J. B. Peires, The House of Phalo, 1982; C. C. Crais, White Supremacy and Black Resistance in Pre-Industrial South Africa, 1991.)

Source: http://smu-facweb.smu.ca/~wmills/course322/War_of_the_Ax.html

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Video: 2nd Anglo-Boer War: The British Atrocities against the Boers
The 2nd Anglo Boer war is probably the only war where WHITE CHILDREN were the main victims by far! In this video we take a look at the dirty war that the British Army engaged in, in order to crush a tiny army of Dutch-German Farmers (the Boers) here in Africa. We look at photographs and information from that time. We also look at the role of the British Rothschilds and Jews in this war.

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