The Battle of Isandlwana was part of the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War in South Africa. Morris, pp. Finally, there were considerations affecting the Empire: unless the British were seen to win a clear-cut victory against the Zulus, it would send a signal that the British Empire was vulnerable and that the defeat of a British field army could alter policy. The country was hilly scrubland, without roads and progress was painfully slow.

In the absence of a satisfactory response, Chelmsford attacked Zululand on 11th January 1879. In one account the Zulu army is described as:" ...consisting of the Ulundi corps about 3,000 strong, the Nokenke Regiment, 2,000 strong; the Ngobamakosi Regiment, including the Uve, about 5,000 strong: the Umeityu, about 4,000 strong; the Nodengwu, 2,000 strong; the Umbonambi, 3,000 strong; and the Udlhoko, about 1,000 strong, or a total of about 20,000 men in all..." and in the other account the Zulu army is described as "...eight regiments strong (20,000 to 25,000 men)...The regiments were Kandampenvu (or Umcityu), Ngobamakosi, Uve, Nokenke, Umbonambi, Udhloko, Nodwengu (name of military kraal of the Inkulutyane Regiment), and Undi (which comprises the Tulwana, Ndhlodho, and Indhluyengwe). Further, they made a very successful effort to conceal the advance and location of this force until they were within a few hours' striking distance of their enemy. Zulu Warrior: Battle of Isandlwana on 22nd January 1879 in the Zulu War.

The Zulus were, by this time, lining the bank and opened a heavy fire on the two officers. Colonel Pulleine, the officer in command in the camp, ordered his troops to form to the east, the direction in which the Zulus had appeared. [60] Colonial cavalry, the NMP and the carabiniers, who could easily have fled as they had horses, died around Durnford in his last stand while nearby their horses were found dead on their picket rope.

He then saw a comrade from the Mounted Infantry struggling in the water. Around 10:00 Durnford and his men arrived at the camp. [31] Adding on wagon drivers, camp followers and servants, there were more than 4,000 men in the Number 3 Column,[32] not including Durnford's Number 2 Column.

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Colenso, pp. The fighting had been hand-to-hand combat and no quarter given to the British regulars.

Lieutenants Melville and Coghill rescue the colour of the 24th Regiment at the Battle of Isandlwana on 22nd January 1879 in the Zulu War: picture by Alphonse de Neuville. Thompson, p.75 "Thus ended the first British invasion of Zululand." On 21st January 1879, Major Dartnell led a mounted reconnaissance in the direction of the advance. Chelmsford accompanied the Centre Column into Zululand on 11th January 1879, crossing the Buffalo  River at Rorke’s Drift. Though Isandlwana was a disaster for the British, the Zulu victory did not end the war. [89] As King Cetshwayo feared, the embarrassment of the defeat would force the policy makers in London, who to this point had not supported the war, to rally to the support of the pro-war contingent in the Natal government and commit whatever resources were needed to defeat the Zulus. Date of the Battle of Isandlwana: 22 nd January 1879 Place of the Battle of Isandlwana: 10 miles east of the Buffalo River in Zululand, South Africa. In the distance, the British could see Rorke’s Drift mission station burning. The first was jingoistic to a degree and national honour demanded that the enemy, victors in one battle, should lose the war. They fought on with pistols and knives, until they were all struck down. [102], The measure of respect that the British gained for their opponents as a result of Isandlwana can be seen in that in none of the other engagements of the Zulu War did the British attempt to fight again in their typical linear formation, known famously as the Thin Red Line in an open-field battle with the main Zulu impi. 52 British officers and 806 non-commissioned ranks were killed. Doyle, p. 120: "...around 20,000...".

As the Zulus advanced, Durnford’s rocket troop was overwhelmed and the equipment taken, the Royal Artillery crews managing to escape. As the line broke up, groups formed and fought the Zulus, until their ammunition gave out and they were overwhelmed.

On the Zulu side, casualties were approximately 3,000 killed and 3,000 wounded. The Zulu War began in early January 1879 as a simple campaign of expansion.

Both Melvill and Coghill were to receive posthumous Victoria Crosses in 1907 as the legend of their gallantry grew.
Returning to Isandlwana that night, Chelmsford was stunned to find a bloody battlefield.

Colenso, pp.

He moved his troops from Pietermaritzburg to a forward camp at Helpmekaar, past Greytown.

A Zulu account describes a group of the 24th forming a square on the neck of Isandlwana. Zulu attack at the Battle of Isandlwana on 22nd January 1879 in the Zulu War: picture by Richard Caton Woodville, British Regiments at the Battle of Isandlwana: 

One troop of mounted volunteers pursued a party of Zulus as they retired, until suddenly out of a fold in the ground the whole Zulu army appeared.
The Zulu army suffered around a thousand killed. The proximity of this strange feature adds substantially to the macabre aura that hangs over the Battle of Isandlwana. [36] The Zulu warrior, his regiment and the army drilled in the personal and tactical use and coordination of this weapons system. Anecdotes and traditions from the Battle of Isandlwana: Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana by Ian F.W. In addition, he ordered Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Durnford, with his five troops of native cavalry and a rocket battery, to join Pulleine. Colonel Pulleine was left in camp with the 1st Battalion of the 24th Foot. 17, 22. [46], Chelmsford had underestimated the disciplined, well-led, well-motivated and confident Zulu.

Moving slowly, Centre Column reached Isandlwana Hill on January 20, 1879.

The ‘horns’ of the Zulu attack did not quite close around the British camp, some soldiers managing to make their way towards Rorke’s Drift. American Revolution: Battle of Hobkirk's Hill, American Revolution: Battle of Stony Point, American Revolution: Battle of Guilford Court House, Paoli Massacre During the American Revolution, American Revolution: Battle of Kettle Creek, American Revolution: Battle of Brandywine, American Revolution: Battle of Germantown, French and Indian War: Battle of the Monongahela, M.S., Information and Library Science, Drexel University, B.A., History and Political Science, Pennsylvania State University, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony William Durnford.

", Colenso, p. 474, "A considerable number of Boers who had never willingly accepted the annexation of their country by the English, had taken the opportunity ... after the disaster of 22 January... to regain their independence...". On the right, Durnford's men began to run low on ammunition and withdrew to the camp leaving the British flank vulnerable. He quickly fixed blame on Durnford, claiming Durnford disobeyed his orders to fix a proper defensive camp – although there is no evidence such an order was issued and there would hardly have been time for Durnford to entrench. Rather than any fear that the camp might be attacked, his main concern was managing the huge number of wagons and oxen required to support his forward advance. The following day, a mounted force under Major Charles Dartnell encountered a strong Zulu force.

The battle of Isandlwana stunned the world.

[90], The Zulus missed a tremendous opportunity to exploit their victory and possibly win the war that day on their own territory.

General Sir Garnet Wolseley was sent to replace Lord Chelmsford, arriving after the final battle of the war. [21] Isandlwana resulted in the British taking a much more aggressive approach in the Anglo–Zulu War, leading to a heavily reinforced second invasion[22] and the destruction of King Cetshwayo's hopes of a negotiated peace.

[51], The Zulu attack then developed in the traditional horns and chest of the buffalo, with the aim of encircling the British position. He said, ‘But I left 1,000 men to guard the camp.’. ", Colenso, p. 312, gives 1333 also states a "given" total as 822 but says the actual loss is slightly higher, Smith-Dorrien, Chapter 1D, "The next few days after the battle, St. Matthew's simile, " Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together," was fully illustrated, for literally the sky was darkened at times by continuous streams of " Aasvogels " heading from all directions to the battlefield marked by that precipitous and conspicuous crag, like a lion couchant, " Isandhlwana " where nearly 900 British and 2,000 or 3,000 natives, friend and foe, had breathed their last on the fatal 22nd." Orders were sent to Colonel Durnford to bring his column up to reinforce the camp.

The main Zulu frontal assault now appeared over the ridge and Mostyn’s and Cavaye’s companies hastily withdrew to the camp, pausing to fire as they went. [44], Chelmsford left behind five companies, around 70–80 fighting men in each, of the 1st battalion and one stronger company of around 150 men from the 2nd battalion of the 24th to guard the camp, under the command of Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pulleine. The column then proceeded to Rorke's Drift. Cetshwayo’s overwhelming success at Isandlwana secured his ultimate downfall. 1 company of 2nd Battalion, the 24th Foot

Melville was the adjutant of the 1st Battalion, the 24th Foot. It is thought that natives living in Natal came down to the river and, on the urgings of the Zulus, killed British soldiers attempting to escape.

However, their marksmanship was very poor, quality and supply of powder and shot dreadful, maintenance non-existent and attitude towards firearms summed up in the observation that: "The generality of Zulu warriors, however, would not have firearms – the arms of a coward, as they said, for they enable the poltroon to kill the brave without awaiting his attack. The Rocket Battery under Durnford's command, which was not mounted and dropped behind the rest of the force, was isolated and overrun very early in the engagement. [56], The Battle of Isandlwana (Charles Edwin Fripp), Durnford's men, who had been fighting longest, began to withdraw and their rate of fire diminished. Raw's men began a fighting retreat back to the camp and a messenger was sent to warn Pulleine.

[45], Pulleine, left in command of a rear position, was an administrator with no experience of front-line command on a campaign. 263, 1747: Imperial and Colonial Troops, 2,566 Native Contingent, 293 Drivers, Colenso, pp. As the battle opened, Pulleine's men were able to beat off the Zulu attack with disciplined rifle fire. 4 column under Evelyn Wood halted its advance and spent most of the next two months skirmishing in the northwest around Tinta's Kraal. In December 1878, the British authorities delivered an ultimatum to Cetshwayo, requiring him to give up a group of Zulus accused of murdering a party of British subjects. Pulleine's rank was Brevet Lieutenant Colonel; in other words he was still being paid as a major.

Memorial erected at the site commemorating the valour of the fallen Zulu impi at Isandlwana Hill, which is visible in the background[82], Photo of Isandlwana with one of the cairns marking one of the many British mass graves at the site.